Stocks finished the week with a whimper, all the major indexes declining in a shortened session ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. The market's closed tomorrow, and so is The Motley Fool Take, which will return on Monday, sunburned and sick to its stomach after eating too many hot dogs, but ready to take on the rest of the summer.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

WorldCom Shareholders Get Relief

The meek may inherit the earth, but the complainers are going to have to settle for $250 million. Of course, that's substantially more than they had yesterday.

Under a settlement forged by the Securities and Exchange Commission, common equity shareholders of WorldCom will receive $250 million in stock when the company emerges from bankruptcy. The SEC said that the agreement would allow the victims of the massive fraud committed at WorldCom to participate in the potential upside of the reorganized company, to be called MCI.

This may or may not be palatable to the folks who have formed the various stockholder groups and organized various lawsuits, protests, and boycotts. One group suggested that the reorganization plan be "50% debt reduction, where the bondholders would get 50% ownership of the new company and the current stockholders would be given 50% equity in the new firm." This same group complained that the bondholders have completely dominated the bankruptcy committees.

Right. You see, that's how bankruptcyworks. Ask the former shareholders at Kmart(Nasdaq: KMRT), who got nothing when it emerged from Chapter 11.

The settlement amount is nowhere near what the stockholder group requested. It also remains to be seen just how the shares are allocated, since the fraud and damages took place over the course of years. As such, we will have to see whether they accept the settlement levels or press for more. But as the plan is offered now, old WorldCom shareholders will have defied the odds. After all, in almost every bankruptcy, the equity shareholders get nothing.

Now, it would be nice if the SEC sent some of the settlement money over to the shareholders of AT&T(NYSE: T), Sprint(NYSE: FON), Cincinnati Bell(NYSE: CBB), and other telecommunications competitors that were just as demonstrably harmed by the beast formerly known as WorldCom. Somehow we doubt their threatened boycott of MCI would be as effective.

Quote of Note

"Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so." -- Bertrand Russell, 1872 - 1970), British philosopher, mathematician, and writer

Wait and See on EMC

Network storage giant EMC(NYSE: EMC) has acquired the rights to BMC Software's(NYSE: BMC) Patrol Storage Manager storage software product. In addition, BMC will now offer EMC's storage management products exclusively in solutions sold to business customers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

With a market cap of $24 billion, EMC is already No. 1 in data storage hardware. Nonetheless, the company has faced stiff competition from Network Appliance(Nasdaq: NTAP) and a general collapse in business capital spending. In response, and attracted by software's higher margins, EMC has quietly acquired (its PR department notwithstanding) nine storage software companies over the past three years.

Meanwhile, BMC, though an established business software maker boasting $1.3 billion in trailing 12-month sales and 40% free cash flow margins last quarter, struggled in the storage software market, and exited the space in March. With corporate CTOs and CIOs favoring "safe" big-name software vendors, even BMC can't compete with more established vendors EMC, IBM(NYSE: IBM), or even Veritas(Nasdaq: VRTS). Those customers who took the plunge with BMC will be relieved that EMC will continue to service them.

Investors scrounging the computer technology trash heap for companies with attractive valuations and prospects might be tempted by EMC. However, at 33 times -- gulp -- trailing free cash flow and with a negative return on invested capital the last two years, EMC is priced for the dizzy growth of years past.

Even when business capital spending resumes -- and it will -- it will have to do so at astonishing rates to justify the risk inherent in EMC's current valuation. Higher margins from its software business, if well managed, could juice the benefits of any revenue increase, but at current prices the stock must be viewed as a speculation. (Do you agree? Our Community considers the BMC deal and all things EMC on our nifty discussion board.)

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Cooking Out the Foolish Way

All set for your Fourth of July cookout? Your family and friends are on the way. The cooler's stocked. You've warned your nephew to steer well clear of lit firecrackers. This time. But if you haven't had a chance to check out your holiday spread, look out: It's been invaded by an army of -- no, not ants -- ticker symbols!

Can you imagine a better way to celebrate this joyous slice of Americana than by approaching this year's cookout from a stock lover's perspective? OK, you probably can. But humor me. It's a holiday!

Fire up the grill and what have you got? Some Oscar Mayer hot dogs? That's Kraft(NYSE: KFT) in action. Going with Ballpark Franks or Hillshire Farm sausages? You won't believe who's behind those: it's Sara Lee(NYSE: SLE). Grilling up steaks, chicken breasts or burgers? They might very well be the handiwork of ConAgra(NYSE: CAG), Tyson's(NYSE: TSN), Pilgrim's Pride(NYSE: CHX), or Sanderson Farms(Nasdaq: SAFM). (The latter, by the way, is one of Tom Gardner's top picks in Motley Fool Stock Advisor.)

If you're cooking for vegetarians don't worry, Gardenburger (OTC: GBUR) trades publicly, and if you're going with Morningstar Farms veggie burgers and wieners, both hail from the Kellogg(NYSE: K) stable.

Of course, it wouldn't be a cookout without the condiments. We all know about Heinz(NYSE: HNZ), but ConAgra (Hunt's) and Del Monte(NYSE: DLM) eat up a good bit of the 40% of the ketchup market Heinz hasn't swallowed up. Mustard's edgy, but it, too, boasts conglomerate lineage. That's Kraft passing the Grey Poupon, while ConAgra's serving up Gulden's. If you want more still, Kraft also slings mayonnaise and cheese slices.

And when it's time to wash it all down, Coke(NYSE: KO) and Pepsi(NYSE: PEP) have the fizz down cold. Want something stronger? Maybe Anheuser-Busch(NYSE: BUD) or Coors(NYSE: RKY) will hit the spot. It doesn't get any better than this.

So what are you waiting for? Dig in and eat. The ticker symbols are getting cold.

Discussion Board of the Day: Recipes/Cooking

Got cookout plans this holiday weekend? Any food ideas to share? Is it wrong to dye your bread rolls red, white, and blue? All this and more -- in the Recipes/Cooking discussion board. Only on

Quick Takes

Siebel Systems (Nasdaq: SEBL) warned about its second-quarter earnings this morning, and announced a restructuring plan that will begin in the third quarter. Siebel now expects to earn $0.02 a share on revenues of $330-$334 million. Analysts were predicting $0.03, with sales of $376.7 million. The company pointed to spending weakness in the market for corporate information technology as the culprit for its reduced results. It will report full second-quarter results on July 22.

Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) new iTunes online music shop isn't a hit with all artists. Some bands, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the ever-obstinate Metallica, aren't too hip to the idea of fans buying individual singles and not entire albums. As a consequence, music lovers won't be able to buy anything from either band via the iTunes store. Mark Reiter, a representative of Q Prime Management, which manages both groups, was quoted in a Reuters article as saying, "Our artists would rather not contribute to the demise of the album format."

Because of the costs associated with launching a new device, Boston Scientific(NYSE: BSX) will miss earnings estimates for 2003. The company now expects to earn $1.09-$1.21 a share, excluding charges, compared to the anticipated $1.26. Boston Scientific is gearing up for the stateside launch of its Taxus Express coronary stent. The product has been a success for Boston Scientific in Europe, but it's still waiting for regulatory approval here.

And Finally...

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