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    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Gettin' Money

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    Reuter site - Wealth management? There's an app for that

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    Wealth management? There's an app for that

    Fri, Apr 08 11:30 AM EDT

    By John McCrank

    TORONTO (Reuters) - They're sleek, sexy and fun. They're also revolutionizing the way financial advisers do business.

    A host of adviser-specific apps have taken iPads and other tablets from nifty playthings to seductive business tools that can dazzle and truly educate clients, advocates say.

    "It's really a new paradigm," said David Wisehaupt, managing director and senior portfolio manager at Wisehaupt Bray Asset Management, a unit of Chicago-based independent brokerage HighTower.

    "I'm with a client, be they young or old, and ... they sort of can't help themselves -- before the meeting is over, they're manipulating the images on the screen."

    Wisehaupt, a 29-year financial services industry veteran who works with high-net-worth clients, said the charts, research and portfolio analytics he displays on his tablet screen connect with clients more than one-sided dissertations or lectures.

    The interactive experience helps clients retain more information and feel more secure about his stewardship of their assets, he said.


    Bill Winterberg, whose technology consulting firm FP Pad in Dallas, Texas, specializes in working with independent advisers, calls tablets a "disruptive technology" that improves productivity and mobility.

    He pointed to apps that enable advisers to access customer relationship management and portfolio management tools.

    For instance, there's Orion Advisor Services' MobileAdvisor app, which displays portfolios, performance information and contact information.

    It also allows advisers using Orion's platform to rebrand the app, so clients download it, log in, track their portfolios, and view videos that the adviser provides.

    For security purposes, the data is kept on the Omaha-based company's servers rather than directly on the tablet.

    Security is the primary compliance concern for advisers using iPads, Winterberg said. At a minimum, he recommends pass code locks and password protection for the tablets.

    Users also can use a service from Apple called MobileMe that homes in on lost iPads and allows all data to be erased remotely if the tablet is online.


    Some brokerage firms are beginning to embrace tablet technology. Canada's No. 3 lender, Bank of Nova Scotia, is looking at arming its wealth managers with Research In Motion's upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook.

    Firms like Charles Schwab Corp, TD Ameritrade, which offer custody and business services to independent registered investment advisers and others have been introducing apps that allow advisers and their clients to do some trading directly from their iPads.

    HighTower's Wisehaupt is a fan of an application called LogMeIn that connects him via his iPad to his office desktop if a secure Wi-Fi or other 3G mobile connection is available.

    When a client has a question, the information is always at his fingertips. "Signing in, getting it and showing it to clients live is powerful," he said.

    Other popular web-based applications keep track of call records, conversation notes and updated contact information.

    "It's the convenience factor," said Winterberg. "They can do the same with the laptop, but they're not going to get the battery life from a laptop, and they don't get necessarily the portability factor of being able to just hold it in one hand and look up this information."

    There is also the social factor.

    If a client is worried about retirement and the adviser is busy typing away behind a keyboard, it can seem disrespectful, said Alessandro Tonchia, founder and director of Finantix, which offers a suite of wealth management apps for iPads, iPhones, and Android-smartphones.

    "The iPad has the same social acceptability as a piece of paper, but it has all the power of an interactive device," Tonchia said. "We present it is as intelligent paper."

    ($1=$0.96 Canadian)

    (Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Rob Wilson)

    Reuter site - Blinkx buys Burst for $30 million to boost online TV

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    Blinkx buys Burst for $30 million to boost online TV

    Fri, Apr 08 09:50 AM EDT

    By Kate Holton

    LONDON (Reuters) - Online video search firm Blinkx is to buy online ad network Burst Media for $30 million to help build personalized online TV channels that should command premium rates from advertisers.

    Online advertising has, for some time, been the fastest growing segment of the overall ad market, with online video ads running before or after video clips achieving the highest prices from marketers.

    Blinkx, which already shows video to an audience gathered from more general sources, said the deal would give it access to Burst's audience of over 130 million unique users and its partnerships with more than 1,000 niche websites.

    Chief Executive Suranga Chandratillake said advertisers were willing to pay much higher sums if the ad was directed at an audience known to be interested in the product or subject.

    "If it's a pharmaceutical ad that appears only on video that is talking about very specific health problems, then the price we can charge per impression of those ads is much much higher than the price for something more general," he told Reuters.

