Opening Bell: 2.13.07

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BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both eyeing Alcoa as target (Times of London)
According to sources known to the Times of London, both Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are getting set to make plays at Alcoa, as both are prepared to offer over $40 billion for the firm. Alcoa itself was a player in many of the acquisition battles last summer, although for the most part the company came up empty, losing out to South American and Canadian firms. Any bidding war could get messy and expensive. The two companies are bitter rivals, and are both sitting on plenty of cash after plenty of good years. Word is that neither company has approached Alcoa about the idea. Meanwhile, a source close to BHP Billiton has told Reuters that the company is not interested in Alcoa. Hard to say what this means; make of that what you will.
Oil Trades Little Changed Amid Forecasts of Milder U.S. Weather (Bloomberg)
Good news, the cold snap is on its last legs, and we may soon see some version of the lovely global warming that we had experienced through January. According to an email sent from the International Energy Agency -- always the first name in weather -- temperatures across the US are expected to be above average during a brief window from Feb. 22-26. This has already sent oil sagging, although it had climbed to close to $60 during the cold, meaning we have a lot of ground to make up.
Caremark and CVS Raise Deal Payout (Dealbook)
Caremark still hasn't been able to put the biscuit in the basket, so to speak, and close the CVS deal, letting opposition to it build. So, in hopes of mollifying angry shareholders, the prescription benefits manager has promised to triple the one-time dividend to CVS shareholders that it had promised. The offer, to raise the dividend to a juicy $6/share comes after two advisory firms, CtW and ISS urged shareholders to vote against the offer, citing Caremark's unwillingness to discuss a better deal.
Venezuela to Pay $572 Million For Verizon's CANTV Stake (WSJ)
Venezuela's nationalization of telecom operator CANTV won't completely screw Verizon over. Negotiations between Verizon and the happy nationalizer Hugo Chavez resulted in a $572 million for the company's 28.5% stake. There was some worry initially that they wouldn't get anything, and, of course, if they had been in Russia, they might have faced some prison time, so that's a relief. Of course the Chavez government is promising not to pursue profit, but to only focus on expanded services to the people. And speaking of Venezuela, have you seen the Joe Kennedy ads touting the discounted Citgo heating oil... "from our friends in Venezuela". Guess he's not planning on getting back into politics.


Euro-zone economy accelerates on Italy recovery (MarketWatch)
The nice thing about the European economy is that the various countries can trade off supporting the whole thing. Sometimes it's Germany turning in strong numbers, but then as it unexpectedly slows down, which is always to be expected, Italy take over the baton. At the moment, both Germany and Italy are turning in strong numbers, although France continues to be a laggard. The French government hasn't released q4 numbers, although it'll be awhile before it faces delisting over something like that.
Luxury Hotel Chain’s Board Backs Offer to Go Private (NYT)
Bill Gates now has a free hotel room for life after his private equity firm, Cascade, has had its offer accepted by the Four Seasons. The initial bid, which was made in conjunction with Saudi Prince Walid bin Talal was accepted after no higher offers emerged.
Can Executives Find Happiness With a BlackBerry Minus Its Scroll Wheel? (NYT)
That headline isn't really meant to be answered. Think of it as something between a proverbial question and a koan.
Bollywood's view of capitalism (Ideoblog)
Like many of our great cultural pundits, Gret-Gret basher par excellence Larry Ribstein is also a commenter on films. He sees most Hollywood films the same way he sees SarbOx, i.e. they're anti-business. Of course, a lot of people bash leftism in Hollywood films without saying anything original. They just wish Hollywood would make more G-rated movies, cause besides, they make more money. But Ribstein actually has something to say. He passes on a story about Bollywood, and it turns out that the while typically, the Bombay film industry shares Hollywood's anti-business bent, things may be changing. A new movie features a hero who gives a rousing man-of-the-people speech about wanting to build the world's largest textile conglomerate. It's a hopeful sign for the future of the country.
Housing Effect Is Taxing (Matrix)
Cities and states rarely do contingency planning, when it comes to revenue. California, for example, during the last bubble took in gobs of money from rich .commers paying state capital gains taxes. So the legislature assumed it would always be like that, and spent accordingly. Not so much. In recent years, the big windfall has come from housing, as property taxes and other bi-products of the boom flowed into state coffers. But again, even housing booms have to slow down, leaving many cities dry and unable to keep up with the same level of services. It doesn't help things that more and more people's primary salary is somehow related to the housing industry, furthering the pain of the slowdown.

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