Column: Nortel not out of the woods

Here’s a column I just posted at globeandmail.com about Nortel’s quarterly results:

“At this point, it’s not hard for Nortel Networks to impress anyone with its financial performance. All the company has to do is report a fairly clean quarter with maybe a little bit of growth here and there, no massive writedowns and no slashing of growth forecasts, and everyone goes home happy. And that’s pretty much what the networking-equipment maker did in its latest quarterly report — in fact, it did even better than that. Revenue, for example, climbed by a substantial amount in what is traditionally a weak quarter, and Nortel also narrowed its loss. To add some icing to the cake, the company even boosted its growth outlook for the current year.

So that’s it then — Nortel’s back. Right? Not so fast.

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Column: Let Google scan…

Here’s a column I just posted at globeandmail.com about Google resuming its Library scanning project:

Google, the search-engine giant that has become so ubiquitous its name hardly even sounds stupid any more, has started scanning and indexing library books again under its contentious Google Print Library project, despite the fact that the company is being sued by several groups of authors and publishers. Under the project, Google has plans to scan millions of books from the collections of several university libraries, including Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan. The groups that have sued — including the Authors Guild, which represents several thousand U.S. writers, and the Association of American Publishers — argue that by doing so, Google is infringing on their copyright and therefore it must stop.

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Column: Best of luck, Jerry…

Here’s a column I just posted to the Globeandmail.com website, about Jerry Zucker’s $1-billion bid for Hudson’s Bay Co.: “To U.S. investor Jerry Zucker, who has just launched a takeover bid for the oldest company in North America — The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading Into Hudson’s Bay, otherwise known as Hudson’s Bay Co. — we have just one thing to say: Best of luck.

Way back when, this legendary company may have controlled more than a third of what is now Canada, and part of the northern United States, but here in 2005 it barely controls anything. HBC may be the largest remaining department store retailer in Canada, but it has achieved that title mostly by default, since Simpson’s went out of business decades ago, Eaton’s went bankrupt (not once but twice) and eventually ceased to exist, and Sears has shrunk to a shadow of its former self and is on life support.”

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Column: So long, Mr. Greenspan…

Here’s a column I just finished posting at globeandmail.com about departing Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan:

“During the U.S. presidential election campaign in 2000, Senator John McCain was asked what he would do if something were to happen to Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan. The Senator replied: “God forbid, I would do like they did in the movie ‘Weekend at Bernie’s.’ I would prop him up and put a pair of dark glasses on him.”

In a single sentence, Mr. McCain summed up just how much the U.S. stock market, and as a result much of the American economy, had come to rely on the central banker known in some circles as “The Maestro.” The Senator’s joke also hinted at the very real truth that the Federal Reserve chairman’s presence alone — rather than any specific act by the central bank — was enough to soothe investors.”

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Column: Google wows the crowd

Here’s a column I posted at globeandmail.com on Google’s quarterly results:

“First things first: Anyone who wishes they had bought even a few shares of Google when it went public a little over a year ago, at the now bargain-basement price of $87 (U.S.), raise your hand — the one you’re not slapping yourself silly with, that is.
Plenty of people (including yours truly, if you must know) scoffed at the idea that Google’s stock would take off like a rocket after its IPO. Some analysts at the time were projecting a stock value of $145 a share and a total market capitalization for the company of $25-billion. Dream on, others said (including yours truly).

And where is Google now? Closing in on $350 per share, which would give the company a market value of almost $100-billion — just shy of Coca-Cola and a little behind networking giant Cisco Systems. Shares of Google jumped more than 12 per cent on Friday, after the company announced its quarterly results, results that blew the doors off most estimates.

Of course, one of the complicating factors when it comes to valuing Google is that the search company doesn’t provide a whole lot of information about its business, and doesn’t give forecasts for upcoming quarters, the way most companies do. For the time being at least, that is playing in Google’s favour, allowing it to obliterate even the most positive forecast from Wall Street analysts. Among other things, the search leader seems to be changing a lot of peoples’ minds about the wisdom of a totally advertising-driven business model, and the growth in demand for Internet search-based advertising in particular, and it is growing much faster than the rest of the industry. Continue reading