Halliburton & Baker Hughes

This may be the largest energy deal in a decade. The CEO of Halliburton said "The transaction will combine the companies' product and service capabilities to deliver an unsurpassed depth and breadth of solutions to our customers, ...and creating jobs and serving customers around the globe."

Really? Both of these companies have been affected by the oil slump this year. Analysts are doubtful that this combined company will have power to raise prices for drilling, cementing and fracturing -- especially with new services companies growing in China, India and South Korea.

Perhaps they may be able to affect pricing in areas that are the hardest to service, like the Arctic or the deepest offshore oil areas. But the industry leader there is Schlumberger, which is much bigger than either company.

According to strategy guru Porter, you want to be the lowest cost provider or the differentiated market leader, neither of which this merger forms.

Why then would this make sense?

My money thinks that it is purely a cost cutting play -- they see the $80 oil slump continuing and business becoming more and more difficult. In fact, Halliburton has come out and said it will divest businesses worth up to $7.5B. Further, it may be worse than we think, since it has also committed to pay a $3.5B fee if the transaction terminates if they don't get the anti-trust approvals.

So, "creating jobs"? No, I don't think so.

Unplugging from Tech

When's the last time you unplugged? Turned off your phone, closed your iPad, walked away from the laptop. In theory, it sounds easy...but in reality, it's quite the challenge. So many of our daily tasks are now associated with using our technology devices.

  • I need to add that to my calendar...
  • I'll just make an OpenTable reservation for tonight...
  • What was the score to last night's game?
  • I'm going to mobile deposit this check...
  • Let me text my mom, real quick and ask her...
  • What's the name of that museum? Let me Google that...
  • What time is our flight? Let me check my United app...

The list goes on and on. What will it take for our generation and future generations to take out some much-needed-no-tech time for themselves and their families?

For me, I think flying is the perfect time to unplug. While many travelers are thrilled with the growing availability of in-flight wi-fi and having the ability to surf the interwebs and do some work while airborne, I cannot help but feel like it's unnecessary. I think everyone needs downtime from technology and I know it sounds crazy, but I often look forward to getting on a plane for this very reason - FREEDOM FROM MY DEVICES! NO ONE CAN REACH ME! I'M OFF THE GRID! WOO-HOO! But then again, I can just do this at home - but it's much harder than it looks.

What's your most effective way to unplug and go tech-free for a while?

An Imminent Independent Scotland?

Have you heard? Scottish nationalists have a referendum coming up on the 18th to have a separate nation of 5 million people. Most of us have not even heard the news! This is greatly interesting to me, because the question comes up in my mind - how would the new country support itself?

It turns out, North Sea oil revenues would go to the independent Scotland. The current UK North Sea generates 1.5m barrels of oil per day, or about 5 billion euro's in tax revenue. This would be more than 15% of Scotland's tax revenue, and could provide strong support to the new nation.

However, the large oil companies that are in the region (like BG and Total) will be interested in negotiating better tax concessions, as well as easier operational regulation. If Scotland cannot quickly win support from the large companies, it could be off to a shaky economic start.

Sounds a bit tricky, anyone with any insights care to weigh in?

GameDay WiFi Reaches New Heights

Going to football games is one of my favorite things to do...period. Getting all suited up in your team gear, tailgating with your best buds, feeling the team spirit and energy surrounding you, and of course the CRAPPY cell phone coverage! (sigh)

But it looks like those days are in the past...well at least they are in San Francisco. The 49ers' at their all new Levi's® Stadium proudly served up more than 2.1 terabytes of data to nearly 25,000 fans this past weekend at their preseason game vs the Denver Broncos. The $1.2 billion gridiron has done its part to keep up with the tech-loving Silicon Valley crowd including an in-stadium network that can host up to 68k fans. With nearly 700 hot spots, the experts in charge of tech-equipping this stadium knew what they were doing.

Wait - there's more! Using the reliable network, you can also order food from the team's mobile app and starting on their first game, instant replay will be available. That's what I call a point for the home team! Well done, Levi's® Stadium! Well done.

Ahem, Houston Texans - when exactly will NRG Stadium be hooking up your H-town fanbase with these sweet techie perks?

Barclays Fires Back

Everyone has seen the news about Barclays 42-page retort to the lawsuit by the NY attorney general. After all the hype of being "the first dark pool suit", the suit is not about predatory front-running trading practices in dark pools. It is really about Barclays allegedly misleading investors claiming their dark pool is safe...umm, although no one is sure Barclays ever said it was safe. What they said is that everyone was allowed into their pool, and that they had the ability to identify who was doing what. Matt Levine writes a great article about this.

The interesting thing for me is not about Barclays anymore. It is that some firms, such as RBC and T. Rowe Price actually did diligence and monitored their trades, so they were able to boost their minimum shares to avoid high speed traders. I think Streetwise Professor got it right - that it is possible to do reasonable due diligence in the dark, and banks should be doing this while the government figures out the legalities.

Is due diligence dead?