Opening Bell: 4.13.07

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Sallie Mae Said to Talk to Suitors (NYT)
Get ready for the big freakout. Word is that Sallie Mae, the nation's largest originator of student loans, is looking to go private, and it's been having talks with firms about such a deal. Blackstone is considered to be one candidate for the deal, which is expected to go north of $20 billion (which is nothing). Of course, Sallie Mae has been well known problems associated with widening scandals over the way student loans are distributed. So how much do want to bet that a host of politicians are going to start screaming bloody murder, arguing that Sallie Mae needs more public scrutiny, not less.
Postal patrons are lined up for their chance at Forever (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)
At first we were really excited about the Forever stamp (a stamp that you can buy today that will always be good for postage), thinking it was some sort hedging tool, but the more we thought about it, the more realized it wasn't a very big deal at all. The only way it could be interesting is if the rate of postal rate increases vastly outstrips inflation, in which case, you could probably perform a profitable arbitrage at some point in the future. That being said, it seems like consumers are really intrigued by the idea and are eager to get their hands on these stamps. Yesterday was their first day of sale, and apparently consumers in Fort Wayne, Indiana took to them quite eagerly.
Ryanair plans $12 U.S. flights (Toronto Star)
We've been wondering why can't have an airline that's a cheap as Ryanair in the US. Fact is, there aren't really discount airlines anymore. Sure, there are some companies that call themselves discounters (Southwest, jetBlue), but for the most part they're liars. If you really compare things, they're often not much cheaper than American or Delta. But now Ryanair is indicating that it wants to bring its Wal-Mart style hard discounting over to US shares and initiate $12 US flights. Of course, there'll be a bunch of taxes and fees, and the flights might be standing room only, but it may no longer be an exaggeration to say that the cab to JFK was the most expensive part of your trip.
Apple's iPhone will ship on time but Leopard lags (San Francisco Chronicle)
Apple announced that the next version of its operating system OSX, dubbed Leopard, will be delayed as the company has been husbanding resources in order to get its much-hyped iPhone out in time. There's no way to know whether this is true or not. There's no doubt that the company is investing a lot in the mobile space, but maybe it's just having software delays, like another well-known operating system maker (Microsoft, duh). The latter makes sense, because it's a truism of the industry that major software projects are getting more and more expensive and cumbersome to build, which would apply to Apple as much as it would to Microsoft.


Berezovsky Plans Revolution in Russia, Seeks to Remove Putin (Bloomberg)
There's a lot to be concerned about with the future of the US economy, to be sure, but then again, it's hard to know where else to look. When you start examining the alternatives, Europe (Demographic time bomb), China (all kinds of timebombs), Russia..... Yeah, even though a lot of money is flowing there, it's hard to have any real confidence about the future of that economy, particularly as it's now basically given that the company has returned to Soviet-style capitalist fascism under Putin. There's so little faith right now in the democratic process, that dissidents are now calling for armed revolution to oust Putin, even though a ballot box oughta do the trick.
GM Considers Three Plans to Cut Union Health Costs, People Say (Bloomberg)
Heh, and we'd like more sleep.
Merck's Vioxx Troubles May Ebb With Ruling Poised to Aid Defense (WSJ)
A judge in Texas is expected to rule that a recent ('06) FDA decision, which says that agency's approval process trumps all other disclosure regulations, retroactively applies to Vioxx. This could severely undercut all 1,000 lawsuits against Merck in the state of Texas, furthering the company's impressive defense of itself. We continue to believe that most of these lawsuits are undermined by the plaintiffs themselves, many of whom are not dead. While it no doubt sucks to have a heart attack, if you survived it, it's not clear what you deserve millions of dollars for.
Prof Charged in Investment Fraud Case (AP)
We mentioned this case earlier in the week, the college prof that that had $134 million entrusted to him, all of which vanished. When people finally wanted to know what happened to the money, the man came down with a really bad case of amnesia -- convenient -- and checked himself into the hospital. Unfortunately, amnesia does not give you immunity from the law, and now he's been charged with the crime of lying to federal prosecutors. Apparently, the prof was known for his colorful suits and million-dollar pen collection. You'd think that someone having a million-dollar pen collection would pretty much convince everyone that he's not to be trusted with money.

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