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Opening Bell: 9.20.06

IUC buys Denison to form $1-billion player (Globe & Mail)
What's the only thing that could be sexier than the copper wars, when every company had a bid to buy every other company? Uranium wars. It looks like we may be on the brink of a rapid consolidation of the uranium sector. Vancouver's International Uranium Corp is buying out Toronto's Denison in a $511 million all stock deal. Like other commodities, uranium has had a fantastic run in the last few years, surging from $7 a pound in 2001 to $50 in the last month. And that's not all. Just yesterday, Warren Buffett pledged to spend $50 million to help jumpstart and international uranium fuel bank, so that companies could get access to nuclear power without having to do the enriching themselves. Yes, this sounds to us like a Utopian vision made by a rich guy, too. And then, of course, there's the whole Iran thing. So, memo to banks (particularly Canadian ones): get your uranium divisions ready to make some more deals.
TRIBUNE CO.: Shareholder files suit over repurchase plan (Chicago Tribune)
A lawsuit has been filed against the Tribune Company by a shareholder relating to the company's use of stock buybacks. Specifically, the complaint says "The share repurchase plan was designed to and has had the effect of creating a defensive barrier . . . akin to a `suicide pill,' that significantly decreases the likelihood that any potential acquirer will make an offer for the company." We recently pointed to a study predicting that share buybacks would be the next corporate governance scandal. Then there were two events in short order; Dell announced that it would halt its buyback program in connection with an SEC investigation, and now this. It's small so far, but it feels like it's picking up steam. If companies are using buybacks for purposes other than directly directly increasing shareholder value -- even if it's all clear and spelled out -- private lawyers and the SEC are going to have a field day.
Thai military coup rattles markets (AP)
Maybe the Thai coup isn't such a big deal. Yes, markets were rattled on the news, but hardly roiled. Word is there isn't going to be a junta, and that the military simply wants to expedite the political process. Of course, anyone in a military coup would say that. The good news, perhaps, is that unlike in a typical coup, there's no radical or socialist element at play -- just two business forces looking for a slice of the action. So don't expect price controls, or withdrawals from any trade treaties or alliances. The Thai market was closed today, and maybe when it reopens, the pain will be minimal.
Crude Oil Declines on Iran Talks, Rising U.S. Fuel Inventories (Bloomberg)
Did anyone happen to catch Ahmadinejad's speech yesterday, before the UN. It's weird that he was right here in New York. We've been checking the gossip rags and blogs for any pictures of him dining or clubbing, but so far nothing. Surely someone has to have a sighting. We caught about two minutes of it, and then flipped it over to ESPN for the World Series of Poker; they're nearing the final table, so the states are pretty high. Yeah, the stakes are high here too but they're declining. Bush's indication that he would be willing to further talks with Iran only hurt the oil market, which is hoping for sanctions. It had to be awkward at the UN yesterday, with both Bush and him there. Sort of like a party that you suspect your ex-girlfriend will show up at. Though not as dramatic, Bush did apparently bump into old pal President Clinton, whom he proceeded to with in his way.

Hedge Fund Shifts to Salvage Mode (NYT)
It would be just to depressing to go on, after a catastrophic event such as the one that hit Amaranth earlier this week. Could you imagine being an employee there this week. Imagine coming in on Monday after a weekend party with your boss that got way out of hand, except much worse. Just doesn't feel too good to be there; you spend the first 30 minutes going back through your email to find the last version of your resume. So now the fund is shopping itself around to see who wants to pick up the pieces, and allow the Amaranth name to bow quietly into the night. Rumor is that Citadel may take over Amaranth's positions, though that's still speculation; the two sides were said to be talking late into the night.
H.P. Is Said to Have Studied Spying on Newsrooms (NYT)
Back in the Spring, when we first got things going in Dealbreakerland, there was this odd guy hanging around HQ. He dressed like a janitor, but didn't really look like one. And he kept talking into a pen, but we assumed that he had mental problems. In retrospect, he was probably an HP spy, as it's now revealed that the company explored the use of newsroom infiltration via custodial staff, and other ways of getting a man on the ground. Good thing we have nothing to hide, otherwise we might be upset.
Wal-Mart to Launch Campaign Urging Its U.S. Workers to Vote (WSJ)
Wal-Mart continues its political charm offensive as it's helping employees register to vote, and even encouraging them to do so. What a great corporate citizen doing its part to strengthen the democracy. This comes on the heels of several pro-environmental declarations by the , as well as a call to raise the minimum wage. Each of those regulations, of course, would just bolster the company's own standing, making it that much harder for others to compete. Honestly, we're surprised that there's no urban myth about Wal-Mart adding to floor-staff on election day, and having more people work doubles just so that they can't vote. That would be totally within the realm of what people would expect for the company. Let's get that myth started just for the hell of it, because it's so good.
Aeroflot to buy jets from both Airbus, Boeing - CEO (Novosti)
Aeroflot has said it will buy planes from Airbus and Boeing. Fair enough. But doesnt it seem like splitting an order for planes with your fiercest rival has to be a bit like kissing your sister?
Russia Denounces Exxon, Shell for Breaching Environmental Rules (Bloomberg)
Long, Long ago, Vladimir Putin completely showed his hand, indicating that he wanted to nationalize most heavy industries, so any move he or his government makes should probably be seen through that lens. The government is now lashing out at Exxon and Shell for environmental damage, as it relates to their activity at two different oil projects. Shell may even face criminal charges for the quaint sounding "destruction of forests". The two specific ventures were both started in the 1990s, after Russia gave up communism and before Russia embraced communism. Surely they'd love nothing more than to use the criminal courts to hand more projects like these to state-owned companies.