Opening Bell: 2.6.07

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Blackstone Raises Equity Office Bid to $39 Billion (Bloomberg)
Bam! Blackstone is coming right back at Vornado delivering a solid jab, raising its bid once again for Equity Office on the eve of a shareholder vote. The $39 billion offer remains a shade lower than Vornado's bid -- to the tune of $.50/share -- but Blackstone's all-cash bid has to be seen as the favorite. In other good news for Blackstone, the board of Equity Office has upped the termination fee that Vornado would have to pay, should it come out victorious. If the shareholders reject Blackstone, it'll still come away with a cool $720 million, for its troubles.
Toyota Reports Record Quarterly Profit (AP)
Coming as a surprise to nobody, Toyota turned in another excellent quarter with sales nonchalantly climbing another 15%, to bring it within spitting distance of GM. An analyst at Credit Suisse but it well, saying, "To be honest, it's hard to find anything bad at this point." This is good news for the US auto industry, in which Toyota is well integrated. With strong demand in the US, the company has no reason to slow down its buildout of factories here. Locations in Tennessee and Arkansas are rumored to be among the chief candidates for the next one.
S.E.C. Is Looking at Stock Trading (NYT)
Most of the SEC investigations, these days, are rather esoteric, far too "inside baseball" for the public to understand. Sure, people pretend to get upset about backdating, but their outrage is probably just a subset of their outrage over executive pay in general. Of course, reading folks like Gretchen Morgenson only reinforce the point that it's all the same thing. Now the SEC is looking into something everyone sort of gets, insider trading. Yup, nothing fancy here, just a simple question: are banks leaking information to favored clients in exchange for more business. Easy answer: yes, yes they are. Of course insider trading goes on. What they'll find, and who will actually get in trouble will take a bit longer to determine.
Investor to Fill Home Depot Seat (WSJ)
In a victory for the agitatin' activist investors that forced the Home Depot CEO out of his job, the company has named David Batchelder to a seat on the board. Batchelder is the head of Relational Investors, the main activist fund pushing for a reform of the company's executive compensation practices. Batchelder will assume a role on the company's compensation and audit committee as well. This is probably a brilliant move on the part of Home Depot. It's easy to throw stones from the outside, but now that he's in the fold, perhaps he'll lose a bit of his fire. Perhaps he's even corruptible.


Dow Jones Hires Booz Allen To Figure Out This Revenue Thing; Reuters Hires McKinsey Partner Fulltime (PaidContent)
Nobody could fault the big media companies for not giving the whole blog thing the old college try. In fact, there's nary a newspaper left that doesn't have several blogs now. But as they're certainly realizing, all of this hasn't done much for the bottom line. So Dow Jones is hiring consultants to help it figure out this whole blog thing, and how it fits in to the company. The consultants have a simple task ahead of them: figure out new ways for Dow Jones to make money.
3i to list infrastructure fund (FT Alphaville)
Infrastructure investments were super hot this past year. Goldman was buying up ports, and other immovable assets, while the Australian i-banks couldn't get enough of things like water utilities, airports and tollroads. And now is your chance to buy into this sexy/boring industry. British investment group 3i is going to put out a public listing of its own infrastructure investments. It already has investments in water, hospitals and schools, and it aims to achieve an annual rate of growth somewhere around 12%. You can just think of it as a post-bubble CMGI.
New Charges in Russia Against Oil Executives (Dealbook)
Former Yukos executive Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky is already in jail, stemming from his public tussles with Vladimir Putin. The blatantly political prosecution helped ease Yukos' most valuable assets into state hands, setting off a chain of events that has greatly elevated Putin's standing in the world, particularly with respect to energy. But there's still a little bit of Yukos left, that's not under the iron grip, so new charges are being thrown at Khodorkovsky which should allow the remaining bits to be taken over. This time it's an embezzlement charge. Hard to know if there's anything to it, but if we had to guess, we'd guess not. Doesn't really matter, it's all been a formality right from the beginning.
Kodak Enters Inkjet-Printer Market With Low-Cost Cartridges (AP)
HP, as everyone knows is the world's largest ink company. Sure, they sell computers and software and services, and stuff like that. But it's the black stuff that really puts the company in the black. The company's been furiously protecting its margins by going after third party ink distributors, filing all sorts of patent claims against them, and whatever else they can to ensure that nobody else invades their turf. The company is going to have some fresh competition from Kodak, which is going to re-enter the inkjet business, and its pitch will be that it'll sell refill cartridges at a cut rate. Since cartridges can make for a big chunk of the overall cost of ownership of a printer, the proposition could be appealing to customers.

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