Opening Bell: 6.04.07

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Palm Sells 25% Stake to Elevation Partners, Revamps Board (Bloomberg)
You may still carry around a Treo (and claim to be addicted to it), but the ranks of the fellow-minded are clearly dwindling. It's definitely no BlackBerry, and it's probably no iPhone either. In light of its troubles, Palm's been rumored to be on the chopping block for some time. For awhile, this spring, Moto was thought to be a likely suitor, but that rumor turned out to pretty much be hot air. Now the company is selling a 25% stake in itself to Bono's (and more significantly Roger McNamee's) Elevation Partners. It's hard to say what that will really accomplish for the company, though the move will result in a reshuffling of its board, which probably can't hurt. So will U2 drop its affiliation with the iPod and start rocking the Treos?
Chinese Stocks Fall After Government Raises Taxes (NYT)
Here we go again? The Shanghai stock market dropped a whopping 8.3%, nearly matching the 9.9% plunge that it underwent in February. Ostensibly, the genesis of this crash was a move to raise taxes taken last week, although the market has been extremely choppy for a number of days. The Chinese government would love nothing more than if one of their slowing measures induced a "soft landing", but that's getting harder and harder to envision. Given the flooring run-up in stocks following the February downturn, it's hard to imagine many people in China viewing this as anything other than a buying opportunity.
Loonie heading towards 95 cents (Toronto Star)
The Canadian dollar has hit the $.95 mark, and a new report from CIBC predicts that it will eclipse the US dollar by the end of the year. Sure, this is, in the end, a meaningless number, sort of like Dow 14,000 (yeah, we said it). But let's be honest for a moment -- this would be a major psychological blow to us all. Such a turn would mean that buying Poutine at a Canadian McDonald's would actually be more expensive than the stated price. Ugh, it would also mean that playing a game of $1-$2 no limit hold 'em at a Canadian casino would be a higher stakes game than in Vegas. Let's just hope CIBC is wrong on this one.
Murdoch May Make Concessions, Up to a Limit, in Dow Jones Talks (WSJ)
So today is the big day, when the Murdochs and the Bancrofts meet to exchange tea, pleasantries and (maybe) a paper. Nobody knows for sure how the meeting will go, but the fact that they're talking has a lot of people assuming a deal. As you know, it's never really been about the money for the Bancrofts (or so they would insist), but more about the family's civic-mindedness and their concern that Rupert would pillage the assets that they've done so much to cultivate. So it may come down to what Rupert promises -- whether or not he'll be hands off with respect to content and editorial. But, he's made it clear that he won't spend $5 billion and cede the right to run his business.


Specialized Software Maker Is Said to Be in Buyout Talks (NYT)
Every time there's even the slightest hint that a private equity firm could be interested in a tech company, we get the same slew of articles about how historically private equity won't touch tech, but if it did make a given deal, it could burst open the damns. Yes, it does seem like private equity has spent less time at the tech salad bar than it has other stations, but there are probably plenty of compelling reasons for that other than the vague "PE don't do tech". The latest rumor is that KKR may be close to a deal with Cadence Software, a maker of chip design software.
Avaya Shares Rise on Report of Deal to Be Bought by Silver Lake (Bloomberg)
Make it three. In addition to Palm and Cadence, rumor is that networking and telephony gear maker Avaya (you know, the Wayne Brady commercials), has agreed to sell out to Silver Lake partners. The apparent buyout price represents only a small premium to Friday's closing price, but the company's stock has been rising for awhile now on anticipation of such a deal.
Calling for Jeeves (NY Post) (via Crossing Wall Street)
No, nobody is calling for the Jeeves to return to his post at Ask.com. Rather, there's a shortage of the real thing, butlers. Apparently, the old cliche about how difficult it is to find good help these days is coming true, at least in Manhattan. Supposedly, there just aren't enough butlers to satisfy the hordes of Wall St. millionaires looking for some dignified help around the house. Meanwhile, any quick guesses on how much a butler makes before we tell you? Apparently it can hit $200,000 per year, and if you've got a British accent, then tack on another $20,000 or so.
Venezuela Budget Gap More Than Doubles on Spending (Bloomberg)
Everybody knows that the moves Hugo Chavez is making in Venezuela will theoretically wreck the nation's economy. At this point, despite any sympathy you might have with the Venezuelan people, you have to sorta hope things really do go into the toilet, if only because it's nice when actual events conform to theory. And indeed things aren't going so hot. Inflation is running at nearly 20% and the country's budget deficit has exploded, despite record oil money. In fact, the deficit is the highest its ever been since the country started keeping keep records -- in 1998. Then again, the US isn't so awesome on that measure these days, either.
Microsoft: Silicon Valley Team Building Stealth Search Engine (TechCrunch)
There's an Onion headline for you: "Microsoft finally set to launch Google-killing search engine". Except this is not a satirical story. Apparently, Microsoft is really cooking up something brand new on this front. This time they mean it. Stay tuned.

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