Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oracle Corp.: A Transition Near the Top

Why this is interesting? It is the strategy that we where implementing at Oracle in Australia in 1999. Most of Australia had already purchased pretty much every piece of software to run their enterprise and we needed to focus on verticals solutions and on customers rather than technology to add value and retain the customers.


North America Equity Research
Oracle Corp.: A Transition Near the Top - ALERT

Oracle announced the resignation of co-President Charles Phillips and the hiring of new co-President Mark Hurd, who was recently with HP. Mr. Hurd will essentially be assuming the functional roles of Mr. Phillips, with Sales & Marketing and vertically focused business units (vertical applications) reporting to him. Mr. Hurd will also have Support report to him
• Exit Mr. Phillips. We believe Mr. Phillips’ tenure at Oracle exceeded the expectations of many observers when he left a sellside analyst job over seven years ago to become an executive at the company. While his intellect and work ethic were never in question, a dearth of operational experience, especially at the level he entered Oracle, caused many to pause. In hindsight, we believe that Mr. Phillips was very influential in streamlining a bloated marketing organization at Oracle, and (along with other senior sales management) also helped to bring a new customer focus to the company. He also was instrumental in a new strategy to focus on vertical applications as new markets unto themselves, but also as a way to further penetrate the horizontal ERP and CRM application spaces, while also helping to boost technology sales. We wish Mr. Phillips well in his future endeavors.
• Enter Mr. Hurd. Mr. Hurd’s success at first Teradata, then parent NCR, and more recently at technology behemoth Hewlett Packard is legendary, as is his recently, well publicized exit of that latest role. It is our understanding that Mr. Hurd will assume the responsibilities vacated by Mr. Phillips (along with Support oversee), which is not necessarily aligned with our impression of his strengths. We view Mr. Hurd as a very hard-driving proponent of optimizing operational efficiencies. This is a function that we believe has been impressively spearheaded by co-President Safra Catz at Oracle.
• Our Assessment. Mr. Hurd is undoubtedly a talent whose efforts would benefit many companies, including Oracle, in our opinion. While the integration and operations of the recently acquired Sun assets appears to be going well, Mr. Hurd’s hardware experience can only help and may be exactly what Oracle can use at this time. Oracle’s recent push to provide incremental value through the combination of hardware and software into a single product (Exadata) is something he has successfully accomplished at Teradata. As far as any potential conflict with Ms. Catz (given similar strengths), we assume his hiring implies that she approved, and we do not expect this to become an issue beyond healthy banter within the executive ranks. Furthermore, we do not believe that this transition will materially affect the roles of what we view as the two most important executives at Oracle at this time – Mr. Ellison and Ms. Catz. In addition, our assessment is that Sales operations have largely been run by very able sales management at this time, which mitigates any risk related to this issue. Finally, we view the hiring of Mr. Hurd as opportunistic given recent events at HP, and do not believe this implies any near term succession planning, though it does bring someone into the fold that has a proven record of leading a large technology company.

So the Euro should be worth more than the USD?

In Europe, science collides with the bottom line. Aivars

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

IN MEYRIN, SWITZERLAND Using a machine kept colder than space, scientists at the world's most ambitious international research facility are puzzling out the questions of the universe, working to re-create the cosmic soup served up by the Big Bang. But the famous institute is also facing a far more earthly conundrum: how to pay the bills.

An era of fiscal austerity is sweeping over Europe, with governments moving to slash record budget deficits and avoid a Greek-like debt crisis by cutting everything from aid for single mothers to once-sacred state jobs.

Under mounting political pressure, some countries are now balking at the mega-price tags of lofty regional cooperation projects such as the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), home to the "Big Bang Machine" that sprawls for miles across this complex straddling the picturesque border of Switzerland and France.

