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Opening Bell: 12.4.07

Chinese Steelmakers Study Bid for Rio to Counter BHP (Bloomberg)
China has been one of the more vocal parties in opposing BHP Billiton's bid for Rio Tinto. Because it has so many homegrown steelmakers, it would prefer not to face a monopsony in iron ore. Now there's a chance it'll take matters into its own hands. Word is that the Chinese steelmakers, some of which are obviously state backed, may make a bid for Rio Tinto on its own, ensuring a steady supply of iron ore. It's not outside the realm. You know they have the cash over there, and there's all the pressure in the world to spend some of it. Rio Tinto, expensive as it is, would be a drop in the bucket for them. Stay tuned.
AT&T to exit pay phone business in 2008 (AP)
So, it totally makes sense why AT&T would sell of its pay phone business. Nobody really uses them anymore, and it can't be worth the upkeep. Some private equity company will probably by them for $50 and claim some really great cash flow for a couple years. Eventually, it's safe to predict that they'll be gone from the landscape entirely. But, sometimes you just need a payphone. Like if your phone is dead, or you left it at home. And when you can't find one it's pretty darn frustrating. And when you do find one, and all the wires are torn out. So this problem will only get worse. Thankfully, it's a rare issue.
Cable Giants Pass on Spectrum Auction (PC Mag)
Breathe easy cash flow junkies, the cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable have no intention of bidding in the big 700 MHz spectrum auction. Yesterday was the deadline, and both confirmed that they didn't see fit to spend billions of dollars acquiring a slice of high throughput spectrum for some nebulous wireless initiative in the future. Of course, Google is expected to bid, but then again, they're also spending money on renewable energy, so knows what's going on there. While Google will place a bid, they're not expected to actually bid to win.
Tired of Corruption but Afraid of the Crackdown (NYT)
This story has pretty much flown under the radar in the US, but it sounds interesting: Samsung is facing some major corruption issues in Korea, that could put its executives at some legal risk. And of course, Samsung is huge to the Korean economy. Not like Nokia/Finland huge, but pretty darn big, which means that there are societal costs to going after the company too hard. Anyway, one to watch.

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Economy Moves To Fore as Issue For 2008 Voters (WSJ)
The good news is that voters are really interested in the economy, and it may become a top issue for political candidates to address in 2008. The bad news is that voters are really itnerested in the economy, and it may become a top issue for political candidates ot address in 2008. See, it seems a reasonable theorum that the only decent political solutions are those that come away from the bright light of the public interest. In other words, it's easier to get stuff done when it's wonky, and won't be scrutinized by the media. But as soon as its big, then you have to come up with plans that sound good and play well, which invariably are bad ideas. So, we shudder to think what the latest round of solutions to things like energy prices and mortgages politicians will be proposing in the next year.
Back for another visit… (
One of the worst investments we ever made: UTSI, a company trying to sell some half-baked, pre-cellular, wireless technology to China. Now it's easy to slap ourselves on the forehead for not realizing how quickly China and the rest of Asia would be adopting not only cellphones, but more advanced wireless technology than we have hear. Certainly, some paleo-wireless system was not the right play. But, despite the company's troubles, management continues to be well compensated, as Michelle has discovered from the company's latest 8-k.
Everything is caused by global warming (Cafe Hayek)
No, really, it is. See here for the whole list. It's 600 items long (ok, not quite everything), so it'll take you awhile to get through. Here's the As: . Love how many of these are contradictory.
Dollar Slide Threatens African Cotton Farmers, Splits Families (Bloomberg)
Another interesting story on how the big losers from the Dollar slide are (for now) located outside the US.