Opening Bell: 8.29.08


PartyGaming poker slowdown prompts downgrades (Reuters)
This year's slowdown in Las Vegas casinos was easy to see coming: Casinos aren't really gambling houses anymore, they're resorts, and resorts are vulnerable to economic cycles. But maybe people are, wait for it, in a less gambling mood. PartyGaming, the European online casino, says poker is soft. As in, people are playing it less. As in they're board of it (maybe). Or maybe they're just tired of losing. Or maybe televised poker is in decline, and fewer people imagine themselves to be the second coming of Doyle Brunson. Anyway, something to watch.
GM says automakers deserve $50 billion in federal loans: report (Reuters)
Ostensibly the money will be used for alt-energy research. Or at least fuel efficiency. That Detroit would want these Federal loans is totally predictable. In fact we've seen a lot of folks chattering about just this in the last few days. Judging by the political rhetoric we've heard from both candidates, this certainly sounds like something the next President could accept.
Microsoft to Acquire Greenfield Online Including Its European Subsidiary Ciao, a Leading European Price Comparison and Shopping Site
Interesting deal: MIcrosoft is buying Greenfield Online and then selling of Greenfield's core business: online surveys. Instead they're mainly buying it for Greenfield's European comparison search business. Not clear who they're selling the surveys business to.
Worker Assets Shrink at Fannie and Freddie (NYT)
Kind of obvious: Workers at Fannie and Freddie have seen their savings take a major hit. That's how' it's been at plenty of other major financial firms since the industry went into its downdraft. But the article starts off this way: "Fannie Mae's workers had $116 million in the employee stock ownership plan at the end of 2006. Today, it's more like $17.5 million. Ouch." That's a big drop, but, um... $116 million in 2006? That a very tiny sliver of the company owned by the employees. Granted it's not a bank like Bear Stearns or Lehman, but maybe it'd be better if employees had a little more skin in the game. Then again, more evidence that these ostensibly private corporations are more akin to gummint bureaus than anything else. And of course, high levels of employee ownership hasn't really done wonders anywhere else lately.
Growing Cynicism Around Going Green (PC World)
More evidence dribbles in that Green is not in. This time it's about "green" energy-efficient IT. There have also been reports of Priuses (Prii, har!) becoming available. And somewhere else we read that green branding was losing its effectiveness. Just some stuff to watch out for.