Opening Bell

Opening Bell: 09.19.14

Alibaba Group Said to Raise $21.8 Billion in Record U.S. IPO (Bloomberg)
The company and shareholders including Yahoo! Inc. sold 320.1 million shares for $68 each, according to a statement, after offering them for $66 to $68. The sale — which values Alibaba at $167.6 billion — is already the largest by any company in the U.S. and has the potential to break the global record if additional shares are sold to underwriters.

After IPO, Alibaba plans to pour cash into movies (NYP)
Studio heads are expecting an influx of investment dollars from Asia, thanks to the Chinese e-commerce giant, which is poised to pull off the biggest public stock sale in history on Thursday. Japan’s Softbank — which owns more than a third of Alibaba Group Holdings and is sitting on a large pile of cash as a result — has been visiting the bamboo-decorated executive suites of film studios with an eye toward winning a role in the movie business, sources said. “The Japanese have started to take an interest,” one source said. “They’ve talked to Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation.”

Regulators Probe Goldman’s Internship for Brother of Libyan Ex-Official (WSJ)
The Securities and Exchange Commission is reviewing the New York-based bank’s decision in June 2008 to hire as an intern the brother of Mustafa Zarti, then deputy chief of the Libyan Investment Authority, the people said. The move came after Goldman entered into more than $1 billion worth of trades with the authority, and just as the firm’s relationship with the Libyan fund had begun to sour. The investigators are also reviewing why the brother, Haitem Zarti, was allowed to remain at the firm for almost a year, long after most Wall Street internships last, the people added. A Goldman spokesman confirmed that Haitem Zarti had interned for the firm’s investment-banking arm and said his hiring wasn’t related to its dealings with the Libyan authority. Mr. Zarti was allowed to remain at Goldman for almost a year because he had performed well, the spokesman added. Mustafa Zarti has previously said there was nothing wrong with the internship. Haitem Zarti couldn’t be reached for comment, and an SEC spokesman declined to comment. Mustafa Zarti couldn’t be reached for comment.

Scotland Rejects Independence as U.K. Wins Reprieve (Bloomberg)
Scotland voted to stay in the U.K. in a referendum on independence, stepping back from a breakup of the 307-year-old union while wringing promises of more financial power from Prime Minister David Cameron. After a count through the night, 55.3 percent of Scottish voters supported the “no” campaign against 44.7 percent who backed independence. The pound surged overnight as the Better Together campaign posted a wider margin of victory than suggested in opinion polls, before falling back. There was a record turnout of more than 90 percent in some of the 32 regions.

RBS and Lloyds Surge as Scotland Votes to Stay in U.K. (Bloomberg)
RBS jumped 3.1 percent to 368.2 pence at 9:21 a.m. in London trading, extending its weekly gain to 5.3 percent. Lloyds gained 2.1 percent to 77.43 pence, and TSB Banking Group Plc climbed 2.3 percent to 293 pence…Contingency plans to move to England are “no longer required,” RBS said in a statement today. RBS and Lloyds, both domiciled in Edinburgh, said last week they would move to England if Scots chose to dissolve the 307-year-old union. Analysts estimated a move south may have cost each lender as much as 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion).

Gold iPhones at $3,600 as China Delay Fuels Black Market (Bloomberg)
Liu Min stands a few feet from an Apple Inc. store in Beijing hawking something that can’t be bought inside: the new iPhone 6. While the device debuted today in the U.S., Hong Kong, Japan and Australia, there is no release date set for the world’s biggest smartphone market. That creates an opportunity for Liu, who promises two-day delivery of a 16-gigabyte iPhone 6 for 8,000 yuan ($1,303) — almost double the price on Apple’s Hong Kong website. “It’s going to be a while before the new iPhone comes to China officially, so if you want it now, you have to pay up,” Liu said, pacing outside the Sanlitun district store selling screen protectors. “Give me a call if you want one.” Liu, who wouldn’t discuss his supply chain, wasn’t alone. Four vendors nearby offered the 128-gigabyte iPhone 6 for delivery on Sept. 20 at the equivalent of about $2,441, compared with the Hong Kong price of about $927.

