Opening Bell: 11.13.06

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Gannett, Greenberg pursuing Tribune: reports (Reuters)
With the Tribune Co. likely to get bought out, it's assumed that private equity, which buys everything else, would would be a likely avenue. But new reports indicate that fellow public company Gannett, owner of fine newspapers like the USA Today, is interested. The company has put in a bid for the company, and this weekend it visited the company's headquarters in Chicago. Another possible suitor is ex- AIG CEO Hammerin' Hank Greenberg, who has put many of his legal woes behind him. We're seeing a pattern now. Rich dudes want to own newspapers. Who knew? You've got David Geffen in LA interested in the LA Times, Jack Welch rumored to want the Boston Globe, and now an insurance guy looking at Tribune. Three makes a trend, as they say. So far none have been successful in their attempts, but we think we know they they're so interested.
KB Home CEO Ousted Over Stock Options (LA Times)
Add him to the butcher's tally. Bruce Karatz, the CEO of KB Home, has been shown the door, as he becomes the latest casualty of the widening stock options scandal. Amusingly enough, and perhaps to help him avoid criminal liability, the internal investigation refused to say that he had actually done anything wrong. Well, then why'd you fire him? Frankly, Karatz has come off as something like a sleaze, and the company's had run-ins with the law before. And some people think the houses the companies build just plain old suck, which we admit that by mentioning is just piling on at this point.
Blair to Propose Bill to Protect Exchange, People Say (Bloomberg)
The transatlantic stock exchange battle is heating up. Foreign firms are vying for a slice of the London Stock Exchange, and possibly the whole thing. Meanwhile, even Democrats are worried that the effect of Sarbanes-Oxley is pushing too many IPOs to list overseas. And UK PM Tony Blair may use the power of .his office to protect the LSE. The bill is meant to ensure that things remain "business as usual", though it seems like the best way to maintain the status quo is to leave the law as is, but what do we know? Like all well-meaning regulation, it promises to be "light touch".
Candles, Jeans, Lipsticks: Products With Ulterior Motives (NYT)
It's not really a new thing, at all, but there does seem to be an increase in the number of retail products that have a slight price premium baked into them so that part of the sales will be donated to charity. Some people gobble this stuff right up, with their Lance Armstrong shirts and red iPods, while others look at them more cynically. But what's the problem? The company gets to burnish its image as a cool responsible company without actually diverting much money from the shareholders, while the consumer gets some visible token of their largess, the equivalent of the NPR mug found on the desks of college professors. Sounds like a win win. And now back to being cynical. Quick, must find story about microcredit...


No way out (Information Processing)
Every once in a while, you have to check in on the trade situation with China, since it may or it may not be a really big deal that a number we call the trade gap seems to be getting bigger. Local economist Brad Setser, who'd been banging this drum for awhile, get quotes in the Economist discussing China's enormous stockpile of Dollars. Really, it's just huge. So huge, that they can't even diversify it away (?). So instead of going into Euros or Yen (as you'd expect), they're putting it another Dollar-denominated assets, like corporates and mortgage backed securities, which is pushing up those markets. Does this make sense to you? Have at it in the comments?
Company Ross Perot Built Is Now Hiring, in Mexico (NYT)
In the past 12 years, the free trade doctrine has become accepted gospel, and unless we hit a major recession, a candidate like Ross Perot probably couldn't get any traction nationwide. It seems even Perot himself has seen the light. The IT consultancy firm he founded, Perot Systems, has just announced that it would hire 270 engineers in Guadalajara, Guadalajara Mexico that is. This is outsourcing pure and simple. It says the labor is cheaper, and that the office won't be used to to increase business in the region. This has to be pretty dispiriting to his pals at the Reform Party.
IBM to Join Citigroup's $3 Billion Guangdong Bank Bid (Bloomberg)
Suddenly, IBM is getting increasingly into finance. First off, it does a lot of internal financing, so that when you get a new IBM system, they'll lend you the money. A lot of companies do that though. But it's also been teaming up with Wall St. to invest in China. A recent deal saw them set up a quasi VC fund that will take stakes in medium size companies, and then consult with them on IT to improve operations. And from what we understand to be the situation with IT in china, sounds like there's a lot of room for improvement. Now it's teaming up with Citi to make a bid for the Guandong Bank. Again, it would be both a financial investment, as well as an opportunity to become a leading IT provider from China's financial services industry. Very interesting.
Boeing 737s may be in Iraqi Airways' future (Today in the Sky)
How much is Boeing dominating these days? It looks like it's set to deliver some fresh planes to Iraqi Airways. Of course, things might be rigged in their favor. Didn't the Pentagon have some policy about discouraging French and German companies from doing business in Iraq as punishment for being weasels?
JupiterMedia's Meckler Says Funds "Will Be Sorry" They Sold Their Stock (Tech Trader Daily)
One of the classic warning signs for a company is when the CEO gets publicly upset about the stock price. Yes, CEOs should be concerned about the stock price -- perhaps it should be their only concern -- but they'd be better off working on improving the company rather than wasting their time calling everyone who sold it an idiot. The latest is the CEO of JupiterMedia, Alan Meckler, who warned all the funds that sold his stock that they'll be sorry. That sounds like a threat, though a threat on behalf of the shareholders at least.

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