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Raise a Glass to ... Well, Check Point and Comverse Are OK

<I>'s</I> Guy Rolnik got a bottle of champagne for Christmas from Nasdaq. Nasdaq??!

You wouldn't believe what Nasdaq sent us as a Christmas present: A bottle of French champagne, beautifully wrapped and bearing a pretty Nasdaq label.

Champagne? From Nasdaq? Talk about inappropriate. The last thing most people want to do when they think of Nasdaq is pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly. A bottle of whiskey, maybe, to forget it all. That we could understand.

Investors and daytraders wouldn't welcome a bottle of champagne from Nasdaq. For years they've been hearing analysts tell them to buy the dips. Suddenly they learn that the dive, after which they bought, was a preliminary to the real plunge. That a crash is sometimes merely the precursor of another, bigger crash. That stagnation can precede a landslide.

Long-term savers won't be popping champagne either. The public's exposure to stocks reached an all-time high -- right before U.S. stocks crashed. The debacle encompassed not only the trillions of dollars in mutual funds, which reported the worst annual yields since

Richard Nixon

was president. Investors in pension funds were also trounced.

One would think the hardest hit were "speculative" investors in risky tech stock. But that isn't the case. The drops spread to other sectors, dragging down a long list of ostensibly rock-solid blue-chips that had taken on an Internet bent in the last couple of years. They decked themselves with tech ribbons to make themselves attractive to investors, and are now paying the price. The best example is


(T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report


Raising a glass in all sincerity

Two years ago, AT&T Chairman Michael Armstrong had his vision that Internet would change the world of communications. He went on a massive shopping spree, binging on cable TV companies, for which he paid in stock and lifting AT&T's valuation to a whopping $250 billion.

Six months ago, the Wall Street mood began to change. AT&T stock began to subside. By yesterday $190 billion in value had evaporated with the fizz from our champagne.

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Last week America's widows, orphans and AT&T investors and retirees were slammed by another body blow when the company announced an 83% cut in its dividends. Analysts predict that AT&T investors won't have much reason to pop champagne corks in 2001, either.

In a year when AT&T lost 70% of its value and hundreds of American tech giants shrank to nothing overnight, most investors in Israel and abroad don't feel like partying. But there are still an isolated few who can still sincerely quaff champagne to greet the New Year in Nasdaq's name, who remind us that beneath the rubble of the tech bluffs strewn around the Street are companies with deservedly enormous valuations, that the market not only takes away, it also builds.

Kobi Alexander can raise a glass to Nasdaq in all sincerity. The market did not take its favor away from his company,

Comverse Technology


. It allowed him to raise another $500 million by issuing convertible debentures, and to buy successful startups using Comverse stock as currency. It allowed him to sell holdings for a cool $250 million in cash.

And of course there's Gil Shwed, the first Israeli to achieve his first billion before reaching 40 years of age. A lot before 40. He can also pop the cork and toast the first Israeli company to achieve a value of $20 billion, his

Check Point Software

(CHKP) - Get Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. Report

. It's a company that gives everyone hope that their turn, too, will come to raise a flute of champagne to Nasdaq.

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