And you thought only the U.S. Mint could print money. But in a single day last week, United Parcel Service of America Inc. and Wall Street combined to create $45 billion for UPS's stockholders--among them, of course, some of those delivery people with nice buns who run around in those cute brown outfits.
The $45 billion paper gain--the difference between the value UPS put on its shares as a privately held company and the value that Wall Street placed on them as a public company--has to be the biggest one-day windfall in history. It's almost enough to impress Bill Gates.
It would be nice to think this wealth is spread so widely that your attractive local delivery person is now a hot financial prospect, as well as a hot romantic prospect. Sorry. Better take a cold shower.
Even though UPS's debut as a company with publicly traded stock created lots of new millionaires, you can bet there aren't a whole lot of delivery people among them. Why? Because delivery people and other hourly employees weren't eligible to buy UPS shares until 1995.
"The misperception that rank-and-file workers at UPS became millionaires overnight is just that--a misperception," says Bret Caldwell, a spokesman for the Teamsters union.
Managers, by contrast, have been eligible to buy stock for more than 70 years, and upper-management types have stock options. Owning $10,000 of stock that turns into $25,000 beats a sharp stick in the eye. But it's not enough to change your life.
Here's where the windfall comes from. UPS, which until last week was a privately held company with 125,000 shareholders, had its stock price set four times a year by its board of directors. The most recent price: $25.50. But investors paid UPS $50 a share for new stock and the market ran it up to $67.25 on Wednesday, UPS's first day as a public company. (I'm using the New York Stock Exchange's 4 p.m. closing price.)
The $41.75 difference between Wall Street's price and UPS's price, multiplied by the 1.1 billion shares outstanding before the sale of new stock, produced the $45 billion windfall.
The offering was hot because UPS is a real company that makes real profits, unlike most initial public stock offerings. And UPS's business is booming, thanks to the Internet. You can click mice all day, but you need live human beings, such as UPS folks, to pick up the stuff and deliver it.
UPS says it wanted to have publicly traded stock to use as currency in possible deals. But without any deals pending, it plans to use the money it raised by selling stock at $50 a share to buy back an equivalent amount of existing stock.
Given that the stock currently sells for more than $70, it looks as if UPS will have to pay far more for the stock it plans to buy than it got for the stock it sold. So, at least temporarily, UPS comes out behind. The people who come out way ahead are those who own stock and stock options--the more, the better.
Consider, if you will, UPS Chairman James P. Kelly, who is an amazing success story. He joined UPS in 1964 as a Christmas-season temporary driver in New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University at night, got a degree in management, worked his way through the ranks and became chairman in 1997. By my reading of UPS's disclosure documents--the company, which is in an SEC "quiet period," declined to comment--Kelly owned 371,846 shares outright and had options on 275,066 more shares.
Do the math and you see that the $41.75 windfall added $15.5 million to the value of his stock and $11.5 million to the value of his options. Throw in the options he got in 1999 but haven't yet been disclosed, and Kelly comes out $30 million ahead. Not bad for a day's work. (For details of my math, see Newsweek's Web site, www.newsweek.com, or mail me a stamped, self-addressed envelope.)
I'm not saying--or even implying--that Kelly, 55, turned UPS into a public company to benefit himself. But the prospect of a one-time wealth surge certainly didn't discourage people like Kelly, other options-laden UPS execs and UPS's options-laden board from taking UPS public. The same way Goldman Sachs insiders got a one-time gain when Goldman went public in May, and NYSE seat-holders would gain if the exchange goes public.
Yes, the average UPS stockholder made about $370,000 on paper when UPS went public--the windfall profit divided by 125,000 holders--but the stock isn't evenly spread. Retirees own about a third of it, charities and UPS's founding families own about a third, and the third owned by active employees is skewed toward upper management.
Life is like that. So you can look at those buff brown-clad bodies and dream. Just don't dream about big money.
Anjali Arora contributed to this column. Sloan is Newsweek's Wall Street editor. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.