Posts by Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 1.30.15

lloyd blankfein gary cohnCurrency Tumult Stokes Big Bets (WSJ)
A surging dollar is pummeling currencies around the globe amid efforts to boost economic growth, prompting a wave of investor bets to profit from the upheaval. Many global central banks are weakening their currencies as they try to counter signs of economic gloom, signaled by falling commodity prices, declining inflation and softening growth expectations. Those shifts, together with moves such as this month’s surprise decision by the Swiss National Bank to abandon its three-year-old policy of limiting gains in the Swiss franc against the euro, have fed a jump in the price swings of currencies. These dynamics are tempting investors to make large bets on currency moves, potentially fueling further exchange-rate shifts.

Shake Shack, Born in a Park, Is Going Public With Big Dreams (Dealbook)
Conceived as a homage to the friendly Midwestern fast-food joints of Mr. Meyer’s childhood, Shake Shack has become one of the most prominent purveyors of fast-casual food. That sector, dominated by the likes of Chipotle, has fundamentally reshaped the fast-food industry with its emphasis on using fresh ingredients. In short, Americans seem willing to pay more for fast food made better, so long as they are still served quickly.

Millionaire investor exposes affair rather than make court-ordered payment (NYP)
Last July, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Shirley Kornreich had ruled that Hugh Levey, co-founder of Gruppo, Levey & Co., owed the Virginia investment firm Pensmore the $1.3 million after he lost the money in a bad investment. But instead of coughing up the cash, Levey engaged in a drawn-out court battle that made public documents about his 12-year affair with business partner and TV talking head Claire Gruppo, according to court papers. The filings also unsealed Levey’s highly confidential net-worth statement that is part of his divorce. It shows that while Levey was cash-poor — he only had $500 in a checking account, $200 cash on hand and zero savings — he’s worth $29 million. The funds are tied up in a $15 million Fifth Avenue apartment, a $5 million Greenwich home and millions in various trusts and personal items. Levey “deliberately keeps himself cash poor in order to avoid judgments, a trick he learned in a personal bankruptcy in the 1990s,” the Pensmore suit says. Meanwhile, the 65-year-old Harvard MBA relies on his mistress, Gruppo, 61, to dole “out money to him directly and indirectly through the various trusts and entities they control together,” the suit says.

Billionaire Ken Griffin seeks trial date in divorce battle (Chicago Sun Times)
Griffin, the state’s wealthiest man, filed a brief in Cook County court Thursday seeking a definite trial date to resolve what has become a contentious divorce from his wife, Anne Dias. In the pleading, Griffin claims his wife, who is the mother of his three young children, wants $1 million a month in what is described as “allegedly ‘child-related expenses.’ ” Griffin claims the amount includes $300,000 per month for a private jet, $160,000 a month for vacation rentals, and $60,000 for an office space and professional staff — “all supposedly for the children,” according to the filing. A spokesman for Dias, who recently reverted to her maiden name, shot back: “This filing is riddled with falsehoods and just another vindictive attempt by Ken Griffin — Illinois’ richest billionaire — to punish his family and avoid his clear responsibility under Illinois law to maintain his children’s lifestyle.

Here’s Why Super Bowl Ticket Prices Are Skyrocketing (Bloomberg)
“This is really something we never anticipated,” said Will Flaherty, director of growth at SeatGeek. “The cheapest seat on SeatGeek right now is $8,000, but no site seems to have any inventory.” Flaherty believes speculative buying is behind the spike. Ticket brokers frequently sell “air” to their customers, taking orders before they have tickets in hand. “We’ve noticed significantly more speculative selling activity than in recent years,” Flaherty said. “Over the last few days, those sellers have been scrambling to buy up tickets to fill their orders, resulting in the Super Bowl ticket version of a short squeeze. Brokers with tickets in hand have been taking advantage of their leverage, raising prices dramatically and arbitrarily withholding some of their inventory.” Ety Rybak, co-founder of the high-end brokerage Inside Sports & Entertainment Group, has spent more than anticipated this time around to fulfill orders before the game. “I can tell you some ugly horror stories about what I have had to pay. But that’s part of the business,” he said. “If I sold you tickets for $2,500, and I have to pay $7,500 to do it, unfortunately that’s the world that I chose to live in.” The flip side to the high costs is a brisk business in late orders.

Guys Transporting Pot Report Themselves to Idaho Police by Mistake (NewsRadio)
Eastern Idaho police say two men transporting marijuana from California to Montana called 911 while in Idaho after mistakenly believing undercover officers had discovered their secret. But police in Rexburg say they weren’t aware of the drugs until the two men called on Friday to report their location and the 20 pounds of pot worth $16,000. The Idaho State Journal reports that police arrested 21-year-old Leland Ryan Kaimipono Ayala-Doliente and 22-year-old Craig Sward Holland. Read more »

Write-Offs: 1.29.15

$$$ Shake Shack Prices IPO at $21, Above Expectations [WSJ]

$$$ How Goldman Banker Became NFL’s Go-To Stadium-Finance Guy [Bloomberg]

$$$ Jack Ma Loses $1.4 Billion as Alibaba Stock Drops [Bloomberg]

$$$ Former Hedge-Fund Managers Hit the Comeback Trail [WSJ]

$$$ Alec Baldwin Swears Off Another Airline [Gawker] Read more »

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Opening Bell: 1.29.15

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 12.06.57 PMRebellion at Standard Chartered as Senior Staff Push for New Leadership (WSJ)
Standard Chartered’s two largest shareholders, which collectively control 28% of the bank’s stock, are privately pushing for new leadership, say people familiar with the matter. Customers and regulators recently have told Standard Chartered executives and board members that they are increasingly anxious about the bank’s problems, people familiar with those discussions say. Compounding the problem, some senior executives are privately blunt about their desire for Mr. Sands to be pushed out by the board, leaving him with diminished support within the organization.

Alibaba Revenue Misses Estimates, Shares Tumble 8% in Pre-Market (Bloomberg)
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. revenue missed estimates as the e-commerce giant’s push into mobile curbed its advertising sales growth. The shares fell. Revenue was 26.2 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) in the third quarter, compared with the 27.6 billion-yuan average of 25 analyst estimates. Ads on mobile phones generate less money than on desktop computers because of smaller screens, and transactions on the Tmall platform grew at a slower pace, the Hangzhou-based company said Thursday.

Blackstone’s Results Exceed Expectations (WSJ)
The New York firm reported a fourth-quarter profit of $551 million, or 90 cents a share, down from $621 million, or $1.05 a share, in the same period a year earlier. Blackstone’s fourth-quarter economic net income was $1.45 billion, or $1.25 a share, down from $1.54 billion, or $1.35 a share, a year earlier. Still, the result topped Wall Street’s estimates for the profitability measure, which includes unrealized gains as well as cash earnings. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters anticipated economic net income of 92 cents a share.

London gallery transformed into ball pit for adults (UPI)
A London design firm is promoting “the transformative power of play” by converting its gallery into an adults-only ball pit. The Pearlfisher Gallery said its Jump In installation contains 81,000 white balls and adult members of the public are being invited to “join us in an immersive winter art installation like no other.” “Jump In! for an experience that promises to be a seasonal creative recharge,” the firm said. Read more »

Write-Offs: 1.28.15

$$$ Central Bankers Ramp Up Currency Wars [WSJ]

$$$ S&P Near $1.37 Billion Settlement of Crisis-Era Suits [WSJ]

$$$ Big banks fail to dismiss U.S. currency rigging lawsuit [Reuters]

$$$ $18 billion earnings has Icahn biting tongue on Apple [NYP]

$$$ Actual Idiots Need to Be Told Not to Call 911 About Facebook Outage [Jezebel] Read more »

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Opening Bell: 1.28.15

charliegasparinovintageShake Shack now expects IPO to be priced higher at $17-$19 a share (Reuters)
Burger chain Shake Shack Inc (SHAK.N) now expects its initial public offering to be priced at $17-$19 per share, up from $14-$16 expected earlier, valuing the company at up to $674.5 million. The offering of 5 million Class A shares is expected to raise about $95 million, Shake Shack said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday. The company, which grew out of a hot dog stand in New York’s Madison Square Park, is known for its Shackburgers, flat-top hot dogs and eponymous milkshakes and has developed a cult following since it was founded by restaurateur Daniel Meyer in 2001.

iPhone 6 sales boost Apple profits to stratospheric levels (NYP)
Apple disclosed Tuesday that it sold a mind-blowing 74.5 million iPhones during its holiday quarter, as shoppers snatched up the sleek new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models that boasted faster processors and thinner bodies with bigger screens. The popularity of the new models goosed the Cupertino, Calif., tech giant’s earnings to $18 billion — by some measures the biggest quarterly profit ever to be reported by a publicly traded company — as revenue climbed 29 percent to $74.6 billion. Apple ended the quarter with a whopping $178 billion in cash on its balance sheet — a figure that exceeds the market value of any number of corporate giants including Walt Disney, AT&T and Bank of America. ‘This volume is hard to comprehend,” CEO Tim Cook told analysts on a conference call. On average, Wall Street expected that 66.5 million iPhones would be sold. Doing the math, Cook noted that, for every day of the quarter ended Dec. 27, Apple sold about 34,000 iPhones per hour.

Robbers Crash Into Wells Fargo Museum to Steal Gold Nuggets (Dealbook)
Three masked robbers smashed a stolen sport utility vehicle into the entrance of Wells Fargo’s corporate museum in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district on Tuesday, then held a security guard at gunpoint and made off with gold nuggets from a display case, the San Francisco police said. The police are investigating the bold and apparently well-coordinated robbery early Tuesday at the Wells Fargo History Museum, which is on the street level of the bank’s corporate headquarters. The three robbers abandoned the S.U.V. and fled in a sedan that the police said was either parked nearby or could have been driven by a fourth person who was waiting with a getaway car. While the police say their preliminary estimates of the nuggets’ value is about $10,000, the gold has sentimental value to the bank, which takes its history seriously.

Fed seen remaining patient with rates amid global turmoil (Reuters)
The Fed’s first two-day policy meeting of the year concludes on Wednesday, and policymakers will likely restate their “patient” approach to raising rates, while also voicing faith that the economy will continue improving.

‘Sex theme park’ with giant penis rides to open in Taiwan (Metro)
A sex theme park where tourists can ride astride gigantic stone penises with realistic scrotums is under construction in Taiwan. The park will be called ‘Romantic Boulevard’, and will include an outdoor garden filled with erotic sculptures of mammoth phalluses, as well as statues of people and animals making love…The park will also include a ‘scenic area’ for wedding photos (hopefully not right next to the giant penises), and is to be based on South Korea’s popular Jeju Park. ‘We want people to fall in love with Taiwan, as well as fall in love while in Taiwan,’ said Shih Chao-hui, the deputy director of the local tourist office. Shih claims that 200,000 visitors have already come to marvel at the giant dongs, and hopes to build a hotel into the park ‘just in case visitors want to turn their feelings into actions’. Read more »

Write-Offs: 1.27.15

$$$ Yahoo to Spin Off Remaining Alibaba Stake [WSJ]

$$$ Investors Rethink Taking a Leap Into Junk Bin [WSJ]

$$$ Apple Delivers Quarter for the Ages [WSJ]

$$$ Oil jumps on weaker dollar; traders wary of stock build [Reuters]

$$$ Survey: Valentine’s revelers to spend $703 million on gifts for pets [UPI] Read more »

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Opening Bell: 1.27.15

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.41.59 PMGoldman Sachs’s Cohn Says Oil Prices May Hit $30 in Extended Slump (Bloomberg)
Oil prices will probably continue to decline and could reach as low as $30 a barrel, according to Gary Cohn, president of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. “We’re probably in the lower, longer view,” Cohn, a former oil trader, said Monday in an interview with CNBC.

J.P. Morgan Reportedly Gained Up to $300 Million in Swiss Franc Turmoil (WSJ)
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. notched $250 million to $300 million in gains after the Swiss central bank triggered turmoil in the markets in mid-January, a person familiar with the gains said. This comes as other banks, brokers and individual investors suffered hundreds of millions in losses when the Swiss currency jumped following the Swiss National Bank ’s decision to stop reining in the value of the franc against the euro. The currency grew by nearly 30% against the euro and 18% against the dollar and unleashed new volatility in credit and currency markets around the world.

Fink Says Swiss Avoiding Recession May Be Bad News for Euro (Bloomberg)
“There’s always been a debate, should Germany be in or out of the euro,” Fink told Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker and Stephanie Ruhle during last week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “One of the arguments has always been about Germany — is it would-be suicide if they walked away from the euro because it would have a currency that revalued 20 or 30 percent.” If Switzerland avoids a “recession and the economy continues to fare fairly nicely what does it mean for an economy a little north of here?” he said atop the Alps. “I do believe it will lead to a large debate within Germany from the right wing about look what Switzerland did.”

BBQ Burglar Steals $4,000 Worth Of Ribs, Chicken, Wings And Fries (HP)
Last Wednesday, a robber broke into Jerome Brown BBQ and stole $4,000 worth of ribs, chicken, wings and fries from the restaurant, reports. The rib-loving robber gained entry by prying open a side door and also took away an empty cash register before winging it out the door. Surveillance video caught the BBQ burglar in the act, but the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office have yet to track down a suspect. Read more »

Write-Offs: 1.26.15

$$$ Blizzard Set to Bring New York, Northeast to a Standstill [Bloomberg]

$$$ Here’s What the Blizzard Is Shutting Down [BusinessWeek]

$$$ Russia Rating Cut to Junk by S&P as Ukraine, Oil Weigh on Growth [Bloomberg]

$$$ Greece Must Repay Debt, Europe Officials Say [WSJ]

$$$ Judge: You cannot name your baby ‘Nutella’ [NYP] Read more »

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