Cops: Customer Pointed Gun At Drive-Thru Worker And Demanded A Hamburger (TSG)
“Give me a hamburger or I’ll shoot you.” That is what Dechazo Harris, gun in hand, allegedly said to a Florida drive-thru worker with whom he quarreled over an order. According to police, Harris, 27, ordered a midnight meal via a drive-thru speaker at a Checkers in West Palm Beach earlier this year. When he drove to the pick-up window, he sought to submit a second order. However, Checkers manager Rontavious Tarver, 20, explained to Harris (seen below) that if he wanted to place another order, he would have to drive around to the speaker and place it there. In response to that direction, Harris, cops charge, pulled out a gun and pointed it at the Checkers employee. As he began to exit his vehicle, Harris threatened the worker, “Give me a hamburger or I’ll shoot you.” He added, “Bro, you don’t know who I am.” Read more »

Opening Bell: 09.18.14

Alibaba IPO Gives Insiders Rare Chance to Sell Early (WSJ)
A swath of early investors in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will be able to sell more than $8 billion worth of shares on the day the Chinese e-commerce company goes public, an unusual arrangement that is influencing how bankers price the offering. Insiders and other investors in companies staging initial public offerings are generally required to hold on to shares for several months, in “lockup” arrangements banks design to help protect the stock’s price in its early days. But with Alibaba, a number of shares equal to about a third of what could be sold in the deal aren’t covered by such restrictions, according to the company’s public filings. In contrast, no pre-IPO shares of Facebook Inc. were allowed to be traded when the social-media company made its market debut.

London Finance Empire Seen Dominating After Scots Vote (Bloomberg)
The Scottish nationalists’ narrative is that of London as disinterested overseer, having shrunk from what Salman Rushdie in the “Satanic Verses” described as the “capital of vilayat” (foreign) for the once-colonized, to the capital of the shriveled Great Britain. At stake is London’s relationship to what remains: Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and those scattered appendages of past glory, the 14 British Overseas Territories, which replicated and improved on the financial secrecy of the City to become outposts of London’s empire of money. Bloated with the talented young and the moneyed old, London, at least in the measurable currency of investment and capital, is impervious to the departure of Scotland. “London’s power is also from other metrics, like the concentration of state-funded institutions, or the diversity of its population,” said Richard Bell, a professor at the University of Maryland in College Park who teaches a course on London and the British Empire. “London will continue to hold a special place in the global imagination, even though it may be modestly diminished economically.”

Charlie Gasparino Weighs In On Hedge Fund Manager AssGate (Twitter, earlier)

Jobless Claims in U.S. Decline to Two-Month Low of 280,000 (Bloomberg)
The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits plunged last week to a two-month low, a sign the labor market continues to strengthen. Jobless claims decreased by 36,000 to 280,000 in the period ended Sept. 13, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The median forecast of 52 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decline to 305,000. Those already collecting unemployment benefits fell to a more than seven-year low.

Fed Plots Cautious Course on Rate Rises (WSJ)
The Federal Reserve took two steps toward winding down the historic easy-money policies that have defined its response to the financial crisis, but stopped short of the move markets are awaiting most: signaling when interest rates will start to rise. With the economy gradually improving, U.S. central-bank officials plan to end the bond-buying program known as quantitative easing after October, hoping to finally stop expanding a six-year experiment in monetary policy that has left the Fed holding more than $4 trillion of Treasury and mortgage bonds. The Fed on Wednesday also detailed a new technical plan for how it will raise short-term interest rates, something most officials currently don’t intend to do until next year. The central bank has kept the federal-funds rate near zero since December 2008 and offered assurances along the way about rates remaining low, another part of its varied efforts to boost the post-financial-crisis economy.

Man Says Stripper Chocolate Chambers Robbed Him Outside Club Boom Boom (TSG)
A South Carolina man told cops that a stripper known as Chocolate Chambers robbed him early yesterday after he refused to buy her an expensive drink inside Club Boom Boom. Derrick Lashawn Sinclair, 31, told police that he was attacked by Chambers late Monday night when he exited the Spartanburg nightspot. The woman, Sinclair said, pounced and “next thing I know I’m on the floor, she knocked me down and took my money.” Sinclair said that his cash was inside a “crown bag,” an apparent reference to the velvet bag in which Crown Royal whiskey is packaged. Police noted that Sinclair smelled of booze and “spoke with a slurred speech” when reporting the attack by Chambers, whom he described as a black female. Sinclair acknowledged that he was still “timpsy” from the prior night’s revelry. Read more »

Opening Bell: 09.17.14

Barclays Hid Traders’ Role After Questions: Schneiderman (Bloomberg)
Barclays hid the role of high-frequency traders in its dark pool even after the bank said it had shut off clients who engaged in suspect activity, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. Schneiderman sued Barclays in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan in June, accusing Britain’s second-largest bank of bilking its own customers in order to expand its dark pool. The bank in July asked the court to dismiss the case, saying that the suit is based on factual errors and fails to show any investors were harmed.

Credit Suisse Loans Draw Fed Scrutiny (WSJ)
Credit Suisse is under fire from U.S. regulators over concerns the bank isn’t heeding warnings to stop making loans regulators see as risky, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Swiss bank in recent weeks received a letter from the Federal Reserve demanding the bank immediately address problems with its underwriting and sale of leveraged loans, or high-interest-rate loans used by private-equity firms and others to finance purchases of companies, among other uses. The letter to Credit Suisse, known as a Matters Requiring Immediate Attention, found problems with the bank’s adherence to guidance issued last year, warning banks to avoid deals that included too much debt or too few protections for the lenders in case of a default, according to the person familiar with the matter.

With Calpers Quitting Hedge Funds, Other Investors Reflect (Dealbook)
For the $2.8 trillion hedge fund industry, the size of the Calpers investment is minuscule. But losing it is important because Calpers has long been a trendsetter among public pension plans, and the reasons for its decision resonate with many public workers, retirees and the plans’ trustees: Hedge funds can just seem too complicated and costly. “A lot of the employees’ labor unions will applaud this,” said Christopher J. Ailman, chief investment officer of California’s big pension fund for teachers. He said organized labor tended to be wary of Wall Street in general; big fees for hedge fund managers are seen as siphoning away money from public workers. His crosstown rival, Ted Eliopoulos, chief investment officer at Calpers, indicated that he expected the decision to have a ripple effect. “We certainly had a very thoughtful and deep conversation with our peers in the institutional investor network, as well as a wide variety of talented active external managers, and so we considered those opinions in forming our own conclusion,” Mr. Eliopoulos said.

Goldman Sachs’s Oryza Asia Hedge Fund Said to Top $1 Billion (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, set up to allow clients to invest with some of the bank’s top proprietary traders, raised about $1 billion for its first Asia hedge fund, said two people with knowledge of the matter. The fund, named Oryza Capital LP, informed investors in June that it would stop taking additional money after capital committed had reached its capacity, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The Asia-focused equity long-short fund started in September 2013 with an initial capital of $80 million, according to a document sent to potential investors.

German Court Lifts Ban on Uber Ride Service (NYT)
A court in Frankfurt overturned a nationwide ban against the company’s car-sharing service in Germany, lifting, for now, one of the most severe legal restrictions that Uber had faced anywhere in the world since it was founded in 2009. The temporary injunction on the service, which allows drivers to connect with potential passengers through a smartphone application, had been imposed by the court at the end of last month before a hearing could be held. After the hearing on Tuesday, judges announced that Uber, a start-up company based in San Francisco, could now operate in Germany. The judges were sympathetic to the arguments of Taxi Deutschland, a trade body that had brought the initial case against Uber, claiming that the service competed unfairly with local taxis, said Arne Hasse, a spokesman for the Frankfurt court. But he said that while the association was right in bringing the case and requesting the injunction, the group had waited too long to file the case, and therefore the injunction had to be lifted.

Papa Murphy’s Employee Admits Rubbing Scrotum On Pizza Was ‘Stupid’ (HP)
A Texas teen employed at a Papa Murphy’s pizza franchise faces criminal charges after a customer caught him in the act of rubbing his scrotum on an uncooked stuffed-crust Hawaiian pizza that he’d ordered, according to the Austin American-Statesman. When the customer asked Austin Symonds how old he was, he replied that he was 18, KEYE reports. “So you are old enough to know better than to put your balls on someone’s pizza,” the customer said, according to the station. “Yes,” Symonds replied. “Man, I am really sorry, that was stupid.” Symonds was apparently upset that an order had come in just before closing time. He allegedly admitted to police that he’d probably have fulfilled the order with the tainted pizza if he hadn’t been caught. Symonds is charged with tampering with a consumer product. He was released on $10,000 bail. Read more »

Opening Bell: 09.15.14

Bank adviser pay catching up with traders (FT)
Senior advisory bankers’ pay in London has risen almost on to a par with traditionally higher-earning traders, underlining the shifting fortunes of these distinct businesses within investment banks. UK-based managing directors working on deals and capital raisings have seen total pay rise by a fifth to an average of £586,000 last year, according to data compiled for the Financial Times by Emolument, a pay comparison group. By contrast, senior traders have suffered an average 13 per cent cut to £602,000 after a sharp drop in bonuses, the self-reported numbers from hundreds of staff at 10 European and US investment banks show. It puts a spotlight on the resurgent clout of advisory bankers, after a dearth of dealmaking in the wake of the financial crisis placed them squarely in the shadows of profit-churning bond traders. A sharp increase in takeovers as well as debt and equity issuance by companies and other clients since last year has reversed the fortunes of corporate financiers. At the same time, their colleagues on trading floors have seen profit opportunities squeezed by tighter regulation, lower trading volatility, a ban on proprietary trading, the move towards electronic trading and several manipulation scandals.

As Investors Salivate, Alibaba May Raise Price of I.P.O. (Dealbook)
Only five days into the company’s global journey to promote itself to prospective buyers, its underwriters have told their sales staffs that they plan to close orders for the stock sale by Wednesday, people briefed on the matter said on Friday. And with that intense interest — shown by the huge lines of investors who waited to spend even an hour with Alibaba’s senior management — comes the possibility that the company’s bankers may eventually raise the price range for the offering, pushing it past a fund-raising goal of $21.1 billion. That could make Alibaba the biggest initial offering in history, surpassing the $22.1 billion that the Agricultural Bank of China raised four years ago. But the people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, cautioned that no plans had been set and that the price range might remain within the already disclosed $60 to $66 a share, which values the company at roughly $163 billion at the high end. A final decision will be made Thursday, when underwriters are expected to price the offering after examining its order book. Alibaba would then begin trading the next day on the New York Stock Exchange.

Samsung accuses rival LG exec of vandalizing washing machines (Reuters)
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has accused the head of rival LG Electronics Inc’s home appliances business of damaging Samsung washing machines at retail stores in Germany and asked Seoul prosecutors to investigate. Samsung, in a statement on Sunday, said it asked the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office to investigate LG employees who the company says were seen deliberately destroying several of its premium washing machines on display at two stores earlier this month ahead of the IFA electronics show in Berlin. “It is very unfortunate that Samsung had to request that a high-ranking executive be investigated by the nation’s legal authorities, but this was inevitable, as we concluded that we had to get to the bottom of this incident,” Samsung said.

Brazil’s Batista Faces Criminal Charges (WSJ)
When Brazil’s best-known businessman was hit with criminal charges over the weekend involving billions of dollars in soured deals, he didn’t appear to miss a beat. Instead, Eike Batista was roaming the world scouting for business opportunities. “Yesterday he was in Qatar,” said one of Mr. Batista’s lawyers, Sergio Bermudes, in a telephone interview Sunday. “It was a business trip.” The attorney said Mr. Batista had also planned to go to South Korea and would return to Brazil probably by Friday. When the entrepreneur lands, he will be facing one of the biggest challenges of his life. Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro last week charged Mr. Batista with financial crimes and requested the freezing of 1.5 billion Brazilian reais ($641 million) in assets belonging to the businessman and people close to him, according to documents posted on the public prosecutor’s website on Saturday. Federal officials accuse Mr. Batista of manipulating financial markets and taking advantage of privileged information when selling shares of his distressed oil company, formerly known as OGX Petróleo e Gás Participações SA.

Austrian billionaire Richard Lugner, 81, marries 24-year-old Playboy model (NYDN)
Richard Lugner, 81, tied the knot with fiancee Cathy Schmitz at a palace on Saturday, claiming “hopefully, this time it’s the right thing.” The pair have been dating since February. Prior to the pair getting hitched, Lugner said “apart from the age difference, everything fits,” reported The Local.

Palin’s Camp Weighs In: We Brawled, But Someone Else Started It (TPM)
The website Real Clear Politics spoke to what it described as a “source close to the Palin family” who offered the Palins’ side of the physical, bloody altercation that took place on Sept. 6 at a house in Anchorage. The article said the source’s description “diverge[d] significantly” from what had been reported elsewhere, but the anonymous portrayal essentially confirmed the broad outlines of the fight, including that Sarah Palin herself was present and was shouting as it all went down. On Friday, TPM published a detailed account of the brawl based on reports from several news outlets as well as our own reporting. Two named eyewitnesses reported seeing the former Alaska governor at the party, including one who said he saw Palin’s husband Todd, son Track, and daughter Bristol were involved in multiple melees with other party guests that night. One anonymous source said Sarah Palin was “nearly crawling on top of people” while screaming and shouting profanities. The source who spoke to Real Clear Politics for its article on Saturday said, however, there were a few details the Palin family saw differently, including how the fighting began. The RCP source confirmed that Sarah Palin’s son, Track Palin, was the first family member involved in the fight, and Todd Palin, Sarah’s husband, was the next member to intervene. But the source said Track Palin was not the one who picked a fight with his sister Willow Palin’s ex-boyfriend. The former boyfriend allegedly “tried to get in” the Palin’s stretch Hummer limousine after some “questionable behavior,” leading Track to get involved, according to the source. The source said four men then began fighting with Track, after which Todd Palin intervened and ended up bleeding from the fight. The source also said Track Palin ended up with four cracked ribs. While RCP’s account was vague on some details, previous reports said there were at least two separate fights at the party that involved the Palins. One of the altercations, according to eyewitness Eric Thompson, who spoke to multiple news outlets, involved Sarah Palin’s daughter, Bristol Palin, who was seen punching the host of the party multiple times. Read more »

Opening Bell: 09.12.14

Treasury Is Weighing Action on Hedge-Fund Tax ‘Loophole’ (Bloomberg)
The U.S. Treasury Department said it’s considering ways to end a “loophole” that allows hedge-fund managers to avoid taxes by routing their investments through an insurance company in low-tax countries like Bermuda. The Treasury, in an Aug. 9 letter obtained by Bloomberg News today, told Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden that it’s concerned about such arrangements and is weighing legislative and administrative responses. Among the hedge-fund managers who have set up Bermuda insurance vehicles in recent years are John Paulson’s Paulson & Co. and Steven A. Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors LP. Cohen has since cut ties with his insurer.

IMF warns of fallout from Scottish split (FT)
The International Monetary Fund has waded into the debate over Scottish independence, saying that a Yes vote in next week’s referendum could lead to market turbulence. “The main immediate effect is likely to be uncertainty over the transition to potentially new and different monetary, financial and fiscal frameworks in Scotland,” William Murray, an IMF spokesman, told reporters. “While this uncertainty could lead to negative market reactions in the short term, longer-term effects would depend on the decisions being made during the transition.” His comments highlight the questions over which currency an independent Scotland would use, the regulation of its banks, and its budget position after negotiations to separate from the UK.

Facebook’s latest innovation: Copying Snapchat (Fortune)
Facebook is testing a new feature that lets users set a time to make their posts disappear – anywhere from an hour to a week in the future…A Facebook spokesperson confirmed with Fortune that the social media giant is “running a small pilot of a feature on Facebook for iOS that lets people schedule deletion of their posts in advance.”

Chained to your smartphone? Maybe try the NoPhone (CNBC)
The NoPhone, as described on its Kickstarter page is the “technology-free alternative to constant hand-to-phone contact that allows you to stay connected with the real world.” The NoPhone is exactly what it looks like. It’s a black piece of plastic in the shape of an iPhone that does absolutely nothing, except act as a phone surrogate for those addicted to their smartphones. “With a thin, light and completely wireless design, the NoPhone acts as a surrogate to any smart mobile device, enabling you to always have a rectangle of smooth, cold plastic to clutch without forgoing any potential engagement with your direct environment. Never again experience the unsettling feeling of flesh on flesh when closing your hand,” the NoPhone Kickstarter page states.

Salt the Pasta Water: Starboard Value’s Suggestions for Olive Garden (WSJ)
When cooking pasta, use salt. And go easy on the breadsticks. Those are two of many steps Starboard Value LP said late Thursday it would take to boost the value of Darden Restaurants Inc., owner of Olive Garden, if the activist hedge fund was to win control of the entire board. Among the other moves Starboard detailed in nearly 300-pages of slides: Improve Olive Garden’s food quality and alcohol sales, introduce technology to reduce waiting times at restaurants and cut millions in costs. And Starboard is sticking with its suggestion, which Darden has rejected as value-destroying, of separating the company’s brands apart and putting its real estate into a third public company. Starboard said those separations and improvements could put Darden shares between $67 and $86, up to 78% above Thursday’s $48.29 close.

Dollar General waiting on feds for Family Dollar deal (NYP)
Dollar General plans to delay a decision whether to go “hell or high water” with its hostile offer for rival Family Dollar until it gets feedback from regulators on its proposal by mid-October, sources told The Post. Dollar General, which this week announced an $80 a share, or $9.1 billion, hostile tender for Family Dollar will stick with its public commitment to divest 1,500 stores until the Federal Trade Commission issues a second request for information, sources said. That second request is expected to give a sense of how seriously the FTC is scrutinizing Dollar General’s deal. “They’ll know in 30 days if it will be a long slog,” an anti-trust lawyer said.

Boy Charged For Desecration Of Jesus Statue (TSG)
A Pennsylvania teenager has been charged with desecrating a statue of Jesus after he posted Facebook photos that showed him simulating a sex act with the statue. According to State Police officials, the boy posed for the photos in late-July in front of Love In the Name of Christ, a Christian organization in Everett, the boy’s hometown…one of the photos posted to the teenager’s Facebook page shows him with his crotch in the face of the kneeling statue. Read more »

Opening Bell: 09.11.14

SEC Targets Timing of Insiders’ Trade Notices (WSJ)
The Securities and Exchange Commission is stepping up its scrutiny of corporate executives who sell shares in their own companies, announcing a raft of cases Wednesday against insiders for allegedly breaking rules on disclosing stockholdings and trades. The action, on an unprecedented scale for such offenses, is part of the “broken windows” strategy SEC Chairman Mary Jo White announced almost a year ago. She said the strategy—named for policing tactics used in New York that sought to reduce serious crime by not tolerating minor violations—will mean “even the smallest infractions” are pursued. SEC investigators decided to step up their focus on insider transactions because of concerns about poor levels of compliance, enforcement chief Andrew Ceresney said. The agency filed civil charges Wednesday against 36 individuals and companies, with none of them involving a penalty of more than $375,000.

Senators urge Burger King to ditch move to Canada (Reuters)
Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, and four other lawmakers argue that move is unfair because many Burger King workers count on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that rely on taxpayer funding. They also said, in a letter to Burger King Chief Executive Officer Daniel Schwartz that was dated Thursday, that the burger chain uses taxpayer-supported roads, food safety inspectors and other perks of doing business in the United States. “Now, after profiting from these taxpayer-funded benefits, Burger King intends to move its tax address overseas to avoid paying its fair share for these benefits,” the group said in the letter, which was viewed by Reuters. “Many of your loyal customers may choose to spend their hard-earned money at one of your many competitors, instead of supporting a company that wants all the benefits of America but refuses to pay its fair share to support our nation,” they said. In addition to Durbin, Senate Democrats Jack Reed, Sherrod Brown, Carl Levin, and Independent Bernie Sanders signed on. At least nine U.S. companies are in the final stages of inversions, which involve buying a competitor in a lower-tax country and basing the combined business there. Democrats, worried the moves will erode the U.S. corporate tax base, have called the deals “unpatriotic” and floated a number of proposals to crack down on them.

Berkshire Official Calls Those Seeing Burger King Move as a Tax Inversion ‘Mad’ (WSJ)
Charles T. Munger defended recent decisions by his business partner, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett, and predicted that Berkshire would grow robustly. Mr. Munger, 90 years old and known for his bluntness, took on critics of the so-called tax-inversion deal, partly financed by Berkshire, in which Burger King Worldwide Inc. is planning to relocate to Canada in the wake of its proposed merger with Tim Hortons Inc. Mr. Munger, who is Berkshire’s vice chairman, said that Ontario-based Tim Hortons is the larger of the two companies and, because “the bigger company should get the headquarters,” anyone who thinks the deal is motivated purely by tax considerations is “stark raving mad.”

Twitter Seeks Up to $1.5 Billion in Debt Offering (Bloomberg)
The San Francisco-based microblogging company is selling the convertible bonds in two $650 million pieces, one maturing in five years and one coming due in seven years, according to a regulatory filing today. The offering size may increase to $1.5 billion if the banks involved exercise an overallotment option. Twitter, which isn’t projected to be profitable this year, has been investing to build up its advertising business and add engineers who can help tweak its product to appeal to a broader audience. Executives see an opportunity in the debt market to raise more cash cheaply with little immediate dilution of their shareholders’ ownership, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company was inspired by technology leaders, including Google Inc. and Netflix Inc., successfully offering debt while borrowing remains inexpensive, the person said.

Chipotle Near Penn State Closes After Workers Quit (Bloomberg)
A Chipotle restaurant near Pennsylvania State University temporarily closed after workers quit, citing “borderline sweatshop conditions.” A sign in front of the restaurant, which was posted on Twitter, blamed the walkout on Chipotle’s pursuit of profit over people. While the sign said almost all of the management and crew resigned, the Denver-based company said that it was a minority of the staff. “Our Penn State restaurant was closed when a few employees quit, locking out a majority of others who are enthusiastic to return to work,” Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., said in an e-mail. The store reopened this afternoon, he said.

Argentina says U.N. vote vindicates its debt fight against ‘vultures’ (Reuters)
The Argentine government said on Wednesday that its refusal to repay a group of U.S. hedge funds that stand to profit on the country’s defaulted debt was vindicated by the United Nations’ support for a multilateral plan handling bond restructurings. The lengthy legal battle between Argentina and the funds that snapped up its bonds on the cheap after its record 2002 default and are suing for 100 cents on the dollar led to the Buenos Aires government defaulting again in July. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich’s comments came on the same day the lower house of Congress held a marathon debate over a draft law proposing to remodel the country’s debt to enable it to skirt U.S. court rulings in support of the hedge funds. The lower house is expected to vote in favor of the bill in the early hours of Thursday. But the law may not achieve much if legal hurdles and investor scepticism prevent the proposed restructuring measures from being implemented. President Cristina Fernandez says her country is the victim of “vulture funds” that are prepared to wreck its finances in their pursuit of huge profits. She wants a global framework that would prevent a minority of investors from scuppering debt restructuring agreements. Prompted by Argentina and its ally Bolivia, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of such a convention. “If 124 countries in the United Nations support the Republic of Argentina, it means that Argentina is right in its claims,” Capitanich told reporters in Buenos Aires.

Naked Satan Statue Has Vancouver Locals Asking, ‘What The Devil?’ (HP)
The 9-foot-tall statue was a representation of the devil, complete with red skin, a pointed tail and horns atop his head. The statue also holds one hand up in a devil-horn salute familiar to heavy metal fans the world over. But what has aroused controversy is the statue’s prominent, erect phallus, CTV News reports…The satanic statue was erected on Tuesday on a pedestal that previously was home to a bronzed — and clothed — Christopher Columbus commemorative statue installed in 1986, according to Straight.com. The statue was moved to the Italian Garden in Hastings Park 10 years ago. No one has claimed responsibility for the naked Satan, according to CTV News. But the bulging Beelzebub was quickly removed because city officials weren’t exactly nuts about it. “The statue was not a piece of city commissioned artwork and consequently it has been removed,” Sara Couper, a City of Vancouver spokeswoman, told GlobalNews.ca. City officials haven’t said what they plan to do, but a man named Mike Granger has started a petition on Change.org asking it be given to him for inclusion in an “Odditorium” he runs, according to the Winnipeg Sun. One of the lines in the petition warns the city: “By removing the statue of Penis Satan, you are taking from us our freedom of expression, restricting our sexuality, and stigmatizing our religious beliefs. Please return him immediately.” Read more »

Opening Bell: 09.10.14

Dollar General Takes Family Dollar Offer to Shareholders (Bloomberg)
Dollar General, based in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, has commenced an offer for all Family Dollar shares at $80 each, according to a statement today. The move follows Family Dollar’s rejection of an acquisition proposal at that price last week. The takeover target has accepted a lower bid from Dollar Tree Inc. (DLTR) instead, saying that deal will more easily gain regulatory clearance. The hostile offer ratchets up a three-way takeover battle that has grown increasingly rancorous. Dollar General has suggested that Family Dollar would prefer the Dollar Tree transaction in part because it includes a management role for Chief Executive Officer Howard Levine. Family Dollar, meanwhile, has said that Dollar General hasn’t sufficiently dealt with antitrust concerns for a merger that would create a massive retail chain with almost 20,000 locations.

Currency Markets Jolted After Months of Calm (WSJ)
“A confluence of different factors is provoking or fueling the rising volatility,” said Mitul Kotecha, head of foreign-exchange strategy at Barclays in Singapore. “In the U.K., the Scottish referendum, in Europe, the anticipation around the European Central Bank’s next moves and in the U.S., the realization that the market may be mis-pricing the path of the federal-funds rate; in Japan, the renewed speculation around the Bank of Japan’s actions.”

Trump Entertainment begins race to save Atlantic City casino (Reuters)
Trump Entertainment Resorts received U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval on Wednesday for an agreement that gives it 30 days to craft a cost-cutting turnaround plan to save its Taj Mahal casino-hotel from liquidation. A lawyer for Trump Entertainment said after the hearing in Wilmington, Delaware, that the company could present a plan to end operations. “It could be a liquidating plan, but we hope not,” said Kristopher Hansen, an attorney with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan who represents Trump Entertainment. The company plans to close the smaller of its two casinos, the Trump Plaza, next week. It will become the fourth casino-hotel to close in the New Jersey seaside resort this year.

Dartmouth’s Fall in Rankings Hampers Effort on Reputation (Bloomberg)
Dartmouth College’s fall from the Top 10 in a national university ranking is the latest setback for the Ivy League school that’s trying to repair its image after controversies about hazing, drinking and sexual assault. Dartmouth dropped to 11th place from a tie for 10th in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of top U.S. academic research institutions released yesterday…Dartmouth, ranked ninth by U.S. News four years ago, has been in the spotlight for more than a year for tales of fraternity hazing and a federal sexual harassment probe. The Hanover, New Hampshire-based college has introduced initiatives to address a student behavior. It now needs to adjust its message and present a plan for Greek life that’s more appealing to parents of prospective students, marketing and admissions consultants said.

Ana Botin Succeeds Father at Santander, Now Top Female Banker in Europe (Bloomberg)
Santander’s board today named Botin, 53, to the top executive post at Europe’s second-biggest bank by market value in a unanimous vote. Botin, who is giving up her post as chief executive officer of Santander’s U.K. business, replaces her father Emilio who died of a heart attack at the age of 79.

Man Stabs Coworker Who Ate His Meatball: Cops (HP)
A 31-year-old employee at a Fallston, Maryland business is accused of attacking a fellow employee who ate one of his meatballs, the Baltimore Sun reports. Cops say they were called to the scene at around 11:10 a.m. Thursday, after they say the man stabbed his lunch-pilfering coworker in the arm. The victim was taken to a hospital but has since been discharged. Harford County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Cristie told The Baltimore Sun that charges are pending. Read more »