Opening Bell: 5.21.07

Goldman, TPG Agree to Buy Alltel for $24.7 Billion (Bloomberg)
Wireless carrier Alltel's been on the block for some time, so news that the company is going private isn't too much of a surprise. There had been some speculation that it could be scooped up by one of its rivals, like Verizon or Sprint, but in the end, nobody can compete with private equity's seemingly unlimited reservoir of cash. The $24.7 billion price tag, to be split by TPG and Goldman, represents a nearly 10% premium over Alltel's Friday close. The company insists that the new owners plan to invest heavily to grow the business. Ah, but that's what they all say. Now get ready for the articles that ask: is no industry off limits?!
Booming China stocks test government's will (Reuters)
In the media, the Chinese stock market has now been anthropomorphized. It's its own entity with its own free will, seeking to match wits against all comers. Actually, it's more like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, screaming "Feed Me Seymour, Feed Me!", with the Chinese government playing the role of the nebbish Seymour, reluctantly feeding the beast while trying to figure out a way to stop it without drawing its wrath. At this point, however, it's too late to be subtle. Mere interest rate adjustments and currency band expansions aren't going to do very much. It's gotta just chop of its limbs one by one, and then finally electrocute the damn thing.
RiskMetrics Considers Going Public (WSJ)
RiskMetrics, the parent company of ISS, is considering an IPO, which as you might guess, is triggering all sorts of concern. Some are worried that the company will find itself bending its ethical standards in an attempt to meet the market's demands for strong quarterly numbers. Also, who's going to be advising shareholders on such important questions. The bigger concern that people should have is whether ISS is a fading concept that hasn't provided much value. After all, isn't the undue focus on governance at the heart of all of our problems?
With Corn Prices Rising, Pigs Switch To Fatty Snacks (WSJ)
It's not often you get to apply the lessons learned in Econ 101. Or maybe it's the other way around, beyond econ 101, there's not much useful stuff to learn. Either way, the Journal has an article about hog farmers that are finding corn-based food to be too expensive amidst the demand for "yellow gold" (ethanol). So they're feeding their pigs trail mix, yogurt-covered raisins and dried papaya. Other snacks include candy bars, french fries and peanut butter cups. It's actually a little scary to think that these pigs, which are being reared for human consumption are eating such garbage, but then again corn isn't great either. Unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before the government realizes that all of these other things can be gases too, if only we burn them, which will send the farmer scurrying for new feed.

China to take $3 billion stake in Blackstone (Reuters)
The investment wing of the Chinese government, which has billions and billions of US Dollars in its coffers has taken a $3 billion stake in private equity firm Blackstone, which means that it's taken a stake in a number of US companies. Some will fret and worry that China will gain too much access to the US financial industry, but it's actually a big win for Blackstone, which is looking to expand into the Chinese market, something that will be much easier now, presumably.
Google, Salesforce.com Weigh Alliance to Battle Microsoft (WSJ)
A couple weeks ago, there was a rumor going around that Google might be interested in buying on-demand software vendor Salesforce.com, a rumor that was quickly shot down by analysts. However, they did note that an alliance between the companies was possible, which is a rumor that's now gaining steam. According to reports, any deal is a few weeks away, but it would see some integration between Salesforce.com's CRM software and Google's existing suite of services, like email and online document creation.
Did Microsoft go lose its head over aQuantive? (GigaOM)
So Microsoft's purchase of aQuantive got a lot of people talking and saying words like "bubble" or more benign words like "overpay", or more pointed words like "desperate". Over at GigaOM, Keven Kelleher runs some more numbers on the deal and concludes that Microsoft is, to put it kindly, not getting a great value here. A sample: For $6 billion in cash, Microsoft could have hired, in a single day, 60,000 engineers and salespeople (plus managers to make sure they earn their pay) - paying each one of them a $100,000 salary. Of course, if Microsoft did that in one day everyone would think its executives had gone mad. After all, it already employs a modest 71,000 people around the world. Instead, it’s paying out $2.85 million for each of the 2,106 employees who work for aQuantive. Which, no matter how hard as people labor to rationalize this deal, is at the very least slightly more mad than that, if not good old-fashioned American bat-shit insanity.
Amid Dow Bid, Murdoch Family Comes Together (NYT)
The Times has a real heartwarmer of a piece on the Murdoch family, as it comes together and heals the wounds of the past. As Rupert seeks to woo the Bancroft's, he's realizing that his own family is a valuable asset with a key role to play in the wooing process. He'd love to convince the Bancroft's that the Murdochs are just like them, and that their beloved Wall Street Journal would still be in the hands of a loving family. It sounds a lot like the adoption process, actually. You've gotta take care of a lot of old issues, because once the new kid arrives, that has to be the focus of your attention.
Hollywood Diet: Cutting Back on the Big Parties (NYT)
As we've said before, it used to be that finance guys wished they could be involved in Hollywood. Now it's the other way around, as celebrities like to imagine that they're involved in hedge funds. It's easy to see why. As the industry turns and big blockbusters grow rarer, Hollywood's mega parties are giving way to cheaper, more sedate affairs. It makes sense that the studious would cut back on this revelry. After all, there's not much of an ROI on parties, is there? Spending millions of dollars to entertain everyone involved with a film is nice, but millions of dollars are millions of dollars.