Under orders from European governments to cut costs, CERN officials say, the institute is planning to mothball all nine particle accelerators at the facility beginning in 2012 - saving $25 million on electricity alone. The move will mean a critical period of lost opportunities for visiting research fellows and a year without fresh data for projects, including one on the cusp of trapping an atom of antimatter to better understand the early formation of the universe.

"It will now take a little longer to answer some of these questions," said Rolf-Dieter Heuer, CERN's director general.

The pressure on European science, observers here say, is yet another legacy of the financial crisis. Nations that overextended themselves in the past decade, taking on more and more debt, are now facing liabilities so large that politicians in a growing number of European countries have decided that dramatic cuts in public spending are the only answer. That stands in sharp contrast to the United States, where government spending - including on science and technology - continues to steam ahead despite the record U.S. deficit.

Some here fear that Europe could fall behind in the highly competitive world of scientific research, where it now goes head-to-head with the United States and Japan.

The new coalition government in Britain, European science officials say, is leading the austerity charge, but other nations including Italy and Spain are also warning of empty pockets curbing their contributions to science.

Britain, for instance, has said it may not be ready to commit in December to funding for a second, far more powerful European telescope on a mountaintop in Chile that could discern atmospheres on incredibly distant planets. Science officials warn that domestic cuts in Britain set to be laid out in October might also force the temporary closure of one of two high-tech national facilities near Oxford - the Diamond Light Source particle accelerator or the Isis neutron source.

To maintain programs at the European Space Agency, Germany - which has vigorously protected science and technology spending at home - is stepping in to cover shortfalls from other nations, such as Spain. But even so, the space agency is set to cut internal and administrative costs by 25 percent to cope with fiscal pressures and is waiting to see whether European governments will agree to new funding to help sustain the international space station until at least 2020.

Meanwhile, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France - where researchers used X-ray fluorescence to illuminate the genius of Leonardo da Vinci's brush strokes and to study the skulls of ancient hominids - has been asked by government donors to assess the impact of potentially sharp cuts to its annual budget.

"We are all impacted, we are all living on the same planet as our member states," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, the space agency's director general. "And we cannot ignore that most of our member states now have budget constraints."

For years, science research in Europe has been somewhat of a sacred cow - an area in which the zeal to pioneer knowledge for commercial and academic gain spawned jointly funded mega-projects. Indeed, science officials here say they see the current fiscal pressures as temporary, with European governments remaining strongly committed to long-term research.

But the pain of austerity is particularly acute at CERN, the European atomic physics complex whose almost-mystical research - at temperatures approaching absolute zero, or minus-273 degrees Celsius - has been dramatized in books such as Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons."

A Cold War-era construct from the 1950s, CERN was in part formed to get European nations working together again in the spirit of science. Today, much of CERN's drama centers on the Large Hadron Collider, a $10 billion particle accelerator buried 30 stories below green pastures 20 minutes west of Geneva.

Switched on in 2008, the machine made headlines for what it could potentially do - create mini black holes, even search for new dimensions - and for what it could not - which was, namely, work. Ten days after starting operations, it broke down, forcing a costly refit of its super magnets and towering circuitry that funnel along a 17-mile circular track.

Fully functional since only last March, the collider was already scheduled to go down in 2012 for year-long upgrades, leaving the center's other eight particle accelerators for its 2,000-plus researchers to work with. But with European governments now demanding budget cuts of $135 million over five years, Heuer made the decision to put all the accelerators on hiatus.

Delaying the projects for a year, he said, would avoid the need to eliminate them and give scientists time to review mountains of data collected this year and next.

The 2012 shutdown will be even more severe than the last time the center powered down many experiments in 2005, also for budgetary reasons. "Do we want to do this? No," Heuer said. "But it's the best option I had."

Reactions here have ranged from grudging acceptance to frustration. Inside a warehouse-like lab in the heart of CERN, for instance, scientists are tantalizingly close to achieving a milestone - the ability to trap an atom of antimatter long enough to study it, getting closer to an understanding of why so much of it disappeared at the dawn of time, leaving matter to spread across the universe instead.

