Jefferies: 'Mini' Berkshire or 'Bizzaro' Buffett?
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With Jefferies(JEF) chief executive Richard Handler set to take the reins of Leucadia National(LUK) after their Monday merger, the biggest unanswered question is whether in taking control of a conglomerate often referred to as a "mini" Berkshire Hathaway(BRK.A) , Handler can perform up to the standards of investing Superman Warren Buffett.
Or, as in the famed comic's storyline, the deal simply molds a "Bizzaro" Buffett with a company that becomes the antithesis of the investing Man of Steel's performance.
After Monday's deal, Jefferies employees and shareholders are likely still trying to figure out what exactly they are getting in the share combination with Leucadia National and no one is likely to be asking that question more than CEO Handler. He was one of the Jefferies' largest independent shareholders prior to the deal and will be tasked with managing the investment bank and a conglomerate with operations spanning the timber, energy, gaming, real estate and healthcare industries, among others.
Meanwhile, for Wall Streeters, Jefferies sale to Leucadia National highlights a score of questions overhanging the industry.
Does the deal mark the end to the full-service independent investment banking model? That's especially true as rating agency downgrades compel Wall Street firms like Jefferies and Morgan Stanley(MS) to strengthen partnerships with commercial banking partners after Merrill Lynch was absorbed by Bank of America(BAC) and Bear Stearns was bailed out by JPMorgan(JPM) . Was the relatively low price of the stock deal an indication of a bearish outlook for the financial sector, as lawmakers wrangle over a so-called 'fiscal cliff' and the European debt crisis remains unresolved?
Jefferies partnership with Leucadia National certainly raises many big issues for Wall Street, with KBW analysts calling the deal "defensive," and ratings agency Moody's taking a wait and see approach on upgrades, which it could pull the bank from its near speculative grade rating of Baa3.