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Opening Bell: 3.22.07

Motorola signals get worse (Chicago Tribune)
All week long there's been a steady drumbeat of rumors claiming that Motorola was this close to buying out Palm (not that you care, cause you use a Blackberry), and actually today was supposed to be the day of the announcement. We suppose in theory that it might still happen, but for the moment, it would seem really surprising if it turned out to be so. Yesterday, after the close, Motorola announced that its business was deteriorating, which everyone pretty much knew already. We've hit on it before here; you can't base a whole business on the RAZR and a bunch of phones that and in -ZR. Just doesn't work.
After Sell-Off, Chinese Stocks Back at a Record (NYT)
So much for the crash. The Chinese stock market has now officially erased the entirety of its losses from earlier this month and now trades at a new all-time high. The precipitous decline did little to stem that mad rush of money into the country, as investors fearlessly pounced on battered stocks. If anything, the dip may have given some people, who had been on the sidelines in China, a chance to get in at a ("relative") bargain.
Nikko Shareholder Snubs Citigroup’s Sweetened Offer (Dealbook)
Citigroup is having a hard time moving this Nikko deal along. The company had to scrap its original proposal after just a couple of days when it became obvious that it wasn't offering enough. It also didn't help that the Nikkei lifted the threat of delisting from the beleaguered firm, which really took the pressure off of shareholders to sell out. Now, Nikko's largest shareholder says that Citigroup's sweetened offer isn't sweet enough, and that the company will need to add about 20% more Splenda to the drink if it expects it to take a sap. At this point, things have changed quite a bit, and we wouldn't be surprised to see Citi just give up on it.
Wal-Mart to Pay $530 Million in Bonuses to U.S. Staff (Bloomberg)
Wal-Mart announced bonuses of $530 million for its workers; it seems like a lot until you realize that the money will be disbursed to over 800,000 employees., which comes to an average of about $650 per head. Actually, that's not so bad, considering the wages of most Wal-Mart employees, although does highlight how silly it is when people start talking about taking away bonuses from the executives and giving them to the people. When you add it all up and spread it around to the staff, it really doesn't amount a whole lot.

Shareholders sue Affiliated Computer Services (Reuters)
Affiliated Computer Services said this morning that it faced two shareholder lawsuits, amidst its management buyout. The complaint is that the price being paid by management (alongside Cerberus) undervalue the company. It's funny, we could totally see Ben Stein having bought some ACS just so he could be party to a lawsuit.
Pet food maker's woes mount (Globe and Mail)
The situation continues to deteriorate at Menu Foods Income Fund, which has been embroiled in a major pet food recall, as its products allegedly resulted in 14 pet deaths. Now the the lawsuits are coming, and frankly, there's nobody we'd want to tussle with less than angry pet owners. Good luck reasoning with them, or trying to explain that their pet may have died right after eating Menu Foods Income Food dog food, but that the two weren't related at all. Meanwhile, the company's stock continues to get slammed, making it this year's Bausch & Lomb.
Al Gore's Plan for the "Climate Crisis" (Hit & Run)
There hasn't been a whole lot of talk about the direct Wall St. impact of Al Gore's crusade to cure the earth of its fever. Turns out he has some very specific Wall St.-related proposals. For one thing, he wants the SEC to compel companies to list their carbon emissions on a quarterly basis. It's not really clear why he wants that, or what that has to do with an SEC filing, but if we had a President Gore, the CEO might have to swear by that number along with everything else. Gore also wants the government to create an organization for green mortgages, which would be called "Connie Mae" (connie=carbon neutral(, which would encourage the building of green homes. This seems like sort of a long shot, and Gore might want to check out the stellar records of our other august quasi-government mortgage institutions before proposing the creation of a few new ones.
Stop the Madness? (Free Exchange)
Free Exchange, the blog from The Economist, does its little intellectual thing on the economics of March Madness. That's fine, they're entitled to do that, since otherwise they wouldn't have any pretense for wirting about the tournament. We suppose the same could be said here, but we'll just add that we're really, really glad it's Thursday, and that the wait for today has been killing us. If you're still in the hunt in your brackets, it's probably killing you too.
Starbucks Signs Paul McCartney To Music Label (WSJ)
It's been clear for a long time that Starbucks sees itself as more than just a mere coffee company. Instead, it sees itself as an "editor of culture'. It sells CDs, and it even had something to with that movie Akeelah and the Bee, although we're not sure what. This past week, it announced that it would actually launch its own record label. And yesterday, it said that it had signed on Sir Paul McCartney himself to be its first artist. Honestly, we still don't get what the company is thinking. Let's just say, we've never really seen the synergies. But there's something painfully perfect about McCartney being its act, we just can't put our finger on it. Unfortunately, we're guessing they can't either.