February 25, 2007

Ryanair Sparks Surgeon Commutes, European Vacation Home Frenzy

Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Andrzej Majewski, a Pole who works as a thoracic surgeon in the U.K., catches a ride to the airport in Wroclaw on Sundays and hops a Ryanair Holdings Plc flight to his hospital in Nottingham, England.

Most Fridays he commutes home to southwest Poland. The flights cost him about $50 each way.

``It takes about three hours, and I'm eating lunch at my house,'' Majewski, 47, says.

Dublin-based Ryanair, Europe's biggest budget airline, and its main rivals, No. 2 EasyJet Plc and No. 3 Air Berlin Plc, are drawing a new map of how people and money travel in Europe.

Fares as low as 1 euro cent, or $0.013, plus tax, encourage workers to jump borders for jobs, pump up real estate prices in France and -- to the horror of residents of towns newly served by the carriers -- spur British bachelors to shop for cheap beer and strippers in Prague and Riga, Latvia.

No-frills airlines also let Europeans seek cut-rate health care in Malta, Poland and Spain.

An implant and crown that cost 2,500 euros in the U.K. go for 1,400 euros in a Polish dentist's office, says Marcin Gaborski, a board member of Dental Clinic HAHS in Szczecin. English patients have boosted the clinic's income by as much as 10 percent in the past year.


February 11, 2007

If Hedge Funds Kept Cows, Your Milk Would Go Sour

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- A famous series of jokes attempts to define political systems. In communism, for example, you have two cows, your commune seizes them and charges you for milk. In a democracy, you have two cows, the cows outvote you 2-1 to ban all meat and dairy products, and you go bankrupt and starve to death.

Similar thinking can be applied to financial markets. Here, then, is the world of money recast in bovine terms.

Leveraged Buyouts

You have two cows. You come home from the fields one day to find Henry Kravis chatting to your spouse at the dining-room table. Two days later, you have no spouse, no farm, and no table. Two guys the size of sumo wrestlers have saddled up the cows and are riding them around the farmyard.

Currency Market

You have two cows. China has 1 trillion cows. Guess who sets the price of milk?

Bond Market

You have two cows. One is Brazilian, one is Australian. They yield 25 quarts of milk per day. That's half as much as three years ago, when you traded your less-lactiferous German and U.S. cows for them. You are thinking of swapping for a pair of Namibian cows. They only have three legs but, hey, they produce 26 quarts per day.

February 3, 2007

Chicago Revels in Bears' First Super Bowl Visit in a Generation

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Elsa Gonzalez lived her life waiting for the Chicago Bears to make the Super Bowl. She listened as a toddler, then as a teen and now as a 21-year-old to tales of the 1986 Bears team that won the title game. Her wait is over.

``We're really excited after all this time waiting for it because Chicago hasn't been lucky,'' says Gonzalez, a resident of Chicago's North Side. At work as a clerk at the Long Grove Confectionary Co. on Madison Street, she's set up countertop collages of Bears photos alongside cookies emblazoned with the words ``Go Bears!''

Chicago is celebrating on the eve of Super Bowl weekend, donning jerseys, hanging banners and dusting off souvenirs from an earlier era. The third-largest U.S. city is making the most of the Bears' appearance against the Indianapolis Colts on Feb. 4 in Miami, knowing it may be the last chance in a generation.