Biz quicks

Southwest CEO says he hasn’t talked to Buffett about a sale

DALLAS — If Warren Buffett is interested in buying Southwest Airlines, he’s not telling the airline’s CEO directly. Southwest Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said Tuesday that he hasn’t talked to Buffett since the Berkshire Hathaway CEO sparked speculation with a comment that he wouldn’t rule out owning an entire airline. Berkshire Hathaway already owns 8.1 percent of Southwest, making it the Dallas-based airline’s second-biggest shareholder behind Primecap Management Co.

Berkshire also holds major stakes in American, Delta and United airlines. Some analysts and columnists argue that Southwest could be the financier’s most logical target because of its low-cost business model, investment-grade credit rating and potential for growth. It wouldn’t be cheap, however — Southwest’s market value is around £33 billion.

Berkshire Hathaway isn’t commenting immediately. The Tulsa World is part of BH Media Group, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

Spotify’s stock market debut strikes a chord with investors

SAN FRANCISCO — Spotify’s opening act on Wall Street struck a chord with investors betting that the unprofitable company’s trend-setting music streaming service will maintain its early lead over Apple and other powerful challengers. After several hours of anticipation Tuesday morning, Spotify’s shares traded as high as £169 in their stock market debut before falling back slightly.

The stock closed at £149.01 — well above its previous high of £132.50 during Spotify’s 12-year history as a privately held company. The stock market’s warm welcome left Spotify with a market value of about £27 billion, according to FactSet. By comparison, internet radio station Pandora Media’s market value stands at £1.2 billion nearly seven years after that company went public.

The performance left Spotify’s market value among the 10 highest ever recorded by a tech company following its first day of U.S. trading, according to Dealogic. Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group holds the top spot at £234 billion after its 2014 debut. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, who founded the company, emerged as the day’s biggest winner.

His 27 percent stake in the Swedish company is worth £7.4 billion.

Auto sales up 6.3 percent in March; SUVs, pickups dominate

DETROIT — U.S. auto sales grew 6.3 percent in March on rising sales of SUVs and pickup trucks. Automakers sold more than 1.6 million vehicles for the month as buyers came out of hibernation after a cold, snowy winter in much of the country Truck and SUV sales rose 16.3 percent while car sales plunged 9.2 percent, according to Autodata Corp.

Nearly two-thirds of all vehicles sold were trucks or SUVs. Jeff Schuster, a senior vice president at the forecasting firm LMC Automotive, said the strong month was a good recovery from a lackluster start to the year, but much uncertainty remains over politics, potential trade wars and a volatile stock market. “All in all, it looks like consumers are starting to get used to the noise,” said Schuster, who added that the strong March won’t cause him to change his full-year sales prediction of just under 17 million, down 1.4 percent from last year.

— From wire reports

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