Our panelists give you the scoop on all the inside business information before you hear it anywhere else in The Informer segment:
David Asman: Bob Lenzner, you've got some info on Citigroup (C)?
Bob Lenzner, national editor: I have a story in the next edition of Forbes called, "Somebody Knew." I think there were a lot of somebody's that knew and I think it's suspicious. $10 billion in Enron paper was protected in the credit insurance market before Enron went bankrupt. Of that, $1.4 billion was sold by Citigroup. They started selling in fall 2000 and finished up in May 2001, well before we got the inklings. Curiously, in September 2000 a lawyer in Enron wrote: "...it might lead one to believe that the financial books at Enron are being 'cooked' in order to eliminate a drag on earnings that would otherwise occur under fair value accounting..." Now this doesn't directly link Citigroup to anything, but I just think it sounds very suspicious and it's going to be examined. People are going to want to know why this happened.
David Asman: Okay. So it's just circumstantial at this point. People are looking for evidence. Let's switch gears to Ralph Lauren. Phyllis, what have you got for us?
Phyllis Berman, senior editor: Ralph Lauren (RL) is one of our premiere American brands and yet the market has accorded it a multiple as if it were the most ordinary apparel stock in the world. These guys have a 16 multiple in comparison to a Gucci (GUC) who has a 30 multiple.
David Asman: You think it's underpriced, it's a good value and people should be picking it up. Does anyone else agree?
Dennis Kneale, managing editor: I think Phyllis is right. Ralph Lauren likes to say that he's not just a fashion company but he's an entire different lifestyle. He does deserve a higher value than he gets.
David Asman: Okay, Jim you've got something about wrestling. People still love wrestling, right?
Jim Clash, associate editor: As Vince McMahon says, 'Let's get ready to rumble.' The WWF (WWF) took a beating when they announced the XFL. There's no doubt about that. But now they're going back to focusing on wrestling, which is their core business. They've got $250 million in cash and only $10 million in debt. They just struck a deal with Simon and Shuster to put out a whole line of books on wrestling. They're out in 11 million Direct TV homes. I think this is a buy right now.
David Asman: Anybody else buying this stock?
Bob Lenzner, national editor: Is the market for wrestling growing? Are more people watching it?
Jim Clash, associate editor: It's a very attractive demographic. They're males ages 20-35. That's a very sought after demographic.
Dennis Kneale, managing editor: The wrestling thing is kind of over. How much is the stock down from its 52-week high?
Jim Clash, associate editor: It's off 20%, which isn't that bad. It's a good price to pick it up at now.
David Asman: All right. Let's go to Dennis Kneale. You've got a fear factor play.
Dennis Kneale, managing editor: That's right. Another great story we have in our next issue of Forbes is about EDS (EDS), Electronic Data Systems. It's a company that'll run your computer and your business. In the recent quarter, they managed 13% revenue growth at a time when tech is in a downturn. And this is a company that knows paranoia.
Phyllis Berman, senior editor: And one of the most unusual things about this story is that they actually have accounting that is conservative. The way that they book revenues and how they account for the costs of their new contracts.
Jim Clash, associate editor: One question Dennis. EDS supplies a lot of back-up services for files and things. Have they grown in that area?
Dennis Kneale, managing editor: After 9-11, they had clients up and running within seven hours. In the last three years, Dick Brown, the new outside CEO has signed on $90 billion in long-term contracts. That's double the previous three year period. This is a nice safe solid stock.
Makers & Breakers
Lockheed Martin (LMT)
Gabe Baumann, president of Noveltek Capital Co.: MAKER
President Bush decided that the best defense is offense. Air power is critical. You have the things that carry the bombs and you have the precision bombs. Lockheed Martin (LMT) has the razor and the laser blade.
Jim Michaels, editorial vice president: Gabe, at what price did you get into Lockheed?
Gabe Baumann: Lockheed has recently made news by getting the biggest defense contract of $200 billion. A few days ago they got the contract for $2.7 billion.
Jim Michaels, editorial vice president: BREAKER
The reason I asked is because this stock has tripled. This stock is troubled. All that good news is in there, the re-armament, the spending. I don't think this is a good time to buy Lockheed.
Mike Ozanian, senior editor: BREAKER
I don't like this stock either. The earnings comparisons are going to be phony. It took a $2 billion bath in the fourth quarter this year. When you back out what the company has paid for in acquisitions, the company has a negative book value.
Gabe Baumann: MAKER
Pfizer is another defensive stock. It has Viagra and Lipitor. Lipitor is the best selling drug in the world. Most importantly, it almost doesn't have any patents expiring. So you don't have the generic companies that can take away market shares.
Mike Ozanian, senior editor: BREAKER
I think this stock is far too expensive relative to earnings. It's at 26 versus 19 for Merck (MRK). Over $2 billion worth of earnings because it's used stock options for compensation. So the earnings growth that it's famous for is being smoothed by management.
Jim Michaels, editorial vice president: MAKER
Everybody has been putting Viagra into their balance sheets, IBM, GE. That doesn't bother me. It's well positioned for the long run. I won't buy because I think it's way too expensive. It's got a market cap of $250 billion but it's a good company. In a dip I'd buy it.