Opening Bell: 5.4.07

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Reuters says gets bid approach, shares leap 20 pct (Reuters)
And look at that. Just a few days after News Corp.'s bid for Dow Jones was made public, an unidentified suitor has put in a bid for Reuters, sending its shares up 20%. Not surprisingly, Reuters has some sort of whack shareholder structure, so it wouldn't be very hard for the company to walk away from it. And since nobody knows who the buyer is, it's sort of hard to do any meaningful analysis on whether the deal makes sense. So if we were to say that the deal makes sense, it'd be blatantly disingenuous.
News Corp. Plans Strategy To Woo Family, Journalists (WSJ)
So pretty much everyone involved with Dow Jones is against the idea of a buyout, from the Bancroft family to the company's employees. Well, the public shareholders are probably into it, but they're pretty much completely irrelevant, because of the share structure. But it's obvious that this story isn't over, which the market has recognized. So, News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch are going to launch a charm offensive, hoping to win over all the current players, and demonstrate how lovely life at News Corp. could be. As for the family, it sounds like News Corp. will tread quietly at first, though maybe at some point it will try to take advantage of the alleged generational gap among the Bancrofts. At the Journal describes it, it's the older ones that have been involved with actually running the company, while the young folk just want to hold onto it out of some sense of idealism.. That sounds typical.
Bill's Hard Drive (NY Post)
Ruper Murdoch's New York Post is reporting this morning that Microsoft is in intense negotiations with Yahoo to buy the company out for $50 billion. After having failed to secure DoubleClick, in its bid to go mano a mano with Google, the company may feel like it has to resort to more desperate measures. Of course, this rumor has been bandied about for a long time now, and it still seems like a low probability event. Still, the Post tends to be pretty sharp on this stuff. And if it gets this one right, then maybe it'll dispel some of the worries about a Murdoch-owned Journal.
Report on Pet Food Recall Company (Washington Post)
The exporter of the tainted Chinese pet food may have avoided inspections by labeling the food as some other non-food item. There's a deep meaning to this. We're guessing that if you saw a gigantic container of rice gluten, you'd never identify it as food anyway. It probably looks like plaster of Paris, or something like that. It's sort of disgusting to think that it forms a core part of the food chain in the first place, so maybe this whole incident will prompt a broader wake-up call.


Next Venture From Stewart: Costco Food (NYT)
Back in the 90s, every company had the same idea. It would find some cheap product -- maybe from China -- and then slap a brand on it, and try to sell it for a premium. It wasn't real complicated, which is why it only worked some of the time, because everyone had the same idea. One company that has been masterful at being just a brand is Martha Stewart Omnimedia, whose long-term deal with K-Mart proceeded many copycats. Now the company is getting into food, with a deal with Costco to sell fresh, frozen and refrigerated, Martha Stewart branded groceries. It's not really a stretch, considering what the brand is, although branded food still seems a little strange, particularly if you're used to buying your produce at the corner Korean deli.
When Pennies Fail to Pay the Bill, a Bronx Man Pushes for Change (NYT)
On Friday, you have to tolerate some laxness in our story selection, since a) there's less news, b) nobody's brain is fully engaged and c) it's Friday. So with that out of the way, apparently a Chinese restaurant in the Bronx tried preventing a customer from using 10 pennies to pay for an order of chicken wings. According to the woman, she would accept three or four pennies on a $2.75 order, but that 10 pennies was just overboard. So, the jilted customer called politicians, and told everyone he knew not to order from there anymore. In other words, it turned into a real controversy. Now just from the picture in the TImes, we can tell that it's one of those green-awning restaurants (hint #2, it's called Great Wall), and so we'd probably never eat there. That being said, we're on the side of the restaurant. Pennies are rubbish, so too is the law that every store must accept any denominations of US currency. Instead of scorn, the restaurant deserves a metal for standing up.
The Long Arm of Christopher Cox in TXU Trading Case (Deal Journal)
Christopher Cox is pursuing a TXU-related insider trading case that spans the globe, stretching as far as Pakistan. We'll make the same lament that we've made one million times before: Chris Cox, after Alan Greenspan, is the second most famous erstwhile Ayn Rand-nik in government in the past several years. For both of them, it seems, you just couldn't get more erstwhile.

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