Opening Bell: 5.7.07

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Alcoa Plans to Make $33 Billion Bid for Alcan (Bloomberg)
Last year, Alcoa was left with a ring in its hand, as it failed to win over any potential mates. The company is still looking for a deal, and it's latest attempt has it looking north of the border (big surprise there). It's prepared to make a $33 billion bid for Montreal-based Alcan, which is a 20% premium over Alcan's closing price. A statement from Alcoa says that it's been trying to reach a negotiated deal for some time, but that talks have failed to produce one, so it's been forced into hostile mode. It seems a no-brainer that some other party will step in.
Microsoft Woos Yahoo; Ad Sales Lost to Google May Be $2 Billion (Bloomberg)
So the market had a big head fake on Friday after the New York Post reported that Microsoft was in serious talks to buy Yahoo, a rumor that was quashed later in the day by the Wall Street Journal. But, over the weekend another rumor emerged, which is that Microsoft is in talks (albeit early) to form some sort of partnership with Yahoo in an attempt to fight off Gooogle. It's not really clear how this would work out. One idea is that the two sides would share a common advertising platform that would work on both of their search engines and on the sites of publishers with whom they have relationships. Having a large network of properties is an important attribute of any advertising network, so by combining their resources in this way, they might be able to make some incremental gains.
Europe Rises on Sarkozy’s Victory (123 Jump)
It's a brand new day in France, as the conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has defeated the socialist Segolene Royal for the country's presidency. Of course, the existing President is also from the conservative party, and it's safe to say that any free-market ideals he once had were quickly washed away once he got to sip from the grail of power. Will Sarko be any different? Will he be able to touch the third rails of French politics like 35-hour work weeks or 2-months mandatory vacations. And what will he do about the masses of unemployed immigrants who resent him. Without going after the serious structural woes of the nation's economy, things won't get much better among the poorer quarters. Still, Europeans are taking a day to celebrate, as markets across the whole are up on the news.
Ottaways Deplore Bid by Murdoch (NYT)
A couple members of the Ottaway family, which is apparently closely-connected to the Bancrofts, have blasted News Corp.'s bid for Dow Jones, railing against Rupert Murdoch's "bias" and the shoddy journalism of his other properties. They see Murdoch as spoiling the company's crown jewel, the Journal, and making it into something that resembles the Post or, much worse, Fox News. Ok, fair enough, but he's offering a lot of money. Doesn't that mitigate things somewhat? Meanwhile, if DJ is still on the fence, it ought to listen to Andrew Ross Sorkin, one of the the Times' saner heads defend the News Corp. bid.


Buffett says Berkshire has halved hurricane risk (Reuters)
Warren Buffett announced that he's pared Berkshire Hathaway's exposure to hurricane risk by half. Hurricane Katrina took a pretty big toll on the company in '05, but much of that was made back by favorable market conditions the following year. Apparently, he's not so sanguine about this year. Those who are inclined to give him the "Oracle of Omaha" appellation make take this to mean that he has some knowledge that the rest of us don't, that this year will be really busy, a la 2005. Or maybe he just doesn't like the business. Or maybe he's just guessing. Buffett also discussed another issue that's on everyone's mind, that being succession, cause you know he's getting up there in years. It doesn't sound like he's sold on anyone yet, although he did say how they would be compensated. His vision is for the chief to get a small base salary, and then to receive more money based on outperforming the S&P 500 over the course of five years. This way, even in downtimes, they could do well, and by measuring it over five years, some short-termism is eliminated.
U.S. to keep Internet gambling ban (Reuters)
Memo to the US government: If you don't like a treaty, don't sign it. Despite an adverse ruling from the WTO on the US' anti-internet gambling laws (which the nation of Antigua claims is protectionist -- which it is), the US says it has no intention of complying by the ruling. Instead it plans to use some rarely-used loophole to wiggle out of it, and what's more, it doesn't see any ground for damages on Antigua's part. Someone from the WTO has called this reprehensible, which it is.
iPhone Prediction Whip-Out (MobHappy)
In just over a month, Apple's long-awaited iPhone will hit the market. Either it will be a smashing success, a la the iPod, and revolutionize the handheld market, or it will be something less than that, and thus be considered a horrible failure. Certainly, one can come up with any list of reasons why it will be a success, and very few analysts want to be the one who didn't see it coming. But, there are also some worries, such as the cost, the fact that it's only available through one carrier, and the engineering problems that are likely to be found in version one. So, when you're building your models, you might want to plug a few different scenarios in, rather than just go with one and hope it's right.
News Corp. puts CNBC on the defensive (MarketWatch)
MarketWatch's Jon Friedman devotes his column to talking about CNBC, and the challenged it will face if New Corp. successfully talks acquires Dow Jones. He also takes some time out to bash CNBC.com, the company's website for, well, being bad. It is. What's amazing, is that there's only been a CNBC.com for a few months. Before that, it was something like http://cnbc.money.finance.live.spaces.msn.com or some rubbish like that. It was criminal that the brand was negligent about maintaining its home on the web. Unfortunately, not a whole lot has improved, although at leas the URL is short and concise. At one point CNBC could've had the most important finance site on the web, but it would seem that that bird has flown a long time ago.

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