Opening Bell: 01.13.09

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Bonus Pool Is Back (NYP)
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney knows what you poaching people have planned and you can just FORGET IT. The Post reports:

The planned retention bonuses would be paid out over a nine-year period. The bulk of the loot would go to brokers at Smith Barney, whose roughly 19,000-person army is expected to account for the lion's share of the combined entity, said a person familiar with the situation...the two banks have identified nearly 2,100 Smith Barney and more than 900 Morgan Stanley top-tier brokers, with the top producers within that category contributing $1 million and $2 million each to the combined firm's bottom line.

Blackstone GSO To Close Asian Investment Desk (Bloomberg)
Blackstone is closing the desk because the cost of debt in Asia is too high; US and European debt are trading much lower and are proving to be better risk investments. There's no real numbers in the Bloomberg article on how many are going to be lost in the move (if anyone); as always any information is appreciated: tips (AT) dealbreaker (DOT) com
Hedge Fund Executive To Lead Borders (NYT)
It looks like Richard McGuire of Pershing Square Capital is going to replace current CEO Ron Marshall (who was in PE) at the troubled book chain. Apparently Borders is sitting on a pretty substantial debt load (they owe $42.5MM to Pershing due in February) and is currently worth $37.5MM, which um, isn't ideal. It doesn't look like Borders has a phenomenal chance of making it at the moment: given the sagging economy buyers are pushing into penny pinching mode, buying used and discount across the board.
UAW Backs Something, Which Is Really Nothing (WSJ)
The United Auto Workers, it seems, is pro car czar. Which is great, except no one really cares what the UAW is for or against, as the UAW points out:
""We welcome a car czar," Mr. Gettelfinger said in an interview with the Journal, although he added, "We haven't been contacted," he said. "I haven't been asked for input.""
You have to admire the honestly of the statement, but it's kind of indicative of the times. The UAW is a bad marriage for the Auto industry, metaphorically and literally; all they do is bitch about what they've given up and go to fundraisers and mixers. And while they do hold the ultimate card in the deck right now (if they called a strike, the industry would fail, most certainly) there's no playing it if either party is to survive. It's a parasitic organism, and as all parasitic organisms do, it will continue to allow the host survive until it can either find another host or it's forcefully removed.
RBS Offloads Bank Of China (FT)
RBS is following suit in seeking to divest its holdings in Bank of China; the company was, at one point, the biggest of the foreigns at 4.3% state in 2005.
JPMorgan to Release Results Jan 15, Six Days Early (Reuters)
The bank had originally said January 21 in order to allow time to account for Washington Mutual assets but apparently they don't need it. Is this a good or bad sign?
President Bush Going Back For Second Round (FT)
"Congressional aides said at least one and possibly both chambers of Congress could vote against releasing the funds. The president could veto any disapproval legislation, ensuring the $350bn is disbursed...
The decision to seek the money came as US bank stocks plunged, with Citigroup off more than 17 per cent and Bank of America falling 12 per cent. The S&P 500 index lost 2.3 per cent on the day."
The article goes on to point out that President Elect Obama would prefer that Bush not release the money, calling it:
"[I]rresponsible for me - with the first $350bn already spent - to enter into administration without any potential ammunition."
There's no good reason to release the money right now, either. $350 won't prop up anything that needs propping, and there's not a huge liquidity crunch. Citi needs to be encouraged to wind down, or it needs to be fully nationalized; absorbing that failure isn't something that the US government can handle right now, so I'm voting for a wind down. Well, or there's an outside option: Citi is forced to restructure under panel review shedding unprofitable businesses to buyers, where all money made from the sell-off goes to the US Government. In return, the Government cuts the debt in half and schedules a payoff over 50 years (at LIBOR).


This Is Dumb, Suze Orman, Dumb (CNBC)
Note to Suze: If you want me to tell you why the advice you gave the person in the article wasn't necessarily the best advice to be published, email at tips at dealbreaker dot com. I'll print this here though for 'normal folk that might be reading: If you've held a security for less than a year, consult a Financial Advisor and Tax Advisor before randomly selling it to buy a dividend paying ETF that might not pay a dividend.

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