Where else can you come to get a Google IPO scorecard, the straight scoop on mutual fund fees, and the skinny on online dating? Only Fool.com. And those are just a few of the dozens of articles we published today for your reading pleasure.

So, go ahead and enjoy. What else are you going to do on a flat market Tuesday?

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Can US Airways Stay Aloft?


Tim Beyers

Attempting to ward off a second bankruptcy filing, management and pilots of US Airways(Nasdaq: UAIR) took discussions of concessions that might keep the airline afloat through this past weekend. But yesterday, the pilots left the bargaining table.

US Airways Chairman David Bronner said in a New York Times interview last week that the airline needs to secure $800 million in salary and benefit cuts in the next 30 days or face liquidation. US Airways had been seeking to obtain roughly $300 million of that total from its pilots. Now that doesn't seem likely.

According to a Reuters report, leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association accused US Airways of dismissing several of its proposals and "piling on" demands. As of this writing, no further meetings are planned.

Frankly, I can't see how this ends well for US Airways. Not only has the airline been languishing for some time but also history suggests liquidation is likely. After all, it was the inability of union and management leaders to broker a truce that ultimately sank Eastern Airlines. And that was with an experienced airline executive at the helm in Frank Lorenzo. Bronner has no apparent history in the airline industry and is beholden to an entire state through the Alabama pension fund, which he runs.

Indeed, in an interview published recently in the Mobile Register, a local Alabama paper, Bronner lamented the fact that the $240 million of pension money he invested in US Airways could have provided great returns and served as a "promotional tool" for his fund. Huh? Hey, Dave, what about US Airways' employees?

Bronner told the Register he wants to save their jobs, but he won't save many of them. The paper reports that his signature plan is to scrap the airline's traditional hub-and-spoke structure and reinvent US Airways as a low-cost regional carrier a la Southwest(NYSE: LUV), Frontier(Nasdaq: FRNT), AirTran(NYSE: AAI), or Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick JetBlue(Nasdaq: JBLU). Such a plan probably would include revising work rules, cutting benefits, and engaging in massive layoffs. No wonder the pilots are steaming.

Yet Bronner's plan may be the only other option besides shutting off the engines for good at US Airways. In the interview with the Register, Bronner predicted that if the airline went into bankruptcy a second time, it wouldn't come out. History backs him up on this point. Continental(NYSE: CAL) is the only major carrier in recent memory to successfully reorganize twice.

So, will US Airways crash, or can it return to cruising altitude? Probably the former, but that's not really the story here. Instead, it's that a national carrier has finally admitted what so many have long surmised: that in the airline industry, bigger is not only worse but also no longer sustainable.

For more Fool coverage of the airline industry's troubles:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned, but he has family who are retired from United Airlines. You can view Tim's Fool profile here.

Discussion Board of the Day: Tax Strategies

Do you rely on a tax pro such as Jackson Hewitt or H&R Block to help you file your personal return, or do you go it alone? Is it too early or too late to start on tax-saving moves for 2004? All this and more in the Tax Strategies discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

A Bargain at 7 Times Earnings


W.D. Crotty

When Motley Fool co-founder Tom Gardner laments his "biggest mistake" in recent memory, he talks about Sanderson Farms(Nasdaq: SAFM), one of his former Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations.

After a 70% one-year gain, Tom said, "Sell." Sounds like good advice, doesn't it? But since then, it has nearly tripled. Who thought a chicken processor would soar like an eagle on sales boosted by low-carbohydrate diets?

Well, the boom you heard this morning was the flying chicken returning from the stratosphere. With the stock down 20%, you would expect really bad news, but that's not the case.

Sales for the most recent quarter were up 27% year-over-year, and net income soared 120%, but the company lowered earlier earnings guidance for the fiscal year. Higher grain prices and lower prices for boneless breast meat sent this barnyard sensation to a projected 2004 price-to-earnings multiple of 6.9 to 7.7 times earnings. Now that's cheap.

Hot chicken prices were expected to cool. The one analyst who follows the company was projecting earnings to fall to $5.23 in 2005 -- an estimate that leaves it trading at a chicken feed P/E of seven times earnings. And speaking of scratch (the green kind in your wallet), the company has total debt of $15.5 million and $84.2 million in cash.

Sanderson Farms is the Rodney Dangerfield of the protein (meat) producers. Tyson Foods(NYSE: TSN) and Pilgrim's Pride(NYSE: PPC) have P/Es in the mid-teens and a pile of debt -- as does pork producer Smithfield Foods(NYSE: SFD). Even more diversified food companies such as Hormel Foods(NYSE: HRL) and ConAgra(NYSE: CAG) are not awash in cash -- and they sell for mid-teen P/Es, too.

Sanderson Farms could even be considered for Motley Fool Hidden Gems. It has a market capitalization of $730 million (small), one analyst following it (undiscovered on Wall Street), insider ownership of 58% (the company's results affect them directly), and strong free cash flow (the real measure of a winner).

Maybe it is time for Tom Gardner to take his burlap bag down to the farm and bag this bargain chicken for his readers.

For more on bargains and chicken, click to:

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned.

Quote of Note

"It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time." -- Sir Winston Churchill

Shell Shocked


Seth Jayson (TMFBent)

Long-suffering investors in Royal Dutch Petroleum(NYSE: RD) and Shell Transport(NYSE: SC) likely spent the day wondering whether this morning's news might finally clear the air.

If the stink of a recent restatement and high-sulfur gas mixture wasn't enough to have shareholders gasping for air, then the past year's proven oil reserves scandal certainly was.

The problem, first revealed in January, seems to have been that for Royal Dutch/Shell execs, proven meant made up, and reserves meant wishful thinking. I hope they're clear on what oil is.

Today, the SEC announced a settlement that will cost the untrustworthy duo $121 million, 17 million British pounds, plus $5 million for new internal controls to make sure those similar mistakes aren't made in the future. So stands the penalty for fudging your proven reserves by 23%.

The entity remained tight-lipped. The company that brings you long press releases on important issues such as American car washing issued a terse, three-paragraph explanation with the standard note about neither admitting nor denying anything. Sort of flies in the face of management's sanctimonious claims of cooperation and forthrightness, but that's how our system seems to work.

I'm sure that the apologists will be spamming my email box with the usual "This is no big deal" excuses, so let's take a look at just how big a deal it wasn't. The $157 million total isn't as big as the penalty against Janus Capital Group(NYSE: JNS) for its mutual-fund impropriety, but it dwarfs the recent SEC settlement against Franklin Resources(NYSE: BEN). In other words, it is a big deal.

Whether companies are taking money from investors' pockets directly, as alleged in many mutual fund cases, or they're doing it by providing misleading information, they are not only ripping people off but also eroding faith in the markets and creating a burden on capitalism. If the game is rigged, why should we play?

That's the question anyone should ask before sinking money into stocks, and that's the reason SEC victories such as this should be welcomed by any Foolish investor. All of us prospective business owners need to know that the game is clean, or at least cleaning up.

For more righteous Fool ranting:

Seth Jayson has no position in any company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

VoIP May Come Home


Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, may be about to zoom into homes everywhere. The next step closer to mainstream is the deal through which AT&T's(NYSE: T) CallVantage VoIP service will be available through Best Buy(NYSE: BBY). VoIP is hot; traditional long distance is not.

Up until now, privately held Vonage was one of the best-known start-ups to offer VoIP to the first-mover market, though that phase seems poised to end. The possibilities in the space haven't been lost on the heavyweights, and now mainstream consumer adoption will likely explode. In addition to AT&T, for example, Verizon(NYSE: VZ) offers its own VoIP package.

Yesterday's word that AT&T will offer CallVantage through Best Buy's 600-plus stores could do a lot toward making the technology a common household item (not to mention, it's an interesting parallel to AT&T's recent decision to discontinue marketing consumer long distance altogether).

A deal like this couldn't come too soon for a telecom concern, judging by the building competition from cable operators, which are offering bundled broadband services that are fast including Internet telephony. (It's enough to make one wonder whether the word "telecom" is fast becoming a misnomer.)

Some researchers surmise that cable will end up dominating broadband service delivery. Cablevision(NYSE: CVC) offers VoIP to its market, while Time Warner's(NYSE: TWX) cable unit is expanding its offering this year. Comcast(Nasdaq: CMCSA), Cox(NYSE: COX), and other major cable providers are also rolling out such services and have the means to gobble up serious market share.

Consumers are going to look favorably on lowering their load of monthly bills; that much seems certain. With a little more than a half a million VoIP customers in the U.S., the market has plenty of room to grow. On the other hand, in this battle of telecom companies versus cable operators, it seems every new service to add to the bundle and lower costs is simply another way to win over the hearts (and wallets) of customers from rivals.

AT&T's deal with Best Buy is testament to the fact that yes, the consumer is likely ripe for the service. Although such high-profile exposure likely gives an edge to AT&T's CallVantage, which VoIP providers will win big financially seems the real question.

For more on VoIP issues, here is some additional Fool news and commentary:

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned, although writing this article made her wonder about lowering her monthly bills through VoIP.

More on Fool.com Today

With mutual funds, you usually get what you don't pay for, Shannon Zimmerman says in You're Paying How Much?... In Make Your Lender Tell the Truth, Dayana Yochim says that one phone call and one letter can set your record straight.... Just like love, online dating could be a risky proposition for investors, Alyce Lomax says in Online Dating's Creep Factor.

In other news:

For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.