• 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, Tyco (TYC) is in the news quite a bit. What's going to happen?

    Bob Lenzner, national editor: The cloud over this company could come if the company is indicted. This company is a conglomerate. It's involved in a scandal and has to sell a lot of its assets. They won't be able to sell them for what they were worth a few years ago.

    Elizabeth MacDonald, senior editor: It's interesting. Lehman backed away from buying the CIT group at $5 billion. Didn't Tyco buy it at $9.5 billion?

    Bob Lenzner: I say Tyco's problems are just starting and we're going to hear much more from this company.

    David Asman: Okay, next we have Dennis Kneale with Qwest.

    Dennis Kneale, managing editor: The buzz I've been hearing lately is that it's over for Qwest (Q). Nacchio, the CEO is out of there. They are trying to replace him. The stock was at $60 two years ago, $40 a year ago. It's at less than $5 right now. I don't know if it's a buy right now.

    Elizabeth MacDonald: You'd want to buy it if it were a take-over candidate but I don't know what company is healthy enough right now.

    David Asman: Okay, Pete let's move on to you. Viacom (VIA) is roaring right now.

    Pete Newcomb, senior editor: Viacom is the biggest media company in the world. It's not AOL Time Warner. But there's no way this company is worth more than AOL. There's a buy here.

    Dennis Kneale: I have to agree. Viacom is a great company but it doesn't own pipelines. AOL Time Warner owns those wires and they're incredibly valuable.

    Elizabeth MacDonald: Isn't Mel Karmazin's contract up next year? There's a chance Redstone and Karmazin will both leave.

    Bob Lenzner: But AOL has problems with their software. They have to spend a lot of money, which they don't have.

    David Asman: Okay last word on Viacom. Elizabeth, when you think of Sara Lee you don't think of pantyhose.

    Elizabeth MacDonald: Right, but Sara Lee (SLE) owns Hanes and Legg's. Women are not wearing stockings like they use to. Sales are down 10 percent. In fact, half of their revenue come from intimate apparel.

    Dennis Kneale: I must admit I hadn't noticed the trend of women not wearing pantyhose anymore.

    Elizabeth MacDonald: Yes, Katie Couric says she doesn't wear pantyhose anymore. And who would want to? They're so annoying.

    Makers and Breakers

    Vector Group (VGR)

    Peter Siris, Guerrilla Capital Management: MAKER

    Vector Group is a cigarette maker. They told the government cigarettes cause cancer and by the way, we've known this forever. What happened was the other tobacco companies got punished and Vector Group got exempted from any taxes. That means they can produce cigarettes at half the cost of anybody else. They have two new cigarettes, a nicotine-free cigarette and a cigarette that takes out most of the carcinogens.

    Jim Michaels, editorial vice president: BREAKER

    I wouldn't buy a used car from the guy who heads this company, Bennet Lebow. I wouldn't touch the stock. They're not making money.

    Bill Baldwin, editor: BREAKER

    Bennet Lebow has a reputation of taking trouble companies and making them more troubled.

    Peter Siris: This company has an 8 percent yield. If the new cigarettes take off, they could make five to ten bucks a share.

    Sonic Automotive (SAH)

    Peter Siris, Guerrilla Capital Management: MAKER

    I love the automotive group. Sonic Automotive makes money not just selling new cars but on service and financing insurance. They're all growing 20 percent a year.

    Bill Baldwin, editor: MAKER

    I think Peter is right on target with this one. The concept of a roll-up is that a family company converts at ordinary income stream, taxed at high rates into a capital gain.

    Jim Michaels, editorial vice president: MAKER

    Ten times earnings and guaranteed sales growth. I have to buy it.