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‘Trump effect’: S&P companies talk candidate on earnings calls

Donald Trump has succeeded in dominating the national conversation over the past several months. And corporate conference calls are not immune from talk of the Republican presidential candidate.

Over the past month, Trump has been mentioned by name on five S&P 500 companies' earnings calls, in contexts that range from the opportunistic, to the blase, to the comical.

On real estate firm Boston Properties' call, the company's executive vice president for the San Francisco region, Robert Pester, talked up a new building by saying, to chuckles, "I think Donald Trump would refer to the building as something really, really special."

A more serious take on the election came from David Lougee, president of the media arm of Tegna, formerly known as Gannett. Tegna runs a large local TV station business, which is a classic beneficiary of a close (or more specifically, well-funded) presidential election, due to ad purchases by campaigns and interested groups.

In a late July earnings call, Lougee began by saying the company is "positioned very, very well for that main event. We're in states that matter most, including Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado and Michigan."

"I also want to address the so-called Trump factor," the executive continued, in what appears a reference to the unusual and controversial nature of the candidate. "We have contested Senate races in Ohio, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Arizona, and the Trump factor may widen the playing field further and open up other races. For instance, he and Hillary Clinton are now polling neck and neck in one poll in Georgia."

For Thomas Fanning, CEO of Southern Co, the outcome of the "main event" may not matter too much.

On the utility company's earnings call, Fanning said: "We can get caught up in the politics of what each party's planks are and everything else, but I'll say this. I'm reasonably confident that either administration, whether it's Clinton or Trump, will be good for our industry."

Meanwhile, Nicholas Akins, CEO of utility company American Electric Power, took a different tone. Observing that "coal country" has been "a hugely depressed area," Akins turned a gimlet eye toward both candidate's proposed plans.

"Hillary Clinton wants to just, I guess, do several billion focused on rehabilitating from a jobs perspective and that kind of thing. That seems like a longer-term issue," he said.

"And of course, Donald Trump is on the other side, saying he's putting the miners back to work. And I don't know exactly how that works," Akins said. "But either way, I think both of them, they really ought to be focused on reinvigorating that part of the country."

The boldest comments came from Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts.

In the midst of a politically charged soliloquy on the company's late July conference call, Wynn said: "The issue about what's going to happen with the election isn't so much an issue of Trump versus Clinton at the moment. It's a question of whether the House and the Senate and the executive branch can get together and make Americans feel safer and have a fiscal and monetary policy that isn't self-destructive, which currently it is."

He went on to discuss everything from student loans, to the current level of the euro, to allegations of currency manipulation, to the money-filled wheelbarrows of Germany's Weimar Republic.

"So count me as one of those old white guys that's frustrated," the casino magnate concluded.

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Brian Sullivan is co-anchor of CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F,1PM-3PM ET), one of the network's longest running programs, as well as the host of the daily investing program "Trading Nation." He is also a frequent guest on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and other NBC properties.

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