According to the WSJ, just as Microsoft (MSFT) is about to roll out the latest version of its cash-cow Office applications, Google (GOOG) is beefing up efforts that could win away some of the customers Microsoft is targeting. Google's latest move, expected to be announced today, is a plan to bundle its existing word-processing and spreadsheet offerings, online applications that ppl can use through their Web browsers, under the name Google Docs & Spreadsheets and more tightly weave them together. The services, which are available free, offer more-limited functions than Microsoft's word processor and spreadsheet programs. The co is targeting avg consumer users and organizations such as universities as it continues to expand email, calendar, spreadsheet and word-processing services that overlap with Microsoft offerings.
“Heard on the Street” column discusses AMR (AMR), sayng that as airlines have scrambled to slash costs and raise fares over the past few years, rising fuel prices have masked much of their progress. Now, fuel is acting as a white knight for the industry, falling in price just as airlines are coping with slowing rev growth. Airline stock prices have been inching up in recent weeks despite carriers' warnings that business suffered after English police in August busted up a suspected plot to bomb airplanes over the Atlantic. Even though some travelers are being scared away, investors have concluded that any decline in fliers is more than overcome by the drop in fuel prices. Fuel accounts for 20-30% of the operating costs for an airline, so price declines have an immediate effect on the bottom line. In the case of AMR’s American Airlines, each $1 drop in the price of a barrel of oil saves about $80m in annual operating costs. The falling price of oil "is much more positive than the terror warning is negative" for the industry, said S&P's analyst Jim Corridore.
The WSJ’s “Insider Track” section reports that ConAgraFoods (CAG) President and CEO Gary Rodkin is required to own co stock but doesn't necessarily have to buy any shares. Nevertheless, he has been stocking up this year. Mr. Rodkin reported buying 75K shares of the co last week and now owns 150K co shares, valued at nearly $3.8m. EVP Robert Sharpe Jr. reported buying 11K shares the same day to bring his ownership to 45K shares. "These purchases were really made based on their belief in the co and the direction it's taken," said ConAgra spokesman Chris Kircher.
According to the Barron’s Online, if democrats win control of the US House of Representatives next month, as many pundits are now predicting, the shares of Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) could very well take a hit. These 2 phone giants have beaten the mkt handily this year, with Verizon stock up 21.8%, and AT&T up 31.4%. But investors may not be so cheery if a House with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the helm decides to resuscitate a legislative proposal known in the corridors of Capitol Hill as "'Net neutrality." This Democratic-led proposal would in essence forbid the new phone co’s from charging a fee to Web sites that fill up Internet connections with high bandwidth traffic.
“Inside Scoop” section reports that Breeden Partners, a fund started by former SEC Chmn Richard Breeden, disclosed that it now owns a 5.24% stake in the Applebee’s (APPB), or 3.9m shares.
DigiTimes reports that Dell (DELL) has sent a request for quotation (RFQ) to panel makers for 19” widescreen LCD monitor panels. The sources also indicated that Taiwan-based AU Optronics (AUO) and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) are expected to win the orders from Dell.