Opening Bell: 2.12.07

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Triumphant LSE to forge alliances with Tokyo and Mumbai markets (Guardian)
The NASDAQ went down and went down hard in its attempt to acquire the London Stock Exchange. In addition to its own 25% stake, the NASDAQ only managed to eke out another half of a percent in favor of the deal, meaning that the merger attempt fell well short. Now that the LSE is free of the NASDAQ's prospective shackles, it's free to do whatever it wants, and it's looking to go global (aka, not New York). The LSE is like a college student doing a semester abroad, making friends with stock exchanges in Mumbai and Tokyo. It's not clear exactly what this alliance will look like. The good news for the NASDAQ is that its stake in the LSE has risen appreciably since it initially bought in, so even in defeat, at least it's made some money.
Thomas Cook merges with MyTravel (Telegraph)
Walk through any ethnically concentrated neighborhood in New York, and you'll find a real blast from the past: travel agents. They're usually offering cheap flights back to the home country, along with a few flights to Florida (with a cardboard poster of a couple snorkeling in the window). No doubt, however, it's a dying industry, as two European operators are discovering. Two of the big ones, Thomas Cook (of money exchange fame) and MyTravel announced a merger, hoping to stave off threats like discount airfare and online booking, both of which have, and will continue to eat into their business.
After Acquiring Equity Office, Blackstone Begins Selling It (NYT)
That didn't take long. Within hours of acquiring EOP, Blackstone has begun to dismantle it. The company has already unloaded some $7 billion in properties, including some Manhattan towers. And it will probably have to make a few more rapid-fire sales, just to account make up for the fact that it spent several billion more than it had intended (thanks Vornado!).
RIM releases Pearl-esque BlackBerry 8800 (The Register)
Looking to upgrade your BlackBerry? Research in Motion is out with a new version of its generation-defining handset, as it hopes to pack new features into the device to stave off competition. If you'll recall, RIM stock fell hard after Apple released the iPhone, even though the iPhone is an unlikely candidate for business use. The big change, at least from the pictures, is that the sidewheel (for scrolling) has been replaced by a trackball, right on the front. Doesn't seem like a huge difference -- on second thought, maybe RIM should be worried.


White Knight Turns Pragmatist, and Newspapers Tremble Again (NYT)
Just in case you didn't realize, the newspaper industry is still in some pretty rough shape. Like, really. And it's interesting to read about McClatchey, which -- when it bought some of the former Knight Ridder papers last year was hailed as a savior -- has basically gone into crisis mode, dumping papers and saving nothing.
Natural Gas Cartel Not Likely (Antitrust Review)
Good news if you're worried about the emergence of an OPEC for natural gas, as Iran and Russia would both like. It's probably not gonna happen because Indonesia, which would have to be part of it, for it to be effective, is not interested. The country's been burned in the past in projects like these, so apparently it will leave things up to the market. Just for reference, there is an Gas Exporting Country Forum, but apparently it doesn't get it involved in things like supply or price fixing. Sounds like more of a social club.
A long and fruitless day (Bert's Horseracing Blog)
Other than blackjack and poker, horse racing has been one of the forms of gambling that academic, wonky types find tolerable. In a sense it's beatable. If you know the horses styles, or if you have a quant formula that cracks the code, then you can win money. If you're interested in reading this world, check out Bert's Horseracing Blog, written by one of the founders of UK gambling giant Betfair. A horse owner himself, he has some interesting discussions about horse auctions that should appeal to financial types.
London Parents Scramble for Edge In Preschool Wars (WSJ)
Ugh, more evidence that New York isn't the sole center of the financial world anymore. As if losing the LSE wasn't enough of a slap in the face, the journal is reporting the pre-school mania, the type of thing you expect to find only in Manhattan, is heating up in London, as parents seek to find the perfect fit for their newborns. Women are having c-sections to time their births around admissions periods, and of course the best schools require interviews and aptitude tests. So far, there's no evidence of extreme corruption in the system, like giving school headmasters some shares in an IPO allotment in exchange for preferential placement. Of course, we'll know things are really out of hand when parents start sending their children abroad, like doing a semester at the 92nd St. Y pre-school.

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