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Opening Bell: 4.6.07

We're closed with the stock market today. Even DealBreakers must rest. Back on Monday.
Makers of Artificial Sweeteners Go to Court (NYT)
Interesting trial coming up between between the erstwhile leader in the fake sugar biz Equal and the new leader Splenda. Splenda, which was introduced in 1999 now dominates the space, commanding a whopping 62% market share, in part because it's perceived to taste just like sugar, a perception it reinforces with its tagline that it's "Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar". Equal says that's bunk, and wants the company to stop using it. It reminds us of when Pizza Hut sued Papa John's for its tagline "Better Ingredients Makes Better Pizza", which, if we recall correctly, Pizza Hut actually one, which seemed ridiculous. Should be an interesting case to watch. Even if Equal ultimately prevails, Splenda (which is made by British firm Tate & Lyle, has such a cult following, that it's hard to see it taking a major hit. At left is a picture of the molecular structure of Splenda, so you can decide for yourself whether it's derived from sugar.
ISS asks for 'withhold' votes on N.Y. Times directors (MarketWatch)
In our bleary-eyed early morning stupor, we read the headline of this article as "ISS recommends 'withhold' vote on N.Y. Times editors", which would've been really cool, though even at this hour in the morning, we knew that shareholders don't get to vote on a paper's editors. Nonetheless, it's sort of refreshing to see the Times -- which stands for all things good -- get slapped around for its governance (even if we believe that all of this government chazerai is just that). No doubt, "Hansel and Gret-Gretl" Morgenson will be talking about the sorry ways of her employer this weekend.
MarketWatch Writer Invested in Start-Up (WSJ)
The Wall Street Journal reports that at its cousin site, MarketWatch, columnist Bambi Francisco is coming under scrutiny for an investment that she made into a video site designed to connect entrepreneurs to venture capitalists. Frankly, that sounds like a fairly lame site, and the fact that she invested in it might be a reflection of poor judgment (we jest). But the actual "scandal", if it could be called as such at this point, is that she kinda sorta used her writing to plug the site, except it doesn't seem like she did at all. The only real complaint it seems is that some companies she profiled seemed to have posted videos on the site, which would imply some sort of tit-for-tat "I'll write about you, you post a video on this site that I have an investment in" agreement. For example, she wrote about the MVNO Helio, which later on posted a video to the site. Big deal. Judge for yourself, but we're not seeing the scandal.
Puma Shares Surge on Bid Talk from PPR-Traders (Reuters)
Puma, which is the hipster's Nike, is rumored to be on the block, with French luxury goods conglomerate PPR seen as a likely suitor. Among PPR's subsidiaries is Gucci, so Puma should fit right in. There's been a lot of activity in the sneaker market over the past few years, most notably the blockbuster merger between Reebook and Adidas. But Nike still dominates the space, which it will probably do for some time. Still, some Gucci branded Puma could be pretty sick -- oh wait, just go down to the Fulton Ave. Street Mall in downtown Brooklyn, and no doubt you'll be able to find some custom made Gucci Nikes if you need your fix right away.

Cars Must Have Anti-Rollover System, U.S. Agency Says (Bloomberg)
Here's one of those questions that economics teachers like to pose. So the US government is demanding that all cars be made manufactured with anti-rollover systems by the year 2012. On its face, this seems fairly uncontroversial, just as mandating seat belts seem like a no brainer. Explain why or why not this mandate will increase or decrease public utility. 50 Words or less.
Ford CEO: $28M for 4 months work (
What is it about articles about CEO pay -- no matter how hard they try, there's always this underlying Lou Dobsism. Even if the writer tries to make it just a plain facts piece, there's always the subtle (and sometimes no so subtle) insinuation that the guy is overpaid. Maybe it's just the whole premise of the genre. Maybe it's silly to care about how much Alan Mulally makes unless you happen to be a Ford shareholder -- and then, even then, it probably doesn't make much of a difference. So yeah, the guy apparently god paid $28 million for 4 months of work. Good for him, he's got a damn tough job.
China Says It Had Nothing to Do With Tainted Pet Foods (NYT)
China denies that it bears any responsibility for tainted pet foods, which are resulting in a growing recall. Frankly, just the fact that they're denying makes us suspicious.
Kroger Stocks Aisle 1 with Mortgages, Puts Pet Insurance on a Hang-Tag by the Dog Food (Netbanker)
For the time being, Wal-Mart's banking ambitious seem pretty much dead. They'll probably be revived at some point down the road in a friendlier climate, but at the moment, it doesn't look like it. Meanwhile, banking services are becoming an increasingly popular offering from mother non-bank retailers. Check out supermarket chain Kroger, which is now offering mortgages, credit card loans, home equity loans, and even pet insurance. Clearly it's the true financial supermarket.