Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
April 8 1999 6:13 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Monday, the stock of Internet portal site Yahoo rose more than 40 points. Tuesday, it slid back, then rose again, then fell back again. Wednesday, it collapsed near the end of the day, as people started to panic that its earnings report, which it announced after the bell Wednesday, would be disappointing. After the report, which wasn't disappointing, the stock soared, but then fell back to earth the next morning. Only to rise again, like a phoenix, before ending the day about where it began.

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The really scary thing is that you could write that exact same story about 15 other Internet stocks, and it would be just as random and indecipherable. No, actually the really scary thing is that I could write that exact same story, and run it in this space every day. But I promise never to do that. Just occasionally to use as a lead for a "Cocktail Chatter" when I don't have anything else interesting to say. (That's not what I'm doing here, of course. Here I'm using Yahoo's stock-price movements to illustrate a broader point. A Cracker Jack prize to the first person who can let me know what that broader point was.) And so, on to the Chatter!

1. "The stock of a company called PairGain rocketed upward yesterday after false reports of a buyout deal were spread over the Internet, then fell back when the hoax was revealed. Shares of TCI Satellite Entertainment rose 14,000 percent when investors confused the company with TCI Music, then tumbled when the confusion was revealed. Shares of U.S. Steel went nowhere, and continued to go nowhere when investors realized that steel stocks are losers."

2. "Fox Broadcasting unilaterally announced that it would be taking back 20 prime-time ad spots a week from its local affiliates, which could cut the stations' ad revenues by more than 20 percent. Rumor has it that affiliates who protest too loudly will be denied access to The X-Files, The Simpsons and Futurama, and given reruns of the old Joan Rivers Show instead."

3. "The head of marketing for Miller Beer was dismissed Wednesday, despite presiding over the brilliant 'Dick the creative superstar' ad campaign and the even more dazzling new campaign for Miller Lite. You know, the one featuring, among others, an ad in which model Rebecca Romijn and sportswriter Rick Reilly josh each other in a manner that can only be described as Kafkaesque in its horror. ... Oh, wait. I guess 'Kafkaesque' and 'horror' are generally not good adjectives to apply to beer ads. What was Miller waiting for?"

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4. "So what do you make of this headline, from Daily Variety: 'Blatt Ankles Miramax'? Apparently this guy Blatt has left Miramax, but why 'ankles'? Wouldn't 'Blatt Knees Miramax' be more evocative?"

5. "Revlon, which last month saw its shares rise 60 percent when rumors spread that someone was willing to buy it, and then saw its shares sink again when no buyer materialized, watched its stock jump almost 20 percent Wednesday, when it said it was putting itself on the block. Let's see: it has $1.7 billion in debt, slowing core business, no pricing power, increased competition abroad, and hapless management. If investors are waiting for someone to come along and offer a premium price, they're going to be waiting a very long time."

6. "The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times are launching a joint-venture business newspaper in Russia, just at the moment when Russian business tycoons are being arrested for crimes against the state. The paper is as yet unnamed, but potential titles include 'Running Dog,' 'Capitalist Pig,' and 'Betrayers of the Motherland.' "

7. " 'Chainsaw' Al Dunlap is now claiming that Sunbeam, whose stock under his watch fell from above $50 a share to below $6 a share, should re-price his stock options since it's re-priced those of other senior managers. (Dunlap is no longer with the company, but apparently that's irrelevant.) If his currently worthless options are re-priced, Dunlap could make millions if Sunbeam's stock rebounds even mildly. So I guess his argument is: 'If I hadn't destroyed the company, it wouldn't be in a position to be a turnaround, would it? That's gotta be worth something.' "