The Latest

Opening Bell: 07.25.14

Sodastream trader makes 3,000% profit in two hours (CNBC)
Two minutes before 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, one options trader bought 500 weekly 30-strike calls in Sodastream for 15 cents each (or $15 per contract, given that each contract controls 100 shares) that expire Friday. It was by far the biggest Sodastream trade of the day in terms of the number of contracts. The purchase gives the trader the right to buy Sodastream shares for $30 at the close of Friday trading. The reason those options were so inexpensive is that the stock was trading at about $29.50 at the time, meaning the chance of the stock closing Friday above $30 was considered to be especially low. But then, shortly before noon, Bloomberg reported that the company is in talks with an investment firm about taking the company private. After a halt, the stock sailed as high as $36. The news created an instant windfall for the trader, as these options, which were bought for $7,500, became worth as much as $250,000.

RBS First-Half Profit Doubles, Sees 2014 Cost Cuts on Track (Bloomberg)
Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc said pretax profit almost doubled in the first half and forecast that it will meet a target to cut costs by 1 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) in 2014. The shares soared. Pretax profit at Britain’s largest state-owned lender may have increased to 2.65 billion pounds from 1.37 billion pounds a year earlier, RBS said in a statement today. Operating profit probably jumped to 2.6 billion pounds from 708 million pounds, according to the results, which were released a week early. Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan, 57, who took over from Stephen Hester in October, is setting up an internal bad bank, combining divisions and scaling back the investment bank as he strives to shore up earnings at RBS after the lender reported its biggest annual loss since the financial crisis last year. RBS said today that it’s still facing “significant conduct and litigation issues” that could hurt future profit.

Moody’s Profit, Revenue Rise (WSJ)
The firm posted earnings of $319.2 million, or $1.48 a share, up from $225.5 million, or $1 a share, a year earlier. Revenue improved 16% to $873.5 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had estimated earnings of $1.01 a share and revenue of $803 million. The company’s Moody’s Investors Service debt-rating operation—its biggest revenue contributor—posted a 16% increase in revenue to $621.7 million. Global corporate finance grew 22% to $320.9 million.

Goldman bankers to Babble on their own chatroom (FT)
Goldman Sachs is spearheading an effort among Wall Street’s leading banks to develop a chat tool called “Babble” that could replace the instant messaging service on Bloomberg’s ubiquitous terminals…The company’s internal messaging service, known as Instant Bloomberg, is one of the main ways for bankers and traders to keep in touch with their customers at pension funds, hedge funds and asset managers. Goldman’s chatroom project comes after tensions between big banks and Bloomberg were also heightened last year when senior executives at the bank confronted the company over its reporters allegedly using private terminal data to track bankers…The Babble project is said to be less about concerns over data privacy issues, and more about creating an alternative network which comes at a much lower cost and can also be plugged in to different systems and used by both banks and their clients.

A Divorce That Thrusts Ken Griffin and Anne Dias Griffin Into the Spotlight (Dealbook)
Divorces in Illinois play out in open court, though either party can request mediation or move to seal their file, according to James H. Feldman, the chairman of the family law practice at the law firm Jenner & Block. The split is unlikely to affect Citadel’s ownership structure, because Ms. Dias Griffin is neither an owner nor an investor in the firm’s funds. And the two signed a prenuptial agreement governing any split of their assets, according to the divorce petition. Under the agreement, Ms. Dias Griffin would be entitled to cash in the event of a split, but Mr. Griffin would retain the art and real estate, two people briefed on the matter said. But she could contest the terms.

