Explaining Southern California's economy

Microsoft won the AOL patent bidding and is now selling to...Facebook

CeBIT 2012 Technology Trade Fair

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Visitors watch a presentaiton of fetaures of the new Windows 8 operating system at the Microsoft stand on the first day of the CeBIT 2012 technology trade fair in Hanover, Germany. Microsoft announced that its selling $550-million worth of former AOL patents to Facebook.

Microsoft recently beat out Facebook for the right to purchase 925 patents and patent applications from AOL. The winning bid? $1.6 billion. But now Microsoft has turned around and essentially flipped a large portion of that patent portfolio, and the buyer is...Facebook!

In the context of a declining stock market and problems in Europe, Facebook — and more accurately, Facebook's investors — has to be getting worried about its upcoming IPO, which is supposed to be able to value the company at $100 billion. The Instagram purchase was stage one. Now comes this big patent buy, with Facebook paying for $550-million worth of patents that Microsoft evidently doesn't really need.

That said, you could argue — as CNET's Paul Sloan implies — that Microsoft was just doing Facebook a nice, big favor by leveraging its balance sheet to vacuum up the AOL patents, sparing Facebook the need to spend any of its own cash. Microsoft is nowhere in social media, so a "long-standing alliance" with Facebook makes sense, as both companies pitch in to weaken Google. 

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RIM, R.I.P.? (Part II)

The International Consumer Electronics Show Highlights Latest Gadgets

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A Blackberry Bold is displayed at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center January 8, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Business Insider is engaged in plenty of speculation about struggling BlackBerry maker Research in Motion today, after the company disappointed Wall Street with its fiscal fourth quarter results yesterday. Part of that speculation involved interpreting RIM's CEO's comments about "strategic opportunities" as "let's look for someone to buy us." At the New York Times, Michael J. De La Merced joins that chorus.

Here's a Jay Yarow at BI, on why no one in his right mind would want to buy RIM (it's in Q&A form):

...Is anyone a good fit for RIM?

Honestly, we don't think so. This is a company that is dying and in a state of transition. It runs on its own platform. Most hardware makers have picked their partners for software. Transitioning to RIM's software doesn't make sense unless RIM's next software is awesome. In which case, another hardware maker like Dell or LG could buy RIM and use BlackBerry 10.

But, that's sort of silly for RIM, right? They wouldn't want to sell if the software is good.

Exactly. What's the point? RIM could turn itself around without help.

But that's pretty unlikely, right?

Yep.

So that's it for RIM? Make great software or die?

Pretty much. It's possible someone wild card jumps in. Maybe a carrier takes a chance on RIM if it gets cheap enough, or maybe a Chinese phone maker buys the company to get a nice entry into North America, or maybe a PE firm looks at RIM's still impressive cash flow and decides to take the company out and try to fix it.

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Lucky or unlucky Dow 13,000?

Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes Slightly Down

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U.S. stock markets have been rallying since October. Time to get worried?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has been bumping along at or just below 13,000 for a few trading days now. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the Dow is up 22 percent since October, an impressive rally given that the economic news, while improving, isn't that good.

So what does it all mean? Well, you could argue for extreme caution at this point. Because the risk-craving money has probably already come into the markets, earning its double-digit returns, it's going to start looking for a way out. Enter the "dumb money," otherwise known as the retail investor. Some analysts think the dumb money has already showed up and is keeping the market elevated.

Regardless, the tail end of a rally can be hard on unseasoned investors. They may panic if they bought high and suddenly see their holdings turn lower as the pros rush back to cash, preparing for the next sustained rally. 

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Facebook IPO: It's all about the advertising

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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a news conference at Facebook headquarters on October 6, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.

This information is all over the place, but I got it from the Globe and Mail:

Facebook generated about $4.3-billion in revenue last year, according to estimates from the research firm eMarketer, with advertising accounting for nearly 90 per cent of that amount. This year, the company should post revenue of nearly $6-billion, eMarketer forecasts.

And one assumes that 90 percent of that $6 billion will also come from advertising. And when Facebook makes $100 billion, many years after its IPO, 90 percent of that will come from advertising.

Does that sound like putting too many eggs in one basket? Maybe. Except that Google is putting more in one basket. It made $37.9 billion 2011 — and 96 percent of that was advertising!

This week, Facebook is expected to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, for an IPO later this year. So everyone will finally get a look behind the curtain of how the business is run, financed — and where the revenues really come from. But let's be honest. It's all going to depend on advertising, advertising, advertising. This could be a problem for Facebook's long-term growth and profitability because Facebook might have already signed up just about everyone it can. That's a huge audience — and that audience spends LOTS of time on Facebook — but they're not on Facebook for the same reasons they're on Google.

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Will Goldman Sachs lose out on Facebook IPO?

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Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a news conference at Facebook headquarters on October 6, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.

The long-awaited day will finally arrive next week, when Facebook files for its initial public offering (IPO) later this year. According to the Wall Street Journal, the offering — which will be fairly limited as far as actual stock sold goes — will price the social network at $75-$100 billion. That would make it one of the biggest IPOs of all time. It could actually help California balance its budget.

But there's more!

The Vampire Squid — aka Goldman Sachs — may not get to lead the IPO. the WSJ reports that Morgan Stanley, Goldman's main Wall Street rival, will get the plumb role. 

Let's not sugar-coat it: This would be humiliating for Goldman, which has been angling to lead Facebook's IPO ever since it set up a private market in Facebook shares in 2011 (and likely before that). It would also be costly. While Goldman will certainly participate, it won't get the millions in fees it was probably expecting, and definitely lobbying for.

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