Weekend Cocktail Chatter

The strangest day this week was Wednesday, because that was the day when the Nasdaq actually went down. Watching the expressions of people on TV, and hearing people in the office talk about a “sell-off,” you would have thought that we were on the verge of October 1997 again instead of dealing with a slight decline in an index that is up almost 20 percent in the just past two months. Since everyone’s so surprised when the market actually drops, that must mean that they expect it to keep going up. But then you’d think everyone would pile in right now, since it’s better to buy stocks when they’re cheaper rather than more expensive. Of course, that logic is both impeccable and almost blissfully irrelevant to this market. We have a dream: Buy low, sell high, wait till the stocks tumble, then buy low again, sell high again. And so we creep on …

Anyway, on to the Chat.

1. “The same day that the merger between Exxon and Mobil, the largest industrial merger in history, was approved by the Federal Trade Commission, the FTC moved to block the merger between BP Amoco and Arco. Apparently, that deal will result in higher gas prices in California and the West, while the Exxon-Mobil deal will merely result in the creation of the third-largest company in the world.”

2. “Free-PC, whose founder once boasted would be bigger than Microsoft some day, agreed to be acquired by low-cost PC maker eMachines, and announced that it was ending its program of giving away free PCs. Potential new names for the company include: ‘Not-so-expensive-PC’; ‘Cheaper-than-Dell-PC’; ‘Not-as-big-as-Microsoft-YET-PC’; and ‘Harold.’”

3. “Redback Networks announced that it was acquiring Siara Systems for $4.3 billion. Siara has 170 engineers, some potentially cool technology, and literally $0 in revenue. What a great negotiation that must have been: ‘Having made no money yet, we think we’re worth, oh, $10 billion.’ ‘How about $4.3 billion?’ ‘We’ll take it!’”

4. “The World Wrestling Federation announced that it would be toning down the content and language on one of its most popular shows, Smackdown, after Coke, the U.S. Army, AT&T, and Mars pulled their ads from the show. I guess sending a couple of wrestlers to the Coke CEO’s office and teaching him a lesson he’d never forget wasn’t considered a realistic option.”

5. “ABC announced that Who Wants To Be a Millionaire will now become a three-times-a-week regular series, starting next month. Last week, there were six episodes of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire in the ratings top ten. Presumably, if there were a show called Who Wants To Be a Billionaire, no one in America would ever watch anything else.”

6. “Jake Winebaum, who left Disney to start the Internet incubator eCompanies with Earthlink founder Sky Dayton, paid $7.5 million for the URL. He was immediately mocked as a naif who was out of his element in the Net world. But come on. With that URL, you could put up a Web page designed by your precocious nephew, sell closeout merchandise from Dress Barn, and the IPO would still price the company at a billion. Sounds like a good investment to me.”

7. “A company called Plains All American Pipelines said it had lost $160 million on ‘unauthorized’ transactions by a trader for the company. Either the trader bet wrong on oil futures, or he floundered trying to corner the market for Red Pokémon, when everyone knows Yellow is where you have to be.”