Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
Oct. 7 1999 6:19 PM

Weekend Cocktail Chatter

I'd say it was a week dominated by merger talk, but then it seems almost every week is dominated by merger talk. It might have been a week dominated by talk about the Fed, which decided not to raise interest rates but did shift its bias toward tightening, but the truth is that except for Tuesday, when the announcement came, there wasn't too much talk about the Fed. (Though it's worth noting that John Berry, the Washington Post's Fed-watcher and a man who often appears to have a direct line to Alan Greenspan, was wrong in his forecast of no rate hike, no shift in bias.) So instead it was a week in which the stock market demonstrated its continued resiliency, coming back strong after Tuesday's mild sell-off, and in which the prospect of buoyant third-quarter earnings (which are all going to be announced over the next few weeks) outweighed everything else. Oil prices were down, the dollar was up: For at least a week, October refused to destroy investors. So eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow ... You know the rest.

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1. "In a rather surprising blow to mogul Mike Ovitz, the NFL decided to award its newest franchise to Houston rather than to Los Angeles. The deal will include a $700 million franchise fee and more than $300 million for a new stadium, almost $200 million of which will be supplied by taxpayer money. That's $1 billion total, for a team that will play eight home games a year. I'd love to see what the return on that investment looks like five years from now."

2. "Internet portal Yahoo! reported blowout earnings in the most recent quarter and said its revenues had soared to $155 million. That means by next year the company will be doing close to $1 billion in revenue annually. Once it's a profitable billion-dollar company, do we get to stop hearing the cracks about how no one's making money on the Internet?"

3. "In the midst of the bidding war for Sprint, Bloomberg News ran a story with this headline: 'Bell South Sweetens Offer for Sprint, Person Says.' As opposed to, I guess, 'Bell South Sweetens Offer for Sprint, Encephalitis-Carrying Mosquito Says.' "

3a. "Later that day, Bloomberg changed the headline to 'Bell South Sweetens Offer for Sprint, People Say.' Don't you think that really begged instead for 'They Say Bell South Sweetens Offer for Sprint'?"

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4. "Protesting tire-maker Michelin's plan to cut 7,500 jobs from its workforce, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told reporters, 'We didn't renounce the dictatorship of the proletariat just to replace it with the dictatorship of the shareholders.' ... Actually, you did."

5. "Calvin Klein has hired investment bank Lazard Freres to weigh the possibility of merging with another company or entering into a strategic alliance. Apparently just adding '.com' to the company's name was considered but then rejected as tacky."

6. "The stock of Advanced Micro Devices, Intel's erstwhile competitor and perennial disappointer of expectations, rose almost 5 percent Thursday morning after the company reported a smaller-than-expected loss in the most recent quarter. Of course, the company did lose 72 cents a share, which might make a typical investor hesitant to back up the truck. It's a little-known fact, but the phrase 'Hope springs eternal' was actually coined to describe AMD investors."

7. "Before moving on to the MCI WorldCom/Sprint merger, the FCC first cleared Baby Bell SBC Communications' $75 billion acquisition of Ameritech. The commission did lay out 30 different conditions that SBC will have to meet before the deal can go through. Among them: SBC has to agree to enter 30 new markets in the next 30 months. Will SBC's chairman have to do 30 chin-ups in 30 seconds, too?"