Opening Bell: 5.29.07

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Editor's note: Joe is still memorializing (at least for a week), so the remaining DB staff will be filling his role this week. Welcome back to work (as dreary as that sounds)!
NBC Programming Chief Kevin Reilly to Leave as Ratings Slide [Wall Street Journal]
NBC is experiencing a sunset of sorts, stripping executives from its studio (and not just 60). The network, which was #1 in 2005, is now a distant 4th behind Fox, CBS and ABC, and is firing top programming executive Kevin Reilly, to be replaced with “The Office” producer Ben Silverman. NBC looks to stay in its current position (being the anchor in the 4x400 is a good thing, right?) with its fall lineup of a new 8-hour long “The Office” running over three days to compete with “American Idol,” a remake of the 1976 show “The Bionic Woman,” a show about a man who can travel through time and get laid in multiple eras called “Journeyman” and “Chuck” a comedy about a skinny, nerdy shot-put champion with super strength (and the 3rd planned “Heroes” spin-off).
Treasury Yields Could Throw a Curve [Wall Street Journal]
The Treasury yield curve is slowly but surely un-inverting itself (damning the formerly hot pick-up line, "I want to invert you like the yield curve"), with yields on the 10-year note rising to 4.86% last week, surpassing the yield on the 2-year note. The yield on the 10-year note has for the most part stayed below 5% since 2002, save for a 4 month span last spring and summer when it climbed to 5.25%.
British Airways Shares Rise on Takeover Speculation [Bloomberg]
Shares of British Airways bucked a negative trend (down over 8% this year) and rose almost 5% by noon in London, fueled by speculation that Europe’s third-largest airline may be the target of a PE takeover bid. Investors are also following Goldman, which upped its stake of British Airways from 3% to over 5% last week. No word on what happens if Goldman jumps off a bridge.
Tishman, Lehman May Buy Archstone for $12 Billion [Bloomberg]
Tishman Speyer Properties LP and Lehman Brothers are looking for a sweet pad, and may end up locking down US apartment developer Archstone-Smith Trust for just a shade over $12bn, which would be a prohibitive rent for most. Tishman would assume about $8bn in debt if the deal were to happen, bringing the total deal value to over $20bn. Archstone-Smith is the 2nd largest US apartment REIT (and the largest publicly traded apartment owner in Manhattan) to Sam Zell’s Equity Residential (of course Blackstone bought Zell’s EOP Trust for a whopping $39bn in February).
RBS group raises the stakes in ABN Amro bidding [MarketWatch]
RBS pumped up its cash offer for ABN Amro by 11% to bring its total bid with stock to over $95bn (that’s US dollars or over 71bn euros), surpassing rival Barclay’s offer by almost 4 euros per ABN share in value. The proposed deal would instigate an orgy of bank asset sharing, with RBS paying over 27bn euros for ABN's North American, Asian, Latin American (except Brazil), investment and corporate banking arms. Fortis, for 24bn euros, would get ABN’s Dutch, private-client and asset-management businesses. Santander would get the remaining scraps (the Brazilian and Italian divisions) for almost 20 billion euros.

