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Opening Bell: 12.8.06

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Whirlpool to sell Hoover floor-care business for $107 million (AP)
Paging Lou Dobbs: Whirlpool will sell the iconic Hoover floor-care business to a Chinese home improvement company. That means that some of our beloved brands, like Red Devil will no long be symbols of proud American industry. Of course, this probably won't change where they're manufactured. And you can buy stock in the new acquirer Techtronic Industries. Still, it's an indignity to know that we clean our floors with such un-American appliances. Another indignity, is that when these items are shipped here, they'll probably come on foreign-owned boats. At least the ports will always be owned by Americans.
Consumers cut borrowing (Bloomberg)
Is the American consumer cuttin' up his credit cards? Probably not. But the level of household, non-mortgage debt made its largest drop since 1992, in the month of October. Some of it was due to lower credit card debt, which should bring a moment of joy to the chronic worriers, though much of it was due to lower volume in auto loans, which is sort of hard to read. That should at least make the greens happy.
HP settles spy scandal for $14.5m (
HP has settled the civil charges against it, stemming from the pretexting affair. The fine came to $14.5 million, which is obviously a token amount. In announcing the settlement, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said "HP is not Enron", which means that he wouldn't "love to personally escort" Patty Dunn "to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, 'Hi, my name is Spike, honey", as he wanted to do with Ken Lay. That must be quite a relief for Dunn, even though the settlement of the civil charges have no effect on her criminal proceedings.
Seminoles Parlay Casino Revenue Into Growing Business Empire (Bloomberg)
Could the Seminole tribe's purchase of the Hard Rock Cafe usher in a new era of big business for the various Native American tribes? It sounds like the others would love to follow the Seminole lead and expand both geographically and into new lines of business. On an internet news site devoted to tribal affairs, many spoke in awe of Seminole business acumen, saying, "You have to look at the Seminoles; they're the tribe that never surrendered. They never signed a peace treaty and they still carry that attitude with them." Currently, the tribe also owns cattle ranches, cigarette shops, and citrus farms, but we can only imagine what's next. hedge fund? A search engine? A Canadian royalty trust? The possibilities truly are limitless.

Cisco Systems eyes 12 possible acquisition targets: CEO Chambers (Marketwatch)
After the bubble burst, and its stock imploded, Cisco ceased to be Cisco for awhile. It stopped making acquisitions on the order of five per month. Good to see the company's got its ol' juices flowing again. Speaking at a conference, CEO John Chambers said the company is currently eying 12 acquisitions. Wow. But he declined to give any names, so we can only guess.
Panel says benefits of medicated stent far outweigh risks (Houston Chronicle)
The most volatile and rocky area within the broader universe of healthcare is not the pharmaceutical business, it's the stents game. Specifically, drug-coated stents. No other industry, it seems, is plagued by as many manufacturing problems, recalls and questions about efficacy, as the little tubes made by companies like J&J, Boston Scientific, and Medtronic. An FDA panel, convened to shed some light on the issue, will only leave people more confused than before. It said that stents do have enough benefit to outweigh the risks, but that it's not clear if they can themselves produce blood clots. It also said there's insufficient evidence to suggest that the boost the likelihood of heart attacks and death. Good, we'd hope there'd be insufficient evidence for that, though that language should leave people less than comforted.
Could JetBlue start charging fliers for fluffier blankets and pillows? (Today in the Sky)
JetBlue may be a discount airline, but it's not American version of Ryanair, at least not yet. It has the TV in every seat, which is a great luxury, and you still get free chips and soda on the flight. Ryanair, as all the stories say, really makes you feel like your on a Greyhound in the sky, and charges heavily for anything, like a mid-flight drink. But there's word that JetBlue would like to increase its ancillary revenues. Reportedly, the company's CEO is considering a charge for nicer blankets and pillows. At least it would still offer the cheap ones for free (though usually it's the pillow itself that ends up giving you the neckache. Still, once it goes down this road of charging for more stuff in flight, who knows where it will end up.
Best Buy to Open Its First Store in China (WSJ)
Wal-Mart's been pulling off the magic trick for some time, of selling Chinese-made goods at inflated prices back to the Chinese. Now Best Buy is hoping it can do the same. The company is opening up its first store in China, hoping it can sell electronics to a country with no shortage of them. Since the company announced its intentions in China, there's been a flurry of consolidation in the retail electronics space there, which will only make things more difficult for it.
The injustice of the Jeff Skilling case (Houston's Clear Thinkers)
Throughout the trial of the century, Lay and Skilling had no better friend that Houston attorney Tom Kirkendall. Who wasn't their lawyer, but rather a sharp writer who did his best to pick apart the Enron case. Now on the eve of Jeff Skilling's reporting to prison, an even that we'll cover, of course, Kirkendall has one last summation of the trial, and why he thinks it was a farce. Read it, and then you'll never have to again.