Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
July 8 1999 3:30 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

It's hard to know what to do with yourself the week after a Federal Reserve meeting, isn't it? OK, no, it isn't, except for a few kooks. Still, last week we all had the pre-meeting analysis and then all the post-mortems trying to figure out why Greenspan changed the Fed's bias to neutral, and we had the big market rally as investors figured that the economy was booming but that inflation was still somehow in check. This week, we've got important stuff to look at--same-store sales from all the major retailers, a sharp rise in mortgage applications, the kickoff of earnings season--but it is very hot outside and school's out for summer. Hey, let's go to a Little League game. Chatter with your neighbor in the stands.

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1. "Waste Management International saw its stock lose 33 percent of its value Wednesday when the company announced that its earnings would fall short of expectations. Every other trash company was beaten down by the announcement, too. So what's the thinking here? Because WMI fell short, that means there's just less garbage all the way around?"

2. "In yet another sign that the European business landscape is in the process of being utterly transformed, oil company Total Fina announced a $48 billion hostile takeover offer for French rival Elf Aquitaine, which was privatized only a few years ago. Scrambling for a defense, Elf executives looked to the French government, which can still veto any acquisition of the company. 'There will be no veto,' the minister of industry said. You could almost hear Elf execs yell, 'But, Daaaad! You promised!' "

3. "The CEO of Finnish cell-phone giant Ericsson resigned Wednesday after a battle with the company's board of directors over his attempt to restructure the firm. The company's stock plummeted. Actually, it didn't plummet. It just dropped a single point. Imagine being that CEO and realizing that this was what the market thought you were worth."

4. "The price of shares in New Era of Networks, the leading maker of software that links incompatible computer programs, tumbled this week after the company said it would report a loss instead of the earnings everyone was expecting. Although New Era was suitably vague on its conference call, it suggested that it was having trouble assimilating recent acquisitions, that it wasn't turning potential customers into real customers, and that it had new competitors in the field. In other words, all the problems a company doesn't want to have, New Era now has."

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5. "A Florida jury ruled against tobacco companies in a class-action suit, a verdict that has a potential cost of $250 billion to $300 billion. The understatement of the year came from the CNBC reporter who said, 'The tobacco companies are expected to appeal.'"

6. "Travel update from the Italian pull-out section of the International Herald Tribune:

"Maritime transport is expected to be disrupted today due to a strike called by ferry workers.
"Bus and tram drivers will stop working nationwide from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.
"A 24-hour national train strike has been called for July 8.
"Also on July 8, pilots and flight attendants for the Meridiana company will go on strike.
"Air traffic controllers at the Palermo radio center have called a 4-hour walk out for July 10.
"Walk."

7. "Shares in drkoop.com rose 67 percent this week after the company announced a major deal with America Online. Of course, the deal consists of drkoop.com paying $89 million to AOL in exchange for space on the service. But, hey, if AOL was willing to take drkoop's money, that must mean the company's valuable, right?"