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Barclays Faces New Scrutiny (WSJ) n what could turn out to be a new black eye for the bank, Barclays said the U.K. financial regulator has started an investigation into four current and former senior employees, including Chris Lucas, Barclays's finance director. The issue centers on the "sufficiency of disclosure" in relation to fees paid when Barclays conducted an emergency £7.3 billion ($11.45 billion) capital increase with Middle Eastern investors in 2008. The cash injection likely saved Barclays from being bailed out by the government and part-nationalized. The Financial Services Authority and Barclays declined to elaborate further the issue. Barclays said in a statement that it was confident it had satisfied disclosure obligations. In a separate debacle, Barclays said it put aside £450 million to cover the misselling of derivatives products to small businesses. Merkel, Hollande Vow to Do Everything to Defend Euro (Reuters) FYI: "Germany and France are deeply committed to the integrity of the euro zone. They are determined to do everything to protect the euro zone," they said in a joint statement. Treasury Eyes Funds Hidden Overseas (WSJ) he Treasury Department released new details Thursday of a plan to ferret out Americans' global tax dodging, though some lawmakers and banks remain concerned about the initiative's scope and regulatory costs. Treasury officials said they hope to finalize the system's basic rules by the fall and expressed confidence it would be on track for implementation by 2014 as scheduled. Congressional experts said the new system would recover $8.7 billion in tax revenues over 10 years. Facebook Growth Slows Again (WSJ) The company swung to a second-quarter loss largely weighed down by expenses from compensating employees with stock upon its initial public offering in May. Revenue in the second quarter was $1.18 billion, up 32% from $895 million a year ago. That revenue growth was the lowest percentage since at least the first quarter of 2011, when Facebook was more than doubling the amount of money it brought in from advertising, and to a lesser extent, the cut of fees it takes from payments on its platform. Facebook Falls After Report Fails To Quell Growth Concerns (Bloomberg) “It took a long time for the TV market and advertising to be truly understood, it took a long time for search, and I think we’re still in that learning curve with a lot of our clients,” COO Sheryl Sandberg said. The Guy In The Clown Nose? He's An Olympian (WSJ) Terry Bartlett is a world-class gymnast who leapt, tumbled and swung for the glory of Great Britain in three Olympic Games. Today, he is also a world-class clown. Ten times a week, he dons a red nose and floppy shoes to elicit chuckles at "O," a Las Vegas water-themed circus run by Cirque du Soleil. "It's better than having a real job," says the 48-year-old Bartlett...A few months after Bartlett's audition, Cirque hired him as an acrobat for a new show in Las Vegas. At first, he says, he had to confront some stigma about joining a circus. "Some people were like, whoa, that's not much of a move from what you've done," he says. But today, he says Cirque is so well-known that he gets few smirks. Spanish Banks Hit By Real Estate Woes (WSJ) Caixabank SA, Spain's third-largest lender by market value, number five bank Banco Popular Español SA, and smaller Banco Español de Credito SA, all said they had set aside most of their profit to bolster their buffers against property sector losses, after the government twice this year raised the minimum required provisioning level for banks. Caixabank said quarterly net profit tumbled 78% to €118 million ($145.1 million) and Popular's profit fell 37% to €75.4 million. Smaller Banesto, which is owned by banking giant Banco Santander SA, said quarterly profit sank 97% to €14.4 million. Goldman PR Guru's Charm School (NYP) Under Siewert, the bank has scheduled weekly roundtable meetings between the media and executives including Goldman President Gary Cohn and CFO David Viniar. In one of those meetings yesterday, rising-star Treasurer Elizabeth “Liz” Beshel Robinson met the press for the first time. Not everyone’s keen on the changes. Goldman’s financial rock star Viniar, sources said, has sworn off appearing on TV. JPMorgan Revamps Business Units (WSJ) The bank said Frank Bisignano, who was tapped in early 2011 to lead J.P. Morgan's transformation of its mortgage banking group, will become co-chief operating officer for the entire company, in addition to continuing as chief administrative officer of the firm. He will transition the mortgage business to Gordon Smith in early 2013. Matt Zames will serve as co-COO, and will remain head of the chief investment office and mortgage capital markets...J.P. Morgan said its investment banks, treasury and securities services and global corporate banks businesses are being combined into the corporate and investment bank unit, to be chaired by Jes Staley, CEO of the investment bank business. Mike Cavanagh, head of treasury and securities, will become co-CEO of the new unit, along with Daniel Pinto, who currently heads EMEA and global fixed income. Romney Riles Londoners With Comments On Olympics Games (Bloomberg) It was supposed to be Mitt Romney’s flawless world stage debut. Instead, the Republican presidential candidate spent the start of his overseas trip fending off a furor over his London Olympics comments and scrutiny of a fundraiser with bankers linked to the Libor rate-fixing scandal. “There’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready,” London Mayor Boris Johnson told 80,000 cheering people gathered at Hyde Park for the arrival of the Olympic torch last night. “Are we ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are!” Romney worked to put the controversy behind him today, scheduling an interview at Olympic Park to quell the storm of criticism over his comment that the city was unprepared to host the games. “After being here a couple of days, it looks to me like London’s ready,” he told NBC’s “Today” program. “What they’ve done that I find so impressive is they took the venues and put them right in the city.” In the July 25 NBC interview, Romney described reports of difficulties recruiting enough security staff for the games, which begin today, as “disconcerting” and said, “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out.”