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City Republic - Will Dell deal revive WPP shares?

LONDON - Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP Group rose in early trading Monday on news of its deal to handle all computer maker Dell's marketing communications.

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The deal is worth $4.5bn in billings over three years, bringing in a reported $150m a year in income to WPP.

WPP is to set up an as yet unnamed  new agency with around 1,000 people to handle the account, and possibly other non-conflicting business.

It's a coup for Sir Martin, who has seen his shares fall 18% in the last six months on fears that the group has run out of acquisition targets and faces the prospect of recession in the US and Europe.

It's bad news for Interpublic Group though, the other final contender for the business and Omnicom, whose agencies handled much of Dell's business on an ad hoc basis.

Dell has yet to allocate its media account although WPP is presumably the front runner.

It's a big week for interest rates
Well a big two weeks actually (Federal Reserve governor Ben Bernanke is due to pronounce next week) with Bank of England governor Mervyn King due to kick off on Thursday.

King's remit from the government is to keep inflation at or below 2% (if it falls too much he's also in trouble).

Mervyn was deeply put out earlier this year when he had to write to then Chancellor Gordon Brown, apologising for inflation hitting 3%.

At the moment, the official inflation rate in the UK is 2.1%.

But everyone knows that growth is slowing rapidly as house prices take a powder so there's pressure on King to stimulate the economy (and help all those people who are about to have their fixed mortgages re-fixed a lot higher).

In the US, Bernanke has already set his stall out with two cuts and the only bets on December 11 are by how much he will cut, a quarter or half a point.

King's Monetary Policy Committee is still dithering. In the meantime, the banks are setting their own inter-bank rate and it's nearly a full point above the B of E's 5.75%. This is charged on to consumers at least a point higher, an eye-watering 7.5%; very bad news for hard-pressed consumers.

So King has nothing to lose by cutting. The economy is slowing down anyway which should take the heat out of inflation (it's hard to put up prices if no-one's got any money).

The oil price is heading south today too, dipping below $90 a barrel in New York as speculators fear a drop in demand in the event of a Us recession.

A quarter point cut on Thursday won't actually make that much difference but at least it will show that the MPC isn't a rabbit caught in the credit crunch headlights.

We'll see.

More schnapps all round at Porsche
The board of Porsche paid themselves €113m last year and it's reckoned that about €60m went to CEO Wendelin Wiedekin, comfortably a record for the CEO of a European quoted company.

The next highest-paid CEO in Germany was Joseph Ackerman of Deutsche Bank on €13m.

So the drinks are on Wendelin.

It's not that Porsche hasn't done well. Last year's profits to end June rose from €2.1bn to €5.9bn (much of it made by currency trading and the like) and the sports car maker now finds itself the owner of 30% of the mighty Volkswagen (effectively the owner).

But Porsche cars are doing well too. The Cayenne 4x4 makes a fortune, as it very profitably adds Porsche glitz (and a hefty premium) to a lot of components it shares with VW's Touareg.

Porsche sports cars haven't really changed their shape and raison d'etre since the 1950s, so expensive revamping hasn't been an issue either, which also helps margins.

Even so, €60m looks a bit steep.

Tesco conquers California - or does it?
According to the Mail on Sunday, Tesco's new Fresh & Easy chain in California keeps running out of stuff because the restocking computer system works on historical data (and it hasn't got any).

But the good news is that that people are buying it (if it's there).

Anyone who's been to America knows that there's some wonderful premium food and loads and loads of rubbish.

So Tesco will sort out its computer and do very well indeed.

It's planning to open another 270 stores in California and Arizona soon and maybe up to 1,000 on the West Coast. No doubt the East Coast and Mid-West will follow in due course.

Years ago, I contemplated investing a pay-off in Tesco shares, reasoning that market leader Sainsbury's was becoming floppy and the only thing holding back Tesco was its (already outdated) "pile it high, flog it cheap" image.

I didn't.

Silly me.

Cerberus joins US giants hunting Northern Rock
The Treasury and Northern Rock's board have got to make their minds up on a new owner soon because the Rock rapidly becoming a bank with no deposits (there's still the mortgage book of course).

Making Virgin the preferred bidder now looks distinctly previous (as we've written here before) but actually it was quite a smart move (intentionally or not) because it's flushed out real alternatives.

Olivant will come back with a serious offer in time for the next City Republic and US giants JC Flowers and newcomer Cerberus submitted new bids on Friday.

Flowers may hold the advantage as it has (much) more money to begin with than Virgin or Olivant and can afford to pay off more of the £25bn or so owed to the government.

Because of this, the government apparently deems its bid "approved", so much for the Northern Rock board then.

Don't underestimate latecomer Cerberus though.

This formidable beast (named after the hound that prevented dead spirits absconding from Hades in Greek mythology) is a major player (although founder Steve Feinberg apparently now wishes he'd given it a less forbidding name).

Cerberus, which specialises in buying bust companies and turning them round, has been big in the car wreck of the US auto industry recently, buying 51% of General Motors' GMAC finance business and, in August, 80.1% of Chrysler in its demerger from Mercedes.

Some shareholders still prefer former Abbey boss Luqman Arnold's Olivant bid.

The real decision-makers though are banks RBS, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, who've been lined up to provide the winning consortium with funds.

Weekend reports suggest they're already cooling on the Virgin business plan.

Whomever they back (if anyone) will take over the Rock.

It looking less and less like it will be Virgin though.

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