If the project has not succeeded by the end of 2011, the 12-month delay, researchers say, will seem like an eternity, too.

"It's like a 50-meter race where the runners are told to stop running," said Michael Doser, a leading antimatter research physicist at CERN. "You can imagine what that does to the race."

Staff writer Marc Kaufman in Washington contributed to this report.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Meltdown of the climate 'consensus'

MMM interesting, something previously questioned a number of years ago on my blog.


Meltdown of the climate 'consensus'


Last Updated: 4:46 AM, September 2, 2010

If this keeps up, no one's going to trust any scientists.

The global-warming establishment took a body blow this week, as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change received a stunning rebuke from a top-notch independent investigation.

For two decades, the IPCC has spearheaded efforts to convince the world's governments that man-made carbon emissions pose a threat to the global temperature equilibrium -- and to civilization itself. IPCC reports, collated from the work of hundreds of climate scientists and bureaucrats, are widely cited as evidence for the urgent need for drastic action to "save the planet."
Pachauri: UN big scored great grants for silly science.

But the prestigious InterAcademy Council, an independent association of "the best scientists and engineers worldwide" (as the group's own Web site puts it) formed in 2000 to give "high-quality advice to international bodies," has finished a thorough review of IPCC practices -- and found them badly wanting.

For example, the IPCC's much-vaunted Fourth Assessment Report claimed in 2007 that Himalayan glaciers were rapidly melting, and would possibly be gone by the year 2035. The claim was actually false -- yet the IPCC cited it as proof of man-made global warming.

Then there's the IPCC's earlier prediction in 2007 -- which it claimed to have "high confidence" in -- that global warming could lead to a 50 percent reduction in the rain-fed agricultural capacity of Africa.

Such a dramatic decrease in food production in an already poor continent would be a terrifying prospect, and undoubtedly lead to the starvation of millions. But the InterAcademy Council investigation found that this IPCC claim was also based on weak evidence.

Overall, the IAC slammed the IPCC for reporting "high confidence in some statements for which there is little evidence. Furthermore, by making vague statements that were difficult to refute, authors were able to attach 'high confidence' to the statements." The critics note "many such statements that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective or not expressed clearly.

Some IPCC practices can only be called shoddy. As The Wall Street Journal reported, "Some scientists invited by the IPCC to review the 2007 report before it was published questioned the Himalayan claim. But those challenges 'were not adequately considered,' the InterAcademy Council's investigation said, and the projection was included in the final report."

Yet the Himalayan claim wasn't based on peer-reviewed scientific data, or on any data -- but on speculation in a phone interview by a single scientist.

Was science even a real concern for the IPCC? In January, the Sunday Times of London reported that, based in large part on the fraudulent glacier story, "[IPCC Chairman] Rajendra Pachauri's Energy and Resources Institute, based in New Delhi, was awarded up to 310,000 pounds by the Carnegie Corp. . . . and the lion's share of a 2.5 million pound EU grant funded by European taxpayers."

Thus, the Times concluded, "EU taxpayers are funding research into a scientific claim about glaciers that any ice researcher should immediately recognize as bogus."

All this comes on top of last year's revelation of the "Climategate" e-mails, which revealed equally shoddy practices (and efforts to suppress criticism) by scientists at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia -- perhaps the single most important source of data that supposedly proved the most alarming claims of global warming.

Al Gore and many other warming alarmists have insisted that "the debate is over" -- that the science was "settled." That claim is now in shreds -- though the grants are still flowing, and advocates still hope Congress will pass some version of the economically ruinous "cap and trade" anti-warming bill.

What does the best evidence now tell us? That man-made global warming is a mere hypothesis that has been inflated by both exaggeration and downright malfeasance, fueled by the awarding of fat grants and salaries to any scientist who'll produce the "right" results.

