TSC Weekender: Aluminum Foils, Tipping Red Hat and AMR's Pilot Plight

Also, TSC's Mediatrix cracks her whip, while Gordon Gekko gets graphed.
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Editor's note: Welcome to TSC Weekender, where we recap the three biggest stories of the week, give you tidbits of Street life and answer a question in the Idiot Box. Also take a look at our Easy Money this week about creative personalities and The Cutting Room, our behind-the-scenes peek at our TV show, which runs Saturdays at 10 a.m. EDT and Sundays at 1 p.m. EDT on Fox News. To get a jump on next week, check out The Coming Week, The Coming Week in Europe and The Coming Week in Asia elsewhere on the site. And tell us what you think of our updated weekend approach.

Metal Mouths

Oh,

you're

buying a top competitor?

We're

buying a top competitor, too! Aluminum manufacturers have responded to stress much the way Hollywood housewives do -- by going shopping. As the price for aluminum sinks like lead, industry leaders are jockeying for top-dog status, looking to consolidation for survival.

On Wednesday, Canada's

Alcan

(AL) - Get Report

, France's

Pechiney

(PY) - Get Report

and Switzerland's

Alusuisse-Lonza Holding

, or algroup, announced a three-way merger that would create a company with annual revenue around $21.2 billion, based on 1998 results. Later that day,

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

announced an unsolicited $4.2 billion takeover bid for

Reynolds Metals

(RLM) - Get Report

. Lo and behold, Alcan-Pechiney-Alusuisse might just be interested in bidding for Reynolds, too, said Alcan's President and Chief Executive Jacques Bougie Thursday. The plot thickened even more on

Friday, when

Michigan Avenue Partners

, an investment firm backed by GE

(GE) - Get Report

, made an all-cash offer for Reynolds topping Alcoa's bid.

Regulatory problems could crimp Alcoa's possible acquisition, but one industry

analyst expects more metal mergings in the works. And many believe the

aluminum shuffling will help the industry find its footing. In the meantime, enjoy that affordable sixer of

Schlitz while you can.

Hat Trick

Amid a ghastly market for

initial and

secondary offerings, good companies can apparently still make a go of it.

Red Hat

(RHAT)

, the software company that distributes the

Linux

open-source operating system (and the most recent underdog favorite for

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

skeptics), more than tripled on its

first day of trading Wednesday, from its offering price of $14. It followed with a blowout second day, rising an additional 40% to close at 72 5/8.

Red Hat's software is gaining market share in the computer server market, going up against Microsoft's

Windows NT

and

Unix

, although some wonder if the company's repackaging of software and selling of tech support and services can transform software popularity into bottom-line profits.

There is almost as much debate regarding the pronounciation of Red Hat's Linux product: Is it LIE-nux or LIN-ux, anyway? When we called the help number for

Linux Online

, the rep actually suggested a third possibility: LEE-nux (rhymes with Kleenex).

Here is what the site says; what's

your take?

Not That You'd Notice a Decline in Service

American Airlines

, a unit of

AMR

(AMR)

, and the leaders of its pilots union go back to the bargaining table again next week to try to settle the issue of pay for

Reno Air

pilots. American's executive vice president of operations, Robert Baker, announced Wednesday that

American would complete its merger with the smaller airline on Aug. 31, deal or no deal.

The conundrum of how to integrate Reno's 300 pilots, who make roughly half the pay of American's 9,500 pilots, led to a sickout last February, costing the company about $225 million. About a quarter of American's pilots caught the bug and around 6,700 flights were canceled.

The pilots union wants Reno's

flyboys (and flygirls) to be paid the higher American rate. Management, funnily enough, disagrees. Management will sit down with

Allied Pilots Association

representatives next week, at the request of a mediator. Peanuts and pretzels will be served.

Staff reporter

Tom Lepri contributed to the article, along with

Dan Colarusso,

Jesse Eisinger,

David A. Gaffen,

George Mannes and

Gregg Wirth.