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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Services Beat

By Willaim Trent, CFA of Stock Market Beat

The Conference Board said its index of U.S. consumer confidence rose more sharply than expected in September to 104.5, up from an upwardly-revised 100.2 in August, as energy costs fell and job prospects improved slightly. This throws a modest kink into the consumer slowdown thesis, so we took a look around to see what other anecdotal evidence might be indicating. In short, it seems like buyouts are the buzzword rather than any overall economic outlook. thinks hedgies may be looking to talk Watch List member Guitar Center (GTRC) into going private.

It’s pretty clear to me what Sageview wants management to do: Don’t go into too much debt trying to double or even quadruple the number of stores; rather, take on debt to reduce shares, cut costs and perhaps even go private.

Why go private now? The company has a $1.5 billion enterprise value and cash flow of $180 million, so it trades at a multiple of eight over cash flows and is experiencing growth, albeit not double-digit. In other words, it could take on a lot more debt and comfortably pay it down. This is perfect for an LBO firm looking to help management take it private, even at a premium of up to $50-$55 per share.

Makes sense to us.

Why can’t Valassis (VCI) and Advo (AD) just get along?

Sounds like Liberation Investments wants to “liberate” Multimedia Games (MGAM).

H&R Block shares plunge on loss provision (we warned you about those provision accruals!)

Consumers continued to spend at a stronger-than-expected pace in August as lower gasoline prices helped spur spending in other areas, pushing up retail sales by an unexpected 0.2 percent, a government report showed. Of course, Barry Ritholtz says we should read the fine print. Those strong home theater sales at Best Buy are spurred by 36-month zero-interest financing. But if you hit month 37, watch out! 24% interest - back-dated to the time of purchase!

The author may hold a position in the securities discussed. A current list of the author's holdings is available here.

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