Tuesday, May 01, 2007


According to the WSJ, a human-rights group released a critical report on Wal-Mart (WMT), alleging the retailer used security cameras to spy on union sympathizers and planted supervisors alongside pro-union workers to monitor activities, among other actions that violated federal labor laws. The 210-page report by Human Rights Watch is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the co's actions during union organizing drives. It examines dozens of drives at a US Wal-Mart store between 2000 and 2005 and cites 15 decisions by the National Labor Relations Board that found Wal-Mart violated labor laws during those drives.

The WSJ reports that activist investor Carl Icahn is intensifying his campaign to get a Motorola (MOT) board seat, calling the co "troubled" and likening reported comments by CEO Ed Zander to "something straight out of Alice in Wonderland." The criticism, which marks the first personal remarks toward Mr. Zander since Mr. Icahn began buying shares in the co, is part of a letter in which Mr. Icahn directly addresses Motorola shareholders. Shareholders will vote on the seat eyed by Mr. Icahn at the co's annual shareholders meeting Mon. Mr. Icahn's letter to shareholders also says that the co "has been shaken by leadership setbacks." In it, he adds that it has suffered "a critical failure in oversight and leadership that must be addressed." "Motorola has stumbled, and stumbled badly," Mr. Icahn writes. Mr. Icahn's letter to shareholders also includes a reference to a recent WSJ article in which Mr. Zander more than once stated "I love my job. I hate my customers."

“Heard on the Street” column discusses Delta Air Lines, which emerged from bankruptcy yesterday. But don't expect the airline's new shares to take off when Delta begins trading again Thu. While Delta recently dismissed concerns by rival carriers that consumer demand has begun flagging, investors remain skeptical of many airline stocks at a time when the forecast for the US economy is cloudy. Delta's new shares, meanwhile, already are trading on a "when-issued" basis at levels suggesting that the valuation placed on the carrier by its financial advisers may be higher than what would-be buyers of its stock are immediately willing to pay. When Delta filed its final reorganization plan with a NY bankruptcy court in Dec, advisers suggested the airline, upon exiting from Ch11, would be valued at between $9.4-12bn. That represents between $23.50-30 for each of the 400m shares to be issued. Even the lower end of that range would give Delta the 2nd-highest mkt value in the US airline industry, after Southwest, and a P/E ratio 2nd to none, based on the airline's net income forecast of $456m for ‘07. Last week, CFO Edward H. Bastian said that mgmt is comfortable with the prospects for Delta's share price and recognized that a mkt cap of $10bn or more "would be fully valued." An initial surge in the share price, Mr. Bastian added, would be an "unnatural build." Some creditors who would have been issued the co's new shares instead opted to sell before they ever received them. Last month, for instance, more than 90% of the airline's pilots completed the sale of about $1.16bn in claims against the airline to investors more willing to wait for long-term growth of the stock. And other creditors are expected to follow suit. "There's going to be some pretty big sell pressure on the stock b/c there will be lots of [creditors] looking for liquidity after being locked in for so long," said Bill Mann, of Motley Fool. "New investors are going to be cautious in the short term."

Barron’s Online “Inside Scoop” section reprots that Chmn and CEO Charles R. Schwab sold 800K shares of Charles Schwab (SCHW) for nearly $16m this past Fri. "Chuck Schwab has a long standing practice in place of periodically selling some of his shares as part of an overall estate mgmt and personal financial-mgmt plan," says co spokesman Glen Mathison. "He is still a significant owner of the co." In fact, Mr. Schwab continues to hold over 214m shares, about 17% of the firm's outstanding stock, even after sales of 16.76M shares (totaling $268m) over the last 18 mo’s.

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