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In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Halliburton Charges Into Iraq
- Quote of Note
- My Pension Plan Ate My Money!
- Shameless Plug: Open an IRA Before April 15
- Showtime at the Apollo
- Discussion Board of the Day: Paying for College
- Quick Takes: UnumProvident, Cable & Wireless, AFC Enterprises, more
- And Finally...
A division of Halliburton
For now, Halliburton's KBR unit will douse oil fires in Iraq and repair the country's weakened or damaged oil production infrastructure, where possible. Responsibilities after the war are yet to be divvied out. Halliburton is also working with the U.S. government in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan, and other countries under a 10-year contract from the Pentagon awarded in December 2001.
Halliburton is the first of many U.S. corporations that will surely be asked to help, and profit from, the rebuilding of Iraq. It is an especially auspicious first awardee, however, because Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton until 2000. Upon entering the vice president's office, Cheney divested himself of his holdings, although he reportedly still receives about $1 million a year in compensation from the company.
Halliburton claims to have won the first Iraq contract because it was the only firm able to launch its services on short notice. Rebuilding Iraq will eventually result in contracts with a diverse group of U.S. companies, including those in building and highway construction, water, electricity, health, transportation, farming, and food. But the oil industry stands to benefit most.
With 112 billion proven barrels, Iraq has more known oil reserves than any other country in the world, aside from Saudi Arabia. Plus, 90% of the war-torn country has not yet been explored for oil. The oil belongs to the Iraqis, as Bush states, but U.S. companies are likely to be awarded contracts to make the industry "go" again.
"I don't read no papers, and I don't listen to the radio, either. I know the world's been shaved by a drunken barber, and I don't need to read about it." -- Walter Brennan (1894-1974), actor
If you think you've had problems with your retirement account, consider the tale of Simon Kirby.
In 1995, the U.K. resident enrolled in a pension plan. Although he contributed a total of 3,227 pounds, his account is now worth only 1,700 pounds. While that may not seem all that unusual these days, he claims fully half his contributions were taken as fees by Allied Dunbar (which was acquired by Zurich Financial Services in 1998).
Mr. Kirby documents his experiences in hilarious fashion on his website, badpension.com. He's become somewhat of a mini-celebrity as he continues to dig for answers, receiving emails from around the world and press coverage from The Guardian and The Telegraph.
His site contains a slideshow presentation -- titled "My Allied/Dunbar Pension Isn't Very Good" -- that summarizes his pain and progress, and even contains recordings of his telephone conversations with some of Allied Dunbar's staff. One advisor actually blamed the mess on the financial media, saying, "The press always have this image of 'Commission-Greedy Salesmen.' ... They are really responsible for what has gone on." Another blamed the account's performance on the bear market.
Kirby also ponders the things he could have done with the fees that were taken out of his account: Fly from London to Rome 178 times, for instance, or perform 107 cataract operations for poor villagers in India.
For its part, Zurich/Allied Dunbar says the fee structure was fully explained to Kirby, and that it was commonplace at the time he bought the pension. The plan takes 65% of contributions over the first two years, then "compensates" by enhancing contributions by 5% each year. According to Kirby, it would take until 2022 to recoup the upfront charges in just simple cash terms, and -- when considering compound interest -- well past when Bede the Venerable predicted the world would end (2076).
Perhaps Kirby's efforts have had some positive effects: The Telegraph reports that the particular fee method has been scrapped and replaced by one that charges a flat 1% per year, plus a monthly "policy fee."
Simon Kirby, Zurich/Allied Dunbar, and everyone else would do well to peruse our Retirement Center. There they'll find information and advice on everything from pension plans to IRAs to annuities to 401(k)s and 403(b)s. There's even a section on fees.
Should you open a Roth or traditional IRA? Why open either? Two reasons: (1) compound interest and (2) tax savings. Plus, did you know you have until April 15 to receive 2002 tax savings? For more details, read on in our IRA Center.
If you've been schooled by the market, maybe you need a new teacher.
For-profit post-secondary schools have been hot lately, and few of the sector's sizzling stocks have blazed as high and fast as Apollo Group
Apollo's stock climbed so quickly that it declared seven stock splits over the last eight years. The company hasn't skimped on capital gains its fundamentals couldn't keep -- it has achieved 30% in annualized earnings growth over the past five years.
With Apollo set to report on Thursday, now's a good time to ask why this company has gone to the head of class while so many other equities have flunked out.
As the parent company of the popular Web-based University of Phoenix Online
But with the stock trading at nearly 50 times trailing earnings, this star pupil has priced itself out of reach in a sobered market. If you want an alternative to this teacher's pet, other niche players are worth a look and can be had at cheaper prices.
While Apollo's guidance will move all of the players one way or the other, take a look around. This is a class with class.
Are you looking for a career change and worried about paying for school? Have you looked into the Apollo, Corinthian, DeVry, Strayer, or other institutions of post-secondary instruction? Do you want to learn more about paying for your kids' education? All this and more -- in the Paying For College discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Shares of the nation's largest disability insurer, UnumProvident
Telecom giant Cable & Wireless
Quick-service restaurant company AFC Enterprises
Large British specialty chemical and paints company Imperial Chemical Industries
Today on Fool.com:
- For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
- Profit in the Biotech Bust: Tom Jacobs says rewards may abound where others fear to look.
- Pay for Privacy? Dayana Yochim asks to what extent ID theft is a threat, and should it cost you to protect yourself?
- Shares of the drive-in burger chain Sonic zoom higher on no meaningful news.
- In Fool's School, common insurance mistakes.
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