Ask a handful of couples how they met, and you'll inevitably find a few who wooed their soul mates at the office happy hour. But the more recent coupling phenomenon is searching for a partner online -- while you're at work.

According to a recent Washington Post Web Watch column, nearly 8 million lonely hearts searched singles websites while at work. (Suggestion: Close the door and keep a Word document on hand to cover up your prowling.)

Does Internet matchmaking work? Hard to say. But check out today's Take Looking for Love for resources to help you handle money with your honey.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Yum! Serves It Up Hot

Yum! (NYSE: YUM) . Just plain, "Yum!"

The company named with an exclamation reported succulent fourth-quarter and year-end results last night, right around dinnertime. OK, maybe "succulent" isn't the right word for the owner of such fare as KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, A&W, and Long John Silver's, but the results were good, anyway.

Worldwide revenue at the fast-food chain heated up 12% in the fourth quarter and for the full year, to $7.7 billion by year-end. Ongoing operating earnings rose 5% in the quarter ended December, and a caloric 19% for the full year.

Acquisitions of A&W and Long John Silver's added significant sizzle to domestic revenue, which grew 11% in 2002, but same-store sales at Taco Bell also rose a zingy 7%. The company plans to convert more locations into multibranded, combination restaurants, at times using its new acquisitions because combined restaurants have superior economics to standalones.

Driven by KFC and Pizza Hut, international revenue grew 11% last year, while operating profits jumped 17%. Cooking hot to McDonald's(NYSE: MCD) cold, Yum! opened 1,051 new international stores in 2002, a company record. Expansion was greatest in people-packed China.

Chairman and CEO David Novak said, "The best year any business can have is when you beat your financial plan and set the table for future growth. 2002 was that kind of year for Yum! Brands." Management projects "at least" 10% earnings growth in 2003 and beyond, meaning at least $2.00 in earnings per share this year. The $24 stock trades at a P/E of 13.

Matt Richey recently took a close look at Yum!

Quote of Note

"When you go on a diet, the first thing you lose is your temper." -- Anonymous

More Legal Pains for Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) was slapped with another potential legal headache today. Less than a month after U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly smacked down the Computer & Communications Industry Association's desire to appeal Microsoft's settlement with the government, the group's at it again.

This time, the lobbying association has filed a complaint with the European Union concerning Microsoft's Windows XP operating system. It will be handled separately from the existing E.U. anti-trust case against the software giant. The E.U. hopes to resolve that 3-year-old issue early this year. After that, it will address this new one.

The CCIA wants the E.U. to impose harsh remedies on Microsoft for its "abusive conduct." The group claims the Justice settlement doesn't address the company's newest operating system, Windows XP. CCIA asserts that not only is Microsoft dominating much of the current software and computer landscape, but that Windows XP helps it obtain even more market share where it's not already the dominant player.

Much of the association's arguments are based on the E.U.'s strict bundling restrictions, housed under the EC Treaty's Article 82. CCIA points to the inclusion of Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, and Outlook Express in Windows XP as evidence of bundling.

It must be nice to sit around filing complaints and impeding market processes all day long. CCIA exists for this very reason. It's a lobbying group, and like any other, it tries to affect regulations and legislation to benefit its members. Given that Microsoft competitors Oracle(Nasdaq: ORCL), AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL), and Sun Microsystems(Nasdaq: SUNW) are CCIA members, it's hardly surprising that the group keeps plugging away at its goal of stopping Microsoft.

Funny, then, that CCIA's stated mission is, "to further our members' business interests by being the leading industry advocate in promoting open, barrier-free competition in the offering of computer and communications products and services worldwide."

Open, barrier-free competition, eh? Where does asking the E.U. to impose barriers on Microsoft fit into that? It doesn't. But when you exist to lobby, logic hardly matters.

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Harry Potter and the Scholastic Stoned

Harry Potter can do many things for a young wizard. He can cast spells. He can vanquish villains. He can play a bloody good game of quidditch, too. All this, yet he couldn't get creator J.K. Rowling to scribe fast enough to save Scholastic(Nasdaq: SCHL).