The warming "scientific" community, the Climategate emails reveal, is a tight clique of like-minded scientists and bureaucrats who give each other jobs, publish each other's papers -- and conspire to shut out any point of view that threatens to derail their gravy train.

Such behavior is perhaps to be expected from politicians and government functionaries. From scientists, it's a travesty.

In the end, grievous harm will have been done not just to individual scientists' reputations, but to the once-sterling reputation of science itself. For that, we will all suffer.

Matt Patterson is editor of Green Watch, a publication of the Capital Research Center

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/meltdown_of_the_climate_consensus_G0kWdclUvwhVr6DYH6A4uJ?sms_ss=facebook#ixzz0ymogZCrq

Sunday, September 5, 2010

More stories on Gold

Reading stories like this which sound a little bizare as 70% of gold production goes into jewelry, makes me think that there is a bubble about to burst in Gold.


Malaysian Muslims Go for Gold, But It's Hard to Make Change
A Scot Who Converted to Islam Agrees With Ron Paul About Printing Money


KOTA BHARU, Malaysia—Umar Vadillo bounds into a hotel room here in northern Malaysia with several stacks of gold and silver coins in his hands and slaps them down on a coffee table. "This," Mr. Vadillo says, "is what it means to be free."

A quarter century ago, this Spanish-born Muslim convert set to work with other European Muslims to find a substitute for the U.S. dollar and other paper currencies.

Pricing goods in greenbacks, they argued, was unfair. Many countries earn their income from finite resources like oil and other minerals, they said, while the U.S. and other countries can crank up their printing presses to pay for them—especially after Richard Nixon helped break the Western world's historical dependence on gold as a measure of value by taking America off the gold standard in 1971.

Last month, Mr. Vadillo's solution took shape when the local Muslim-led government in Malaysia's Kelantan state joined forces with Mr. Vadillo to introduce Islamic-style gold dinar coins as alternative currency.

Mr. Vadillo and the Kelantan government have persuaded more than a thousand businesses here in the state capital, Kota Bharu, to paste stickers in store windows saying they accept the coins.

Ordinary people can also pay taxes and water bills in gold and silver instead of paper money.

"Our lands are being subjugated," says Mr. Vadillo, a powerfully built 46-year-old with a shiny suit, swept-back hair and a tidy goatee. "Today, in Kelantan, we're fighting back."

Plenty of people have their doubts about the dollar, as well as other currencies that aren't backed by gold or silver.

American libertarians such as Ron Paul frequently call for the reintroduction of a gold-backed currency, arguing that the Federal Reserve's ability to print money causes inflation and destroys savings.

Gold bulls have developed a cult following among investors who worry that precious metals are the only reliable store of value during rocky economic times.

If there's a utopia being formed for the globe's gold bugs, though, it's happening in a few unexpected outposts in the Muslim world like Kelantan.

Mostly that is because some Islamic thinkers teach that using currencies whose value is declared by governments is a form of usury. A piece of paper, they say, is just an IOU.

But with the global economy showing fresh signs of faltering, some believers think there's also a strong financial incentive to switch to gold dinars or the silver coins, known as dirhams.

At the Peter Libly tailor shop in central Kota Bharu, proprietor Ariffin Yusof reckons the new dinars "save people from exploitation."

Husam Musa, Kelantan state's economic policy chief, says he saves half his salary in dinars and believes it to be a good investment. "Its value is stated not by the World Bank, but by Allah," Mr. Husam says.

An initial run of coins worth about $640,000 and ranging from one dirham—containing about $4 worth of silver at current prices—and one dinar—worth $189—to an eight-dinar coin worth $1,518 sold out quickly, prompting Malaysia's political leaders to say the paper-based ringgit, worth around $3.13, is still the country's legal currency.

"Gold is money because people make it money. Paper money is money because governments make it money," says Peter Schiff, President of Euro Pacific Capital Inc. in Westport, Conn., and a notable dollar bear. "But what happens if people lose their faith in governments, and the U.S. government in particular?"

