Opening Bell: 9.28.06

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Chicago greets 1st Wal-Mart, but wonders where's Elmo? (Reuters)
After a lot of controversy and white-knuckle Alderman meetings, Chicago saw its first Wal-Mart open yesterday. By all accounts it was a smashing success. Shoppers lined up around the corner to get a chance to go into the store, and it was revealed that 15,000 people applied for the 400 positions to be had. What's not to like? Well Reuters founds something. Much to the chagrin of some shoppers, Wal-Mart did not have the hot toy TMX Elmo in stock. The company insists that it's at the mercy of the toy's maker for new shipments, but the not-so-subtle implication is that Wal-Mart is shafting its poor customers by not allocating any TMX Elmos to stores in poor neighborhoods. Or, perhaps the insinuation is that the store wouldn't have seen the lines that it did, had it not been for the expectation of a fresh stock of TMX Elmos. We'll be reporting as more word breaks.
Paris Auto Show to Preview 60 New Models (AP)
...and none of them will ever be seen on the road. That's right, auto shows are like fashion shows. It's the same reason you can't go into Macy's and buy that one-armed dress you saw at a London fashion show, or the seven-foot tall hat that one model was wearing. The clothes aren't made to be sold; they're made to be talked about, and shown on E! And so, at the Paris Auto Show, the premier event in the world (though we were always partial to the Geneva one, just a matter of taste) the world's struggling car makers will slap on a happy face, talk about fuel cells, talk about innovation, and perhaps show a car of the future. But you're still gonna be buying cars that get 19 mpg for some time. Better learn to enjoy what we got.
Mobile ESPN Is to End Venture, Seek New Strategy (WSJ)
Aww damn, now I can't get late breaking news, up-to-the-minute sports clips and highlights from Sportscenter on my phone. And how am I going to update my fantasy team with one push of a button!? After less than one year in business, ESPN has concluded that its foray into being a cell phone company was a total failure Despite constantly flogging itself on ESPN (the TV channel), the service never really took off... at all. That's ok though, we just hope the news doesn't stop the Bloomberg TV channel from doing its own mobile phone operations. Although, the screen size -- even on a Treo or Blackberry -- maybe a little small for the information its gonna pack onto the screen.
HP General Counsel Resigns (Business Wire)
As has been pretty much expected from the beginning, Ann Baskins, HP's General Counsel has resigned, effective immediately. Baskins had a 24-year career with the company, which all came crashing down when it got into the whole identity fraud business. So far, most of the attention has been on Dunn and Hurd, but from the beginning, the sharper eyes at identified Baskins as the one who could be in trouble. In fact, if charges ever end up being brought against people at HP (still waiting on that) Baskins could be in trouble.


Renault says car talks seek to bridge differences (Reuters)
There are all kinds of reasons to be pessimistic about the chances of GM joining Team Ghosn. Chief among them is the word that GM wants billion in cash upfront as a sort of signing bonus. But, they're still talking. Saying that groups are 'still talking' may be one of the next to last refuges of a scoundrel; it really doesn't mean anything. But when the idea was first floated, nobody expected it to go this far, or for Wagoner to really take it too seriously.
Fifth generation ascends to Anheuser-Busch helm (USA Today)
There are some rules of thumbs about sons, right? Eventually, if the head of a company keeps getting replaced by his son, there's bound to be a major loser in the bunch. So with that we note that Anheuser-Busch, as now selected the fourth August Busch, August Busch IV, to be its chief. He's actually the fifth generation, so the first one must have been a Busch, but not an August. Now, does August Busch have any sons? Eventually, someone in the line won't have any, and just have three daughters or something, which is gonna make people really uncomfortable come CEO replacement time? Is she one of those cool girls that watches football and burps? Or will she make the cans pink? But, for the next several years, the only thing the company has to worry about is whether the son is a loser or an alcoholic, or just a frat kid (almost certainly) who knows who to wear a suit.
News Corp. Buys 2 Groups of Weekly Papers (NYT)
And here you thought that NYC was a four newspaper town (four if you include the Sun, which we do). News Corp. has announced the purchase of two newspaper companies that primarily serve Brooklyn and Queens. The one that just serves Queens, TimesLedger, actually has 16 Queens-only fishwraps! And cumulatively, they have a circulation of 50,000, which works out to just over 3,000 for each one, which is nothing. Apparently, however, these small newspapers get a decent return, because they appeal to local advertisers that don't have many good options.
Does Stock By Any Other Name Smell as Sweet? (WSJ)
A new study reaches the improbably conclusion that stocks with clever ticker symbols may outperform the market. A few examples it gives are Harley Davidson, which recently changed its ticker from HDI to HOG or Advanced Medical Optics (EYE). The theory behind their outperformance is that they're memorable and people like them. Now, we know what's on your mind. You're thinking this is total bull, and you're gonna short this stuff? But, it's not so easy. It could just be that this very small basket of stocks has a few outperformers, and it has nothing to do with the ticker. There's nothing in the article suggesting that stocks with clever tickers actually have higher relative valuations. That being said, our favorite one was always Schlotzky's, the Texas based sandwich chain (BUNZ).
Benq Says Its German Handset Unit May Seek Protection (Bloomberg)
Talk about misreading the market. It was less than a year ago that Benq had decided to buyout the mobile handset division of German electronics maker Siemens. Siemens has been trying for a long time to unload it, because they knew it was such a turkey. Now, Benq apparently sees what Siemens knew all along. The unit is weak, and Benq basically wants to shut it down, along with some handset operations in Brazil. Presumably, the company will face some huge costs associated with the shutdown, which is why Siemens hadn't taken this route much earlier.
Khazanah Sells $750 Million of Exchangeable Bonds (Bloomberg)
We have a fascination with Islamic finance because of the no interest rule. And because of that rule, financial institutions have to go through interesting contortions to avoid payment systems that might smack of usury. The largest investment firm in Malaysia is floating $750 million in bonds. You don't get any interest, of course, but eventually the bonds will convert into two shares each of Telekom Malaysia. Hopefully, whatever that is come expiry, works out to what would have been a decent interest rate. Malaysia is trying to become a major Islamic finance center, and position itself as a place for the Middle East money to come and do business.

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