Under The Radar News - Thursday

by: SA Eli Hoffmann
  • Credit markets appear to be thawing. Deals like Cablevision's (NYSE:CVS) $650M acquisition of Newsday (thanks to a loan arranged by Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)) and HP's (NYSE:HPQ) proposed buyout of EDS (NASDAQ:EDS) $13.25B, mostly with debt, suggest the worst may be over. DirecTV (DTV) raised $2.5B from junk bond sales, and will use the cash to repurchase shares. The pipeline of unsold leveraged loans has shrunk to about $100B from more than $300B, while the spread between junk bonds and Treasurys has narrowed by nearly two percentage points to 6.8%. A handful of firms recently issued junk bonds with rates below the key threshold of 8%. While the tone of the market is clearly improving, some fear it may be short lived.
  • Motorola could cede top spot by Q4. Motorola (MOT) is in danger of losing top spot in U.S. mobile handset sales. Motorola's market share dropped to 25%, down from 37% a year ago (ouch!). LG and Samsung each control 21% of the market. "The U.S., their bread and butter, is not immune anymore to their problems," IDC's Ramon Llamas says.
  • GE lands blowout order. T. Boone Pickens ordered 667 wind turbines from GE (NYSE:GE), worth about $2B. Pickens plans to build the world's biggest wind farm in the Panhandle, which will include 4,000 MW of windmills (worth $10-12B) -- enough power to energize 1.2M homes. Pickens says he'll build his own transmission lines if the Power Utility Commission can't sail his ship.
  • Just one iPhone. AT&T (NYSE:T) seems to be limiting iPhone (NASDAQ:AAPL) sales to one per customer.
  • London may get first dibs. The first 3G iPhone (AAPL) may be launched in the UK, after Telefonica's (NYSE:TEF) O2 suggested an announcement Apple "in the coming weeks."
  • Tailor made ads. Turner Entertainment (NYSE:TWX) unveiled a new system that will match TV commercials with what's going on in the shows they interrupt ("TV in Context"). Examples include matching allergy medicines to a theatrical allergic reaction, ads for an online dating service following a romantic TV moment, and sweaty football players with... deodorant?
  • Crossing the Line in Consumer Health Education? An article in NEJM criticizes an ad for Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE:JNJ) Cypher stent, saying it fails to warn patients about the stent's potential dangers. "In making the leap from pharmaceuticals to medical devices, the ad campaign raises important questions regarding the net societal benefit of medical advertising directed at the lay public."
  • CAW may settle with GM, Chrysler. The Canadian Auto Workers is on the verge of reaching tentative labor agreements with General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Chrysler (DAI).
  • Sotheby's brings home the Bacon. Shares of Sotheby's (NYSE:BID) are up more than 5% this morning after its Contemporary Art Evening Auction yesterday brought in $362M, up 42% from a year ago. A 1976 triptych by Francis Bacon brought $86.3M, a new record for contemporary art -- and a retort to art market bears.
  • Blockbuster's new game. Blockbuster (BBI) is expanding in-store game sections, a move that puts it in direct competition with GameStop (NYSE:GME), sort of. Blockbuster is more likely to focus on the casual gamer, while GameStop will continue to appeal to the hard-core.
  • Judge levels Lovenox patent. A U.S. appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that struck down patents for Sanofi-Aventis's (NYSE:SNY) anti-clotting drug Lovenox, which may open the door for generic competition from Teva (NYSE:TEVA) and others. Lovenox had $4B in sales in 2007.
  • AP to buy Moreover from VeriSign. The Associated Press agreed to acquire news search and delivery firm Moreover Technologies from VeriSign (NASDAQ:VRSN). VeriSign beat out Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Reuters (RTRSY), the AP and Factiva (NASDAQ:NWS) for Moreover in 2005, paying $30M. Now all we need to know is how much AP paid.
  • Amazon's iPod. Citigroup's Mark Mahaney thinks Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle could contribute 3% of overall revenue within the next two years.
  • Amazon backs music video developer. Amazon.com (AMZN) is funding Animoto, a machine-driven music video creator which boasts over 160K users.
  • Conoco quiets EnCana rumors. ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) CEO Jim Mulva says he has no plans to buy EnCana's (NYSE:ECA) Canadian oil-sands unit post spinoff. That leaves the door open for BP (NYSE:BP), Shell (NYSE:RDS.A), and Exxon (NYSE:XOM), who would like to expand their unconventional energy portfolios. "We done a lot of acquisitions," he said. "We need to demonstrate that we can grow the company organically rather than through M&A."
  • Pepsi takes top spot. Lehman moved PepsiCo to #1 on its consumer staples favorite list. (In order:PEP, KMB, GIS, KO, AVP, K, PM.)
  • Bidz says Buenos dias. Bidz.com (NASDAQ:BIDZ) is launching a complete Spanish-language version of its online auction site.
  • Allstate loses appeal. An appeals court allowed Florida's suspension of Allstate's (NYSE:ALL) license. Allstate can't write new policies until it fully complies with the state's subpoena for documents and information about its rate-setting process.
  • Another Sprint defector. Embarq (EQ) is terminating its wireless resale deal with Sprint (NYSE:S) next year, the latest in a recent spat of ship-jumpers. Sales were far short of Embarq's expectations. Quest (NYSE:Q) dropped Sprint for Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) (NASDAQ:VOD) last week.
  • Better safe than sorry. Bond insurer Financial Security Assurance, which managed to avoid many of the mortgage-related losses plaguing rivals such as Ambac (ABK) and MBIA (NYSE:MBI), says it was reluctant to write new credit-default swaps due to the market's unusual volatility, and that it continues to remain cautious in insuring CDS.
  • Ambac: We're fine, thank you very much. Ambac Financial Group (ABK) CEO Michael Callen says the firm won't likely need to raise any more capital, a response to a negative report from Moody's yesterday.