The only things missing on Broad Street on Tuesday were lederhosen and Wiener schnitzel.
The Germans were quite a presence outside the New York Stock Exchange as giant Daimler-Benz celebrated the listing of its shares on the Big Board, the first German company to do so. The main street outside the exchange was roped off for a display of Daimler-Benz products: a shiny fire engine, a helicopter and a sleek red Mercedes-Benz sedan--all on red carpets, of course.
White kiosks, topped with German and U.S. flags, provided passersby with an introduction to the four main operating units of Daimler-Benz: Mercedes-Benz, Deutsche Aerospace, electronics subsidiary AEG and financial services subsidiary Debis.
German TV crews were abundant. Even Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt Jr. showed up for a breakfast with Daimler-Benz executives.
The street-fair setting capped a three-year effort by Daimler-Benz to have its shares listed on the NYSE. Company executives were jubilant to have finally tapped the U.S. capital markets.
"This is the greatest thing I've done in my career," said Gerhard Liener, chief financial officer.
And no wonder. Daimler-Benz expects that U.S. investors will eventually hold about 10% of the company's capital, up from a current 3%, said Daimler-Benz Chairman Edzard Reuter.
Reuter was upbeat as he waited to buy the first shares of his company on the exchange floor. William H. Donaldson, NYSE chairman, explained the intricacies of the auction market as a crush of traders awaited the opening bell.
Just before trading began, Reuter turned to Liener and joked, "Can we afford to buy a little more than one share?"
Liener smiled and responded, "Maybe two."
Reuter ended up buying 100 shares of stock.
Publicity stunts and new stock listings often go hand-in-hand. Comic book hero Spiderman was on hand for the first day of trading of Marvel Entertainment Corp. Shiny Harley-Davidson motorcycles were rolled on the trading floor when Harley's stock began trading. Elsie the Cow roamed the floor when Borden Inc. relisted on the exchange.
"The real value is not so much the publicity, but it's to have more companies list on the Big Board," said Perrin H. Long Jr., brokerage industry analyst for First of Michigan Corp.
New listings provide more revenue for the NYSE, which has seen a growing share of NYSE-listed issues traded on other regional exchanges or by private brokerage companies.
Daimler-Benz opened at $47 a share, but closed lower at $46.75 in heavy trading.
U.S. investors are buying American depository receipts, or ADRs, which are issued by a U.S. bank and are traded like stock. The advantage of ADRs is that they are denominated in dollars, meaning U.S. investors don't need to be concerned about foreign currency fluctuations affecting their holdings, Long said.
For Donaldson, the Daimler-Benz listing signaled a victory in his efforts to expand the exchange's reach overseas.
"There has been a sea change in terms of interest on the part of the American investor in non-U.S. securities," he said.