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Senator Cochran racks up capital gains amid more than 200 stock trades

June 22nd, 2011 1 comment

Senator Thad Cochran bought shares of Crimson Exploration Inc., a Houston-based oil company, in two trades a week apart last fall. The shares climbed for six weeks
and Cochran sold them on Dec. 15 for a profit.

See the complete story here …

Groupon is not as sweet as you might think it is

June 14th, 2011 Comments off
When the national deal-of-the-day website Groupon arrived in Mississippi back in the fall, it came with great fanfare.
Across the nation, the three-year-old coupon company has been all the hype. It is the largest of its competitors and claims it distributes online coupons from merchants in 500 markets and 44 countries.
However, as far as many small business owners are concerned, some of the shine has faded from the fad.
Media swarmed Nandy’s Candy in Jackson when it became the first Mississippi business to offer coupons from the meteoric company.
TV types reported live from the historic candy store’s parking lot at 5:30 in the morning that first day the initial deals were to be offered.
Newspapers described the excitement of businesses and consumers had as the national phenomenon finally reached Mississippi.
Groupon — like so many other happenings, including fashion trends and even the great recession — took a while to matriculate to these parts.
The consumers in these parts are still thrilled with the idea of getting great stuff for less money.
But Nancy King, owner of Nandy’s for more than 30 years, doesn’t give an overwhelming endorsement of Groupon.
“We got a lot of exposure in the media because we were the first,” she said. “It brought some more customers in … but I don’t know if I would do it again.”
King’s eyes are wide open to the process.
“Let’s get this straight, Groupon is making a kazillion dollars. They aren’t about me. They are about making money.”
Groupon has made so much money that Facebook and Google want a piece of the action and have launched similar products.
In fact, the initial public offering filing by Groupon, has drawn comparisons to Google.
Some have estimated Groupon’s potential worth at $20 billion to $30 billion. Google was $27 billion at the time of its 2004 IPO.
But buyer beware. Reports — like the story of the café owner in Portland who lost $8,000 using Groupon — are all over the Web.
And there are many skeptics, including Bloomberg’s James Temple, who recently wrote, “Strip away all the hope and hype surrounding Groupon and you’re left with this: It’s a coupon company. Its major innovation was to distribute them through e-mail instead of the Sunday paper.”
Then there’s business analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, who recently wrote a column for Forbes on the subject.
“This IPO game isn’t about finding value, it’s about finding a greater fool who who actually believes the valuation is true. Trust me, you will be the fool. There will be plenty more IPOs coming up of companies with greater profitability and higher barriers to entry (e.g. social networks with hundreds of millions of followers). Those will be wiser investments.”
And Nancy King at Nandy’s Candy is no fool.
“Groupon makes a fortune (and for a small business owner) it is a good tool, but you have to be cautious,” she said.
A less experienced business owner could be overwhelmed with the process and lose a lot of money, King warned.
But she also makes the point that Groupon ain’t from around here and doesn’t have a clue about the Mississippi market.
Groupon associates insisted on King following a cookie-cutter model that would have had her hiring more people and spending more money because of the flood of business the company said would walk through the door.
“But they don’t know anything about us,” she said.
“We live in a state with two-and-a-half million people. This thing may work great in Atlanta and Dallas and New York and Chicago, but that’s not this market.”
There are lots of other options as far as King is concerned.
“Quite honestly, I still believe in the newspaper,” she said. “I like holding it in my hands; I like to see the pages turn.”
She said advertising in more traditional ways is still working for Nandy’s Candy.
And while she won’t say that she won’t ever use Groupon again, King believes there are a lot of unknowns with which to be concerned.
Small business, which makes up the vast majority of the American economy, by King’s and so many others’ estimates, isn’t particularly made to cash in on Groupon.
But Groupon is absolutely going to try to cash in on America’s small business owners.
Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018

Perception hard to avoid with feet in your mouth

January 14th, 2011 Comments off

Quick, which state is last in healthcare?
Education?
Race relations?
Gov. Haley Barbour, while I am sure he already knew, is getting a full dose of perception as he prepares to announce whether he is going to run for president in 2012.
Just last week, a headline on the Bloomberg website read, “Barbour’s Comments on Kidneys, Klan Underscore Struggles in Mississippi”.
The story, in part, went on as such:
Governor Haley Barbour’s boyhood memories of Mississippi’s civil-rights strife are diverting attention from his stewardship of a state that might be the launchpad for a 2012 presidential run.
Supporters say Barbour, a 63-year-old Republican who has led Mississippi for seven years, has been the state’s biggest booster, getting re-elected with a 58 percent majority even as he increased taxes and spending. The former lobbyist and Republican National Committee chairman led the recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He lured employers including General Electric Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. to expand, though the state remains ranked last in per-capita income and education.
That record has been overshadowed in the past two weeks by criticism of his views on race, an inescapable issue in a state where segregationist violence disenfranchised blacks for generations.

