Polling all Fools: When it comes to household chores -- home improvement, finances, mowing the lawn -- do you do it yourself or hire somebody? Take our poll and let us know.

At Fool HQ, our method is to put off chores for as long as possible. Our excuse: We'd rather be writing. Of course, sometimes that leads to near-disaster. Just this week, Rex Moore (TMF Orangeblood), who covers the local news beat for The Motley Fool Take, was stuck to an old, congealing pile of pad thai in the fridge while reaching for his lunch. An emergency squad with a high-pressure hose was called in, but even they refused to clean out the fridge once Rex was freed. It's just really hard to find good help these days.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Drug Maker Gets Ploughed

Drug maker Schering-Plough(NYSE: SGP) cut its 2003 earnings forecast yesterday. In its fifth warning since summer 2002, the company lowered current-year projections for diluted earnings to $0.75 from $0.85 a share, down from actual EPS of $1.34 in 2002.

The news plowed the stock under 4% in morning trading. Shares have fallen 72% from $59.13 on Dec. 13, 2000 ($56.21, adjusting for dividends) to a near-six-year low, closing yesterday at $16.60. This drop wiped out about $63 billion in market cap. Holy Internet!

Its challenges have been well known for several years. It finally resolved a large one last year when it settled FDA regulatory issues with its manufacturing for $500 million, the last half due in Q2 2003. The company has long known that allergy drug Claritin would move from prescription to over-the-counter status in December, but sales of follow-up prescription drug Clarinex aren't yet replacing equivalent high-margin Claritin prescription sales.

Earnings for Q4 2002 showed the first cracks, off 19% from the year before, with U.S. pharmaceutical sales off 28% and international up 17%. The company said current-quarter sales will yield a projected EPS of $0.10, versus year-ago's $0.41.

Schering-Plough has strongly pinned its hopes on cholesterol treatment Zetia, just introduced and co-marketed with Merck(NYSE: MRK), as well as the respiratory disease inhaler it will market and distribute in the U.S. pursuant to a November deal with Novartis(NYSE: NVS). Schering-Plough also earns revenues from international sales of Remicade, marketed in the U.S. by Johnson & Johnson(NYSE: JNJ), and a significant revenue share of cardiovascular drug Integrilin, which it shares with Millennium Pharmaceuticals(Nasdaq: MLNM) after its purchase of COR Therapeutics. Meanwhile, competition hurt sales of its hepatitis C treatments.

With about 1.7 times cash to total debt, even with reduced free cash flow (FCF), Schering-Plough can likely handle the $250 million due to the FDA in Q2 and the demands of its 4.2% dividend. But shares currently sell for an enterprise value-to-FCF ratio of 16 -- pricey for its current situation. And this multiple will undoubtedly rise with the newest 2003 forecast.

If you believe that Clarinex and other drug sales will ramp up to merit this multiple, which is just under Merck's, the stock is a bargain. Share your thoughts on our Schering-Plough discussion board.

Quote of Note

"No drug can expand consciousness; the only thing a drug can expand is the earnings of the company that makes it." -- Thomas Szasz, author and emeritus professor of psychiatry

Further Fallout From Enron

It took more than 2,000 pages to describe it, but Atlanta attorney Neal Batson has confirmed in loving detail what most people already knew: Almost all of the income generated by Enron during its dizzying heights was fictitious.

Batson, who was appointed as special examiner by the court handling the company's Chapter 11 proceedings, found that while Enron reported earnings of $936.7 million in its 2000 SEC filings, they were little more than $42 million after filtering out the phantom transactions and financial engineering. Moreover, with support from investment banks, Enron used structured finance transactions to improperly move almost $12 billion in debt off its balance sheet, enabling the company to report a debt load of $10 billion rather than a more accurate $22 billion.

But what's a billion or two dollars? Or 10? These financial shenanigans helped the company maintain a higher credit rating, giving it access to capital at a cheaper rate. Enron used this cheaper leverage to acquire more assets and trading contracts. Except for the fact that the company's traders weren't very good at generating profits, it seemed like a pretty good plan. Oh, except for the fraud part.

