Opening Bell: 11.10.06

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Otis, Schindler to Get EU Fine for Elevator Cartel, People Say (Bloomberg)
Talk about some nefarious and shadowy folks. One of the most powerful cartels has to be the elevator cartel. It puts the bickering OPEC to shame. They make the Korean DRAM makers look like 10-year olds who's idea of an agreement is to spit on their hands and shake. Not the elevator cartel; don't even think about selling an elevator for a penny less or a penny more, unless you want to see your cables snapped and a major lawsuit. According to people who are familiar with an EU investigation, it looks like a big fine is finally coming for these guys. And perhaps it's not too late for Eliot Spitzer to get involved before he starts his new job. The biggest elevator maker is of course Otis, which is now owned by United Technologies. Elisha Otis is turning in his grave.
Bausch & Lomb warns of lower profits (Reuters)
We were just wondering whatever happened with the whole Bausch & Lomb recall/blinding people fiasco. Apparently, the company has yet to fully recover. In its latest quarterly earnings, the company said it's still seeing a major impact, as its business, particularly in Asia is coming back slower than expected. With fees and one-time charges, it's not expecting to make a profit in the US this year, and next year, overall sales will come in on the low end of expectations, which we assume had already been reduced to account for the issue. The Bausch & Lomb brand may yet survive, but apparently people really don't like associating blindness with comes to contact lens solution.
Business Wins Its Battle to Ease A Costly Sarbanes-Oxley Rule (WSJ)
It looks like Sarbanes-Oxley's infamous Section 404 is going to get revised. This one reviled section, which was only four paragraphs long, had been called a nightmare, because of the obligations it puts upon companies to document their own controls. Many who were familiar with it said that it did little to ensure the integrity of financial reporting, but that costs associated with it spiraled into the billions. There's been a lot of calls for SarbOx reform lately, and they seem to be having an effect. The SEC will soon come out with new rules that should drastically reinterpret the law to reduce its burden. This is probably the best outcome that business can hope for. A repeal of the law is a no go. We'd say that that's in part due to the Democratic takeover, but it's not like the Republicans were the party of Newt and '94 anymore, which is why it lost. The big losers are the consulting companies that made a mint helping people comply with the law, and of course London, which may not get as many of the IPOs that rightfully belong to New York anymore.
Basic Chic From Japan. But Will It Sell? (NYT)
Unless you've been camping out in the woods for the past few months, it's been tough to miss the inundation of advertising for the soon-to-open retailer UniQlo, the main retail brand of Japan's Fast Retailing Inc. So far, they're pitch is that they sell a damn cheap cashmere sweater. Like every other cheap retailer, it's enlisted designers of couture to make items for its stores. But is this strategy getting a bit tired? Maybe it is. Maybe everyone gets the point, that if you make things in large enough quantities, a stylish design doesn't have to be expensive. Then again, are cheap clothes going to go back to being un-stylish baggy messes with prominent logos? Sorta doubt it. And are people for whom American Apparel is right at their price range going to to go more upscale? Probably not. So the trend probably isn't going anywhere, it's just a matter of whether there's room for another entrant.


Wal-Mart brings 'Christmas' back to stores (MarketWatch)
Wal-Mart has ensured that it will once again be the shopping destination for culture warriors this year. Last year, they got in a real huff because the company only spoke of "Holiday Sales", and had signs that said "Happy Holidays" as opposed to "Merry Christmas". Bill O'Reilly was livid, naturally. Well, Christmas is back, which has to put fear into its competitors, that were hoping to use the C-word as a competitive advantage, to win over the 8 people that actually listen to Bill O'Reilly tells them to do. Combined with their ultra-cheap flat-screen TVs and laptops, this move really puts the pressure on.
Boeing to build Air Force copters (Seattle Post Intelligencer)
Boeing is on such a roll these days. It's been drubbing Airbus left and right, stealing orders out from under it, and creating fissures in the EU in the process. Now it's dominating the military side too, expanding its lead over rivals like Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky. It won a deal to sell the government 141 Chinook copters, which are used to rescue downed pilots. Even if it had lost the deal, Boeing would've just come up with a plane that can't go down, obviating the whole point of the chopper. That's how on its game this company is right now.
Carbon tax takes hold in Colorado town (Reuters)
In California, voters rejected a ballot measure that would've taxes oil companies in the state with the money earmarked towards researching alternative fuels. Venture capitalists Vinod Khosla was a major proponent of it, as he would've been a recipient of the windfall, having many investments in clean energy startups. How convenient. The thing about California is that for every San Francisco, there's a Bakersfield; if they'd just tried to pursue a city-by-city referendums, they'd have probable done better. In fact, the citizens of Boulder Colorado did just that, approving a "Carbon Tax", in a bid to stop global warming. So, uh, just remember to drive the extra 10 miles so that you can fill your car up outside of town.
Could chronic jetlag kill you? (Today In The Sky)
If you're a hard driving business type, you probably already know that your lifestyle isn't very healthy. You see it in your assortment of pills, your waistline and your cholesterol level. And of course there's the gym membership card that's still in the envelope. And, just in case you needed any more to worry about, new research (surprisingly) doesn't say much good about the effects of jetlag. In fact, in studies on mice, jetlag-like situations made them die younger. Glad to see it's "jetlag-like" situations, as that'd have been a real waste flying them back and forth to Japan for the study.

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