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Thursday, February 03, 2021

The current rounds of high-profile mergermania deals include some valuable real estate that exists only on Wall Street: The coveted single-letter New York Stock Exchange symbol.

It’s a bit comical how much aura is associated with the “F” for Ford Motor Company, or the “L” for Liberty Media. It’s like being the Cher or Madonna of the stock market! Or they’re like uniform numbers for pro athletes — maybe future business transactions will involve specific provisions for buying and selling just the right symbol.

Maybe this explains why they’re sometimes guarded by the exchange, as potential lures:

The NYSE Web site claims ticker symbols are assigned on a “first-come, first-served basis,” but the process is not quite that straightforward. Many Wall Streeters believe the exchange is keeping I and M in reserve just in case Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. decide to leave Nasdaq for the NYSE. The exchange declines to comment on the issue.

Here’s the current lineup of single-letter NYSE stock exchange symbols, including those currently idling. If/when some pending deals go through, this list will change a bit:

A: Agilent Technologies Inc.

B: Barnes Group Inc.

C: Citigroup Inc.

D: Dominion Resources Inc.

E: Eni SpA

F: Ford Motor Co.

G: Gillette Co.

H: * (formerly Harcourt & General Inc.)

I: * (formerly First Interstate Bancorp)

J: * (formerly JNet Enterprises)

K: Kellogg Co.

L: Liberty Media Corp.

M: * (formerly M Corp.)

N: Inco Ltd.

O: Realty Income Corp.

P: * (formerly Phillips Petroleum Co.)

Q: Qwest Communications International Inc.

R: Ryder System Inc.

S: Sears, Roebuck & Co.

T: AT&T Corp.

U: * (formerly US Airways Group)

V: Vivendi Universal SA

W: * (formerly Westvaco Corp.)

X: United States Steel

Y: Alleghany Corp.

Z: * (formerly Foot Locker Inc.)
* Not in use. Last user is in parentheses.

But, really, how much brand identity can a public company inject into their stock symbol? I’m not sure it’s worth much consideration. I can’t believe that, for instance, Alleghany Corp. is getting much recognition over having that “Y”.

It gets even wackier when you look beyond the single-letter group:

Some companies opt for names that represent a primary product or business line. Two of the most famous in that department are BUD for Anheuser-Busch Cos. and COKE for Coca-Cola Bottling Co.[Ed. Note: This isn’t Coca-Cola Co., which has “KO” as its symbol; it’s an affilated entity.] There’s CAKE for the Cheesecake Factory and EAT for Brinker International, which owns restaurants.

Some tickers are a little more obscure, such as MarineMax’s choice of HZO. That’s a play on H2O, the symbol for water, in case you’ve forgotten chemistry class. Catalina Marketing opted for POS, which stands for “point of sale,” for those who aren’t into marketing.

If anything, these cutesy letter combinations are useful strictly at the time when a company goes public: Because that’s a prime marketing opportunity, the symbol should fall in line with all the other promotional hype to mark the event. But after that blows over, who cares? It’s purely a shorthand marking for use on the big board. They might as well use numbers.

On the other hand, this does demonstrate how ingrained marketing principles are corporate operation, almost regardless of industry. Public image counts when you’re selling stock.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/03/2021 04:15:25 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business | Permalink |

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