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Opening Bell: 01.19.09


Programming Note: We're off 'til tomorrow. Enjoy the holiday, and see you Tuesday morning! Also, solicitation: if anyone is free on Friday and interested in covering Wharton's annualPrivate Equity & Venture Capital conference (which was taken over by protesters last year), get in touch!
Citi Passes Torch To RBS (Bloomberg)
RBS is looking at a loss of as much $41B on top of which they could write down as much as £20B in past acquisitions, which makes them king of the mountain. There's a certain amount of respect owed to those that can dethrone the once mighty Citi from atop a vast heap of brutal carnage; the idea that Pandit might be Jr. to some more nefarious individual is almost, well, shocking. I'm sure the Citi boys will be quick to point out that the RBS'ers have a long history of wearing skirts, such that it's not entirely surprising that they found themselves bent over the copying machine - but I warn thee, Citi, don't make that mistake: it could very well be your last.
UBS Buys AIG Commodities Index (DJNewswire)
UBS has acted with all the grace of a bi-polar prostitute in days of recent past; this move doesn't exactly clarify their positioning in the market. The pick-up is going down for $15MM on the front end with $135MM negotiated over the next 18 months depending on performance. You'll remember AIG wanted the government (who currently has a kung-fu deathgrip on the firm's balls) to allow them to accept stock in lieu of cash while unwinding - the UBS rent-to-own plan appears to be a reasonable alternative.
Blackstone To Launch S. Korean Unit (Reuters)
The unit will launch with $6MM with the intent of targeting around $2B in acquisitions over the coming years. This move almost appears to be government sponsored: it wouldn't be out of line for the small(ish) government to have called in PE firms to do a bailout of a mid/small's that are suffering from liquidity issues.
Russia/Ukraine Saga To Come To A Temporary Close (WSJ)
The phenomenon that is the former Soviet Bloc isn't ever to be underestimated: their capacity for instability is unheard of in Western circles. The Ukrainian government has effectively (and without apology) held Russian gas from Europe as part of their annual price negation process, which is apparently coming to an end:
"Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Ukraine will pay 20% less than the European price for this year. This means a substantial increase for Ukraine in the first quarter but the price could fall significantly later in the year as gas prices are expected to drop.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said natural gas supplies would resume once the two countries' gas companies sign a contract. It wasn't clear how soon this would happen. Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz, both state controlled, were told to prepare the documents."

Morgan Stanley Hires Supertanker To Store Oil In Gulf (Bloomberg)
The ship holds roughly 2MM barrels, and will hold the oil until barrel prices are such that it can be sold for substantial profit: underwear gnomes beware.
"Morgan Stanley hired its tanker at $68,000 a day, the two brokers said. That works out at $1.02 a barrel a month, based on a 2 million-barrel cargo. Benchmark U.S. oil futures are trading at an average of $3.65 more than the previous month between February and June."
Reuters To Offer Consolidated Tape For EU (FT)
"Thomson Reuters said it was launching an "independent consolidated tape" that pulls to­gether prices across exchanges and other trading facilities.
From Monday, Thomson Reuters' customers will be able to access all best "bid and offer" data plus all historical "tick-by-tick" data for the most liquid listed European equities. It will cost each person using it €10 a month."
FBI Joins Hunt For Nadel (Reuters)
The name of the firm is Scoop Management, people; just let that sit for second.