The Northern Spy
A Buying Spree?
The Spy has it on good authority
that iTim is about to iCook up a major purchase--one that will rock merely the high-tech sector, but the entire business world. What follows is a partial transcript of a larger interview, with the Spy’s sometime erstwhile assistant, coder extraordinaire, workhorse novel character, and chief head banger Nellie Hacker, speaking with a source she declines to name. The Spy has omitted some of her comments as unnecessarily...provocative, and some of the subject’s answers to conform to our general policies on printing stories that we are unable to fully substantiate.
Source (looking worried): No chance this office the Professor loaned you is bugged, is there? I can’t afford to lose my job.
Nellie: Nothing to worry about sister. When Nellie Hacker sweeps the ears outa a place, they ain’t nobody gonna listen in. So what’s the scoop you called me on to arrange this meet?
Source: You know all that money we’ve piled up at Apple over the years.
Nellie: Of course. Billions, mostly stashed overseas to escape the tax man.
Source: Exactly. Well, there’s big time spending coming up.
Nellie: Hey a scoop for the girl reporter. So, Apple’s planning a big purchase. How big?
Source: Cost to us is in the one ninety range.
Nellie: I ken you’re reluctant to spill the beans, so how be you describe the target in general terms.
Source: Well, internally it’s in a very sad state really, with massive debt and a terrible entitlement culture. The vultures are circling, and apart from our people, most think it’s a bankruptcy basket case. Fact, their current management is talking default.
Nellie: Why would Apple want to buy such an operation?
Source: They do have some assets we really, really like.
Nellie: Ah, yes. The Professor knows someone who works for an investment bank. They only buy companies that own real property--buildings, land, factories, sailing rights on rivers, and such like. They’re not interested in leases, but sometimes jump at getting the people if their skills seem useful--I call it playing Monopoly with real money.
Source: That’s what we have here--massive real estate assets, plus a few key movers and shakers.
Nellie: But are the current owners ready to sell?
Source: We haven’t finished discussing matters with the top fiduciaries yet, but are confident that we can package a deal that makes sense for the bondholders.
Nellie: And the shareholders?
Source: Mainly the bond holders. The owners’ equity is pretty badly impaired, so we think they’ll got for it. The alternative seems pretty bleak.
Nellie: They have no equity?
Source: They actually have quite a bit, but how much is hard to assess. We’re working on that aspect.
Nellie: So how do you structure it?
Source: Well, for the bondholders, we offer fifty cents on the dollar to kiss off all debts.
Nellie: Without knowing the target, I couldn’t say whether that sounds like a lot.
Source: Oh, it is, believe me. If their management goes for a default, paper holders will be left holding the paper. Five to ten on the loonie if they’re lucky, and then their credit ratingwould be so far down the toilet even their moms wouldn’t loan them two bits for candy afterwards.
Nellie: And the current owners?
Source: We’ll set up a numbered company, name it later, maybe use the current name if everyone agrees. Apple takes a half interest in return for retiring the debt, the current owners receive shares representing the equity in the entity’s real assets--mostly land and buildings, though some of the latter are in ill repair from earthquake damage.
Nellie: Lots of shareholders then?
Source: Eleven million, give or take--not all with full shareholders’ rights at present, so we have to work on qualifying people.
Nellie: Hmmm. And like the fellow the Professor knows, you’ll have to restructure the buy.
Source: For sure. Too many owners on the payroll for the size, too much entitlement. Big layoffs, make the operation more efficient, start turning a profit, and no more debt.
Nellie: Merger with another outfit?
Source: That often does work, but not in this case. Wouldn’t go down well with anyone concerned. Competitors in the same market space don’t get along.
Nellie: But will the current owners still have any say in running the operation, or will their equity be too diminished for that?
Source: Yes, and no to your two questions. The current owners will still be able to elect the management team, provided candidates for same go through our rigorous training program first, and sign undertakings not to run a deficit or over hire like they’ve been doing.
Nellie: Do you plan to change the business model?
Source: Yup. Total goods production is about half the debt, around one ninety. We can improve that if we get the outfit on a efficient and competitive basis and debt free, but the real task is getting the people to leverage the real assets to sell targeted services in way that can make money in a highly competitive marketplace.
Nellie: But you say the target has too many employees.
Source: Oh, for sure, all of them among the owners, and they ensure the others receive massive breaks on price. What we need to do is reduce staff, and price services properly, so it’s pay per service all the way, with neither free rides or featherbedding.
Nellie: Hey, I get it. You’re talking about Apple taking over IBM and leveraging their service provision to increase Apple’s corporate sales.
Source: No way. Well, we did consider them at them as a target--but practicality won out over delicious irony. Besides, this is a bigger.
Nellie: Hmmm. You mentioned real estate.
Source: Oh there are very attractive real assets, including some fantastic beaches--whole islands, too. Our Cupertino spaceship HQ is nothing compared to what we have on the drawing boards for our new offices there. We think we can also do a side business in conference facilities and retreat centres, and the geography is excellent for a two-continent telecommunications and server farm hub, too.
Nellie: So, can you tell me where?
Source (leaning forward, whispering) : Greece.
Source: No, Greece.
Nellie: Wait a minute. You don’t mean...
Source: I said one ninety to retire half the debt. That’s billion. We’re buying Greece--the whole shebang.
Nellie: The closing date on the deal?
Source: Today, April first.
There you have it folks. You read it here first.
--The Northern Spy
Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several community and organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and nine alternate history SF novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.
Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.
URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:
The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net
General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:
Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca
Publisher's Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html
The Fourth Civilization--Ethics, Society, and Technology (4th 2003 ed.): http://www.arjay.bc.ca/EthTech/Text/index.html