Opening Bell: 9.11.06

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HP board drama continues (San Jose Mercury News)
The most exciting board scandal of all time continued apace over the weekend, as the board failed to come to a verdict on the fate of Patty Dunn. As Paul Kedrosky put it, it was 'black smoke' out of HP, though by the end of today we may see white smoke, as the board is going back to work. And who says that boards don't do anything, or collect oversize paychecks for minimal activity? These guys came in on a Sunday (actually, they met by telephone, which means at least one of them was probably naked). So the question is, is there any chance that Dunn saves her job? Apparently, it's not a total slam dunk, or else the board wouldn't be meeting for a second day. And in other news, HP went after more than just a CNET reporter; they also monitored the activity of three BW reporters in the investigation.
New magazine targets older, wealthier "dealmakers" (Reuters)
Well this is just too damn sweet. Doubledown Media LLC, the folks who bring you Trader Monthly are set to launch a new magazine for the older finance set -- the folks who have learned not to blow all of their cash on drugs and cars. And what is it called? Dealmaker. Awesome! Our long lost brother, separated at birth, returns. We're bound to have an epic battle, with them making 'em, and us breakin' em. May the one with the richest readership win.
At OPEC, Some Worry as Oil Prices Start Falling (NYT)
With a barrel of crude oil having fallen by $10 in the last few weeks, there's now talk that OPEC oil ministers are getting freaked out. They're on the phone with their brokers every few minutes begging for a real-time quote, while the brokers have been forced to play psychologist so as to calm their clients down. Of course, this is just wishful thinking, just like all the other chatter about what's going on in OPEC's chambers. In reality, oil is $66/barrel, and there's no obvious reason for it to go in one direction or another. It is interesting, though, that the cabal/conspiracy to keep gas prices high is now trying to push them down. What are they thinking? O'Reilly, got any ideas? The worst part about all of this is that the decline in energy prices happens to have coincided with the end of the summer driving season, which only fuels the idea that the two are related.
EADS Says Russia's Vneshtorgbank Owns 5% of Shares (Bloomberg)
Oh no, as if EADS didn't have enough problems with all the Airbus drama, and its divided Franco/German loyalties, it now is 5% owned by a Russian state-owned bank. Yes, state-owned; state-owned as in Vladimir Putin. You know, the guy who puts businessmen in jail for speaking out about politics, or forces companies into bankruptcy so that the state can consolidate control of an industry. And it's not like this is some friendly deal; the company only found out on Friday that the bank, Vneshtorgbank , had been quietly acquiring shares. Will it ask for a board set? Now all they need is for Kirkorian and Carl Icahn to buy up stakes, and it'll be a party.


Dell delays filing quarterly report due to probe (Reuters)
As if the company needed any more problems, Dell announced that it would delays its quarterly filing in light of an SEC investigation. It's not clear exactly what the problem is other than that it has to do with accounting. Presumably some combination of backdating, options, grants, buyback, etc. are at play Actually, it's worth noting that the company is immediately suspending its share repurchase program. Dell has been a notorious share buyer, which is only made more curious by the fact that their share count never goes down. You can figure out what that means.
Group Nears Record Deal for Chip Maker (NYT)
There's been a lot of talk about the graying of tech finance, and how LBO's may soon come to the left coast. There was even an FT piece, from about a month ago, that speculated that Microsoft could be an LBO candidate; ultimately, it decided that Microsoft would be a perfect candidate for such a move if it weren't so damn big. New reports from the Times suggest that a group of investors is ready to take Freescale, the former semiconductor wing of Motorola, private. The price tag would be about $16bln.
Coca - Cola Plant Opens in Afghan Capital (NYT)
The emerging consensus among those who do politics is that Afghanistan is turning into as much of a fiasco as Iraq. But, not to fear, private industry is coming to Kabul. A wealthy Dubai businessman has opened a Coca-Cola bottler in the capitol -- complete with a sniper on the roof looking to take out anyone who would threaten the factory's corn syrupy goodness (or bust in looking for the secret formula). Still, the story ultimately prompts more pessimism than anything else. It requires heavy security, and it seems to be more the exception than the rule. There's gotta be something that we could outsource to them, you know, just throw a little work their way.
Ford said to eye new job cuts (CNNMoney)
Time was, about a year ago, when everyone thought that Ford was the more stable of the US automakers. But GM's been a darling this year, while Ford has plunged deeper into its death spiral. Recently, its own Ford-branded CEO left his post, and now the company is gearing up for another round of job cuts. Of course, it has to negotiate with the unions over the cuts, and the union -- looking out for the best interest of its members -- probably won't be to keen on many cuts. As for the negotiations, the company is breaking in ex-congressman Dick Gephardt to help out. What is it with ex-losers like Jimmy Carter and Gephardt; it seems like a lifetime of being an intermediary in tense negotiations is like some sort of consolation prize.
Let's Offshore The Lawyers (BusinessWeek)
So far outsourcers have gotten it exactly backwards. It's not manufacturing, or customer-facing services that we should be outsourcing to Asia, it's the really expensive stuff like doctors and lawyers. And it's not because those services should intrinsically be any cheaper when they're outsourced, but rather those two professions have created quite a cushy existence for themselves by a rich regulatory system that all but ensures their wages will spiral higher every year, far outstripping inflation. In fact, it's been suggested by us that the true labor conflicts of the coming years will be battles with unions like the AMA and the Bar Association, as opposed to the UAW. No doubt, the Bar will pull out all the stops in fighting the use of offshored legal services, urging Congress to pass laws limiting their use (security reasons).

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