This latest quest to wean the world off dollars actually began in Adam Smith's homeland, Scotland, when an aspiring actor named Ian Dallas left his home near Glasgow to seek out the bright lights of London in the 1960s.

Mr. Dallas, now 79 years old, fell into the hippie circuit and played a telepath in the Federico Fellini movie "8½" before ultimately converting to Islam in Morocco.

Mr. Dallas took the name Abdalqadir al-Sufi and set up his own sect, the Murabitun—or "the people of the outposts"—before settling into a wind-blasted mansion named Achnagairn near Inverness in the Scottish highlands.

There, Mr. Dallas and his followers surrounded themselves with banks of computers and began work on creating an Islamic currency to replace the dollar and help speed up the collapse of the West's credit-driven financial system.

When Mr. Vadillo joined the mission, the Murabitun fine-tuned their thinking and began minting gold dinars—the same currency used in the early days of Islam.

The first coin was stamped in 1993 with a Jacobite sword in honor of one of Mr. Dallas's Scottish ancestors who fought against the English army at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. A silver dirham was minted with the Dallas family crest.

"People laughed at us," says Mr. Dallas, who now lives in South Africa and dressed up in an Afghan cap and navy blazer in a video recently released to mark the arrival of the new dinar in Malaysia. "People thought we were going back to the past. Now, the whole atmosphere has changed."

"1,400 years ago, a chicken cost one dirham. Today, it still costs one dirham," Mr. Vadillo says.

Mainstream economists are skeptical about how quickly Malaysians will take up dinars.

Tim Condon, chief Asia economist at ING in Singapore, says he regards gold enthusiasts as "monetary cranks."

He points out that central banks around the world have by and large managed to contain the worst ravages of inflation.

Paper money can also help economies avoid tough periods of deflation, which some economists associate with rigidly backing currencies with gold.

Either way, getting people to use dinars and dirhams regularly isn't easy, and already there are some teething problems in Kota Bharu.

Some people see dinars as a way to save rather than a means of exchange. Others aren't sure what to do with them or worry about how to store them safely.

Snack vendor Ros Abdul Rashid confesses she wouldn't know what to do if somebody tried to buy a bag of peanuts with gold or silver. "I'm not sure how it's supposed to work yet," she says.

One white-robed dinar dealer, 68-year-old Awaludin Mohal, has to offer paper bank notes as change when customers buy his gold and silver coins

As Gold Climbs, So Do the Deals

In reading this article the use of the word "investors" is prevalent. My question is could "investors" be a substitute for the word speculators? Every time there is a run up there is a crash, I wonder when that time will come?


As Gold Climbs, So Do the Deals
Metal's Price, at Near-Record $1,249.20 an Ounce, Has Mining Companies Hunting for Prey.
Gold prices are edging up toward a high, triggering multibillion-dollar deals by miners doubling down on the staying power of bullion's nearly decadelong rally.

India Takes Control on Gold Market
Gold Heads for the Fifth Weekly Advance
.Dow Jones International News
The run-up is being driven by investors who bought more than half of all gold sold in the second quarter—only the second time that has happened since 1979, according to analysts. Normally the majority of gold is bought for jewelry and other uses.

Large gold miners seeking to feed that demand are gobbling up rivals. On Friday, Goldcorp Inc. said it would buy Andean Resources Ltd for $3.4 billion, a month after Kinross Gold Corp. agreed to pay $7.1 billion for Red Back Mining Inc.

Gold prices are responding, too. In August, gold futures prices rose 5.6% as investors added 20.2 metric tons to the holdings of the $52-billion SPDR Gold Shares, the world's largest gold exchange-traded fund. By contrast, investors liquidated 38.2 metric tons in July, and prices fell 5.1%.

