Opening Bell: 4.11.07

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Vision raises $55 mln for fund incubator (Reuters)
Long ago, we stopped playing the "this is a sign of the bubble" game. Nobody wants to sound too much like Stephen Roach, so eventually you get out of the business of making gloomy warnings. That being said, the word "incubator" is always a scare word, as it brings back memories of the internet incubator business (think CMGI) and all the hype that received in 1999 and 2000. Turned out that the business of incubating startups was a pretty lame business, and a bunch of people lost their shirts. Now we see hedge fund incubators, which would be the 2007 equivalent of 1999's internet incubators. You raise money, and then help various tiny hedge funds get off the ground, raise money, figure out a strategy, and then you profit like made. Hopefully the boom goes on long enough for that to happen. Of course, at $55 million, we're hardly talking about real money here, so until we see much bigger numbers, maybe there's no reason to worry.
Shell Proposes European Settlement to Reserves Claims (Bloomberg)
Shell announced that it's prepared to, er, shell out several hundred million dollars to its investors as a way to remunerate them the company's 2004 scandal associated with miscounting its reserves. That's nice and all, but we're not exactly sure what the point is. If a company writes a big settlement check to its investors, how is that different from a one-time dividend? And since a dividend -- theoretically -- is a zero-sum action, it's hard to get too excited about this settlement. People love to see cash though, that's for sure.
Nasdaq in talks to buy Phila.Exchange-report (Reuters)
The NASDAQ has been rebuffed in its attempts to expand abroad, so now it may be looking to grow in its own back yard. Word is that the exchange is interested in buying out the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, which is a short Chinatown bus ride away. Regional exchanged have never made too much sense to us, but their continued existence would seem to provide evidence that they serve a purpose. In addition to the SOX, the PSE also does a brisk business in options, which the NASDAQ would like to get its hands on.
Tate & Lyle lists on US Aim rival (FT Alphaville)
If you subscribe to the maxim of "invest in what you know", and you're one of those die hard Splenda devotees, then you're in luck. Splenda maker Tate & Lyle is now listed in the US. However -- and here's the interesting part -- they're listed on a new platform developed by the Pink Sheets (no, not the Financial Times), but the seedy minor league of stocks that makes the AMEX look like the NYSE. Apparently, the Pink Sheets want to be the new AIM, the hot market in London that's been stealing all of the startups from the NASDAQ.


Sub-prime crisis could spread to other markets, IMF warns (Independent)
Probably not too many people take their investing cues from the IMF, but just in case, the organization is warning that the sub-prime flu could spread to many other parts of the economy, and that the deterioration has been a lot more rapid that what might've otherwise been expected. In particular, it warned of problems in the private equity industry, and on money flowing towards emerging markets.
Yahoo to sell ads for Viacom sites (Bloomberg)
One of the curses of too much power is that your competitors and would-be partners deny you business just because you're so strong. As such, it's not surprising that Viacom has selected Yahoo to provide search services across its web properties. It's not that Yahoo has the better search engine, or a better advertising platform (it doesn't), but that Viacom and Google are not talking these days (you know, the YouTube thing). And even if they were talking, Viacom probably wouldn't be interested in handing over more power to Google, which it sees as a rival down the road.
A Word of Advice During a Housing Slump: Rent (NYT)
There's probably nothing more annoying than know-it-alls who chide renters for "throwing their money away". Despite the fact that they spent $1.5 million on an apartment the size of a large bathroom, they convince themselves that it's the prudent thing, and that really, they're just putting the money towards equity, so it's not as if they're even spending that money. To hear them say it, it's as though buying a house is tantamount to getting a house for free. Our advice is to just ignore these people, especially at parties, since it's not a good environment to get into it. Besides, no matter how rational you come across, those that sip deeply from the cup of home ownership will consider you dumb, no matter what. In today's Economix column, which is usually pretty sharp, David Leonhardt looks at the rent vs. buy question, and makes the case that it does make sense to rent from time to time. There's another angle -- and this is serious -- that should be considered. Home owners are less interesting. Sorry, we said it. Homeowners spend more time at places like home depot. They think more about utilities. They're more tied down. They travel less. They don't go where the good jobs are. They talk about their house a lot more. They talk about insurance and property taxes a lot more. These aren't positive attributes. Sure, renters talk about their obnoxious landlords -- and that's really annoying too -- but on the whole, it's not as bad.
Morgan Stanley Shareholders Vote Against Executive-Pay Resolution (Dealbook)
You really don't want shareholders deciding things like executive pay, no matter what company you're at. Even many of the savviest shareholders will be swayed by arguments that the chiefs get paid too much, and if they happen to read the Times, then watch out. This is not too mention the activist shareholders that know they'll be able to make hay over pay, even when it's not really a big problem. So, it's good to see that shareholders don't want that power, and are happy to leave it to the board.

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