Market Whispers

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The Independent Online

*** Steve Wozniak, the tech impresario who founded Apple Computer with Steve Jobs in 1976, has raised $150m (£85m) from investors in Acquicor Technology, a "blank check" company with no business or assets. Mr Wozniak, or "Woz" as he is known to his friends, will now begin casting around with a few other Apple alumni for a suitable technology company or idea in which to invest or buy. There is a catch, however. If they haven't found a project within two years, they have to return the cash to shareholders. And if his recent performance is any indication, that could be a good thing. Wheels of Zeus, a global positioning and wireless company that he started in 2002, closed last week. His other partners, Gil Amelio and Ellen Hancock, also know failure. Mr Amelio was fired as chief executive of Apple, and Ms Hancock stepped down from Exodus Communications just months before the company filed for bankruptcy.

*** Yet more rumours regarding Altadis and Imperial Tobacco. Speculation has been going on for at least 18 months now that the Spanish and UK cigarette giants are looking to tie up, with the latest excitement predicting an £8bn bid within weeks. The reality, however, is a little more sedate. Insiders say, yes, it's definitely an attractive deal, and advisers may well have cast an eye over the business. But weeks away? Or indeed even a guarantee that a deal will be forthcoming? Not even close, say the insiders.

*** Ridiculous deal of the week time: the managing director of North-west discount chain QS Discount, Simon Yates, says he intends to buy Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch. No, really. And if he gets it, he's going to call it the QS Neverland Discount Outlet. Yup. Apparently, Mr Yates is off to the Middle East to track down the notorious pop star to secure the deal. He insists it's not a publicity stunt, but, put it this way, Market Whispers won't be holding its breath.

*** DSG International appears to have stumbled on quite some ruse - cursing other retailers. The Dixons owner has now taken analysts away twice, only for shock news at a rival retailer to emerge while most of the City was out of the country. Last week, for example, just as everyone was heading back from Rome, it emerged that there had been a bid for rival Kesa. And the last trip, to Sweden a few years back, ended with Angus Monro quitting Matalan. Nor is it just analysts. Last year, DSG took a group of retail journalists to France for a two-day jolly - only for Kingfisher to put out a profits warning the following morning. Sure it's an unusual strategy, but hey, in these days of weakened consumer spending, every little helps.