Opening Bell: 12.12.06

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Nasdaq launches hostile $5.3 billion bid for LSE (MarketWatch)
The NASDAQ won't take no for an answer. After trying in vain to sweet talk the London Stock Exchange into hooking up, the NASDAQ has turned to brute force and coercion to satisfy its needs. It already owns much of the LSE, and put a price of $5.3 billion for the whole thing. Shares in the LSE are trading higher than the offering price, on optimism than another bidder will emerge. But for this to happen the bidder would need to wrest away NASDAQ's stake in the company, which sounds tough.
LCD price-fixing probe spreads; LG.Philips shares sink (Reuters)
If it's tech, and some Korean companies are involved in producing it, there's going to be a price fixing investigation, it would seem. First it was DRAM, and the investigation focused on companies like Hynix and Elpida. Then the nefarious SRAM cartel came under investigation, even though nobody knows what SRM is. Now it's LCD screens, the kind used in a range of devices, like cameras and cell phones. The alleged infractions took place around 2004, apparently. Well, obviously, since any jaunt over to Best Buy will reveal that the price of screens and monitors is plummeting.
Paulson in China: Tread softly, forget the big stick (Asia Times)
Hank Paulson says the way to deal with China, in terms of trade issues, is to convince and cajole rather than to threaten. But on his trip to the country, he brought along a dozen Cabinet secretaries, to help him gang up on Chinese officials during meetings. Going to China to have them fix our trade imbalances sounds a little bit like going to Mexico to get help on fixing our drug problem, which our leaders do all the time. How is the President of Mexico going to break our celebrities of their coke habit? How is the Chinese Premier going to stop me from buying a Lenovo laptop? Not gonna happen.
Toyota Review Reveals Need for More Quality Checks (WSJ)
Reputations can be hard to shake. Ask most people about the quality of American cars, and they'll say they're a bunch of low gas mileage clunkers that are designed to fail five miles after the warranty is expired. Then they'll wax eloquently about their new Toyota, which has never been to the shop (not even for an oil change, miraculously). But in fact, according to mechanics, US cars are getting much better in terms of quality, and last year, Toyota has to recall more cars than it sold in the US. Most of the recalls were probably or minor things, but the company is now realizing that it needs to rededicate itself to quality, noting that several models have been rushed into production, without having done a proper analysis.


Brief: Google Finance Gets Makeover (Red Herring)
Google's Finance page has lagged badly behind Yahoo's even though Yahoo's is irritating, and in desperate need of some attention. The new Google Finance page seems to rip a page right out from Yahoo's book of design philosophies: the page on clutter. Yahoo loves clutter, and now it seems that Google has fallen in love with it too, a departure from its days of being clean and spare.
Ex-Enron CEO gets delay before starting prison sentence (AP)
When you're facing what is virtually life in prison, any day out of the big house is a victory. Or at least that's what Jeff Skilling's lawyers are probably telling him today, seeing as they've failed to deliver any significant victories so far. Skilling was to start his sentence today, an event we would have covered fully. But alas, his imprisonment will be postponed, pending some review. One thing we didn't realize is that if Skilling successfully completes drug and alcohol counseling during his tenure, he can get a year shaved off his sentence.
Oil Rises on Speculation OPEC Will Agree to Further Output Cut (Bloomberg)
Some analysts believe that the price of a barrel of crude is heading back towards $65, which gives OPEC a lot of credit for actually being able to get its house in order and cut output. As it is, oil's been hovering just above $60 for ages, despite constant talk about OPEC. In fact, it seems that any day it rises even just a few pennies, reporters are able to find some analyst to make a statement to this effect.
Salmonella scare hits Cadbury (Times Online)
Everyone knows that tainted eggs pose a risk for salmonella, but did you know that they also effect chocolate easter eggs? How odd. Cadbury Schweppes says salmonella fears will hit the company's results in the half (they only report twice a year) to the tune of £30 million.
2 Firms Pay $4.3 Billion for Sabre (NYT)
Yesterday's rumor is today's reality. It's being reported all over the place that indeed, Sabre will be taken private by Silver Lake and Texas Pacific Group. The Times points out that private equity has done a lot of dealing in the travel reservations space, having owned Hotwire (before selling it to Barry Diller), as well as Orbitz and Worldspan. Hey, if it works, it works.
Musicians Oppose Media Consolidation (AP)
Some political causes seem downright quaint. Like the ozone layer; nobody talks about it anymore, since we've all moved on to global warming. And nobody talks about saving the whales anymore either, again, probably due to all the effort expended on global warming. Another one is media consolidation, which feels so 90's, pre-internet. The idea of Clearchannel actually controlling what music people hear seems laughable. But, for musicians, it's the kind of cause they can get behind, since nobody will tell them they should just stick to what they know... even though they should just stick to their job.

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