Houston and Vatican City. In a surprise announcement, Exxon and the Roman Catholic Church have announced reaching a merger agreement.
In one of history's largest takeover bids, Exxon will provide over $5 billion in exchange for 75 of the 138 seats on the College of Cardinals. This works out to approximately $25 per soul (200 million souls outstanding). This is significantly better than an earlier conjectured bid by the Jews for $15 per soul.
[quoteright]Cardinal Guiseppe Pontificato, spokesman for the Church, said that this move will greatly alleviate tremendous cash flow problems resulting from diminishing plate contributions during the recession. He stated that many of the expenses of operating the Church are fixed.
Calvin Luther, spokesman for Exxon, cited several reasons behind Exxon's bid: "We have been looking for a new diversification opportunity that will offer tax advantages while avoiding potential antitrust problems. As Exxon and the Church have been in widely different fields of endeavor, there are no anti-trust difficulties. While the Church has had cash-flow difficulties, they are extremely asset rich, with over $15 billion in assets (mostly real estate, insurance, and a fried chicken chain). Even at $25 per soul, we have made the acquisition for considerably below book value."
Luther denied speculation that the Church was going to be liquidated for its assets. "We are definitely pursuing this as a long-term investment. We recognize a certain moral responsibility to the believers, and will meet that responsibility. Our main interest is in further asset appreciation, as the Church is generally a low revenue producer."
When queried regarding Exxon's plans, Luther indicated that Exxon will move somewhat slowly. "We will get our management team on board as soon as practicable to 'learn the ropes,' but we plan to wait a bit before making any drastic changes. We plan to introduce better planning and financial controls over the organization. For example, the Church policy of proselytising in developing nations is very counterproductive: given the low income of these people, they simply dilute the earnings per soul of the Church. We plan to concentrate development and marketing efforts where they will do the most good, e.g., Western Europe and the United States. The Church has a very good product, but their marketing has been quite stodgy. We plan to infuse some new blood and marketing plans." Further plans call for accepting credit card plate contributions and installing drive-up confession windows. Luther cited the tax-exempt status of the Church, and their "higher connections" as additional benefits of the acquisition move.
The New York Stock Exchange closed trading in Exxon today at 12:00 noon after trading became rather frantic. Exxon closed at $132 per share, up sharply from its opening price of $34. Gold was down sharply amidst speculation that the gold collection plates might be dumped after the merger.
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