On Friday, prices fell $2.30 per troy ounce, or 0.18%, to settle at $1,249.20 at Comex, the metals division of CME Group. They are now 0.64% below the Comex-high settlement price of $1,257.20, hit on June 18, but up 14.1% this year.

.Historically, investors accounted for a relatively small portion of gold demand, with the majority driven by demand by jewelers, dentists and electronics manufacturers.

When the World Gold Council, a trade group, started breaking out investor demand as a separate category in 1998, investors represented 6.9% of demand and during the tumultuous year of 2009, they accounted for 39% of demand. In the second quarter of this year, investors accounted for 51% of demand, second only to the first quarter of 2009, when the stock market was at its nadir and investors accounted for 60% of demand.

Now, investor demand increasingly overwhelms other fundamental factors, such as jewelry purchases and ore production. This spring, investors turned to gold as a haven against the threat of European sovereign-debt defaults, and this summer it benefited from fears of a double-dip recession.

"Gold is a multipurpose security blanket," said Kevin Norrish, managing director of commodities research at Barclays Capital, and the interest reflects "the lack of trust some investors have in governments and their abilities to solve their structural problems," he said.

At the same time, the rise of the investor in the gold market also means that bullion prices and gold-mining companies are increasingly subject to the same risk, that positive changes in the macroeconomic picture could lead investors to reverse course and sell gold in droves.

Jewelry owners are slow to sell due to an emotional tie with their gold, said John Stephenson, a portfolio manager at First Asset Investment Management, Inc. and author of "The Little Book of Commodity Investing."

Goldcorp's bid for Andean Resources topped a lower offer from Eldorado Gold Corp. The deal is the latest in a series of gold-sector tie-ups as producers vie to secure resources.

Especially tempting to miners are smaller exploration-focused companies like Andean that have proven themselves adept at the financially risky work of revealing new gold veins. Goldcorp was drawn by Andean's Cerro Negro project in Argentina, which the company said in July could produce up 285,000 ounces of gold a year over its first five years, starting in 2012.

Goldcorp CEO Chuck Jeannes called it "a truly exceptional asset by any reckoning," in a conference call with investors on Friday, saying such discoveries are "becoming exceedingly rare."

View Full Image

The EurekaWest vein outcrop is seen at Andean Resources' Cerro Negro gold exploration project.
.Under the terms of the deal, each common share of Andean will be exchanged for either 0.14 share of Goldcorp or a cash payment of C$6.50 a share, up to C$1 billion in cash. The offer represents a 35% premium to Andean's Toronto-listed closing share price on Sept. 2. The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of both companies, but requires majority Andean shareholder approval. Shareholders representing 21% of Andean's capital have already agreed to vote in favor of the deal.

Eldorado isn't giving up, however, saying Friday it will pursue its bid, valued at C$6.36 a share, with shareholders.

Shares of Andean were recently trading up 46% at $7.04 apiece on the Toronto Stock Exchange, indicating investors reckon another rival bid may be forthcoming.

While investors have assumed the dominant role in the gold market, jewelry-makers' sway is weakening. The demand for gold for fabrication plummeted by 40% from 1998 to 2009, and represented 38.5% of total demand from January to June of this year, according to World Gold Council data.

Investors have "swamped out some of the historic trading relationships in gold," said Mr. Stephenson.

Investor-led gold rallies often end in sorrow. In the first quarter of 2009, when the stock market hit a low amid the financial crisis and investor demand was at its recent peak, gold surged 24%. Prices then fell 13% in the following quarter.

A more-sustained run-up in gold prices will be driven by "sheer income growth" in emerging countries, said Martin Murenbeeld, chief economist of DundeeWealth Inc., a Canadian wealth manager that has about $70 billion in client assets.

Chinese and Indian investors are buying gold bars and coins at an unprecedented pace. During the second quarter, China's investment demand for gold jumped 187% in dollar terms to $1.4 billion, while India's rose 38% to $1.6 billion, according to the World Gold Council.

—Andy Georgiades contributed to this article