CA's Name Game
The software provider, formerly known as CA and before that as Computer Associates, unveiled the name change on Sunday at CA World 2010, the company's annual customer conference. The company, which altered the name five years ago following an accounting scandal, said the name change was designed with insights "from nearly 700 customers, partners and market thought leaders."
Think about it. The "C" in the title stands for computer, so of course it's a technology company!
CA plans to increase its marketing budget 50% this year to about $200 million to get the word out. Still, compared with changing the name entirely, CEO Bill McCracken says this is "a simpler approach."
Dumb-o-meter score: 75 — Dumb by any other name is still dumb.
(GOOG) - Get Report Google admitted it had inadvertently — and illegally — been scooping up pieces of people's online activities broadcast over public Wi-Fi networks for more than four years in order to expand a mapping feature called "Street View." The company's top engineering executive, Alan Eustace, apologized in a blog, saying that "we are acutely aware that we failed badly here."
You bet your bratwursts you screwed up, buddy. And the Germans are not the only angry ones. Apparently, the Irish Data Protection Authority is getting its, well, Irish up after Google said it had inadvertently collected snippets of conversations and other privy info in Ireland as well.
We say they better dump the data as quickly and quietly as possible. Google retreated from China and now it is on the run in Europe.
MGM's Shoddy Suit
The casino owner launched a multimillion dollar counter-suit last Friday against the contractor responsible for building its $8.5 billion CityCenter complex, saying its workmanship was shoddy and its billing left many subcontractors unpaid. Perini Building fired the first shot in the legal battle when it sought payment for its work in building CityCenter, the white elephant now posing as a posh hotel on the Las Vegas Strip.
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report In its counter-claim, MGM Mirage said that it has begun paying subcontractors despite Perini's contractual obligations to pay them. On the other side, Perini maintains they would gladly pay the subcontractors once MGM Mirage pays them in full.
We say it's pretty obvious that MGM is acting like a sore loser as its prized property bleeds more cash than a Vegas ATM after midnight.
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report The casino company claims that Perini performed unsatisfactory work across the CityCenter complex including the retail mall and the Aria convention center. They also maintain that problems with improperly spaced reinforcing steel at CityCenter's Harmon Hotel led to the tower being shortened and its opening delayed.
Why MGM would trumpet to the world structural defects in its own hotel, we have no idea. Gamblers certainly don't want to be worried about the roof caving in when they are laying down their next wager.
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report More importantly, we seem to remember the construction delays more as a function of MGM's legal and monetary tangles with its partners in Dubai than any major construction snafus.
Of course, we could be wrong about which party is truly at fault. As the saying goes, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," so we may never know what really went down while CityCenter was going up.
Ambac's Swan Song
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report Three years ago this week, Ambac's (ABK) (Stock Quote: ABK) stock reached its all-time high, trading above $96 a share. Back then, the bond world was awash in easy credit and triple-A ratings.
Fast forward to three days ago when the bond insurer sank to barely $1 a share after the company announced its first-quarter net loss widened 76%.
Unfortunately, we doubt there will be many more anniversaries.
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report (ABK) For the quarter ended March 31, the bond insurer posted a net loss of $690.1 million, or $2.39 per share, compared with a net loss of $392.2 million, or $1.36 per share, last year. The company said $495 million of the losses were tied to accounting standards put into place after the Wisconsin insurance commissioner took control of its most troubled assets.
Sorry, Ambac dudes. Aren't government regulations and rules about too much leverage a huge buzz-kill?
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report (ABK) Ambac warned back in November that it might file for bankruptcy protection if it couldn't improve its cash position. The possibility of Ambac going under increased with this week's earnings report.
But don't worry, guys. We'll always remember the good — and dumb — times we had together.
Germany's Blitz on Short-Sellers
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report (ABK) It's certainly been a tough week for our friends in Germany. First they lose their World Cup captain Michael Ballack to an ankle injury just a few weeks before the tournament kicks off. Then they lose their minds and start screwing around with their trading regulations in the middle of a market meltdown.
The country's BaFin financial services regulator banned naked short-selling of German bank stocks, eurozone government bonds and credit default swaps on Wednesday. BaFin said the ban had been imposed "due to the extraordinary volatility in government bonds in the eurozone" and warned that massive short-selling could endanger the stability of the financial system.
German stocks fell 2.6%, while British and French indices fell 2.5% each. So much for stability, you dummkopfs.
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report (ABK) The reverberations were even felt across the pond in America, where stocks sold off over renewed fears that European governments are repeating their own silly mistakes.
Recall that U.S. regulators first issued a temporary ban on naked short-selling in July 2008 on 19 financial stocks. Then in late September 2008, when the financial crisis was at its apex, the Securities and Exchange Commission widened that list to 799 financial companies and banned all short-selling for two weeks. As a result, the Dow fell nearly 3,000 points during that harrowing period as traders struggled to understand the new rules of a once familiar game.
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report (ABK) One would think that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her refereeing crew would have learned that valuable lesson before giving short-sellers the red card.
(CA) - Get Report (GOOG) - Get Report (MGM) - Get Report (ABK) Dumb-o-meter score: 95 -- Odds on Germany winning the World Cup fell from 11-1 to 16-1 once Ballack went down. Still a better bet than Greek bonds, if you ask us.