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Opening Bell: 4.25.07

Rival Bidders Offer $98 Billion for ABN Amro (Dealbook)
The hotly anticipated counterbid for ABN Amro came through, as the group led by RBS (along with Fortis and Banco Santander) offered up $98 billion for the company, solidly above the offer made by Barclays. It's time for a third raise now from a private equity dark horse, just to make everyone hit the roof. One difference with the RBS bid is that it wants ABN Amro to hold onto its LaSalle division in Chicago, which it sees as a nice toehold for the US market. Even though the RBS bid is higher, the company might still prefer to team up with Barclays, which would see its structure remain very much intact.
Chase Says It Will Move if City Balks (NYT)
JP Morgan Chase says that if the city of New York doesn't give it more subsidies to build a new skyscraper in Manhattan, it will move thousands of employees to Stamford. Oh yeah, that's real mature -- just leave if you don't get what you want. Obviously, New York is sort of sensitive right now, since everyone's talking about how it's not the financial capital of the world, so it doesn't want an employer like Chase to move to Stamford. Then again, taxpayers shouldn't be forced to shoulder these burdens (even though they are all the time). How about this. Citigroup should vacate its Long Island City building, which it can because it's laying off so many people, and JPM should take over that. Long Island City seems like a nice compromise between Manhattan and Stamford, to us.
FDA: More animals got tainted food (Boston Globe)
The FDA has announced that the contamination of the pet food supply chain spreads beyond just pets into feed for other animals. Specifically, it says that thousands of hogs across multiple states have eaten food laced with the poisonous industrial chemical. Honestly, at first this story seemed really overblown, in part because we're not pet people (if you are, whatever makes you happy). Also, we held out the possibility that there was some sort of statistical fluke going on. Now that the story really has legs and isn't just about pets it's getting more interesting. At the moment, the current operating thesis at the FDA is still that certain rogue distributors in China added the chemical to the food in the hopes of artificially boosting the food's nitrogen content. The big news, however, may come next week, when the FDA tests things soy, corn and rice gluten, which go into a lot of industrially produced human foods -- that's yet another reason to stop eating that garbage. Lean meats, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, beer, and wine; that's the way to go.
Wal-Mart plans to add 400 US health clinics (Bloomberg)
We're big fans of walk-in, nurse-staffed clinics that can perform basic medical functions at a cheap price. There's really no reason to pay a doctor $105 so that he can say "yep, you stepped on a rusty nail, you should probably update that tetanus shot". There's no nurse in the world that couldn't do the same thing. Same for things like checking for strep throat, doing a urinary tract infection test and a host of other routinized things that could be done by technicians. People always respond to this idea with the concern that Nurses won't be able to deal with more serious things, which is totally true. That's why they should just deal with a set number of conditions and then tell the patient to go see better trained help when that's why they need. So it's cool to see that Wal-Mart is pushing this concept heavily, as it's announced that 400 of its stores will soon have these cut-rate walk-in clinics. Between this and its prescription drug pricing, the company may singlehandedly tame the runaway inflation in the healthcare space. Well, probably not, but we can hope.

Judge gives Vonage relief from potentially crippling ruling (AP)
We know that Vonage is screwed, toast, hung out to dry, impaled with a stake and on crack, but they're still not buried -- not quite anyway. yesterday, a judge issued a permanent stay against a lower court ruling that said they were enjoined from signing up new customers until its patent case with Verizon was resolved. This doesn't really say anything good about the company's outlook, but at least it's not going to be getting the death penalty anytime soon.
A New Low-Fare Airline on a Web-Only Approach (NYT)
We're fascinated by low fair airlines, and have always wished that a company like Ryan Air could make it in the US. Yes we know that they pack you in like Sardines and that the flight is miserable, but in our view, flights are already miserable even in the best conditions, so what's a little more pain? One of the ironic things is that the civil aviation sector is actually less regulated in Europe than it is here, which is part of the reason we don't see so many airline startups and hard discounters. There there are a lot more for-profit airports and stuff like that that seek to reduce costs and make things more efficient. So, we're excited to read that come may, a new airline called SkyBus is set to take off that promises dirt cheap web only fairs. And they do mean web only. The company won't even give out a phone number. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there will be any New York flights yet.
Russian Energy Giant to Bundle Carbon Credits With Gas Sales (NYT)
Ah Russia, the home of innovative capitalism. Natural gas behemoth Gazprom has announced that it plans to sell carbon offsets alongside its gas products to help companies comply by carbon trading schemes. Guess that makes sense, you might as well take care of both of those things, if you have to. That being said, we really wouldn't want to be a rival Russian company doing anything in the area of carbon trading or offsets, if you catch our gist.
House Prices Slide as Property Glut Grows (WSJ)
Ok, sot he latest data on the housing market looks really, really bad. Maybe it's overstated or maybe the broader markets have already priced it all in, but the numbers, no matter what numbers you're looking at, are all going down. But does anyone else read this articles and get a twinge of jealousy? After all, none of them seem to apply to two of the most expensive housing markets, New York and Silicon Valley, which in our view are the only two places that serious people live. Like who cares that the market is crumbling in Cleveland or even Laguna Niguel, California? Then again, you probably don't feel jealousy if you're actually a home owner around here. In that case, you feel lucky. But maybe it's time for some panic selling? Just a suggestion.
GM Says Profit More Important Than Sales (AP)
GM is trying to spin the loss off its #1 global position by saying that profits are more important than sales. We'd agree. Unfortunately, profits isn't the first word that comes to mind when we think about GM.