Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Notablecalls - Paperstand

According to The Wall Street Journal, British Sky Broadcasting (BSY) is in talks with Time Warner (TWX) to acquire AOL UK, BSkyB CEO James Murdoch said. BSkyB also unveiled an aggressive drive into the UK broadband mkt, earmarking higher-than-expected capital expenditures to cover the cost of signing up new customers.

According to the WSJ, General Motors (GM) will step up discounts on certain models in the U.S. beginning today, but the No. 1 U.S. auto maker says "there is no nationwide blowout sale ... planned" to match last summer's "Employee Discounts for Everyone" promotion.

Barron's Online discusses Symantec (SYMC), which shares have lost more than half of their value since Veritas merger was announced in Dec'04. However, investors' ire has been transforming into "begrudging acceptance" says Merrill Lynch software analyst Edward Maguire. "My view is the worst is behind them, [and] I am getting an increasing sense of longer-term bullishness…about what Symantec is doing about understanding problems customers are facing." After a seasonally slow JunQ, Symantec heads into a stronger product cycle that should spur top-line growth with new consumer and business security software, as the co addresses operational glitches and aggressively buys back stock. Symantec is trading at an attractive valuation given the stock's depreciation and strong cash flow. Tougher mkt conditions combined with product delays and reduced forecasts kept downward pressure on the stock over the past 2 years. So now Maguire says "it's logical for investors to want to take a wait-and-see approach."

According to the Barron's Online, Blue Harbour Group, a hedge fund, disclosed in a SEC filing last Fri that it now holds 6.4m shares of Reader's Digest Association (RDA), up from the 4.8m shares the fund held in mid-Feb, increasing its stake to 6.7% from 4.97%.

According to the NY Post, The AmEx yesterday halted trading in Globetel Comm. (GTE), the tiny outfit with an unlikely plan to use aluminum blimps to carry cellphone signals, and moved to delist the co's shares from the mkt. The Amex move comes after a series of articles in The Post exposed the co's aggressively hyped business claims and muddled mgmt connections. The co issued press releases implying that ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was indirectly involved in Globtel via a London-based investment group called Rubikon Partners. But Kissinger told The Post he had no involvement with either Rubikon Partners or Globetel, and his name was subsequently removed from the Rubikon Web site.

The DigiTimes reports that notebook makers are facing poor order visibility for the 2H06, as clients are reluctant to place long-term large-volume orders amid a price war between Intel and AMD. The sources pointed out that orders from the channel usually are placed every month for more than 10K units each time, but now the orders come once every one or two weeks for small quantities of 2K-3K units. Customers are trying to avoid losses, as holding inventory could be dangerous due to the price competition between Intel and AMD. Although notebook makers remain optimistic about demand for the 2H06, they will have to tolerate their clients' short-term small-scale orders.

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