Opening Bell: 4.10.07

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Funds Said to Consider $45 Billion Bell Canada Bid (Dealbook)
The latest word from Dow Chemical is that it's not up for sale as had been rumored. That means $50 billion is not yet the high watermark for LBOs. Word is that Ontario Teachers Pension Plan is in talks with a number of other pension plans about making a joint bid for Bell Canada, a deal that would be worth $45 million. If this were to happen it would be a record, but we can't imagine it standing for long. Would the private equity guys really let the biggest deal of all time go to a few pension funds? We're guessing that they'd try to top the deal in short order. However, there are other reports that the Ontario teachers are also in talks with more traditional private equity firms (KKR being one of them), about going in on such a deal together.
American Home Mortgage Shares Fall on Profit Forecast (Bloomberg)
Bring out the epidemiologists, there's more evidence that supbrime flu is spreading. Yesterday, American Home Mortgage Inc. announced that it was attracting few bids for its portfolio of not-quite-subprime home loans, and that its earnings would take a major hit in the coming quarter. The company offers loans to people that have good credit, but for some reason or another don't quite qualify for prime (?) mortgages. The company insists that its loans should not be seen as subprime, and that its wrong for investors to think of the company as operating in that space.
McDonald's agrees to pay more for Florida tomatoes (Reuters)
In the world of global trade and capitalism, certain items unexpectedly take on certain metaphysical properties, as they come to represent something much bigger than they are. Mexican tortillas, whose price has been driven higher by demand for ethanol, is one of them. Roquefort cheese and cardigan sweaters have also been at the centers of controversy. For a few years, Florida tomatoes have been at the center of a major labor battle, as fast food giants like Taco Bell and McDonalds are accused of paying starvation prices to the companies that pick the tomatoes. We'll spare you our (tired and predictable) opinion on such things, and we'll just report completely happily that the company has agreed to pay $.01 more per lb., which is seen as a victory for those fighting on the side of the tomato pickers.
Puma says received no takeover approach from Nike (Reuters)
Last week it was announced that German shoe maker Puma would be bought out by luxury goods maker PPR. Apparently, there had been some speculation that Nike might come in and make a competing bid, but Puma is putting cold water on the idea. It's a good thing, since we're hard pressed to imagine what Puma would really add to Nike's portfolio. If Nike wanted to make Puma-like shoes, all it would have to do is flip over the swoosh.


Sharp drop in oil prices Refinery problems cause glut of crude (Tribune)
It took five days after the release of the British sailors to get a new explanation for oil price movements. This time, they're back to a classic explanation -- supply & demand. Well, almost. Some problems at a major oil refinery have led a big buildup in unrefined crude that's going to need to be worked down before things get back to normal again. So in the meantime, prices are falling on account of the glut.
Take-Two CFO resigns (GameSpot)
Activist investors have been slicing up Take-Two like the proverbial hot knife through butter. First, they won the ouster of the company's CEO last month, and now the head of the CFO has been served up on a platter as well. Take-Two, of course, is the parent company of Rockstar games, which makes the controversial -- but highly popular -- Grand Theft Auto series. The big mistake for the company was probably when it decided to branch away from killing games and make a really awesome ping pong video game. Seriously, it's a great game, but probably not category killer that GTA is.
Honey, I Lost the Endowment (Inside Higher Ed) (via Mahalanobis)
Inside higher Ed talks about an economics (first red flat) professor at Charleston Southern University who served as something of a go-to guy for people and institutions looking for help investing. They must've figured -- as many people do -- that because he studied economics, he was a good investor, which is beyond fallacy. Even the university gave the guy $10 million to invest. Well, it doesn't look like things have turned out very well, as all the money pretty much seems to be gone. It's not clear whether he lost or what, and he's not helping much. The prof has come down with a well-timed case of amnesia, and has checked himself into the hospital. Now, the point here isn't to just laugh at a sadly amusing anecdote. Instead, it should make people realize that actual skill is worth money, and that when people get paid highly for their work, it's because other people trying to do the same thing could prove a disaster, as in this guy's case.
Nacchio's Defense Team Rests (WSJ)
Man, this trial has moved really fast, and it seems to be flying almost completely under the radar of the media. It's probably a bit of scandal fatigue, actually. When you realize that there are still fresh Enron trials, nobody has a lot of energy left for things like this. So, the defense team has rested, and the Journal describes its efforts as "lackluster". Apparently, one of its final witnesses was a Catholic Abbott who testified that Nacchio's son had tried to commit suicide around that time, the implication being that Nacchio was in no position to focus on some sort of illegal stock scheme -- although cynics may wonder why he was still running the company at the time. If we had to be, we'd guess that his overall defense isn't going to hold up. We'll know pretty soon.

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