Opening Bell: 2.26.07

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It's a deal for TXU (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Well, it happened. Late on Friday came word that KKR was about to announce the purchase of Texas utility TXU, in what would be the largest private equity buyout of all time, eclipsing a record that's stood untouched for about two weeks. Including debt, the deal will come to around $45 billion. There seems to be a big environmental angle to the deal. The Times is framing the whole thing in terms of the deal's "greenness", as it points out that KKR will not invest in 11 new, much-maligned coal plants. Of course, it could easily be that the buyers aren't interested in making any new capital outlays after such a big purchase -- smart of them to paint it with this environmental brush, particularly after last night's stirring Oscar ceremony. Who will ever forget Melissa Etheridge singing her song for "An Inconvenient Truth" with messages on the screen behind her about how we can reduce our carbon emissions. Riveting stuff.
Salesforce.com’s big customer: Mystery solved (Between the Lines)
Salesforce.com is the web-based software company that goes against heavyweights like Oracle, Microsoft and SAP. It's now got a new target in its sights: Bloomberg. Not the mayor, but the provider of financial data to Wall St. The company has put together a comparable offering that doesn't require its own terminal, and costs only $500 per month, well below what Bloomberg charges. It's going to be an uphill battle for Salesforce, since Bloomberg terminals are so entrenched and people are so familiar with them. But the idea of a special terminal designed for data from one company does seem a bit quaint. Already, Merrill Lynch says it will use the service for 25,000 employees.
Daimler mulls GM stake to pay for Chrysler unit (Reuters)
There continues to be a lot of chatter about the fate of Chrysler, although it doesn't sound like anything is even close to certain. Apparently, the idea that it might go to GM in some way is still on the table, and that GM might pay for the unit by giving Daimler an equity stake in itself. Again, this is all just rumor (this particular one originated at the Financial Times). So, in other words, GM would like Chrysler, but not if it means actually paying money for it. Giving up an equity stake is much more palatable.
Tribune Mulls Revamp As Auction Founders (WSJ)
The whole Chicago Tribune auction pretty much fizzled out. Sam Zell has put in a late bid, but it doesn't appear to be to management's liking. Now the management is left figuring out how to turn around the company on its own. At this point, it's going to do a "self help" restructuring, which doesn't sound much different than any other restructuring. Current plans include spinning of its TV unit and disbursing a big one-time dividend to shareholders.


Slump may seal satellite radio deal (Bloomberg)
Analysts expect subscriber growth at both XM and Sirius to slow in the coming quarters, but it's being spun as good news. If growth is slowing, the thinking goes, then it becomes easier to convince the feds that they should be allowed to merge. It becomes clearer, then, that the companies are part of a broader market, and that they currently don't have much in the way of pricing power, even with a duopoly. Of course, if the companies do merge, then slumping growth will be the issue of the day. Oh well, they can cross that bridge when they get to it. For now, it's all about winning approval.
US economic outlook 'improving' (BBC)
According to the economists at the National Association for Business Economics, the US economy will continue to its solid rate of growth. Not too slow, so as to warrant interest rate cuts, and not too fast, so as to bring on inflation. It'll be just right.
Nike Commissions a Rap Song in Honor of Its Air Force 1 Shoe (NYT)
Nike has paid rappers Nas, KRS-One and Kanye West to do a song about the venerable Air Force 1 shoe, which is now its 25th year. Being big fains of the AF1, we can't wait to hear the song, but why would you pay rappers to mention the shoes? It's been mentioned in so many songs already -- doesn't seem like you'd actually need to pay anyone to talk about 'em.
Ben Stein speaks (Ideoblog)
Larry reads Ben so you don't have to. Seriously, this weekend's Ben Stein column appears to provide more evidence that the man has slipped into an ideological abyss, from which there is no saving. Among other things, he attacks $10 million bar-mitzvahs, because they're the product of the rich, who have received large tax breaks over the years, and thus are responsible for all of our problems.
JetBlue moves quickly to cancel flights this storm (CNNMoney)
Just to make it abundantly clear that it learned its lesson, JetBlue canceled a bunch of flights out of JFK to account for the snowstorm. Never before have mass cancellations been greeted with such a sigh of relief.

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