Friday, June 11, 2010

11 JUN 10: Slick Bankers

If you wondered why local TV newscasts are gushing focusing so much on the Gulf coast oil spill, we may have found the answer Thursday. Some experts say the spill has put a Columbus company in a financial bind. And no, I'm NOT talking about the dropping gas prices at Circle K....

Several market-watching firms believe the oil spill is behind a recent sharp drop in Synovus Financial stock. GPB noted Thursday the price has dropped more than 30 percent since the rig explosion in April. Isn't this amazing? Synovus was hurt first by the housing bubble - and now it's bubbling crude.

(I still hesitate to call what's happening along the Louisiana coast the "Crisis in the Gulf." I remember the last time that title was used in news coverage -- and 20 years ago, the only gulf causing concern was the one touching Iraq and Kuwait.)

What do Synovus and British Petroleum have in common? The problem is that Synovus operates 26 banks along the Gulf coast. Idle fishing boats and a drop in tourism could have a big impact on the region's economy -- and we'll know things are bad if BP asks Synovus for a line of credit.

A Synovus spokesperson told GPB it's too early to tell if banks along the Gulf coast will be affected by the spill. But there's concern about not only a decline in tourism, but coastal real estate sales. Doesn't all that leaking oil have to raise the sea level sooner or later?

But Synovus executives are trying to remain positive through it all. Chairman Richard Anthony told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week the company raised more than one billion dollars this spring, by issuing new stock shares and debt. If it's good enough for the Federal Reserve, it's good enough for Columbus.

Richard Anthony claimed there's a "foundation in place" for adding Synovus bank customers and developing businesses. As long as it doesn't become so slick with oil that investors can't stand on it....

Richard Anthony probably would tell you he's sacrificing for the good of Synovus. His pay as Chief Executive Officer dropped 61 percent last year, due to new federal bank bailout rules. Anthony's compensation was only $1.2 million - but he can be thankful no one ordered him to take furlough days.

Despite the concerns about Gulf coast banking, I found one stock analyst Thursday night who projects Synovus could be a profitable company by year's end -- and its stock price could double in two or three years. Synovus stock gained 16 cents Thursday, closing at $2.66. Who could have guessed a few years ago that shareholders would be begging, "Gimme five"?!

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Visitors from around the world read "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: After a day of rest, the "Rec-Gate" debate resumed Thursday. Columbus City Auditor John Redmond denied he was the person who leaked the Parks and Recreation Department audit to the Ledger-Enquirer. And he told WTVM the document he gave the mayor last month was a "draft audit." Based on what the Ledger-Enquirer posted, at least someone used Spell Check on it.

John Redmond also denied he held a grudge against Parks Department Director Tony Adams. He said Richard Bishop held that title when his son was fired from a Parks and Recreation job several years ago. The city can't audit Bishop's current domain, because Uptown Columbus Inc. is privately-run -- at least until the crime rate on Broadway spikes again.

Meanwhile, Richard Hyatt's website noted the attorney for Tony Adams remains a finalist for a Superior Court Judge position. In fact, Stacey Jackson was interviewed by the Georgia Governor's office Wednesday. If Jackson winds up with the position, the number of court-imposed gag orders could hit a record high.

And where was the Columbus Mayor as Rec-Gate threatened to bubble up again? The newspaper's web site reported Jim Wetherington was on vacation. With the city budget passed, one of Wetherington's main worries is settled - and he can leave day-to-day operations in the trusted hands of the auditor and police chief.

By the way, John Redmond already is working on his next city audit. The focus now is on Recorder's Court - where a blog reader claimed last summer police officers pulled an identity switch to testify about traffic tickets [11-12 Aug 09]. At this time of years, all officers wearing sunglasses look pretty much the same....

Here's what else caught our attention Thursday:

+ The Muscogee County Sheriff's Department showed off a new bomb-searching robot. It's half the size of the current bomb robot -- and the way things are going at the Government Center these days, someone is going to start a rumor the Marshal's Office robot dog is the father.

+ Russell County began a series of public hearings on a new comprehensive plan. One Fort Mitchell resident told WXTX News at Ten she wants to see more family medicine facilities in that growing area, with base realignment approaching. The grocery stores to prevent starvation apparently can come later.

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed the bill allowing veterans to mention post-traumatic stress disorder on their driver's licenses. I'd like to suggest the legislature go farther next year - and allow PTSD stickers on license plates, so we can give those drivers plenty of extra room.

+ Instant Message to WLTZ: How many angry callers are you getting every day? I mean, the 7:00 p.m. ET newscast is called "Alabama First News" - but you still don't call The 6:00 Report "Georgia First."

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