Archive for Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Motley Fool

July 27, 2003

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Last week's answer

I trace my roots back to the '50s, and emerged out of bankruptcy in 1992 as America's favorite chicken company. I'm the world's second-largest fried chicken chain, with my Popeyes and Church's brands. In 1998, I added the following brands to my family: Seattle's Best Coffee, Torrefazione Italia Coffee and Cinnabon International. Today I franchise and operate more than 4,000 outlets in America and 32 other nations. My annual sales approach $3 billion, and I aim to be the world's franchisor of choice. Women and minorities make up 38 percent of my senior management and 36 percent of my board. Who am I? (Answer: AFC Enterprises)

Know the answer to the question on 1E? Send it to us with Foolish Trivia on the top and you'll be entered into a drawing for a nifty prize! The Journal-World's address is P.O. Box 888, Lawrence. 66044.

Yahoo! takes Overture

For $1.6 billion, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) is snapping up pay-per-click search specialist Overture Services (Nasdaq: OVER). The move makes great sense for Yahoo!, bringing its entire search process in-house and giving it more strength in its battle with privately held Google.

Overture is in one of the fastest-growing segments of the Internet advertising market. (Piper Jaffray expects the industry to generate $5 billion in revenue by 2006 -- an annual growth rate of 35 percent.) Its technology works by listing several "sponsored links" above the results you get when you use many Internet search engines. The links go to the companies that bid the most for various search terms. AT&T; Wireless, for example, was recently paying Overture $1.19 each time someone searching for "cell phone" clicked on its link. Overture shares that revenue with the firms that host the search engines.

Yahoo! and Microsoft accounted for 65 percent of Overture's revenue in the first quarter of this year. Similarly, Yahoo! relied on Overture for 19 percent of its total revenue during the same period, and the world's top portal was not comfortable being that dependent on any one company. While some speculated that it was looking to develop its own pay-per-click model, in the end it made more sense to buy a proven, profitable leader.

Considering that the share price of Yahoo! has soared more than 80 percent this year, it was shrewd to pay for more than half of the acquisition with its stock.

Life changes, tax changes

When facing life changes, attend to tax changes, too, lest you later face headaches or penalties. A few examples:

-- A new career: Take care when filling out that W-4 form for your employer to set up tax withholding, so you don't end up having too much or too little withheld. If you have substantial other income, such as interest and dividends, adjust the withholding to account for it. If you're paying off a mortgage or student loans, or are otherwise able to itemize your deductions, you might adjust your withholding allowances upward to reflect your lower tax liability.

-- Marriage: Due to the "marriage penalty," if both spouses work, a couple may pay more in taxes than two single people with the same incomes, so it's important to revise your withholding status immediately. Fortunately, recent tax law changes have decreased the severity of this penalty.

-- Divorce: Adjust your withholding to reflect your new filing status. With the splitting of marital assets, your other income (such as interest and dividends) will change, and mortgage interest may be divided or eliminated. Assets will also be divided and the tax impact will follow the person who retains the property, while forced sales of assets might generate capital gains. Alimony is generally taxable to the person receiving it and deductible by the person paying it. But child support is neither taxable to the recipient nor deductible by payer. Finally, know that your filing status is based on the last day of the tax year.

-- Leaving your job: If you're simply changing jobs, it's often best to transfer your retirement assets -- such as a pension and/or 401(k) plan -- to a traditional IRA, where you can control the investments. You might also be able to move your retirement assets from your old employer to your new employer. If you're receiving retirement payments, review your withholding again, and determine whether your tax bracket will change. Find out what percentage, if any, of your Social Security benefits will be taxable.

There's much more to know. To learn more, visit www.Fool.com/taxes or www.IRS.gov. The IRS Web site even sports a W-4 calculator tool to help you.

A decade of dollars

Our smartest investment was buying 125 shares of Citigroup back in 1992, for about $2,900. Today we have 754 shares, due to splits and the like, and we receive about $500 per year in dividends. I read that Citigroup isn't in the best shape right now and might take some time to get back on track, and I was tempted to sell. But after thinking about it, I decided to just wait until the economy turns around and then buy more shares! -- D.W., Corona, Ariz.

The Fool Responds: First off, congrats on having the smarts to buy in the first place and to hang on through ups and downs. (Patience can be the toughest part of investing.) Citigroup might continue to treat you well over the next decade, but consider this: If you really have that much faith in the firm's strength and future (and it is indeed a powerhouse, globally), then why wait until the economy picks up? At that point, shares might be more expensive. Even believers with limited funds might invest incrementally, via direct investment plans. Learn more at www. fool.com/School/ DRIPs.htm and www. citigroup.com/citigroup/fin/ faq.htm.

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