Market Minute: Carl Icahn Gives Himself the Nod for Directorship of Dell

It's good to be a billionaire, and three of them are making news this morning.

Investor Daniel Loeb is pushing Sony (SNE) to spin off part of its entertainment arm. The New York Times says his hedge fund is one of the Japanese company's largest shareholders. He's targeting the unit that includes Sony's movie studio and music label. Sony says it's for sale.

Private equity investor Carl Icahn speaks at the World Business Forum on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Mark Lennihan, AP
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has nominated himself and a slate of 11 others as directors at Dell (DELL). Icahn is leading an effort to block company chairman Michael Dell from taking the company private.

And business sometimes makes strange bedfellows. Climate-change crusader Ted Turner is teaming up with the big electric utility Southern Co. (SO) to develop giant solar farms.

In other news: Blackberry (BBRY) and Nokia (NOK) were once leaders in the smartphone business, but now they're laggards. Today, both companies –- hoping to regain market share -- unveil new models. Nokia showed off the latest in its Lumia line, a phone that charges wirelessly and features a high-end camera. And later today, Blackberry may unveil a cheaper version of its phone.

Amazon (AMZN) has purchased the Samsung unit working on developing color displays for e-readers. That's prompting speculation that Amazon will soon add a color version of its Kindle device.

Video game maker Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) posted a quarterly profit, reversing a year ago loss. Sales for the period were better than expected, led by strong demand for its new "Bioshock Infinite" game.

And Verizon Wireless (VZ) plans to pay a 7-billion dollar dividend to its two co-owners – Verizon Communications and Vodaphone. There had been speculation that Verizon Communications would block the mobile phone joint venture from making the payment, in an effort to force Vodafone to sell its stake.

Invest Like a Cicada: 5 Stocks to Buy and Hold Until 2030
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Market Minute: Carl Icahn Gives Himself the Nod for Directorship of Dell

Ford has been making cars through a fair number of cicada emergence cycles, and that's not going to change. Cars will naturally look materially different in 17 years; by then, it wouldn't be a shock to see self-driving cars in widespread use. Ford should continue to have a major role in the industry.
Naturally, there may be trends moving away from automobiles in general. The urbanization trend -- which features people flocking back to metropolitan areas where mass transit makes car ownership less important -- will likely continue. U.S. automakers may also continue to lose market share to overseas rivals.

However, it's hard to bet against Ford. Remember, Ford was the only major U.S. automaker to avoid the government's bailout in 2009, proving its mettle during tough times.

This pick will be controversial given the way that Apple's stock has been beaten down since peaking late last year. But the consumer tech giant is a survivor.

Since the last Brood II invasion we saw the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010. Yes, Steve Jobs is gone, but denying Apple its historical bent to raise the bar in consumer electronics would be a costly mistake. Apple will find a way to innovate its way to growth and margin expansion.

The world's largest retailer has plenty of detractors. Critics argue that Walmart destroys mom-and-pop businesses and treats its employees unfairly. However, 60 percent of the people in this country will visit a Walmart this month. Think about that. Walmart rang up more than $469 billion in sales last year. Think about that, too.

Walmart's size endows it with pricing advantages that it passes on to its customers, giving the discount department store chain and edge that can't be matched. The future may find online retail and digital delivery eating into its share of some product categories. But at the end of the day, you don't bet against Walmart's ability to provide goods at prices that free shoppers to spend more on other things.

Despite remarkable changes in the world, some things have stayed constant from one cicada infestation to the next. Soap is still soap. Toilet paper is still toilet paper. Toothpaste is still toothpaste. And that probably won't change between now and 2030.

Procter & Gamble is home to large pantry of household brands that consumer know all too well. From Crest toothpaste to Bounty paper towels, it's hard to escape Procter & Gamble's reach. Some of its billion-dollar brands -- in other words, products that generate at least a billion dollars in annual sales -- include Pampers baby diapers, Duracell batteries, and Charmin toilet paper.

Its portfolio of products is so diversified that Procter & Gamble can weather the rare innovations that make a particular category obsolete. Along the way, patient investors get rewarded. Procter & Gamble has increased its dividend in each of the past 57 years.

The House of Mouse has been the undisputed champ of family entertainment for decades, but it's not something that Disney has taken for granted. Disney bought Capital Cities/ABC in 1995, a year before the last periodical cicada wave. It was a major purchase, and perhaps more for landing ESPN than ABC.

However, since the last Brood II emergence, the media giant has snapped up Pixar, Marvel, and most recently Lucasfilm to beef up its library of magnetic characters that it can build on through its cable properties, theme parks, and merchandising initiatives.

The way children consume media has evolved dramatically over the years, but digital media has presented new ways for Disney to cash in on the incessant appetite for family-friendly entertainment.

Besides, if there's a movie to be made that transforms cicadas into endearing insects in an animated theatrical release, it would be probably be Disney's handiwork.
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