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Opening Bell: 12.6.06

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U.S. drops element of air deal (Reuters)
Why don't we have a Virgin Air here? Because one of the last redoubts of hardcore protectionism remains the sky, and it's basically impossible for Europeans to have a stake in an American airline. We are going to have a Virgin Air, but only as a result of some cockamamie licensing scheme, whereby Branson's company will rent out the brand to an American firm with a totally different ownership structure. Presumably, the original Virgin will consult with the new company as well. And it doesn't look like the law is going to change. Congress pressured Bush to withdraw a proposal that would have eliminated many of the ownership restrictions, and so we're stuck with "maybe next year".
Two top Yahoo execs to leave in reorg (CNET)
It's become a popular parlor game, guessing what executives are in and out at Yahoo. Various blogs have been setting odds on who is likely to go, and who their likely replacements are. Of course many people thing the CEO, Terry Semel, should be shown the door, but it appears that it was him making the choices, and he didn't choose to behead himself. Instead, COO Dan Rosensweig, and head of Yahoo media Lloyd Braun will take an early Christmas. This has all the markings of a "look we're doing something about our problem" kind of reorganization. Hard to see how a rearranging the ornaments is gonna stem the company's loss of market share to Google.
German October Factory Orders Unexpectedly Drop, Led By Cars (Bloomberg)
All we've been hearing of late is Germany this and Germany that. Unemployment's down (to 10%!) in Germany; industrial production is up. Germany is back. Budget deficit sliced in half in Germany. It's all certainly a surprise to the Euro-skeptics, and a disappointment to the Euro-haters. But the national remains fallible. For the second month in a row, the auto industry -- the showhorse of German engineering -- has slumped, bringing down national factory order numbers. Most of the weakness stems from domestic demand; even the Germans are driving Toyotas now.
Comverse Ex-CEO May Have Fudged Option Exercise Dates, Not Just Grants (WSJ)
Kobi Alexander is still in Namibia (where he'll apparently stay at least until the spring), and you've gotta figure that avoiding extradition is a much more pressing issue for the guy than the possibility that he may have a few extra charges to deal with when he comes home. But just in case he does make it back here, and has to stand trial, it looks like he'll also have to deal with some tax evasion charges, stemming from the improver timing of stock options exercise dates. Seems like just another reason to stay at a Namibian casino.

World's richest 1% own 40% of all wealth, UN report discovers (The Guardian)
A UN study has discovered that the very rich own a lot more than the poor, a finding that in itself seems to justify wealth redistribution, even though it's really just a tautology. First off, a congratulations to Dealbreaker readers, who are no doubt in the world's rarefied elite. That being dispensed with, does it make much sense to compare the rich in the US with the poor in, say, Djibouti? The factors allowing people the opportunity to become absurdly wealthy in the US are completely separate from those keeping the people there in poverty. Of course, because it's so hot right now, the report seems to put in a plug for microcredit, noting that the poor are often such because they don't have access to capital.
Wall Street seen opening flat, eyes on data (Reuters)
Why do we have articles like this: "Wall Street seen opening flat"? Does anyone get any use out of them? They're always wrong within a few minutes, and the market hardly ever closes flat, which is usually what matters more. Someone really needs to do a study of these stories that always seem to hit the newswires right around 7:00 AM.
Out to launch (Boeing Blog)
Most corporate blogs (blogs written by some exec) aren't worth the bandwidth they're distributed on. They're usually dry and dull, and the entries read like press releases. Our favorite has to be the Boeing Blog, which is actually informative, and because it takes shots at the company's chief rival Airbus. Now airbus doesn't need more disparaging. We all know the company's not doing well. But Boeing can't resist pointing out that the company's superwidebody will be available 5 years after Boeing's and that the design has changed significantly since its conception, so that the engineering now resembles that on the Boeing Dreamliner.
Relatively Small Number of Deaths Have Big Impact in Pfizer Drug Trial (WSJ)
We really like Carl Bialik, the Numbers Guy, at the Wall Street Journal. Today he has an interesting column about the statistics behind the recent canceled Pfizer study, that cost them $21 billion in market ap. The company said that out of a study pool of 15,000 people, there were only a handful more deaths in the test group, as opposed to the control group. But it was significant, and looking at it one way would suggest that those taking the drug were 60% more likely to die than those taking Lipitor along (which was the case with those in the control group). And since the point of the drug is to reduce the number of deaths, well, then there's not much point in continuing to pursue a drug that does the opposite.