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, let's start with you. What companies are waiting for some resolution in Iraq?
Bob Lenzner, national editor: Citigroup (C) is going around to all the CEOs of major companies and asking questions like when are you going to make some money? And when are you going to borrow some money? They're all saying that nothing will happen until Iraq is taken care of. And that means a slowdown in this economy.
David Asman: Which banks are you talking about?
Bob Lenzner: We're talking about all the major industrial companies telling Citigroup, we're not going to make any investments or hire any people until the Bush administration takes care of Iraq.
Victoria Murphy, senior reporter: I think that's an excuse. If Iraq is taken care of, are CEOs going to suddenly open their pockets? I think there are more economic fundamentals at work here that we should be paying attention to.
David Asman: Okay Phyllis, more news on banks?
Phyllis Berman, senior editor: In the lower part of the Mergers and Acquisitions market, there are some new players trying to move into that marketplace. Most large banks aren't interested in the tiny deals consisting of $100 million. Those deals are considered so small for these large companies that they know they won't make any money on them. But companies like US Bancorp (USB), Wachovia (WB), and Credit Suisse (CSR) can make money.
David Asman: Okay Matt. You've got news on Tommy Hilfiger.
Matt Schifrin, senior editor: Tommy Hilfiger was a brash designer and on top of the world a couple of years ago. But this company is in a lot of trouble now. This stock has dropped from about $16 to about $7. The play is on cash. Tommy Hilfiger has about $385 million in cash on the books. People should buy the senior bonds of Tommy Hilfiger (THB). These trade on the New York Stock Exchange and they're only $18 or $19 right now.
Phyllis Berman: There's so much competition in this field and a consumer apparel company like Tommy Hilfiger can come and go in an instant. I'd hate to be holding a bond on a company like that.
David Asman: All right, let's go out Victoria Murphy in San Francisco.
Victoria Murphy: This week, Intel (INTC) came out with a new version of its Pentium chip. It's faster and it has a new technology called Hyperthreading. It basically allows you to multitask. Intel is off 40 percent from the beginning of the year and they're the one chipmaker that looks strong.
Makers and Breakers
Walt Disney Co. (DIS)
Bob Olstein, Olstein Funds: MAKER
Walt Disney Co. has been asleep for a long time now, but it's time for this company to come out of hibernation. Michael Eisner, the chairman and CEO of Disney has been pushed against the wall by board members. They're capable of producing almost $2 billion in excess cash flow.
Jim Michaels, editorial vice president: BREAKER
I used to know what Disney stood for. It used to be family entertainment. Now they're making a movie about a foul-mouthed rocker. This company is at 30 times earnings and 15 times market. I don't want it.
Elizabeth MacDonald, senior editor: BREAKER
I think at $17 a share it's probably under-priced. If they unload ABC Radio, then I think that it would be a stock to buy.
Bob Olstein: This company is already starting to produce $1 billion of excess cash-flow. This is a sleeping giant.
Bob Olstein: MAKER
Safeway is generating $800-900 million in excess cash flow. It went down to $20 on the Wal-Mart scare. This company is worth $30 a share and it's a well-managed store.
Elizabeth MacDonald: MAKER
I like Safeway. Their revenues and net profits are up. Also I like that they own half of the online grocery works. I think that's the way to go.
David Asman: Bob, what is this Wal-Mart scare you mentioned?
Bob Olstein: Wal-Mart is supposedly moving into Safeway's areas. Everyone's scared that people will now go to Wal-Mart instead of Safeway.
Jim Michaels: BREAKER
It's a lousy business. If they cut back on their capital spending in order to boost cash flow, then they're mortgaging their future.
Bob Olstein: You don't have to mortgage your future. I just want to collect the coupons yielding 10 percent cash flow right now. There's nothing wrong with that if they never grow again.