Sniffing out a partner at a London pheromone party (AO)
In a bar in trendy east London, dozens of people mill about, sniffing from plastic bags. But there are no drugs inside – just slightly smelly T-shirts. These adventurous single men and women are at a “pheromone party”, an alternative dating trend based on the idea that smell plays a key role in the choice of a sexual partner. Each of them has agreed to wear the same cotton T-shirt for three nights in a row, with no deodorant or perfume, and to bring it to the party. The clothes, infused with the pure scent of the wearer’s body, are placed in transparent plastic bags with numbers on coloured labels – pink for women, blue for men. “Smell as many bags as you like, have fun!” encourages the organiser, Judy Nadel. There is some nervous laughter, then a sudden rush for the bags laid out on a big table in the middle of the room. Some people open the bags carefully, taking a timid sniff, while others plunge their noses right inside. “This one’s been worn for a few days,” quipped one young man, while his friend Steven Lucas, a 23-year-old law trainee, remarks that the clothes “all smell the same”. “It’s like sweat and a tiny bit of perfume, or just, like, clean,” he says. Those who get a sniff of their dream partner snap a picture of themselves with the bag. The images are then projected onto the wall, and the lucky owners of the chosen T-shirts have the chance to meet their admirers. Read more »

Write-Offs: 07.24.14

$$$ UBS Lashes Out at French Prosecutors [Dealbook]

$$$ KKR’s Quarterly Profit Surges [WSJ]

$$$ Schwartz, 32, looks much as he did when he was a student on the dean’s list at Cornell University, all the way back in the Aughts. He had no experience in fast food before going to Burger King; he spent almost a decade on Wall Street after college. And he’s surrounded himself with a similarly eager and fresh-faced inner circle. Josh Kobza, the chief financial officer, is 28. He and Schwartz are usually joined on conference calls by Alexandre Macedo, Burger King’s ancient 36-year-old president for North American operations, and Sami Siddiqui, the head of investor relations, who’s 29. Only one of the four saw a day of the Seventies. [BusinessWeek]

$$$ Bank of America Knew How to Sell a Basketball Team [BloombergView/Matt]

$$$ Judge tells Baldwin he’s a fan and to ‘be a good boy’ [NYP] Read more »

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This goes out to no one in particular; they just want to make certain things clear, in case anyone is getting any ideas about, say, marital assets. Ideas about stuff like that. Read more »

FINRA has had an awful lot dumped onto its plate in recent months. Since, as it turns out, its members aren’t the best at reporting little things like criminal convictions, personal bankruptcies, tax liens, etc., to the self-regulator, it’s had to order member firms to do some background checks themselves, rather than just take the word of the new guy who’s joining his 34th brokerage in eight years. Worse still, it’s had to tell those member firms to give it all of the information, which it had promised to go through with a fine toothed-comb and check against court records to minimize the number of paroled felons doling out financial advice under its august banner.

Well, if the highly-compensated folks at FINRA thought they might be able to deal with the ensuing backlog with their old delete-red-flags-from-BrokerCheck strategy, it is sorely mistaken. Read more »

  • 24 Jul 2014 at 4:51 PM

There’s Something Else Cynk Doesn’t Have

It’s got no revenue, no assets, no members and no tradeable stocks (until tomorrow, anyway). But at least the “social network” had an address. Sure, it was an address in Belize, which is shady enough. But Cynk will do you one better: It has a fake address in Belize. Read more »

What to Eric Schneiderman’s naked eye appears as fraud, Barclays customers apparently understand is just totally legitimate ways of doing business, according to the bank. Therefore, it wants this dark pools lawsuit dismissed and never mentioned again. Not once! Read more »

A question that many have asked themselves and others since Bill Ackman announced he was shorting shake and supplement company Herbalife is, “Okay, but for how long? When does it end?” The Pershing Square founder and his team could very well be right in classifying the organization as a pyramid scheme, but central to their argument is that the government is going to shut this thing down, and that might not happen. Will Pershing keep its position forever? Long after Bill retires and for many years after that? Will CEO Michael Johnson ever be free from this man who haunts his dreams or will Ackman always be there, watching, waiting? In an interview yesterday, the most passionate hedge fund manager to ever live said basically yes to the latter. Read more »

As you’ve probably heard by now, hedge fund manager Ken Griffin is getting divorced, having served his wife Anne with papers at some point yesterday afternoon. So, it’s sad times at Casa de Griffin, made even sadder by the fact that the Citadel founder may be parting with a good chunk of his milkshake allowance at some point in the near future. Read more »