By David Sims
The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music
is Neil Young’s essential 1979 album Live
The Siebel Watch,
First CoffeeSM is initiating close updated coverage
today. Once the flagship company for Customer Relationship
Management, today it’s a tottering giant, subjected to takeover rumors and
tossing irate shareholders a bone in the form of a two and a half-cent stock quarterly
dividend, the first dividend payout in the company’s history.
In late 2000 Siebel stock hit $119 a share. Today it’s
$8.74, sales are falling for their fourth consecutive year and stockholders are
clamoring for either a stock buyback or for the company simply to sell itself,
put it out of its misery.
Tom Siebel stepped
down as company head in 2004, naming Michael
Lawrie as his replacement. In April Lawrie was sacked after first quarter
numbers were even grimmer than expected, and George Shaheen, last seen at the wheel as Webvan ran into the ditch, named to take over. Analysts still don’t
know if Shaheen’s the “save the company” guy or the “get the best price for the
The annual meeting in Burlingame, California last week nearly
descended to theater of the absurd. Institutional investor Herbert Denton, president of Providence
Capital, told Mercury News’s John
Boudreau that “he almost brought the phone number of Oracle Chief Executive
Larry Ellison with him. ‘I was going
to pretend I had him on the phone,’ Denton said after speaking during the
Denton grouched that Siebel’s “a decaying asset and should
be sold.” He dismissed as “distractions” the dividend – which will cost about
$51 million a year, chump change to a company sitting on $2.2 billion in cash –
as well as Shaheen promising to add a couple more directors to the company’s
Shaheen has said that Siebel wants to hang onto its cash for
the possibility of future acquisitions, but hasn’t mentioned any specific
targets. He’s also promised the company will cut costs, revamp their bread and
butter CRM platform and simplify their sales structure, but has given no
Fair enough, too much detail too soon is never good. As Motley
Fool Tim Beyers
says, Shaheen may be “misguided” with the dividend and other moves, but there’s
a turnaround plan in place – there wasn’t when he came on board in April – and
he “deserves every chance” to make it work.
However, Wall Street isn’t impressed with aforesaid plan.
Siebel fell 18 cents after Wednesday’s dividend announcement to $8.91. The fact
that Siebel has hired Goldman, Sachs
has fueled speculation that the company will be sold, although Shaheen denies
that any plans for a sale are in the works, saying it’s just to help them work
through “complex issues.” First CoffeeSM didn’t know Goldman, Sachs
does therapy these days.
the most frequently-mentioned buyer. It’s no secret that Siebel was in Oracle’s
takeover sights a couple years ago, and given Larry Ellison’s appetite for
companies these days he might just be ready for a good meal.
Icahn, who must keep moving at all times or else he drowns and whose suit
jacket does a good job hiding his dorsal fin has been seen buying Siebel
shares, and according to the Associated Press’s Michael
Liedtke “activist hedge fund Tudor
Investment Corp. has boosted its stake in the company to 5.1 percent,”
while Fidelity Investments, “the
company’s largest outside shareholder, recently sold 11.4 million shares” to
lower its stake of Siebel to 5.7 percent.
Verizon’s new fiancée MCI today announced that it has begun its European roll-out of MCI
Advantage, a portfolio of IP-based services designed for companies wanting
to converge their voice and data networks.
MCI Advantage, which includes networked voice over IP and hosted
IP telephony, will be introduced throughout the next year. The initial
offering, MCI Advantage IP Integrated Access, is now available in the UK and
will soon be available in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
With MCI Advantage IP Integrated Access on-net calls are
free and integration provides access cost savings while customers use their existing
PABX. Other enhancements, including DSL access, hosted and managed IP-PBX
solutions, will follow later in 2005.
“Gartner is finding that VoIP is continuing to gain momentum
because the technology has moved on sufficiently to make it an affordable
proposition for a business,” said Neil Rickard, Research Vice President, Gartner.
PacificNet Inc., a provider of call center,
CRM, and telecom services in China announced today that it is scheduled to join the new Russell Microcap Index when
the Russell Investment Group reconstitutes its family of U.S. indexes on June
Russell recently posted a preliminary
membership list. The Russell Microcap Index will be comprised of the
smallest 1,000 securities in the small-cap Russell 2000 Index plus the next
1,000 companies, based on a ranking of all U.S. equities by market
This new index is intended to offers managers and other
investors a “comprehensive, unbiased barometer to compare their performance
against the genuine microcap marketplace of stocks,” according to PacificNet
The Russell indexes are used by investment managers and
institutional investors for index funds and as benchmarks for both passive and
active investment strategies. More than $2.5 trillion in assets currently are
benchmarked to them. Managers who oversee these funds purchase shares according
to that company’s weighting in the index.
First CoffeeSM’s father retired a few years ago,
and for something to do signed up to be a mystery shopper for Burger King. “Hey,
you get free meals,” he said.
A bit higher up the food chain, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
has selected New York-based Coyle Hospitality Group to “assess quality
in its growing and diverse collection,” according to Kimpton officials. CHG
provides quality-assurance consulting and mystery shopping exclusively to
hotels, restaurants and spas worldwide .
CHG is using its InnsQore software model, a user-friendly
SQL database program to meet the “unusual mystery shopping needs of the
hospitality industry,” according to Kimpton officials.
David Martin, Vice President of Hotel Operations for Kimpton
Hotels & Restaurants said with InnsQore, “we can now instantly spot global
and micro trends, create action plans, and use the data fully in concert with
our other CRM programs.”
First CoffeeSM, a fan of the mystery shopper
approach to customer knowledge, likes the fact that with this setup companies
are able to fully customize their mystery shopping program to learn exactly
what they want to learn about the customer experience they’re providing, and
that the reporting is dynamic and made-to-order for the client.
“Everyone at the corporate and property level can get what
they need without being bogged down with paper,” Martin said, exactly as it
First CoffeeSM hopes we’re seeing the new wave of
African leaders in Ugandan Andrew Rugasira, the 36-year old founder of the Rwenzori
Coffee Company. His African
coffee Good is appearing on supermarket shelves in Britain this month. Written
on the packaging is “Africa needs trade
not aid to fight poverty.” Buy it.
“I am not looking for handouts,” Rugasira told the left-wing British newspaper The
Guardian, which loudly advocates welfare-style, initiative-destroying,
corruption-promoting, useless handouts.
Amen, brother. I f Africa’s
leaders were as proud and sensible the entire continent would be a lot better
If read off-site hit http://blog.tmcnet.com/telecom-crm/ for the fully-linked version. First CoffeeSM accepts no sponsored content placement, but really appreciates a kilo of Jamaican Blue Mountain Peaberry whole bean coffee.