Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Paperstand (DISH or DTV; GOOG vs MSFT)

The WSJ's "Heard on the Street" discusses potential AT&T (T) acquisition of EchoStar (DISH) or DirecTV (DTV). AT&T has been consulting lawyers in Washington about how long it would take to get govt approval to purchase either EchoStar or DirecTV. If it does make a bid for one of the satellite providers, AT&T could unveil the offer before year's end in hopes of getting federal antitrust officials to approve the combination before a new administration takes over. A final decision on a bid hasn't been made. AT&T hasn't even decided which satellite-TV firm to go after, although a purchase of EchoStar could be easier to undertake b/c it has a less-complicated ownership situation. There also isn't any guarantee that either co would be available. But what AT&T shareholders and other investors are likely to focus on is the potential cost of a deal, between $30-40bn, depending on the target, and the telecom giant's ability to absorb another acquisition after last year's purchase of BellSouth. "It would create uncertainty," said John Krause, of Thrivent Investment Mgmt.

Barron's Online highlights Scientific Games (SGMS), saying that the co's shares could remain a winning ticket for investors. Thanks to overseas deals and acquisitions, profits are rising again. The stock has climbed 23% YTD. With lotteries abroad on the rise and overseas mkts for their gaming machines growing, Scientific Games could generate bigger profits in '08 than Wall St expects. And while pricey at 28x projected profits over the next 4 qrtrs, the stock could pay out up to 35% in the next 18mo's if mgmt meets its own lofty goals. "Investors are basically getting free options on China and other deals they have cut in the last few years," says Carlo Santarelli, of Bear Stearns. "There's potential for higher earnings numbers if overseas opportunities ramp up."

"Inside Scoop" section reports that after better-than-expected 3Q earnings, insiders at BlackRock (BLK) decided to make a profit as well, selling 80K shares. On Fri, director Linda Gosden Robinson sold 5.8K shares for $1.1m. On Thu and Fri, Vice Chmn Keith Anderson sold 75K shares for $14.3m. Also on Thu, Vice Chmn Charles Hallac exercised $175K in options for 12.5K shares and sold all shares for $2.4m. While BlackRock insiders do have a long history of selling, Jonathan Moreland, adviser to Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Mgmt on insider strategies, still calls the sales a "disappointment," as several insiders appear to be accelerating their selling with the recent transactions despite BlackRock's fundamental strength. "The timing is a disappointment," he says. "If I were a current BlackRock shareholder, [the sales] would make me a bit more alert to future selling, and possibly taking profits myself if the trend continues."

The NY Post reprots that Google (GOOG) is threatening to once again beat rival Microsoft (MSFT) to the deal punch, this time in the white-hot Facebook investment sweepstakes. Microsoft and Google are each vying to take a stake of between 5-10% percent in social-networking site, with a deal expected to be announced in the next 24-48 hours. Facebook's investors are looking for a pre-money valuation of $10-15bn in any deal. On the high side, that means Microsoft or Google would have to come up with $1.5bn for a 10% stake.

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