E-Mailbag Monday: iBeam, Foreign IPOs, Biometrics

The IPO market has been the pits. Anything good for this week?

Reply: Actually, the IPO calendar is starting to show some strength
and this week may have a couple winners. One to watch is iBEAM.

The company has created a broadband network for audio and video. iBEAM uses
a point-to-multipoint satellite
broadcasting system located in the facilities of network providers, hosting
companies and Internet service providers. The network can handle 300,000
simultaneous Net users accessing data at 20 kilobits per second. This is
expected to increase to 1 million simultaneous users by the end of 2000.

The Gartner Group projects that more than 50% of Web sites will include some
streaming media by next year. Wanting to stake their claim in the broadband
future, Intel and Microsoft own almost a quarter of iBEAM.

iBEAM expects to sell 11 million shares at the price range of $9-$11 (this
is down from $13-$15). The lead underwriter is Morgan Stanley, and the
proposed ticker symbol is “IBEM.”

Foreign IPOs

What do you think about investing in foreign-based IPOs?

Reply: It is hard enough investing in US IPOs, much less foreign
ones. For the most part, individual investors have lots of disadvantages
when investing in foreign issues. First of all, it is difficult to get
information. In many cases, a foreign IPO is not published on the EDGAR
online databases. Then there are other risks. Politics can be significant,
especially in those countries that have a history of instability. Next,
there can be problems with currency fluctuations. In fact, it is often the
case that other countries have different accounting systems.


Biometrics: Still Sci-Fi?

What is biometrics?

Reply: Transacting on the Web presents many problems. Perhaps the
biggest problem is verifying that the person you are doing business with is
real. With biometrics, you can authenticate a user. This is done by
analyzing such things as voice, fingerprints and even retinas. The
technologies are still emerging, but will likely become more pervasive. Of
course, we see many companies capitalize on this technology. The most
troubling concern is privacy.

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