If you had a hard time reading our Foolish news and commentary this weekend, it's likely because a virus wormed its way through the Internet, slowing systems and crashing servers. (At least, we hope it was the worm -- and not our writing -- that caused your trouble!)
The infestation, dubbed the "SQL Slammer," was the worst virus in more than a year and a half, attacking computers through a hole in Microsoft's
Frustrated with the slow connectivity, the FOOL 50 did one too many SQL Slammers of its own last night, and was down 1.5% today.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- The Oracle Speaks
- Quote of Note
- Flip Mo's Quick Fix
- Shameless Plug: Get a Broker
- Kmart's Wrongdoing
- Discussion Board of the Day: 77's Foolish House of Pigskin
- Quick Takes: IBM, Gap, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, more
- And Finally...
You can always count on Oracle
Ellison was at it again last week, in an interview with Barron's (subscription required, but perhaps worth it just to see a pensive Larry in his yachting outfit). He talked at length about Oracle's prospects for a swift business upturn once corporations start spending on technology again. He also discussed Oracle's position relative to its peers and the controversial issue of his non-existent successor.
Ellison expects Oracle's business to rebound in a huge way once the IT market does. He's looking for 15% to 20% revenue growth following the IT spending revival, and that could yield "an explosion in profits." Schweet -- if it actually happens, that is.
Speaking about other software companies, Ellison had some choice words (and by "choice," we mean "rough"). He singled out Siebel
On the subject of no clear successor at Oracle, he said, "The most respected business executive of the second half of the 20th century, Jack Welch, never had a strong No. 2. Who is the president of the United States' strong No. 2? Who is the chairman of the joint chiefs' strong No. 2? No organizations have this strong No. 2."
Yes, they do. That comment's almost too funny to address seriously. Surely Ellison realizes that Mr. Cheney isn't just some no-name guy filling up space out at the Naval Observatory. And that General Richard Myers isn't working alone. Does Ellison need a 7th grade civics lesson?
Another beauty is his view of Oracle's valuation. And we quote: "We thought it was undervalued a couple of years ago, so what do we know? We certainly think it's undervalued now." Ahhhh, so encouraging.
Regardless of what he says, Larry Ellison is fun to listen to, and he makes following Oracle much more interesting than just your average software company. Whether or not his predictions and pronouncements come true, though, remains to be seen.
"If people listened to themselves more often, they would talk less." -- Anonymous
A rose by any other name is still a rose, to paraphrase Shakespeare. By that logic, Philip Morris
Philip Morris is now officially Altria Group, though the company will continue to trade under its old ticker.
Altria Group. Hmm, doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? And it seems vaguely reminiscent of that huge, ugly, rat-like swamp creature, the nutria. (We'll let you draw your own conclusions about the irony of Philip Morris rebranding itself as something that evokes rat-like images.)
But, hey, Philip Morris is more than just smokes, man. And that's the announced reason for the name change. Altria wants to be clear about the fact that its brands include, among others, Oscar Mayer, Ritz, Oreo, and Maxwell House. It wants to highlight its diverse products and industries, and nothing says, "We do more than make ciggies" more than "Altria."
Where'd they come up with the new handle? It's derived from the Latin word altus, which means high. The company wants to showcase its "peak" performance.
The old name isn't going away completely. Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International will still exist as divisions under the Altria umbrella.
So, yes, the name "Philip Morris" carries some, ahem, baggage. Big deal. Changing it to something new and incredibly vapid, like Altria, hardly seems like a good solution for Flip Mo's PR problems. It's not the name that has created a negative impression. And last time we checked, we didn't read, "We are going to stop making cigarettes" in the press release.
Altria. Philip Morris. It's all the same. A rose, a rose, a rose...
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Just call them "grossly derelict." That's the description an internal probe has laid on former Kmart CEO Charles Conaway and some members of his executive team.
The investigation was spurred by anonymous letters that alleged, among other things, accounting improprieties. Among the findings filed in federal court Friday:
The company hired "unqualified" executives and paid them too much.
Management did more than just delay paying vendors when cash got tight; it also abused return policies and lied to the vendors about why they weren't getting paid.
The vendor issue -- "Project Slow It Down" -- allowed executives to inflate financial forecasts.
The company took $92 million in questionable allowances in 2001.
Some executives used corporate aircraft for personal trips and reported them as visits to stores.
- One executive was responsible for $850 million worth of unapproved inventory purchases, something that "substantially contributed" to Kmart's liquidity crunch.
These findings, if true, make it clear the company's implosion was caused not so much by strong competition from Wal-Mart
Conaway now faces the possibility the company will take legal action against him. If so, he stands to lose millions in severance pay and forgiven loans.
Don't expect this story to go away soon. The SEC, the FBI, and Congress are also investigating the allegations.
What did you think of last night's game? What will the Raiders do to tackle their salary-cap problems? Where can you buy some really good ticker tape in Tampa, Fla.? All this and more -- in the 77's Foolish House of Pigskin discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
In response to a possible war against Iraq, oil prices have been rising; gold prices have been rising; the dollar has been falling; and the stock market is hunkering down in Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, and the United States. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 sank to three-month lows by the end of last week. (For some perspective, read what Jeff Fischer had to say last week about war and the stock market.)
President Bush's $670 billion tax cut plan is now drawing criticism from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. According to a Dow Jones report, Greenspan noted that the U.S. economy is already recovering without any extra help. He also said the plan is designed to have little near-term effect. Bush is preparing to sell the plan during his Tuesday night State of the Union address.
At the exclusive conference of grand poobahs and muckety-mucks in Davos, Switzerland, European and American CEOs disagreed over restoring confidence to investors following the past year's scandals. The U.S. has been busy instituting new systems and rules, while some Europeans are ticked off that they weren't consulted.
Meanwhile, criticism is growing at home regarding the newly created Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. With President Bush earning $400,000 per year and the Senate aiming to nix any federal salaries higher than that, the SEC has set up the board so that the chairman would be paid $560,000 and each member $452,000.
China's state banks are in a mess and will probably need to be bailed out. The sum involved was estimated to be around $40 billion, according to the Chinese media. But now a Goldman Sachs economist forecasts that it will cost nearly $300 billion, an enormous sum.
Today on Fool.com:
- For updated stories throughout the day, be sure to bookmark our ever-changing News section.
- The Buccaneers won last night. Guess who lost?
- Zeke Ashton explains why you don't have to buy into every promising stock idea.
- Let's not be financially illiterate. Here are 8 things Selena Maranjian says we should have learned as kids.
- In Fool's School, learn how to reduce your home insurance rate.
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim