December 09, 2006

Barrons Weekend Headline Summary - Week of December of 11, 2006

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/09/2006 04:51:00 PM
Cover Story
Outlook 2007.
Stocks will gain modest ground next year, according to nine Wall Street strategists -- but be prepared for an accident. Will big-caps finally get their chance to shine.

Companies Mentioned: Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE CAT), Deere & Company (NYSE DE), General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE GD), Merril Lynch & Co., Inc. (NYSE MER), Dean Foods Company (NYSE DF), Weatherford International Ltd. (NYSE WFT)
____________________________________________________________________
Feature:
Better Reception.
Nortel's turnaround is well under way ? and its stock will soon show it.

Companies Mentioned: Nortel Networks Corporation (USA) (NYSE NT), Motorola, Inc. (NYSE MOT), Alcatel-Lucent (ADR) (NYSE ALU), SAP AG (ADR) (NYSE SAP)
_______________________________________________________________________

Feature:

Alcon, in Focus

Wall Street is being shortsighted about Alcon's recent problems.
Indeed, several trends are converging in the eye-care company's favor.

Feature:
ACL), Bausch & Lomb Inc. (NYSE BOL), Allergan, Inc. (NYSE AGN), Advanced Medical Optics, Inc. (NYSE EYE), Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (OSA 4356 ), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE PFE), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE JNJ)

_______________________________________________________________________

Feature:

Reforming China's Savers

Persuading China to spend more could be a key to better trade
relations.

_______________________________________________________________________
Feature:

The Thrill of the Race.

One way to add excitement to your portfolio: Buy a harness racer.

_______________________________________________________________________


Electronic Investor:

ABCs of College Loans
Help with student loans from the Department of Education, Sallie Mae
and other Websites.

Companies Mentioned: Sallie Mae SLM Corporation (NYSE SLM)
_______________________________________________________________________

Interview:

The Resilient Economy

Troubles bubble beneath the economy's smooth surface -- but there's no
catalyst for change yet.

Penny Pinching Capitalist. Crest ToothFloth Downsized 20%.

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/09/2006 04:34:00 PM

I couldn't help noticing this morning that the new Crest Tooth has been downsized 20%. The white one on the right came with 50 meters of floss. The new silver one on the left comes with 40 meter. I guess one way to increase profits is to charge the same price for less product. Crest is a brand of The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE PG).

Jeff Bezos You Just Lost Your Biggest Fan. Amazon.com Inc. Affiliate Program Is A Scam

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/09/2006 04:08:00 PM
I have been running Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq AMZN) affiliate ads on my site ever since I was invited to joing the program. In fact, when Omakase links launched, I wrote a glowing review of the new Amazon Omakase links program which serves contextual ads to my blog. In fact, I still have it on my site. However, lately, I have been very disappointed by the business practices of Amazon affiliate program. I believe I am being scammed by Amazon.com. Inc.

My affiliate commissions are not truing up. Typically, I check my Amazon.com affiliate reports twice each day, usually early in the morning when the day is over and then in the middle of the day around noon. Lately, I've noticed that the two reports have been different depending when I run them. At first, I didn't believe that Amazon.com could possibly be scamming me for a few dollars. After all, my commissions have never amounted more than a few dollars a day. However, I noticed so many times that my reports were different based on the time I logged in, that I decided to take screenshots to prove to myself that I wasn't just being paranoid.

Here's a screenshot I took earlier this morning of my affiliate commission for December 8th, 2006 which is yesterday. You can see that the total earnings for December 8th, 2006 came out to $17.91. The total number of items shipped was 18 orders.
I ran the same report again this afternoon and the total earnings for the day were $0. The total items shipped was 0 orders.Seeing is believing and I can't believe my eyes. The same report now says that I earned $0 after telling me that I earned $17.91 earlier in the day. I don't intend to get rich from the Amazon.com affiliate program, but I hate being scammed. Like many bloggers, I put alot of passion and time into writing my blog. My blog is a way for self expression. I do it because it's fun. Being scammed by Amazon is not fun.

I am so surprised that Amazon.com is scamming me this way. I was a big fan of the Omakase links program since it launched, because I saw Amazon as an underdog seeking to provide an alternative solution in the contextual advertising market which has been cornered by Google. However, after this experience, I don't know what to think about Amazon.com. Maybe Amazon.com is just another big bad corporation. With this bad experience behind me, I am seriously rethinking whether I want to be a publisher in the affiliate game. (Read about the BlockBuster affiliate scam.) Jeff Bezos, you should be ashamed, because you just lost your biggest fan.

December 06, 2006

Chinese Bank Manager Absconds with 2.6 Million in Cash

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/06/2006 06:19:00 PM
The Bank of China building Hong Kong is designed by IM Pei.
A Bank of China branch manager walked out of his own branch with 2.6 million RMB ($332,000). Police discovered the theft after he failed to show up for work. How did he do it? Xiao Kui, a director at one of Bank of China's Yicheng sub- branches in Hubei province, stuffed the cash in a large brown paper bag.

December 05, 2006

Million Dollar Watch Goes for Half Price at Amazon.com

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/05/2006 06:17:00 PM

Back a while ago, I wrote an article about outrageously expensive holiday toys for the kids that included the LEGO Mindstorms NXT robot kit for $249.99 and Butterscotch My Furreal Friends Pony for $299.99. Back when I was growing up, you were happy if you got anything! Until today, I thought that kids toys were outrageously expensive. Not anymore. Try buying a gift for your wife! Amazon.com, Inc. (Nasdaq AMZN) has raised the bar for spousal gift-giving (if there is such a word). It is offering a million dollar diamond watch for sale online. The best part: it's going on sale for half price.

Amazon.com's Watches and Jewelry Store will begin carrying a 18K white gold and diamond watch, valued at one million dollars. Since Amazon so dearly loves its customers, it is making it for just $499,000. According to Amazon.com, Inc.,

This unique and hard-to-find diamond watch from Audemars Piguet contains a total weight of 53 carats of diamonds held in 18K white gold and arranged in rows of eight to form a supple 20 millimeter band. Additional round brilliant diamonds line the top cover of the watch case capped with a virtually scratch-proof sapphire crystal.

You can ogle at the Audemars Piguet Women's 18k White Gold and Diamond Watch all day long. The description is just dazzling and splendid. With all those carats, I wonder if my arm wouldn't just fall off from the weight. Doesn't it make you want to jump up and down? I am just dying to sell my house to buy it.

What, you mean you can't afford it? No worries.

Amazon customers will also find additional jewelry and watch items offered at significantly reduced prices, such as the Jaeger-LeCoultre Women's Reverso Cabochons diamond-encrusted watch, valued at $18,700 and available for $9,724; a one-of-a-kind GIA-certified 5-carat princess-cut diamond center ring with 142 round diamonds in 18k white gold, valued at $189,999 and available for $109,999; 4-carat diamond stud earrings, valued at $57,000 and available for $35,000; a 5-carat emerald-cut diamond-center ring with two 1-carat half-moon side diamonds, valued at $129,999 and available for $74,999.

At Amazon, there's something for everyone. Just don't forget to bring your American Express Black Card, aka the Centurion Card because Amazon.com won't just take any American Express Card to complete your purchase. Don't qualify for the minimum spending requirement of $250,000 for the Black/Centurion Card this year? Just pick up an Audemars Piguet for the wife as a holiday gift and you'll be as cool as James Bond (yes, you guessed it, Bond used an American Express Black Card to check into his hotel resort without a reservation in Casino Royale and yes it was issued by the American Express Company (NYSE AXP)).

Chinese Actress Zhang Yu Exposes Casting Couch Sessions, Puts Sex Scandal Video Tapes on YouTube

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/05/2006 05:37:00 PM
ChinaDaily writes that Zhang Yu, an aspiring actress who wanted major roles in movies, won all her roles through sleeping with the directors, assistant directors or men in charge of casting. She also made films herself - of the casting couch sessions. Then she rocked the film and TV world by releasing 20 graphic sex videos of her and a host of big names. The videos are an insight into how China's casting couch works and millions of Chinese have logged on to the websites, prompting a debate over what is justifiable content on the Web. Not so surprisingly, the Zhang Yu scandal tapes have made their way onto YouTube.

FYI: The videos are PG-13. In any case, viewer discretion is Advised.



Part I of the Zhang Yu Video Tape Scandals
Zhang Yu video tapes a movie director sleeping with a friend of hers. The director had asked Zhang Yu to arrange for the rendezvous in return for a movie role. The director is not too pleased when he realized that he is being taped and chucks the video recorder to the floor.



Part II of the Zhang Yu Video Tape Scandals
Zhang Yu makes out with a director. The director is completely oblivious that the video will make it onto the internet. Oops.

Watch the Warren Buffett CNBC Interview With Liz Claman on YouTube

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/05/2006 04:20:00 PM
Part I

YouTube has posted the interview and special that Liz Claman (anchor of Morning Call, one of my favorite shows on CNBC) did on Warren Buffett. Liz Claman followed Warren Buffett around and there are 5 parts to the series. You can watch the first part by clicking play on the video above, the rest of the videos are below. If you are in an office or cannot play video, you can read my notes which precede the videos. The title of the show is called "Warren Buffett: The Billionaire Next Door." Buffett is the chairman of Berkshare Hathaway Inc. (NYSE BKRA BKRB). He got his first start in business by selling chewing gum and coke to friends and neighbors. His grandfather would sell him chewing gum and he would sell it and his grandfather would sell him Coke - 6 for a quarter and he'd sell them for a nickel each.

The Art of the Start
The pivotal moment: 1956, just 25, rejected by Harvard. Armed with contributions from friends and family, $100 of his own money, starts a limited partnership with 7 people. He turned $105,000 into $26 million in 9 years, investing mostly in textile companies, farm equipment companies and a windmill - a stunning 24,000% increase.

How Does He Do It
"What do you look for? I look for something I can understand. I don't understand what car companies or chemical companies will win 10 years from now, but I do now that Snickers bars will win in 10 years - durable competitive advantage that's hard to find. I look for an honest and able management. I look for a price I want to pay."

WashingtonPost and Gilette Made Things Possible
He has acquired 68 subsidiaries. In 68 - National Indemnity. 89 - Borsheim. 1998 - Geico, General Re, Dairy Queen. Most recently - abroad. Recently bought Iscar. I got a letter October last year - a one and a quarter page letter, it just leapt off the page. It was a business we wanted to do business with. It said you're the only business we'd like to join. I never saw or visited the company. We bought it. We do that frequently.

I have to size up the business. That's a background I got from being in stocks. When you put all your net worth in stocks at 21, you're trying to assess the integrity of the management. You never visit it. I don't think there is an army of hotshots. We don't hire anybody.

Berkshire was bought by a partnership and alot of the people still own it. If you were to start a business, it would be crazy to start one with people who have objectives different from you. Over time, by certain policies, we got a bunch of people who see themselves as owners.

Loopholes and Communications
I don't communicate frequently. When I communicate, they take it seriously. The tone at the top makes more of a difference than anything else.


Part II


How Not to Get Greedy
I've had everything I've wanted all my life. When I got out of school at age 20. I tell the kids coming out of school, they live better than John D. Rockefeller - cool in the summer, hot in the winter. I've been eating the same thing all my life. Really getting to do what you want to do all your life. Nobody would know whether I'm honest or not. I've never had two kids sick at home and not having enough money. Maybe if that happened, then I would know whether if I am honest.

No Entourage, No Cell Phone
Married Astrid Menks at a low key ceremony, at his daughter, Susan's house. I don't need to take care of myself. Either you eat better or exercise. I said exercise. I'm amazingly healthy.

On Iscar
Our plant is 8 to 10 miles from the Lebanese board. It can be dangerous living in this country.

Part III


Rule Number 1 Don't Lose the Money. Rule Number 2 Don't Forget Rule Number 1.
Buffett Says : I Googled you (Liz Claman). I guess that means he uses Google.

On the must read book: There's a guy who has rewritten and summarized my essays, a book by Larry Cunningham called The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America. It is required reading for a course at the University of Missouri business school, Investing Strategies of Warren Buffett. The course is in its 8th year. We don't have a course on behavioral finance a course that addresses governance. Those are two aspects that apply to the Warren Buffett style. It's not always about the numbers.

The read question is whether Buffett's stellar track record can be replicated. The success he has had, I'm not sure that can be learned, but that doesn't stop anyone from trying.

The Buffett course culminates in a visit to Omaha followed by lunch at Gorats. The MU group is one of many that make the trek to Omaha each year. They will learn that good, ethical business is smart business.

At the annual meeting each year, you can get 8 hours of wisdom. All of that is nonsense. You can go for free if you own a class A share of Berkshire currently over $100,000 each.

Two pieces of advances : Stay away from credit cards - we issue them. I get letters from people every day. The second is invest in themselves.

Lebron James learned from Buffett, "Trust Your Gut"

Rule Number 1 Don't Lose the Money. Rule Number 2 Don't Forget Rule Number 1. Rule Number 3 Look for unique companies that are hard to replicate, a moat around the business. Rules 4. Circle of Competence. Do what you know. Everyone knows about the economy. Focus on what you know.

The Annual Report
It's either a report or a sales document. It's a report, so the partners can judge. Things have not always been rosy - 4 executives were indicted at General Re.

Part IV



Lloyd's of Londons Asbestos Liabilities
We wrote a policy to protect former members of Lloyds against liabilities. We ensured them. We are the biggest insurers of the biggest risk type things. Last year, we lost $3 billion. This year has been a good year. That's what insurance is about. Recently, it reported a $2.7 billion profit up from $500 million.

Berkshire stock hit a low the same day the Nasdaq hit a high. I don't tweek it. I can't play the other guy's game. We don't have a single committe of any time. Our managers never have to come to Omaha. There are no meetings. I tell them, whatever figures you're preparing, if you would enjoy if you were in my spot, I hand them alot of money, they hand me their stock certificates. I started at age 20.

These are people who are .400 batters. I do not need them to tell me how to swing. I tell just one thing: send me a letter I will keep in a private place in case they die what to do. I got that letter from Rose Blumkin from Nebraska Furniture Mart. I bought Mrs. B, their sons and grandsons. The profits have gone up every year. Profits are $400 million every year.

From Mattresses to Diamond Jewelry
Susan Jocks runs Borsheims. I get a one page letter at the beginning of every year with my goals. We get our goals. Warren is very much hand's off. If there is something I need to run by him, he's a call away. The number one thing is ethics, with such trustworthiness and honesty. It's remarkable. It's a great way to live your life.

On politics: Presidents use the pretense of asking for advice to ask for something else. George W knew the name of the stadium, Rosenblatt stadium.

Lebron James making $28 million a year, sought Buffett out for advice. He's the number one person I thought. He goes out there and drinks milk shakes and eats cheeseburgers.

How Bill Gates Met Warren Buffett
My mom encouraged me to come out. I wasn't sure we have anything in common, but as soon as he started to ask questions about business and life, I intended to only stay a short period. I stayed all day. I fell in love with Warren.

When I met Bill Gates, 10 hours we spent talking. I felt we had melt a match.

We were talking about what IBM had done, what CBS had done.

Part V


Giving It All Away. You just gave $31 billion away.

Buffett: They were initially spending a billion a year. They wanted to save the most lives, the most suffering.

Gates: It was brilliant.

Succession Plan
Buffett is 76 years old and will hand over the reigns. The plan is simple. We talk about it every single meeting. We have 3 people who do the job better than I do, the board know which of those three if it were to happen tonight. I don't believe in co-CEOs. 6 months from now, probably the same one.

There is no one who cares more. How much the charity gets depends on how well they do.

When people get to my age. Success is doing what you love and doing it well. I have met plenty of people who have not achieved that and feel miserable.

The End
Liz Claman: When you and Charlie spot a company you like, what is that feeling like.

Buffett: I'd like to say it feels orgasmic but I don't think I should say it on the air.

Pundit Says Short Handheld Entertainment. I Say Bad Idea.

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/05/2006 01:06:00 PM
Microcrap speculator is saying that investors should short ZVUE also known as Handheld Entertainment. Shorting this stock, Handheld Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq ZVUE) is like playing with fire. I wrote about Handheld earlier and believe that it is trying to pull a Google in the MP3 market. In fact, yesterday, it announced that it will beginning selling at $69.95 MP3 at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE WMT) that is preloaded with the 30 top hits of 2006.

The CEO Jeff Oscodar announced:

At a suggested retail price of $69.95, the ZVUE MP3 player is an MP3 player with a bonus as it comes pre-loaded with 30 of the top hits of 2006, including two No. 1 singles from Beyonce: "deja vu" and "Check on it," as well as eight other Top 10 songs (as tracked by Billboard magazine in its various Billboard charts). Other recording artists included on the ZVUE MP3 Player range from Nick Lachey to Jessica Simpson and from the Dixie Chicks to Five for Fighting. (A complete list is found below.)

I think that the pre-load feature is a great differentiator and the price point is very cheap.

The Zview will come with the following 30 songs. You can check out ZVUE Playerat Amazon.com.

Anna Nalick                  "Breathe (2 a.m.)"
Audioslave "Original Fire"
Beyonce "deja vu"
Beyonce "Check On It"
Bow Wow "Fresh AZIMIZ"
Cartel "Honestly"
Cheyenne Kimball "Hanging On"
Christina Aguilera "Aint No Other Man"
Dixie Chicks "Not Ready To Make Nice"
Five For Fighting "The Riddle"
Heather Headley "In My Mind"
Howie Day Collide
Jessica Simpson "A Public Affair"
John Legend "Ordinary People"
John Mayer "Waiting on the World to Change"
Los Lonely Boys "Diamonds"
Luther Vandross "Shine"
Matisyahu "King Without A Crown
Natasha Bedingfield "Unwritten"
Nick Lachey "What's Left of Me"
Omarion "Entourage"
Outkast "Morris Brown"
Shakira "Hips Won't Lie"
Shakira "La Tortura"
Teddy Geider "For You I Will"
The Afters "The Beautiful"
The Fray "How to Save a Life"
The Fray "Over My Head"
Three 6 Mafia "Stay Fly"
T-Pain "I'm N Luv (with a Stripper)"

Google Plays Doctor

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/05/2006 12:45:00 PM
Google (Nasdaq GOOG) wants to be your source of medical information. Bad news for WebMD (Nasdaq HLTH). Adam Bosworth, who was formerly with BEA, is leading the initiative. According to Wikipedia, Adam Bosworth developed the Quattro spreadsheet and was VP Engineering at BEA Systems (Nasdasq BEAS). I think there are several issues that need to be resolved before I would use a Google Health product.

1) Google needs to guarantee the privacy of my information and be able to allow me to erase it if I choose. Currently, Google neither tells me what they store in terms of my search queries, nor do they allow me to control the way they use the information. I find this to be highly troublesome today, and even more troublesome if they are planning to manage my medical data. I simply don't want an island of medical data floating out there tethered to a bui that can float anywhere it wants in an ocean full of marketer infested waters.

2) Google needs to explicitly let me decide whether any of my search data is given to marketers. If Google wants to play doctor, then there needs to be patient doctor privacy. I think the traditional notion of doctor patient privacy needs to apply here even though Google is not an MD, because Google probably has as much as if not more data about me than my doctor. I think anyone would agree with this statement. After all, how much time do you spend with your doctor? How much time do you spend with Google every day?

3) Google needs to be transparent about what they do with my data. Currently, I have no idea what happens to my data at Google. I find this to be very scary. It's like feeding Big Brother your most intimate information - address, phone number, email address, birth day, etc - and not knowing who ends up owning it.

Just so that everything is clear, I think many of these rules apply not only to Google but also the other major search providers who handle private information. When a company becomes large enough to influence consumer behavior, then with that scale comes responsibility to consumers. I think it is perfectly reasonable to demand that a company have some social responsibility when it comes to privacy particularly since so muchof our lives are now online.

December 04, 2006

Extortion Edition: Jessica Wolcott's Husband Speaks Up

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/04/2006 08:15:00 PM
A few days ago, I blogged about JessicaM, the hottie on Prosper.com who slutted her way to $100,000 in loans. Jessica, as you remember, lied about her education, financial and marital status on her Prosper application. Jessica's ex husband apparently was not too thrilled about her wanton ways either. He just takes her apart in a message board posting on Prosper.com.

I wish I would have caught this all sooner. This poor soul, myself, is the ex husband of Jess. Divorced earlier this year. I've always known of her ways b/c when I was stationed overseas, she took my paychecks by threatening to ruin my career in the military only for me to return and find that she had also racked up $15,000 in loans and my name was in collections 5 times for unpaid utilities I had no idea about. Was that a run-on? Anyways, I lost about $30,000 total while I was gone and now my credit is, well, it's bad and I'm still paying for the damage. I'm 25 and WAY behind where I should have been b/c of her. Nearly ruined my life. She needs a psychiatrist and I'm not even sure if that will work. Maybe she needs to be heavily sedated. She's obsessed with using people to become rich. She's never had a legitimate job. This is how she makes her living and I'm so sorry people on here fell for her false hardships and promising hopes. She creates stories according to what she thinks you'll receive as the most heartfelt, and then play on your empathy for her. It's really sick. She'll even turn on the emotions to show her fake convictions, She'll create evidence to back up her claims. She's a professional fake. It took me 1 and a half years to realize it and 4 years to shake her off finally.

This is like a huge closure for me so it's good to see she finally spun so far out of control that other people got to see it. I'll never get back what she took from me, but the media and you guys are making up for that.

I guess Jessica has a penchant for racking up bad credit. So much for the old notion that love is forever!

How JP Morgan Made $750 Million by Pushing Amaranth Off the Cliff

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/04/2006 08:09:00 PM
In the world of finance, there is no right and wrong. Finance is amoral as far as industries or professions go. There is no Hippocratic oath - only the hyprocatic oath! Reports are coming out that JP Morgan, the prime dealer for Amaranth's derivatives trades, made $750 million after Amaranth went bust according to Investment Dealers’ Digest. I'd say that's a pretty nice pay day for a few days worth of work.

But even more importantly, the IDD story provides the outlines of what we’ve come to think of as the Amaranth Conspiracy Theory.

In its third-quarter earnings call, JPMorgan said it profited by taking over Amaranth's natural-gas positions. JPMorgan did not disclose how much it made, but according to one senior commodities executive at a JPMorgan rival, the bank earned $750 million on the trades. A JPMorgan spokesman declined to disclose the size of the bank's windfall.

JPMorgan earned money from Amaranth's losses by purchasing the hedge fund's natural gas positions when prices were under pressure and the fund was forced to liquidate to meet its margin requirements. When prices rebounded, JPMorgan reaped the benefits.

The eyebrow-raising part, for some observers, is that JPMorgan was prime broker to Amaranth and so was presumably the one doing the forcing. "I don't know if they did anything wrong, but when you pull the plug on a company and make a lot of money, it's a bit curious," says Berman (a lawyer for some Amaranth investors). The JPMorgan spokesman declined to give details on the dealings between Amaranth and the bank.

Amaranth didn't fall off the cliff. Mr. JP Morgan shoved it off the cliff.

China's Youngest Tycoon Gets Life in Prison

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/04/2006 07:34:00 PM
Winners of the Forbes China 400 List have been easy targets for accounting fraud charges.

Zhou Yiming, China's youngest Forbes 400 winner, was sentenced to life in prison for accounting fraud. Forbes listed Zhou as being worth $121 million in its 2005 list of China's richest people. He was number 207 on the list of 400. Zhou gained most of his wealth through his stake in Sichuan Mingxing Electric, a major supplier of water, electricity and gas to 3.8 million residents in Suining.

How did he do it?

In 2003, Zhou paid 110,000 yuan (US$13,900) to Shenzhen Zhongxi Accounting Company to help him forge an audit of his personal finances. The fake reports inflated Shenzhen Minglun Group's net assets in 2002 to 1.2 billion yuan (US$152 million), although the company had actually been in debt to the tune of 280 million yuan (US$35 million) at the time.

Zhou used the fake reports to borrow 380 million yuan (US$48 million) from three banks, which he then used to acquire the 28 per cent stake in Sichuan Mingxing Electricity.

The court held that Zhou began to siphon capital from the Sichuan company after he gained control, acquiring nearly US$69 million with the help of several accomplices and causing the company to suffer huge financial losses.

Phone Sex Bill Drives 14 Year Old To Suicide

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/04/2006 07:31:00 PM
This is just bizarre. A 14 year old in China racked up a $230 bill calling 1-900 numbers and committed suicide after the telephone company called up to demand he pay the bill. His response: He drank a boatload of pesticide. FYI, the average monthly income in China is $40 per month. Bizarre.

A 14-year old Chinese boy killed himself after running up a bill of 1,800 yuan ($230) calling phone sex numbers, the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

Li Hongbin, from a village in poor northwestern Gansu province, dropped out of school last year and began calling the expensive hotlines in August.

He committed suicide by drinking pesticide after a telephone company clerk called at the family home asking for payment.

The longest conversation listed in a 16-page phone bill went on for over four hours, Xinhua said.

Calls cost three yuan a minute, Xinhua cited the head of one service as saying. The average monthly cash income of Chinese farmers is just 300 yuan.

Phone sex services have been proliferating in recent years, with adverts in local telephone directories and newspapers, but Beijing is also attempting to crack down on pornography with a campaign that includes monitoring phone sex lines.

NBC Takes User Videos from Web To TV

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/04/2006 07:20:00 PM
DOA? There are a total of 3 videos on the iVillageLive site hosted by OneTrueMedia.

NBC is taking the most popular user generated videos submitted to iVillageLive and broadcasting them on TV. The videos will be selected from among the most popular submitted to the show's companion iVillageLive.com.

The show, airing at noon EST on NBCU's 10 owned-and-operated stations, the Bravo cable network and the Web site, is an attempt to combine the Internet's interactive elements with a traditional TV format. It will focus on topics such as parenting, health and beauty and lifestyle--all of which dovetail with the popular iVillage women's' site.

I checked the iVillageLive.com video sharing site which is hosted by OneTrueMedia and there are a total of 3 videos online: End of Summer BBQ, PostThanksgiving 2006 and My Birthday Weekend. Nice! Something tells me that iVillage will need more than 3 videos if they plan to use it for their on air broadcast - unless they plan to loop those videos 10 times each broadcast, everyday. Imagine what kind of show that would be like?

OneTrueMedia is backed by Kleiner Perkins which invested $5 million in the company.

After Nymex NMX IPO, Montreal Exchange Decides to Go Public

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/04/2006 03:55:00 PM
The old Montreal Stock Exchange Building
The Montreal Exchange is going public following in the footsteps of Nymex Holdings Inc. (NYSE NMX). It is pretty ironic since, Luc Bertrand, MX chief executive, had said the exchange wasn't going to let the demands of "a small minority of shareholders" set its timetable. The Montreal Exchange trades futures and options on equities, currencies, and indices.

The fact is, the MX didn't need to raise money through an IPO. It has $53-million in cash and has paid close to $35-million in dividends this year. It is about to hike its stake in the fast-growing Boston Options Exchange to 45% from 31%. It has home-made software that can process trades in 20 milliseconds. The MX is starting an exchange to trade pollution credits. Plus, Canada is far behind other nations in the ratio of derivatives-to-stock trading. There is much growth ahead.

Few CEOs can refuse the prospects of fast money and the MX is no different. The multiple of the average exchange stock including CME, ISE, and ICE are trading at 36 times forward 2007 earnings and that makes CEOs salivate about the prospects of a big pay day.

Valuation of Montreal Exchange
According to the Q3 2006 report of the Montreal Exchange, it generated revenues of $19.9 million and earned $5.9 million or .68 cents per share. That implies annualized earnings of $2.72 per share. Applying the industry average P/E of 36 times forward and you arrive at a valuation of $97.92 per share or $849 million market capitalization. The Montreal Exchange has 9.3 million fully diluted shares.

Demutualizing the Exchange
Like most exchanges, the Montreal Exchange is a mutual organization owned by members. The Montreal Exchange currently has about 300 shareholders, including UBS Warburg, pension fund manager Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec and Quebec-based National Bank (TSX:NA), which all hold no more than 10 per cent in accordance with its regulations. Exchange employees own 15 per cent and businesses and individuals make up the rest.

The public listing should take place next March or April, once formal procedures have been completed, Bertrand said.

Will the Montreal Exchange Be a Good Deal? The TSX Group, which owns the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture Exchange, went public in 2002. Since then, the value of TSX shares has risen from just under $9.32 on the first day of trading on Nov. 10, 2002, to its Friday closing price of $46.79.

At that price, the TSX Group has a market value of over $3 billion. Part of the reason the MX is interested in an IPO is that the TSX - owner of the Toronto Stock Exchange and TSX Venture Exchange - is interested in offering equity options and futures after a non-competition agreement expires with the Montreal Exchange in 2009.

Barrons Weekend Headline Summary - December 4, 2006

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/04/2006 02:25:00 PM
Gallery goers marvel at the IBM System Z9.
COVER STORY
The New Big Blue
IBM investors may soon be smiling as Wall Street realizes Big Blue's
reinvention into a software giant gives it a steadier, more profitable
business.

_____________________________________________________________________
BARRON'S FEATURE Tracking the Smartest Money
Stocks the smartest hedge funds are buying including: Lone Pine, Greenlight, ESL, Appaloosa, and ESL.

_____________________________________________________________________
BARRON'S FEATURE
13 Great Gadgets
Our picks for sleek and sophisticated gadget gifts include Sony's
all-in-one home theater, a digital SLR camera, Logitech's universal remote
and an over-the-top Swiss Army Knife.

_____________________________________________________________________
BARRON'S FEATURE
More Power to You
Duke Energy's plan to spin off its natural-gas operation into a new,
publicly traded entity will unlock value for both

_____________________________________________________________________
BARRON'S INTERVIEW
Money in the Bank
Top financial-services analyst Tom Brown explains what he likes about
CompuCredit, Capital One -- and more.

_____________________________________________________________________
UP & DOWN WALL STREET
Another Rum's Rush?
The buck may be the real loser, if the U.S. is seen as weak on foreign
policy.

_____________________________________________________________________
THE TRADER
Data Drag
Poor industrial number knocks down markets at week's end.

_____________________________________________________________________
CURRENT YIELD
You Can't Go Home Again
Ex-Fed chair thinks housing's bottomed. No way, says fixed-income
expert.

_____________________________________________________________________
TECHNOLOGY TRADER
Microsoft's Bold Voyage Begins
Microsoft stock could be ready for takeoff, now that new versions of
Vista and Office have launched.

Is BlockBuster Inc. Ripping Off Affiliates?

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/04/2006 01:53:00 PM
I have been testing out the BlockBuster Affiliate program to see how it converts. BlockBuster Inc. (NYSE BBI) offers online DVD rentals and the first month is $9.99. It is very similar to NetFlix, Inc. (Nasdaq NFLX). However, after one month with the program, I found that I have received a significant number of click thrus on the BlockBuster affiliate ads but zero conversions. The number of clicks I received was in the thousands so when I checked my conversion stats, it was simply unbelievable that not a single click led to conversion.

I decided to investigate the issue further and I found that

1) Performics, the company which provides the affiliate ads, was tracking clicks properly. Performics was doing their job.
2) BlockBuster was not tracking conversions on their landing pages. BlockBuster's landing pages did not include my publisher ID in their landing page and sign up submission form.

Here is how I discovered what was going on.

I went to the BlockBuster affiliate landing page and I did a view source on the landing page.

What I found was that the action URL for the form was:

/signup/rp/processRegPlan/c.firstMonth999/p.25216/r.<refid>/pc.perf004/

You can clearly see that the refid is filled in because it says refid in the URL. I expected it to be much less obvious, however, it could not have been more obvious that BlockBuster was not replacing the refid field with the refid tag from affiliates. Because the refer id is not filled in, that means that when a visitor clicked on the BlockBuster affiliate ad, they would be from an unknown source and I would not receive credit for the conversion when they signed up for a trial.

I have written to Performics to get them to fix this problem and I have it gets resolved promptly, but there are several lessons I learned from this experience.

  • Many BlockBuster affiliates were not receiving their commissions for directing paying customers to BlockBuster. By simply testing the link, you can see that BlockBuster was not crediting affiliates with referrals. I don't know how many affiliates this affects. However, the last time I checked, I have seen BlockBuster ads all over the Internet, including on Netscape, Yahoo!, and countless other portals.
  • If I give BlockBuster the benefit of the doubt, then BlockBuster forgot to fill in the referid from affiliates and this was a careless mistake. However, if you believe that this was an intentional mistake, that means millions of dollars of affiliate commissions could have been unpaid and uncredited. The affiliate industry already has a tarnished reputation for causing the proliferation of spam and it really hurts the credibility of affiliate programs when a large company like BlockBuster fails to properly track affiliate referrals. I really don't know what to make make of this.
  • Always reconcile your click thru figures with your conversion figures. I only discovered the discrepancy between the click-thru and conversion when after receiving hundreds of click thrus, I still got zero conversions. Simply put, this is very hard to achieve because click to conversion typically ranges from 10-25%. That means for every 100 clicks, I should have received 10 to 25 conversions. However, after receiving several hundred clicks, not a single click converted. Always do your own homework.

I have written positively about BlockBuster in the past regarding their in-store return service and I am very disappointed in BlockBuster. I sincerely hope this was an honest mistake on their part and I hope they will fix this problem immediately.

Update: Below is an email from Performics regarding the BlockBuster affiliate program dated November 8, 2006 from a reader. The email subject is "BlockBuster Tracking is Currently Down." As of December 4, 2006, the problem is still not fixed.

Dear XXXX,

We appreciate your support of the Blockbuster Online affiliate program. Unfortunately due to a recent site re-launch by Blockbuster, order tracking is currently not available. Please be assured that Blockbuster is working to correct this problem as quickly as possible. However, while orders are not currently being posted to ConnectCommercesm, Blockbuster and Performics are working together to reconcile orders that are booked during the outage.

A follow-up e-mail will be sent as soon as the situation is resolved.

Thank you for your participation in the program and we apologize for any inconvenience.

Regards,

Allison
Program Manager for Blockbuster Online
BlockbusterAffiliates@performics.com