Here's an investment angle for you. How about a company that makes germ-resistant steel?

AK Steel (NYSE: AKS) has developed a compound coating called AgION, which reduces bacteria, mold, and fungus growth. Earlier this month, the company unveiled the nation's first "anti-microbial home" near Los Angeles, outfitted with 35,000 pounds of the special steel.

The coating works especially well on "high-touch" areas such as door handles and kitchen appliances, as well as in heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. After the initial test period, the material could be used in hospitals, food preparation factories -- in short, anyplace where germs aren't welcome.

Tough room, ladies and germs!

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Time Warner's Big Hits

Entertainment conglomerate Time Warner(NYSE: TWX) hit on an old way to scare viewers while filling its coffers. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a $9.5 million remake of a 1974 movie, took in $29.1 million in its first three days. Sounds like another great year for Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema.

Most studios would kill to have Time Warner's multi-year win streak. At Warner Brothers, the Harry Potter and Matrix franchises are producing mega-results. The same goes for New Line and their Lord of the Rings.

With $1.6 billion in international receipts, Warner Brothers led all studios last year. In July this year, the company crossed the $1 billion international sales mark earlier than ever before -- and for the sixth time.

Franchise movies can be extremely profitable. The Matrix Reloaded, a May 2003 release with an estimated budget of $127 million, grossed $281 million domestically and $727 million worldwide. Even better for shareholders, The Matrix: Revolutions will be released in November.

This is going to be a great year for Time Warner's movie divisions. So will 2004. A November release for Matrix: Revolutions and December's Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kings means revenues will spill over into 2004 along with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. That trio is as close to a sure thing as any studio has ever had.

People wanting to find fault with Time Warner will note the last movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy will be released in 2003. That is a big loss. But the revenue from that movie will continue through 2005 with releases to rental, cable, and TV. Movies are increasingly a business with a long revenue cycle.

The studio divisions are obvious strong spots at Time Warner. But the overall company is stronger than you'd think given a stock that plunged from $95.81 in December 1999 to $9.90 in February 2003. Free cash flow of $3.9 billion is impressive, and even a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.46 is less than Disney's(NYSE: DIS) 0.55. Funny, Disney doesn't generate the "debt's too high" stories like Time Warner.

Time Warner has a strong engine in movies and a lot of other world-class assets. If nothing else, its upside potential, especially after all the restructuring, is getting harder and harder to deny. That was something David Gardner recognized when he recommended the stock for Motley Fool Stock Advisor in August of 2002.

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Let the Deals Begin

Sometimes an acquisition is more than just an acquisition. It's a signal that a major trend is underway. This appears to be the case with EMC's(NYSE: EMC) recent purchase of Documentum(Nasdaq: DCTM).

The price tag -- $1.7 billion -- is a clear sign of serious interest in the content management space. Let's face it, corporate America is inundated with data. With new federal legislation, like Sarbanes-Oxley and the HIPAA privacy regulations for healthcare, companies must manage data in a structured way (just ask Frank Quattrone about the importance of storing and managing data).

But this is only part of the story. Hardware companies are rethinking their strategies and as a result, looking at software. IBM(NYSE: IBM), the first to do this, is a powerhouse in hardware and software for storage. Now, with its acquisition of Documentum and Legato, EMC has a similar platform.

Put plainly, consolidation in content management is inevitable. Hardware companies such as Network Appliance(Nasdaq: NTAP), and Brocade(Nasdaq: BRCD) do not want to be left without a software strategy. And don't overlook Sun Microsystems(Nasdaq: SUNW), which is desperately in need of a new strategy for growth.

The targets? Prospects will share the attributes of Documentum -- solid technology and market share. And only a handful make that cut: FileNet(Nasdaq: FILE), Interwoven(Nasdaq: IWOV), Open Text(Nasdaq: OTEX), and Vignette(Nasdaq: VIGN).

Let the deals begin.

Quote of Note

"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough." -- Mario Andretti

Best Buy Pays You

Consumer electronics giant Best Buy(NYSE: BBY) today issued a press release packed with news, but most interesting in the entire document might be the tidbit that the company will begin paying a dividend beginning in December.

Income investing fell out of vogue in the 1990s. After all, any company with no better use for its cash than to pay it out to investors -- especially with the economy so strong and so many new business avenues seemingly available -- must have been short on ideas.

In fact, some business are, and should be, perfectly fine with doing just that. Companies in steady-growth industries with strong free cash flow that pay regular dividends -- Tootsie Roll(NYSE: TR) comes to mind -- aren't necessarily going to reward investors by seeking out risky new markets or overpriced acquisitions.

In the end, the reasons companies do or don't offer dividends are as varied as the companies themselves. You can bet software giant Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT), with what Jeff Fischer suspects might be the world's strongest balance sheet, held off paying one as long as it could. (The company expanded its dividend program last month.)

Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK) , meanwhile, resisted cutting its dividend, despite having better uses for its cash, for fear of scaring away longtime income investors, but finally gave in last month. (For yet another look at how dividends aren't always a blessing, check out Tom Jacobs' column on Hawaiian ElectricIndustries(NYSE: HE), which pays more in dividends than it makes in net income.)

In Best Buy's case, however, this looks like good news. Especially, since the company also discussed plans to continue growing and to continue eking out better performance. It also plans to begin buying back shares, which will boost per-share earnings (mathematically, at least).

One might interpret the move as a sign that growth is slowing -- over time, with large companies that don't make major acquisitions, it almost always does. But Best Buy is performing well, improving margins, and successfully ditched its struggling Musicland division. By paying a dividend, management appears focused on delivering for customers and investors.

Discussion Board of the Day: Video & PC Games

Who do you think will own the holiday season when it comes to video games? What about the consoles? Can the GameCube survive against the PS2 and Xbox? What would you do if you were THQ? All this and more -- in the Video & PC Games discussion board. Only on

Mor e Fool News

For all today's stories, see Today's Headlines.

And Finally...

From reading his columns, you'd think Tom Jacobs a modest and humble man. You'd think. We will give him this: Today, he warns of hubris and of taking your eye off the ball when the market gets moving in Bull Market Genius. From there, head to our own Motley Fool founders David and Tom Gardner's sit-down with CEO Terry Semel in Yahoo!'s Turnaround. And finally, off to Dayana Yochim's Nice Girls Don't Ask. Then take a break. You've earned it.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Alyce Lomax, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Dave Marino-Nachison, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim