Opening Bell: 03.19.14

Short Sellers Target Chinese Developers as Rout Deepens (Bloomberg)
Short interest in Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd. (3333), the nation’s fourth-largest developer by market value, was at 8.4 percent of shares outstanding on March 17, up from 3.2 percent a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Markit Group Ltd. It touched a record 8.6 percent on March 4. Wagers against Guangzhou R&F Properties Co. (2777) and Agile Property Holdings Ltd. (3383) have both reached the highest since December 2012.

Apple CEO Tim Cook: New book on company is ‘nonsense’ (CNBC)
Here is the full statement: “This nonsense belongs with some of the other books I’ve read about Apple. It fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company. Apple has over 85,000 employees that come to work each day to do their best work, to create the world’s best products, to put their mark in the universe and leave it better than they found it. This has been the heart of Apple from day one and will remain at the heart for decades to come. I am very confident about our future. We’ve always had many doubters in our history. They only make us stronger.” The book, written by former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane, examines the company’s performance since Jobs’ death and claims that Apple’s best days are behind it.

A Prison Life: Ex-Banker Struggles (WSJ)
Mr. Farkas is still fighting his 2011 conviction for masterminding a $2.9 billion fraud that contributed to the 2009 collapses of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., his lending firm in Ocala, Fla., and the Alabama-based Colonial Bank. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, he personally misappropriated more than $38.5 million from Taylor Bean and Colonial Bank to finance his lifestyle, including purchasing multiple homes, scores of cars, a jet and a seaplane. Mr. Farkas says he did some “things that were not really smart” but never anything illegal. “I wasn’t the kind of guy they painted a picture of, big high-living,” he says. “Among my peer group, I was a pauper.”

Clashing Over Office Clutter (WSJ)
All nine employees of TheSquareFoot.com in New York City have neat, clean desks—except one. Co-founder Jonathan Wasserstrum’s desk and the floor around it are strewed with paper, files, tech gear and old boxes. “I like being near my stuff rather than fishing for it in a cabinet somewhere,” he says. Being near Mr. Wasserstrum’s stuff is harder for Justin Lee, the company’s other co-founder. At times, “some of his crud will spill over onto my desk,” Mr. Lee says. Other co-workers at the online commercial real-estate leasing and brokerage company sometimes print new copies of documents to avoid handling food-smeared paperwork from Mr. Wasserstrum’s desk.

Michigan Teacher Gives Fifth-Graders Non-Alcoholic Beer (AP)
A Michigan teacher made a poor choice by giving non-alcoholic beer to a class of fifth graders in a history lesson, a school official said. Superintendent Ed Koledo said the teacher allowed Hyatt Elementary students in Linden to sample O’Doul’s that had been brought to school by a student March 6 to represent ale common in the 1700s. The students were told that many people drank ale at the time because water was sometimes dirty or unhealthy. “We talked to the teacher and said this was an inappropriate choice,” Koledo said. “There were a lot better choices to represent a colonial-era drink than what was chosen here.” The students were allowed a small taste but none were forced to try the non-alcoholic beer, school officials said. Koledo, who didn’t identify the teacher, said allowing non-alcoholic beer into the classroom and allowing students to drink it was a mistake.

How Masters of the Universe Select Final Four Teams (BusinessWeek)
Here are the picks:
David Tepper — Appaloosa Management
Florida (1)
Arizona (1)
Louisville (4)
Virginia (1)

Gary Cohn — Goldman Sachs
Florida (1)
Arizona (1)
Michigan (2)
Michigan State (4)

David Einhorn — Greenlight Capital
Florida (1)
Wisconsin (2)
Wichita State (1)
Michigan State (4)

New Alliances in Battle for Corporate Control (Dealbook)
Mutual funds and other big money managers, which now control a record share of public company stock, are working with activist hedge funds behind the scenes, pressing for change at underperforming companies in their portfolios and lending their support to calls for management shake-ups. In some cases, the institutional investors are even stepping out from the shadows to pick their own fights. “This is the biggest shift in the battle for corporate control since private equity was invented in the 1980s,” said James Rossman, head of corporate preparedness at Lazard. “Activists realize they can influence this concentrated shareholder base at many companies, and they’re tapping into the desires of shareholders to see change take place.”

Wharton’s New Dean Garrett Promises to Bring Global Perspective (Bloomberg)
“It’s something I’m very passionate about,” Garrett said. “If you’re in the Northeast U.S., there’s an understandable geographical proximity that makes the transatlantic and Europe loom very large. But people in the Northeast, including Barack Obama, understand it’s the Asia-Pacific century and that’s the sensibility that I’ll bring to the Wharton job.”

Barclays Said to Plan Sale of Index Unit Valued at $400 Million (Bloomberg)
Barclays, the second-largest U.K. bank by assets, plans to solicit offers in the next month for its index business, which could fetch $400 million in a sale, people with knowledge of the matter said. CME Group Inc., which had approached Barclays about buying the Index, Portfolio and Risk Solutions unit last year, is expected to make an offer, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

Courtney Love joins search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane, posts findings on Facebook (NYDN)
The Hole singer scoured satellite images over the areas law enforcement and local officials have been circling around in hopes of finding evidence of the plane, or any wreckage — and she thinks she may have found something. “I’m no expert but up close this does look like a plane and an oil slick,” Love, 49, wrote in a Facebook post Monday. She attached a photo of an area of water, with red text she added pointing to an “oil slick” and arrows pointing to a “plane?”

25 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (25)

  1. Posted by Jon Corzine | March 19, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    Shazzy, is that office clutter story really news? or are you just running out of ideas to meet the deadline? Not good shazzy shazzy.

  2. Posted by HotKarl | March 19, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    It's amazing what you can find in satellite photos after a bottle of Jack Daniels, an 8 ball and chasing the dragon.

    – C Love

  3. Posted by Nat Sliver | March 19, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    Good thing we won't have to be sharing the Pimco pens with the masters of the universe. Not a chance with those picks.

  4. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Are apple cider and grape juice contraband at the Michigan school as well?

  5. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    Her analysis seems to be as good as the Malaysians at this point.

  6. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Carl Icahn promotion of the new Apple book in 3… 2… 1….

  7. Posted by Malay Air Cpt. | March 19, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    Laying low > High Flying

  8. Posted by Bess | March 19, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    I want to apologize for multiple "Opening Bell's" that never occurred – it is due to Shazar's incompetence.

  9. Posted by J. Shazar | March 19, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer O'Doul's.

  10. Posted by J Shazar | March 19, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    I used to drink O'Tooles when I was a kid. It turns out I turned out allrite.

  11. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Jamie Dimon going with Duke. That's why he's #1 CEO.

  12. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Hope they had a GPS ankle bracelet on Jerome Kerviel. His rambling days are over.

  13. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    Leggs and eggs bitches, leggs and eggs.

    -The Tepp

  14. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    SMU (1)
    TAMU (2)
    DAIRY QUEEN (3)

  15. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    The Antipodean has a lot of work to do, fighting against Coursera for one:

    "Application Decline
    Applications for the MBA class of 2015 dropped 5.8 percent to 6,036 from a year earlier, even as rival institutions such as Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business reported gains. Wharton’s admissions director at the time, Ankur Kumar, attributed part of the decline to the school’s new team-based admissions interviews, where applicants meet in small groups to solve a real-world business problem.

    Last fall, Wharton expanded its offering of free courses through the online platform Coursera, duplicating much of what its first-year MBA students learn. Hundreds of thousands of students around the world have enrolled in the courses. "

  16. Posted by CMU Tartans | March 19, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    The helmets on Tepper's desk are University of Pittsburgh and Steelers.

  17. Posted by Puck It | March 19, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    Lehigh forever!
    Duke never!

    —Everyone

  18. Posted by O2 incoming text | March 19, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    ACT I

    SCENE I. Elsinore. A platform before the castle.

    FRANCISCO at his post. Enter to him BERNARDO
    BERNARDO
    Who's there?

    FRANCISCO
    Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.

    BERNARDO
    Long live the king!

    FRANCISCO
    Bernardo?

  19. Posted by O2 incoming text | March 19, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    BERNARDO
    He.

    FRANCISCO
    You come most carefully upon your hour.

    BERNARDO
    'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.

    FRANCISCO
    For this relief much thanks: 'tis bitter cold,
    And I am sick at heart.

    BERNARDO
    Have you had quiet guard?

  20. Posted by Guest | March 19, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    Tepper's desk needs some de-cluttering. I wonder how much food-smeared paperwork come from his desk.

  21. Posted by yikes | March 19, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Yikes.

  22. Posted by D. Tepper | March 19, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    It's all about the P &L kid, the rest is just conversation.

  23. Posted by Curious guest | March 19, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Well did he? Shit, can't leave us hanging like that..

  24. Posted by Gas Trading Genius | March 19, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    Really! Someone should finish that story about the two dudes dealing with a cold, dreary night on the watch tower.

  25. Posted by A for Effort | March 19, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Si, Malamerican >= Malaysian,
    Pero, Bienasian >> Bienamerican

    -Banamex Sino-Gringo Quant