    "The Blinkx audience is currently gathered from more general channels, this gives more scale (for a targeted audience)."

    The group announced the takeover as it released a trading update predicting a rise in full-year revenue to more than $65 million, up around 90 percent on last year. It expects to report an operating profit above the current analyst consensus estimates of $6.7 million for the year ended March 31.

    The trading update and the deal with Burst sent shares in the group up 10.2 percent to 122 pence on Friday, while shares in Burst were up 390 percent to 23.93 pence.

    The offer represents a premium of around 400 percent to the mid-market closing price on Thursday but Chandratillake said the firm had been penalized by the market in recent months which had started to question its future.

    "Up until now, the primary barrier to further television advertising budgets moving online has been online video's inability to match the sheer scale of audience that television can deliver," he said.

    "The acquisition ... will allow us to overcome that challenge: by fusing Blinkx's unique patented technology and large video index with Burst's massive reach, we will have the potential to create personalized, online television that is watched by hundreds of millions of users."

    (Editing by Ben Hirschler)

    Reuter site - Expedia plans to split into 2 companies

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    Expedia plans to split into 2 companies

    Fri, Apr 08 06:48 AM EDT

    By Karen Jacobs

    ATLANTA (Reuters) - Expedia Inc, the largest online travel agency, said it plans to split into two publicly traded companies through a proposed spin-off of its TripAdvisor business, and its shares shot up 13 percent in after-hours trading.

    Analysts said the plan could help unlock value for the high-growth TripAdvisor travel site business as Expedia invests in product enhancements that would bolster its competitive positioning.

    "While Expedia still makes the majority of the profits of the two companies, the TripAdvisor advertising-based model seems to be the future of the industry," Morningstar analyst Warren Miller said by email. "I expect the move should allow TripAdvisor to flourish a little more outside of the Expedia brand."

    Expedia, whose chairman is media billionaire Barry Diller, joins a host of companies that have set plans to split and spin off units this year, including diversified manufacturer ITT Corp and food company Sara Lee Corp.

    The separation "allows the two businesses to be pure plays and to operate with the proper amount of focus to grow respectively," Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi told Reuters on Thursday.

    He said no big changes were expected from a management perspective, and added there were no plans to sell TripAdvisor.


    Under the separation, the new TripAdvisor would include operations of the current TripAdvisor Media Group travel advisory business that includes 18 popular travel brands, and Expedia Inc would continue to comprise transaction brands such as,, Hotwire and

    The transaction, intended to be tax free, is expected to take the form of a spin-off of TripAdvisor stock to Expedia shareholders or a reclassification of Expedia shares, with holders receiving a proportionate amount of TripAdvisor stock, Expedia said.

    Frederick Moran, an Internet analyst with Benchmark, said Expedia shares have trailed rival in performance because of weaker-than-expected earnings growth as it looks to reinvest in its business.

    Expedia's stock was down about 10 percent so far this year before the Thursday announcement, while has gained 27 percent. Orbitz Worldwide, which is in a distribution dispute with AMR Corp's American Airlines, is down about 39 percent this year.

    Moran said Expedia's 2011 forecast was below expectations and called for essentially no growth in earnings because of needed investments in technology in the face of higher competition.

    "Priceline has shown tremendous growth over in Europe and Asia and Expedia has fallen behind them in that regard," Moran said. "So Expedia not only wants to protect their leading market share in the U.S. but also wants to globalize in order to compete and investment is required to do so."

    Moran added: "Unlocking TripAdvisor into its own enterprise clearly could help the recognition of hidden shareholder value at a time when the stock has obviously underperformed."

    Yet debt-rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's warned they may cut certain Expedia ratings. S&P said it believed the separation of TripAdvisor could "reduce Expedia's growth rate, EBITDA margin and discretionary cash flow generation."

    Expedia said the proposed spin-off of TripAdvisor is expected to be completed in the third quarter, and said the plan is subject to shareholder and final board approval.

    Shares of Expedia were up 13.6 percent at $25.45 in extended trading after the bell from their $22.40 close on Nasdaq.

    (Reporting by Karen Jacobs, with additional reporting by Kyle Peterson in Phoenix, editing by Matthew Lewis, Bernard Orr, Gary Hill)

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