Minimal Disclosure.

Minimal Disclosure.

Minimal Disclosure.

Moneybox
Commentary about business and finance.
April 18 2002 11:20 AM

Minimal Disclosure: JetBlue Takes Off, H-P Squabble Lingers On, Etc.

Let's end the week a little early, shall we? Actually, after Tuesday's inexplicable rally, it might have seemed like a good idea to pack up at the end of trading and take a few days off immediately. I don't really have the power to end the week at will, but today "Minimal Disclosure" is coming a few hours earlier and will be a bit more minimal than usual. So, let's get on with it.

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Sorry, Carly: Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is "gratified" that an independent vote-counter agrees that the planned merger with Compaq was in fact narrowly approved by shareholders. But this squabble refuses to die: The government is looking into charges that the pro-merger camp improperly influenced (via threats, basically) the votes of some institutional shareholders.

Greenspeak: The Fed chairman says: "Prospects for low inflation and inflation expectations in the period ahead mean the Federal Reserve should have ample opportunity to adjust policy to keep inflation pressures contained once sustained, solid economic expansion is in view." That is, no interest-rate hike for a while.

Taking Off: The year's hottest IPO is an airline—not exactly a favored sector. The airline is JetBlue, and the conventional wisdom boils down to, "It's just like Southwest." Shares went out at $27 (above the expected range) and quickly soared past $45 to a 67 percent one-day gain. The company says it recorded profits of about $38 million in 2001, obviously a bad year for airlines generally. JetBlue is based in New York, and because it has a New Orleans route I've flown it and I know several others who have, as well; everyone seems to have had a positive experience, particularly considering the very low ticket prices. But there's a bit of an "It Stock" quality about JBLU, and it seems likely that the rapid takeoff owes something to the relatively small float—just 5.87 million shares were sold to the public, or about 14 percent of all common shares outstanding. So far the only skeptic I've heard is the completely biased CEO of Continental, Gordon Bethune: Regarding the JetBlue's debut he commented, "It just says that P.T. Barnum was right." JetBlue's market cap is now about the same as Continental's. Another regional carrier, ExpressJet, also recorded a solid IPO. ExpressJet is a Continental spinoff. No word from Bethune on whether the Barnum factor applied.

Rollwipeout: Moneybox readers will be stunned to hear the new "moist" toilet paper marketing campaign critiqued in this Ad Report Card is not working very well. "Executives say sales are so small they aren't financially material," the Wall Street Journal reports.

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Caddy Chat: Several readers reacting to this week's Ad Report Card on the new Cadillac campaign amplified the point that the older model in the spot makes the revamped version look pathetic. One reader opined: "This ad perfectly demonstrates what sucks about cars these days: EVERY CAR IN THE WORLD LOOKS LIKE A HONDA ACCORD." Well said. And I should mention a note I got from another reader a while back, suggesting that Cadillac and other campaigns violate "The Immutable Law of Automotive Advertising: When promoting the new model, avoid at all costs showing the much cooler classic with the same name." Other examples: ads by Porsche, Mercedes, and Chevrolet (for the Impala). Adds a third reader: "VW is very wise to never show the new bugs next to vintage ones."

Best Upcoming Sequel Title: Seriously Dude, Where's My Car?

Recommended: Fried chicken at Hopkins' Boarding House in Pensacola, Fla. "Frontier Psychiatrist" by the Avalanches. Bandwagon department: The Osbournes.