Daily Glean: Markets turn red tail on NWA deal

Day Two of the proto-post-Northwest era lands with a thud. The markets hate the Delta deal because it’s not bloody enough: “What do you mean, you’re not closing hubs, killing more flights and knifing more workers?” Oil prices inconveniently hit another record Tuesday, and AP says investors sliced $400 million off Northwest’s shareholder value if the deal closed now. One analyst tells the PiPress that oil’s rise, not bad strategy, explains the stock drop.

The Strib’s Mike Meyers says disgruntled workers might worsen an already harrowing summer travel season. Great quote: “Making a deal with one pilots group and not with another … . That’s like bringing your ex-wife to your wedding. Smart.” One consultant flatly predicts worse labor troubles than 1986’s fractious NWA-Republic merger, according to MPR.

Delta’s execs insist profits will come from shuffling a bigger deck of plane sizes, but Meyers provides a succinct explanation for why local sky jockeys have power: “Pilots at Northwest said the new airline won’t be able to shift planes onto new routes without changing their contract — and until they do, the combined airline can’t be profitable.” One expert says having many plane types is inefficient, rather than a plus.

The media consensus: Pols can’t do much. DFL State Sen. Richard Cohen says a special session might be needed to examine the acquisition’s Minnesota effects. Other DFL legislators want to rattle the drum about the labor impacts sooner, in hearings next week, MPR reports. The PiPress says three Dems have a grandstandish bill to make Delta pay back $445 million to the state immediately.

A Strib editorial calls GOP legislative plans to give Delta tax breaks to HQ here “farfetched.” The PiPress says Republicans haven’t talked to Delta or the DFL. Someone should examine the tax-burden factor in merger HQ decisions. If United and Continental merge, they’ll shack up in United’s high-tax Illinois, not Continental’s low-tax Texas, right? Wells Fargo eschewed high-tax Minnesota for higher-tax California. Doesn’t the bigger company or the biggest market triumph?

Perhaps we’re obsessing too much about domestic implications; Delta says 50 percent of its routes will be international, up from 40 percent, according to Marketwatch. Delta already spreads it execs across six cities worldwide.

The Glean’s first-ever Heroic Blogger Award goes to … Bob Collins at MPR’s News Cut. If there was more readable, comprehensive Day Two merger coverage, I didn’t see it. Collins is an old-school reporter in a new-school form; all day, he roped in reader questions, then buttonholed experts for deep yet plainspoken answers. His live blogging of the execs’ news conference was priceless; his anti-PR translation filter worked perfectly. Read the whole thing; it’s a breeze and a pleasure.

More Collins: So what’d he say? Southwest ain’t comin’. Spend those frequent flier miles now, on low-competition routes. The Chisholm reservations center will be OK. It could take three years to re-brand the carrier, and a decade to repaint planes (a 747 takes about two weeks with a three-shift crew). Hedge funds benefit, but investors want more cuts. Also: an insightful if occasionally byzantine pilot union leader’s communiqué and Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s latest letter.

Other smart thoughts about Delta-Northwest from Adam Platt, Mpls.St.Paul’s longtime travel writer (among other duties). Platt boils it all down to oil, but he provides a grand, honest view of landscape filtered through professional and personal experience. In the end, he makes you feel sorry for Hawaiians.

A few decades ago, dry-cask storage at the Prairie Island nuke plant rated NWA-acquisition-like coverage. Now, it’s a secondary story when plant operators ask for 35 new casks. That’s more than double the current casks, the PiPress notes. The Strib says it’s due to a 20-year license extension and 10 percent more power generation. Application approval might come in 2010. The plant generates 20 percent of Xcel’s Upper Midwest’s electricity.

Today’s digital talker: keep that dial-up connection, and you can keep your child-porn sentence down. The Strib’s Dan Browning says U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum meted out a lighter sentence to a man whose computer had kiddie porn and a file-sharing program. The accused disabled his program’s chat and auto-start functions, which — together with dial-up — made the man “a stunningly unattractive partner for file sharing,” the judge said.

The state could shut down northern Minneapolis’s Lowry Avenue Bridge until a new one opens in 2011. The Strib’s Jim Foti says it’s simply shifting too much, consultants say. That’s a huge deal in an economically battered part of town.

More spans: A state Senate committee insists that the new Lafayette Bridge be built to handle light-rail or commuter trains, the PiPress’s Bill Salisbury reports. The new bridge is slated for 2011.

Your higher gas tax dollars at work: the state may speed up Highway 169’s conversion to a real, light-free freeway. The Strib’ Laurie Blake reports that the $120 million cost is still too high. Less-efficient, less costly cloverleaf exchanges might happen instead of fly-over ramps. Cities affected: Bloomington, Edina, Eden Prairie.

AIEEEEEE!! Renters! Strib number-cruncher Steve Brandt reports single-family rentals have soared from 8 percent of Minneapolis’s housing stock to 18.6 percent. Blame the foreclosure crisis. City officials worry housing stock “will wear out faster and neighborhoods will be more transient.” St. Paul and Brooklyn Center see the same trend.

The state’s HIV/AIDS infection rate in 2007 rose for the third year in a row, the highest in 11 years, the Strib reports. Cases among males 13-24 have doubled since 2001, and black male infections jumped 50 percent in a year. (Cases among African immigrants of both sexes rose.) Total new infections: 325. The PiPress notes the state’s HIV/AIDS patients lives longer, deepening the pool of people who can spread the infection.

Strib editorialists also contextualize St. Thomas’s decision to let a conservative speaker talk on campus. The college backed away from an initial refusal, a win for Strib columnist Katherine Kersten, who’s on a roll pressuring educational institutions. Because the college is buying, the speaker “must engage in civil discourse and handle controversial issues in a responsible, respectful manner.” In other words, not be Ann Coulter.

We’re Number Five! … in food poisoning? City Pages reports that Minnesota ranked fifth among states for restaurant food poisonings in 2006. Those are the most recent available stats.

Today’s animal story:
It’s not Nature Channel beauty, but natural beauty — KARE captures migrating white pelicans. There are more than 16,000 nesting pairs in the state.

Nort Spews:
Twins coughed up another Tiger-hairball, so no Sore Loser from Detroit. Ditto the Wild, whose playoff rollover kept Denver columnists pacified. 

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