We like to think we have moved on.
But stories like this always seem to pop up.
When then Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm took shots at Mississippi a couple of years ago, we were all appalled.
Granholm was defending tax increases when she said, “Now is the time to stand up for those priorities. What we’re fighting for is Michigan not becoming Mississippi.”
We threw all kinds of stats at her, including how Mississippi’s unemployment rate was much lower than in Michigan.
“Shame on you Governor Granholm,” Mississippi’s State Senator Dean Kirby wrote in an e-mail. “Have you compared your tax structure to that of Mississippi? Have you ever been to Mississippi? Shame, shame shame !!”
Shame, shame, shame, indeed.
OK, now let’s take a look at the real issue here, whether it be about the Barbour story or the Michigan story — perception.
We still have a perception problem. Folks around the country view us as uneducated and backwoods.
We know that’s not true.
But it wasn’t so long ago that New York’s Charles Rangel made similar comments that enraged us all. Instead of firing back, we must do a better job of educating folks about our wonderful slice of the South.
It should be pointed out that whatever music Granholm listens to likely was born in Mississippi.
She should be reminded that every major form of music in America got its roots in Mississippi — from Elvis Presley and rock n roll in Tupelo to country and western in Meridian to blues and jazz in the Mississippi Delta.
Gov. Granholm should be reminded of the great literature and writers who have come from Mississippi — from Faulkner to Welty.
We also would like to point out the great journalism tradition that we have in Mississippi ranging from Pulitzer winners of the 1940s with the Delta Democrat Times to a 2006 Pulitzer winner in the Sun Herald of Biloxi.
Mississippi is a wonderful place, and we would like the opportunity to show everyone what we are talking about.
Having said all of that, there are plenty of reasons that Mississippi isn’t always at the top of the popularity list.
We all know the reasons — education, racial tensions, etc.
But we can’t make the outside world’s job easy. Gov. Barbour has got to be smarter about what he says, regardless of whether is running for president.
He is still representing all of us out there. And when he makes comments like he has made recently, he gives the Rangels and Granholms and Bloombergs of the world ammunition to use.
In this world, we either do or don’t, all on our own. We have to make our own way. We created the perception that others have of us and we must make the difference in changing that perception.
First, we must own up to it.
Second, we must do differently than we did.
If we don’t, we deserve what we get.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

Kemper plant: Yes or no?

May 4th, 2010 Comments off

The state Public Service Commission issued an order April 29 approving Mississippi Power Company’s $2.4 billion Kemper County clean coal plant – with conditions attached.

But Mississippi Power says the Commission has said no to the plant.

And at least two media outlets published erroneous stories saying the company has decided not to build the plant, while the Mississippi Business Journal correctly reported that MPC was mulling its options. And today a company official said MPC will file for a rehearing tomorrow.

How can such simple information be so complicated?

Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey said in an interview that the Commission had indeed approved the plant in its order, although he wished the conditions had been more lax. “I’m very much for the plant, and hopefully we can get that done,” Posey said.

MPC officials call attention to the Commission’s 50-page order on the plant which says the plant does not pass the state’s test for a certificate of public convenience and necessity but “explains how MPC can obtain Commission approval of its Petition.”

“It is very clear that the Commission found that the Kemper request did not warrant a certificate of public convenience and necessity. On page 48 of the Order in the FINDINGS paragraph, they describe the condition as being able to ensure that the ‘certificate, if granted, is consistent with the statute’s ‘public convenience and necessity’ test.’ The words ‘if granted obviously states that a certificate was not granted. Also, on page 49, the Commission expressly states that if Mississippi Power agrees to all the conditions, it will issue an order, certainly stating that they have not issued an order to date,” said Todd Terrell, company director of corporate communications, in a statement.

After April 29 Commission decision, MPC spokesperson Cindy Duvall issued this statement:

The Mississippi Public Service Commission denied Mississippi Power permission to construct the Kemper County IGCC Project.  (See p. 2 of today’s Order, Overview Section)

If the Company agrees with certain conditions within the next 20 days, then the Commission will consider whether the Company should be granted permission to proceed with the project.

The Commission conditions seem to make it impossible for Mississippi Power to finance or construct the Kemper County IGCC Project even if the right to construct had been – or might in the future – be allowed.

We are disappointed in this decision.

We put forth the best option available to us to meet our customers’ needs with reliable and affordable energy.”

The Clarion-Ledger published an Associated Press story with the headline “Utility nixes Kemper Co. plant,” and Bloomberg Businessweek said “Mississippi Power will not build coal-fired plant.” Along with the Mississippi Business Journal, Reuters got it right: “Mississippi Power ‘disappointed’ in state ruling.”