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AT LARGE: A little fudging

AT LARGE: A little fudging

Happy New Year, financially speaking. It's that time again when we all exercise the utmost fiscal rectitude and inform our betters in the tax office about our affairs. As for myself, I'm claiming a fleet of Ferraris and an ocean-going yacht as "capital expenditure". I'm sure this will be OK -- after all, I'm a WorldCom customer.

Here's an interesting tidbit. The Nasdaq index in the US, which trades mainly in high-tech stocks, is a WorldCom customer. Nasdaq used to be, as most of us know, based in one of the buildings of the World Trade Center complex. It isn't now, for fairly obvious reasons. On September 12 last year, I recall feeling strangely perturbed when a spokeswhatsit for Nasdaq said that the company would be invoking its service-level agreement with WorldCom to get up and running again within a few days, despite its trading floor being largely rubble.

It seemed somehow wrong to me that, at a time of such enormous grief, any priority was being placed on the continuing trade in whimsy and outward perception. But it was something to cling to, I suppose, and when the Nasdaq did indeed begin trading a few days later in new premises, it was strangely reassuring. WorldCom to the rescue.

Now WorldCom needs a rescue, and Nasdaq doesn't know what to do. It has a responsibility to its other customers to halt trading in WorldCom stock, and perhaps de-list the company (last I heard its stock was suspended again after hitting seven cents a share -- it may well have been de-listed by the time you read this). On the other hand, de-listing would accelerate the process by which WorldCom is haemorrhaging money and vastly reduce its chances of trading out of trouble. If WorldCom collapses, this will severely jeopardise Nasdaq's ability to trade. Talk about your irony.

I presume Nasdaq is in very hurried talks with alternate providers.

Meanwhile I discover that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the body responsible for making sure the US's skies are safe and that no 757s are headed for prominent skyscrapers or anything, is also a WorldCom customer. It has said it intends sticking with WorldCom, but also points out that it has alternative agreements in place with other providers, just in case. Should WorldCom go bust, there would be "only minor disruption" to US air services during the subsequent switchover. Now that's reassurance.

I'll shortly be going to New York, for the first time in several years. I'm hoping WorldCom will stay in business and I'll be able to get out again. Wish me luck.

Mathew JC. Powell still has an account with OzEmail. To be on the safe side, contact him on mjcp@optushome.com.au.


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