Monday, July 31, 2006

Notablecalls - Paperstand

According to The Wall Street Journal, Verizon Wireless is releasing a cellphone that doubles as a music player and has a design similar to the popular iPod. The phone, dubbed the "Chocolate," is another effort by wireless carriers to encourage consumers to use mobile handsets as MP3 players. All the major US cellular carriers have launched services that let consumers download music and ring tones to their phones or transfer them from their PCs. But cellphone co's now are edging further into the turf of music players by designing handsets with prominent playback buttons and more storage space for songs. The Verizon Wireless handset, made by LG Electronics, will be in stores Aug. 7 and will be exclusive to the carrier. "Verizon's model seems to be going after Apple and iTunes more than anything else we've seen," says Linda Barrabee, of Yankee Group.

The WSJ reports that Northrop Grumman (NOC) has put its navigation-systems division on the block. The unit could fetch between $800m and $1bn. Last week, Raytheon (RTN) said it hired Credit Suisse to explore a sale or spinoff of its civilian-airplane division.

The WSJ's "Tracking the Numbers" column discusses Nortel (NT), saying that the co has billions of dollars in valuable credits that could aid its financial recovery. Trouble is, there is disagreement over whether those credits, the co's largest asset, should still be on its balance sheet. A recent report from research firm Glass, Lewis & Co. says that co's string of losses suggests it might need to write down the value of tax credits earned in past years that have been held over to offset tax liabilities on future earnings. The co hasn't done so, citing the likelihood of near-term profits. Such a write-down could wipe out Nortel's shareholder equity, or the total of its assets less its liabilities. Nortel expects higher rev this year and is taking a series of steps intended to bring its operations back to profitability. But any improvement would follow a series of losses in recent years, and those losses are an important factor in determining how to book the tax credits, Glass Lewis and other accounting observers say.

Barron's Online reports that a longtime Caterpillat (CAT) director, Juan Gallardo, doled out $7.7m to buy 110K shares in the open-mkt Thursday boosting his direct holdings to 204K shares. The dollar value of Gallardo's purchase was the most any Caterpillar insider spent to acquire shares at one time. "This is a big standout," says Mark LoPresti, of Thomson Financial, because Gallardo has tended to make small transactions of 7K shares or less at a time. His only other large insider transaction took place in Oct'00, which preceded a 34% gain 6 months thereafter.

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