Opening Bell: 11.17.07

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NETeller Founders Charged in U.S. With Conspiracy (Bloomberg)
Yesterday, the American war on British business execs continued with the arrest of two former executives at NETeller, which is basically the European version of PayPal. Like so many before them, the pair made the mistake of traveling to the US thinking that because their company doesn't break any of their own laws, and because NETeller isn't even involved in online gambling, then they'd be fine. Ha, silly them. You don't need to be involved in online gambling, all you need to do is be in a business that's peripherally related to it. As it is, NETeller helps players transfer money to online gambling firms, something that's quite outrageous and worthy of prison, apparently. As US Attorney Michael Garcia put it upon the arrest, "Blatant violations of U.S. law are not a mere `risk' to be disclosed to prospective investors.". Fair enough, although it seems to us that the law specifying the illegality of such transfers was only passed a few months ago, and it's still not technically in force, so this whole "blatant violations" thing is a little much.
Saudi oil minister says he was misquoted on oil price, OPEC meeting (MarketWatch)
Typically, if you were writing a story about oil prices, you could just make up a quote from a oil minister at any OPEC country, and it would probably be right. "The Venezuelan oil minister says deeper cuts are needed, blah blah blah". "The Iranian oil minister called for an emergency session...." But don't go around falsely attributing quotes to the Saudi oil minister. He wants you to know he is not worried about prices, and has not called for an emergency meeting, though we imagine he'll reverse his stance if the price of crude drops a little more.
Hostile Bid for Caremark Spurs an Offer by Drug Rival (NYT)
Express Scripts won't take "no" for an answer, and will continue to pursue its acquisition of Caremark, even though Caremark says its heart belong to CVS. The company is going the hostile route, and in so doing prompted CVS to make a more generous offer to Caremark shareholders. Express Scripts says it has no choice, since the Caremark board has thus far refused to meet with the company.
Tech takedown looms (CNNMoney)
Could we be at the start of seeing a new thesis on tech? In the last couple years, tech could do no wrong, particularly a select few names that had been anointed as the leaders of the latest boom. But a squishy retail season and some brutal price wars has been taking its toll on a range of companies. AMD was absolutely crushed, on account of a price war with Intel, and then Intel got hit pretty hard itself, on account of its price war with AMD. And then you have all the flat panel makers, for whom no amount of volume could stem the precipitous deflation they're facing. And of course you there's all the computer makers and the Vista problems, and the fact that small companies can no longer buy Google Adwords. And there's Steve Jobs' legal woes, don't forget. When you put it all together, you might get investors asking whether it makes sense to keep buying and pushing these stocks higher.


Is Live Sex On-Demand Coming to Hotel TVs? (NYT)
Your overnight business trips may get a little less boring. If you're tired of ordering medium-core porn while you're away from home, then you might have a new "additional charge" that you can tack on to the room bill -- live sex on-demand (on the TV). Well, maybe. To be honest, we really don't see it. We have a hard time imagining that any hotel will put this on their deck of offerings, and, call us prudes, but we're not even sure we understand the business model? How the hell does live sex scale? Do you just have performers waiting around all lubed up and ready to go when a bright light comes on and someone says, a traveler at the Charlotte, North Carolina Four Season just ordered you guys up, let's get a move on. Not seeing it.
Verizon to Sell Phone Assets to FairPoint in 3 States (AP)
Coming, presumably, as a surprise to nobody, Verizon announced the sale of its landline business in 3 New England states. Of course, it's been a long, long time since landlines were a real important part of the business. That's what the phonebook division is for.
Southwest's Net Falls 19% On Losses From Fuel Hedges (WSJ)
For a long time, Southwest Airlines was the envy of the aviation world due to its timely fuel hedges that have saved it a bundle in gas prices over the last several years. But this was never a permanent competitive advantage. You can't get favorable prices forever, and eventually your hedges start to run out. And it's getting worse every quarter now. The company says its jet fuel prices are hedged at $50/barrel, which isn't a whole lot better than the spot prices. They had a good run while it lasted.
Cablevision Spurns Dolans' Bid (WSJ)
Somewhere, Ben Stein is doing the dance for joy. Once again, Cablevision has rejected a buyout offer from the Dolan family, castigating them for trying to fleece shareholders with such a pitiful offer. There's apparently no love lost between the family and the board, and we're sure that many a corporate governance expert are heartened by the lack of "chummyness" they see. This is probably the end of the road for the Dolans, who will have to give up their dream of owning a cable TV company outright, and giving themselves free broadband.
ANNE WOJCICKI: A startup for Google founder's fiancee (ValleyWag)
Here's a company that has some pretty good lineage. Anne Wojcicki, fiancee to Google co-founder Sergey Brin is starting her own biotech company, with the goals of analyzing the DNA of individuals in order to solve.... something. Doesn't sound like they're quite sure what the something is, but you've got to analyze the DNA either way to get to that point.

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