Batson's report did not lay blame on Wall Street investment banks, accountants, or law firms for their role in packaging and repackaging Enron's blue sky. But he's not yet done. Baston is scheduled to file another report later this year, and has subpoenaed several investment bankers at CSFB(NYSE: CSR). J.P. Morgan(NYSE: JPM) and Citigroup(NYSE: C) can also expect questions they don't want to answer. Apparently 2,100 pages wasn't enough space.

We can look at such a report as a statement of the obvious, but this has real-world implications. The bankruptcy court is working to determine how Enron's assets should be allocated among creditors, some of which are the same banks and firms that helped the company flout the law in the first place. Of perhaps greater impact is the potentially crippling $20 billion class-action suit Enron shareholders have filed against the bankers and other participants in Enron's fraud.

As Mr. Batson's work comes to light, banks could be looking at a double whammy: reduced status among Enron's creditors and increased exposure to a big-dollar lawsuit.

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Apple's Sweet Music

Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL) may be getting into the online music subscription business. Rumors began circulating earlier in the week that the Mac Daddy will launch a pay-for-play service for its computers and iPod machines.

The company's not 'fessing up yet, but the offering appears to make sense, at least from the record companies' standpoint.

The existing major online music subscription services (MusicNet, Rhapsody, and Pressplay) don't offer downloads for Macintosh products. Given this, iPod customers have to look elsewhere for Ja Rule and Ashanti downloads -- typically to free (and illegal) services such as KaZaA. Some have even accused Apple of promoting piracy because of its "rip, mix, burn" advertising slogan, highlighting the ease with which Mac products can copy and record songs to CDs.

The move toward a subscription model, then, would be a big shift for Apple and sweet music for record companies, which would love to try to tap into those iPod devotees. But should the service launch, it'll be a symbolic victory more than anything else.

That's because less than 3% of computers sold worldwide are Macs. The majority of those downloading and burning are using other operating systems. Even if Apple can somehow convince all Mac and iPod users to pay for online music (and that alone is highly debatable), record companies will still be left with mostly freeloaders.

Discussion Board of the Day: Great Movies

In light of Tyson's profit hosing, what did you think of Chicken Run? What about The Four Feathers? Duck Soup? Don't be chicken; even Fools talk celluloid. All this and more -- in the Great Movies discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Quick Takes

Wireless communications pioneer and billionaire Craig McCaw will reduce his stake in and control of wireless provider Nextel Communications(Nasdaq: NXTL), the company reports. McCaw reportedly will lower his share to less than 5%, giving up control of three of the 11 board seats and the CEO appointment committee. He's been selling shares for a year, but will haul in more cash now. Though Nextel shares have fallen from the 80s in 2000, they have hurtled upwards from their July 2002 low of $2.50 to close yesterday at $12.89.

Shareholders of conglomerate Tyco(NYSE: TYC) voted to stay incorporated in Bermuda and retain current auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers, though the company says it will continue to study a possible move back to the U.S. Shareholders also elected 10 new directors, leaving none from the days of ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski.

The European Central Bank cut its benchmark rate a quarter-point to 2.5%, the sixth cut since the beginning of 2001. Bank President Wim Duisenberg cautioned that the Bank's monetary policy can't address economic issues affected by concerns over war with Iraq. Meanwhile, U.S. exporters are happy the dollar has fallen to a new low against the euro. It takes $1.10 to buy one new pan-European currency.

February same-store sales figures included drops of 9.4% at Sears(NYSE: S), 1.4% at Target(NYSE: TGT), and 4.6% at Kohl's(NYSE: KSS). Sales rose 2.6% at Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT). Clothing was mixed, with Ann Taylor(NYSE: ANN) sales off 8.6% and Limited Brands(NYSE: LTD) down 1%, but Gap's(NYSE: GPS) sales jumped 8%.

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com:

  • For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
  • Jeff Fischer offers his stock opinions and hopes he's held accountable for them.
  • LouAnn Lofton asks if Estee Lauder is really as pretty as it seems.
  • Polling All Fools: Do it yourself or pay someone else? How do you handle home renovations?
  • In apparel retail, the cheap are getting cheaper. Matt Richey examines Deb Stores.
  • Can poultry provider Tyson bring home the bacon in '03?
  • In Fool's School, get your investment club going.
  • Car-buying and money-saving tips, in Hot Topics.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim