Can the man who said "The best way to predict the future is to invent it" give Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) a lift? HP, which continues to reinvent itself following its acquisition of Compaq Computer, certainly hopes so. On Nov. 26, computer scientist Alan Kay, one of the founders of Xerox' (XRX) famed Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), signed on as a senior fellow at HP Labs.
The 62-year-old Kay will work with other HP scientists to develop software for computing devices and other applications. His biggest challenge may be duplicating his early success. In the 1960s, he and others designed ARPAnet, the forerunner of the Internet. He also created Dynabook, an early prototype for a tablet-like PC, and led development of the graphical user interface. Kay's career also included stints at Atari, Apple (AAPL), and Disney (DIS).
Skeptics note that Kay's big-picture ideas haven't always translated into commercial success, but Hewlett-Packard is hoping that he will be able to develop profitable applications that boost its chances of becoming a one-stop shop for equipment and software. The conflict-of-interest cloud over Wall Street investment banks has now moved across the Atlantic. French luxury giant LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMHY) is suing Morgan Stanley (MWD) in a Paris court, seeking $100 million in damages. LVMH alleges that Claire Kent, the bank's London-based luxury-goods analyst, unfairly hyped the stocks of Morgan Stanley clients such as Gucci and Burberry, while taking an overly downbeat view of LVMH. Morgan Stanley vehemently denies the charge.
It'll be a tough case to prove because Kent's ratings for luxury companies aren't out of line with other analysts. So why go to court? Industry-watchers suspect the case stems from LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault's feud with fellow French tycoon Francois Pinault, who snatched Gucci away from LVMH in a bitter legal fight that ended last year. What's "fair disclosure?" The Securities & Exchange Commission planted some signposts on Nov. 25, with its first enforcement actions under Reg FD, adopted in August, 2000, to block selective leaks to institutions and analysts. The SEC fined Siebel Systems (SEBL) $250,000 and slapped cease-and-desist orders on Raytheon and Secure Computing. The SEC alleged that the companies revealed crucial data--which moved stock prices as much as 20%--in one-on-one conversations or calls closed to ordinary investors. The companies didn't admit the violations. Is the world ready for zero tariffs? The Bush Administration thinks so. It's proposing plans to phase out taxes on imported manufactured goods worldwide by 2015. But much of the 144-member World Trade Organization is unlikely to embrace the idea. The U.S. already has some of the world's lowest tariffs on manufactured goods. But much of the developing world keeps tariffs up to protect its own industries. Poorer nations, which make up the majority of the WTO, would be hurt most by zeroing out tariffs. They're demanding lower barriers in rich nations to their farm exports, which the U.S. plan doesn't address. West coast ports will remain open for the next six years, thanks to a tentative agreement reached by longshoremen and the shipping lines. The apparent accord came after months of bitter negotiations, a lockout, and a federal-court order to keep the ports open for 80 days under the Taft-Hartley Act. The key tradeoffs: Shipping companies get to introduce more efficient cargo-tracking technology that will result in the loss of 400 jobs. But the remaining 10,000 dockworkers will receive higher salaries and pensions--and they'll get to control the new technology. The Pacific Maritime Assn. says the pact will cost shippers more than $1 billion. Accounting questions are again dogging travel and real estate giant Cendant (CD). On Nov. 25, the company's stock fell 3.5%, to $12.26, after reports that the SEC is looking into deals between Cendant and real estate Web operator Homestore. A Cendant spokesman says the SEC did inquire about certain transactions between the two companies last summer but did not take any action. Homestore restated earnings for 2000 and 2001 after acknowledging the company had improperly booked $160 million in revenues. Cendant said in a statement that "there is no basis for, nor is there any indication of, an investigation" by the SEC or others. -- US Airways Group (U) will cut 2,500 jobs, or 7.1% of its workforce.
-- Peregrine Systems' (PRGNE) ex-assistant treasurer Ilse Cappel pleaded guilty to bank fraud.
-- American Airlines' (AMR) domestic capacity will fall 3.3% by March, 2003. Shares of BioSphere Medical (BSMD) soared 38.9% on Nov. 26, to $7, after the FDA approved its Embosphere Microspheres: tiny acrylic beads that serve as a nonsurgical alternative to a hysterectomy in treating uterine fibroids. The beads cut off the blood supply to the fibroids, essentially starving them to death.