The stateside publisher of all things Potter has delayed the fifth book in the series until three weeks after the company's fiscal 2003 year closes in May. And, unfortunately, the company's other business lines, Trade and School Book Clubs, haven't been as steady as the educational market suggests.

In short, things are getting hairy without Harry. Scholastic now reports its fiscal third quarter will be as red as the hair on Ron Weasley's head. While the company projects breakeven results, back out a one-time asset sale gain and Scholastic will post a loss. The fourth quarter isn't looking much better, with the unsure economy forcing schools to scale back on book spending.

This leaves Scholastic with little choice but to hose down its fiscal-year projections. Analysts were expecting roughly $2.50 a share. The company now warns it will produce profits between $1.85 and $2.15 per share.

The stock has been under fire, shedding 40% of its value over the past year, and is down another 23% today. It's trading at levels unseen in three years. Back then, the Potter pot was just beginning to simmer, and the company was shaking off the demons left behind by the rise and faddish fade of its previous hit series, Goosebumps.

But the buzz is definitely building for the next Potter book. It's the top seller on AMZN), despite the fact that its release is still more than four months away. Yes, it's 40% off on Amazon right now -- just like the stock.

Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix will answer many questions, as Dumbledore reveals everything to Harry. Kids and adults alike will devour the epic, all 255,000 words. The one question Dumbledore won't be able to answer, though, is what will become of Scholastic? Will Harry save the day in fiscal 2004, or is this a set of ashes from which no phoenix will rise?

Discussion Board of the Day: British Invasion

Our fellow Fools across the pond have given us many great things. The Beatles. Monty Python. Harry Potter. Are you an Anglophile at heart? Do you sometimes see yourself driving on the left side of the road? All this and more -- in the British Invasion discussion board. Only on

Quick Takes

Yielding way to the payout trend, Qualcomm(Nasdaq: QCOM) became the latest company to roll out a dividend policy. The quarterly nickel-per-share distribution may not amount to much, but it follows Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) as yet another tech bellwether trying to offer the income investor a reason to buy in. Qualcomm will also be initiating a more ambitious billion-dollar share repurchase program.

Filling bellies with artery-clogging eats is what Bob Evans Farms(Nasdaq: BOBE) does well. However, the restaurant chain also did a meaty good job of keeping investors from going into cardiac arrest when it posted fourth-quarter earnings of $0.47 a share. In November, the company pegged its potential profits to come in between $0.43 and $0.45 a share.

Wow, what a difference! Video rental chain giant Blockbuster(NYSE: BBI) missed its fourth-quarter profit targets despite a healthy 9.1% spike in same-store sales. The retailer earned $0.17 a share (two cents below recently reduced bottom-line forecasts) on $1.6 billion in revenue. Inventory hiccups that had the company overestimating demand has the chain missing out on a Hollywood ending. However, the stock traded higher because investors put a lot of credence into the fast-forward buttons. Blockbuster is looking to grow earnings by 20% in 2003, which implies a full-year showing of $1.25 per share.

The trade trade continues to struggle, as Instinet(Nasdaq: INET) reported a fourth-quarter loss on a 23% dip in revenue. The electronic trading specialist blames a 37% decline in net transaction fees for the slide, which was a result of a lower pricing schedule. Trading volume itself was actually higher.

Who gets to move to the head of the class? While Scholastic(Nasdaq: SCHL) warned of softer spending in the education market, School Specialty(Nasdaq: SCHS) raised its hand and begged to differ. The rival provider of school supplies posted a narrower loss than expected, and is comfortable with Wall Street's full fiscal-year projections. What a teacher's pet!

And Finally...

Today on

  • For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
  • Google Finds Brand Power: The search king finished ahead of such names as Coca-Cola and Starbucks for world's top brand.
  • Matt Richey calls attention to a potential software bargain. Group 1 looks like a value at less than 10 times free cash flow.
  • Where's the money going? Tom Jacobs checks up on venture cap firms and says you'll be surprised.
  • In Fool's School, break those bad investing habits before they break you.

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