Opening Bell: 1.18.07

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Apple's Forecast Falls Short After Record Profit (Bloomberg)
Steve Jobs? Can him. Obviously, it was easy to defend Steve Jobs when the turtleneck was made of teflon, and Apple never had a slip up. But the company warned that its current quarter might come in a bit shy of expectations, even while announcing that the holiday quarter broke a new record. All in all, not a very big infraction, but when you're staring down the barrel of a gun, there's no rum for slip ups. So, SEC, if you want him, have at him, we're no longer going to stick our necks out there for the guy.
NETeller quits U.S. after illegal gambling arrests (Reuters)
Today, millions of online poker players have officially been left in the lurch, as NETelleter, the leading money transfer firm to online casinos decided to exit the business. This comes after two of its founders have been charged with conspiracy. Of course, freedom, like a weed growing in the crack between to concrete slabs, always prevails, so poker players are bound to find a way around the situation. What that way around is, remains to be seen. It'll probably involve expensive, shady things, like buying a phone card from a British company, and then giving your phone card to an online casino for some percentage of its cost. Mission accomplished.
Rivals Offer $38 Billion for a REIT (NYT)
As expected by many, a rival bid has been launched for Equity Office Partners, the enormous REIT. The company had already agreed to a $36 billion takeout led by Blackstone, but the company now has $2 billion more on the table, as an offer has been put together by a group of industry veterans. This really sets the stage for a battle, and it'll be one of those deals that business profs talk about for years, just as they talk about the purchase of RJR Nabisco, which was once the biggest all-time deal. Still, the new bidders have their work cut out for them. Blackstone is already far along in the process, and the $38 billion dollar offer isn't just a big bucket of cash thrown on the table. It's more complicated, and involves getting shares of Vornado, which investors might not favor. Either way, it's gonna be a fun one.
GM stalls slightly but retains top-seller title (AP)
Here's an idea: GM and Toyota need to change their national affiliations. Toyota has been rapidly building auto plants in the US (and has no plans to stop), so they might as well just say that they're a US automaker. Meanwhile, GM continues to grow at a decent pace overseas, but is getting nailed domestically, so why not move? Get rid of the stigma of being a "Detroit automaker", and claim to be from China or something. Furthermore, this could help GM as it positions itself as the underdog, which is a role it's been reluctant to embrace.


TJX credit data stolen; wide impact feared (Boston Globe)
We've heard of a lot of these this year. TJX, the parent company to retailer TJ Maxx announced that its had a major breach of customer data, as attackers have stolen its credit card information. just hope you don't turn up on the list, or everyone will know you shop at TJ Maxx.
What's bringing oil prices down? (Econbrowser)
Perhaps you've noticed, but most analysis of the energy situation in the media is pretty simpleminded. Either oil is going up or down because: (pick one) a) the Saudis can't get their shit together or b) it's cold or warm. That's about it, and whichever one the article says probably just has to do with the mood of the writer that day. So if you want a little more depth, check out this post at Econbrowser, which goes through several plausible explanations to see if any of them make sense. His conclusion is that none make sense, and that he can't give you an answer, which is really unsatisfying. But then, he argues, that since there have been no changes in fundamentals (there's still a tight supply/demand picture, with growth in China still continuing unabated), the price can't go down forever, and that speculators better watch out. Who will be this year's Brian Hunter, that's predicting oil to fall to $30?
Tribune Gets Proposal to Acquire Company, Divide It (Bloomberg)
There's long been a lot of speculation about the fate of the Tribune company, as the newspaper has made several indications that it would like to not be in its existing situation (a public newspaper company that's not going anywhere). Now the paper's founding family has proposed to buy it out (along with the Chicago Cubs), and break the company up. It's not entirely clear how they see the company dividing. There are several TV stations, so it might separate those (who gets the Cubs, though?). Either way, it's a family buyout, which is dangerously akin to a management buyout and must be prevented at all costs.
Meebo Raises $9 Million Second Round Led By DFJ; Tim Draper Joins Board (PaidContent)
Do you Meebo? You might, if you work at an office where they don't allow you to download an IM client to your computer. If not, but you find yourself in this situation,then you should be. The site lets you access your IM accounts through any web browser, making it hard for the suits in corporate to prevent you have from having inane chats with your friends. It's not clear what the business model is here, but that doesn't matter too much; the company just raised $9 million. Perhaps its business model is just taking in more venture capital when money runs low.

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