Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Paperstand (MO, T, INFN)

The WSJ reports that the board of Altria (MO) is expected tomorrow to approve a long-awaited decision to split PMI from Philip Morris USA. The move would free the tobacco giant's international operations of legal and public-relations headaches in the US that have hindered its growth. Marlboro Intense is likely to be part of an aggressive blitz of new smoking products PMI will roll out around the globe once the co becomes a standalone entity. The idea behind Intense is to appeal to customers who, due to indoor smoking bans, want to dash outside for a quick nicotine hit but don't always finish a full-size cigarette. Pointing to his lit Intense, the CEO Andre Calantzopoulos says there are "possibly 50 mkts that are interested in deploying it." The separate entity, for example, would be exempt from U.S. tobacco regulations and out of reach of American litigators. Importantly, its practices would no longer be constrained by American public opinion, paving the way for broad product experimentation. By as early as March, PMI could be operating as an independent co.

Barron’s highlights tech fund top 10 holdings: SNPS, BMC, DOX, MFE, QCOM, CHKP, ORCL, CSCO, MRVL, MXIM.

“Inside Scoop” section reprots that one longtime director at AT&T (T) has made a bullish call on the co's future, increasing his holdings by more than 35%. On Fri Director August Busch III purchased 63K shares for $2.3m. He now holds 139K shares directly, 94K non-voting stock units in a benefit plan, and 6K shares indirectly through trusts. “This buy is unusual in the sense that you don't see a lot of [insider] buying at the former Bells, or at the large-cap telecoms like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in general," says Ben Silverman, of InsiderScore.com. Busch, along with former director and billionaire Carlos Slim, is one of only 3 insiders at the co to make open-mkt purchases of AT&T stock in the past 5 yrs. "The buy is also intriguing in the sense that there's been a real sea change in attitude toward the remaining big telecoms," says Silverman. "Historically they were viewed as safe income-generating investments that could weather economic downturns b/c of the [stability] of the landline business. Now that the telecom sector has changed, it's the first time the new business models [based on] wireless and broadband are being tested during a recessionary economy."

LightReading reports that Infinera (INFN) has scored another win with a sales pitch centered around "bandwidth virtualization" -- what the vendor is calling its equipment's unique ability to decouple services from optics. The co is announcing today that it won the favor of data center specialist Equinix (EQIX) largely on the density of the equipment and its ability to enable the quick provisioning of new services. Equinix CTO Lane Patterson says his co picked Infinera b/c traditional Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) equipment, clocking in with 32 wavelengths of 10-Gbit/s bandwidth, was not enough for some Equinix customers. "The density of that equipment wasn't where it needed to be," Patterson says. With Infinera equipment, Patterson notes, Equinix can deploy "80 waves before we have to acquire dark fiber." On the provisioning side, Patterson says: "It's helpful that they have point-and-click provisioning and an easy-to-use self-managing platform."

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