Opening Bell: 11.05.10 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 11.05.10

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RBS Faces `Long, Hard Slog' as Hester Forecasts Reduced Loss (Bloomberg)
The loss for the year will be “nominal,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hester, 49, said on a conference call with journalists today, following a 3.6 billion-pound ($5.8 billion) loss in 2009. The third quarter net loss narrowed by 36 percent to 1.15 billion pounds from 1.8 billion pounds in the year- earlier period as impairments fell, RBS said in a statement...“There are inevitably clouds still out there on the horizon,” Hester said. “We still have our raincoats on.”

HSBC Profit Growth Slows, Sees 'Bumps in the Road
' (Bloomberg)
“Our latest data from emerging markets points to a slowdown in the rate of recovery and the likelihood of some bumps in the road ahead,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Geoghegan said in the statement. “We believe the long-term fundamentals for emerging economies are as compelling as ever.”

German Finance Minister: US Policy 'Clueless' (Reuters)
"With all due respect, U.S. policy is clueless," Wolfgang Schaeuble said at a conference.

AIG Posts $2.4 Billion Loss (AP)
AIG lost $2.4 billion, or $17.62 per share, compared with earnings of $92 million, or 68 cents per share, a year ago.

Representative Bachus Warns Geithner On Volcker Rule (Reuters)
"If the Volcker Rule's prohibitions are expansively interpreted and rigidly implemented against U.S. institutions while other nations refuse to adopt them, the damage to U.S. competitiveness and job creation could be substantial," Bachus wrote in the November 3 letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other top regulators.

GM Touts Its Profit Potential In IPO Pitch (WSJ)
GM tells investors the company can generate $11 billion to $13 billion in annual pretax profit and profit margins of 7% to 8% as the North American auto market recovers, according to a video in the presentation by Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell that was available Thursday on a website used by underwriters to distribute IPO information. Mr. Liddell says GM should be able to hit those targets as the industry moves up from the trough of 2009. When the car market is at its strongest, he says, GM will be capable of delivering pretax annual profit of $17 billion to $19 billion, with profit margins of 9% to 10%.

Octogenarian Finds Copper With China as Biggest Customer (Bloomberg)
In the snake-infested jungle of southeastern Ecuador, the American explorer David Lowell found himself sliding over a waterfall and heard his head bounce off a rock “like a melon being hit by a hammer,” he says. Lowell was 72 and prospecting for copper that day in May 2000. He stepped into the slippery streambed for a vantage point free of vipers and vines. A broken rib and throbbing head diverted him to a nearby hamlet in search of help. “There was one man in the village who was a combination chiropractor and mortician,” Lowell says. “We decided to just buy a little tin of liniment with the picture of a dragon on it.” The expedition carried on. In the clear water of the stream, Lowell saw enough to help him find one of South America’s richest copper deposits. This May, a joint venture of Chinese state-owned companies paid $652 million to buy Lowell’s partner in the exploration, Vancouver- based Corriente Resources Inc. Lowell kept a stake there for himself, though local opposition has prevented mining. In a career spanning six decades and 44 countries, Lowell has made 14 major discoveries, including the world’s largest copper deposit in Chile. He found treasures where others detected nothing worth mining. Lowell revolutionized exploration and unearthed metals that helped the U.S. build the world’s largest economy. He also made investors billions.

BlackRock Fund To Finance, Securitize US Mortgages (Reuters)
The $1 billion BlackRock Mortgage Investors Fund will provide capital for prime "jumbo" loans through lenders under strict underwriting guidelines, said Randy Robertson, a managing director and co-head of securitized products.

FrontPoint Cautioned Manager On Trades (WSJ)
FrontPoint Partners manager Joseph F. "Chip" Skowron, who has been put on leave pending the outcome of an insider-trading investigation concerning a biotechnology stock, was warned by supervisors about trading other securities he or others on his team discussed with a network of health-care advisers, said people familiar with the matter.

Spoonachos Are The Holy Grail Of Chips (Gizmodo)
Dare to dream.

Volcker: Future Inflation Risk Limits Easing Effect (Reuters)
Volcker told reporters after a lecture in Seoul that short-term U.S. interest rates had almost no room to go down further, while long-term bond prices were under pressure from increasing concern about future inflation.

'Pay To Play' Guilty Plea Expected (WSJ)
Henry "Hank" Morris, who was an adviser to former New York Comptroller Alan Hevesi, was accused by the state's attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, in March 2009 of taking kickbacks disguised as "placement" fees in exchange for arranging business for investment firms from New York's $125 billion Common Retirement Fund, one of country's largest public pension funds. [He] has agreed to plead guilty to a felony in the long-running corruption investigation, people familiar with the situation said.

Banks Face $31 Billion Loss on Mortgage Buybacks (NYT)
So sayeth Standard & Poor's.

HSBC Says British Remuneration Rules Hurt Hiring (Dealbook)
HSBC finds it increasingly difficult to compete for talent with banks from the United States and local rivals in Asia, Stuart T. Gulliver, chief executive of HSBC’s investment banking business, said Friday. “We’re competing against the local banks and against the American banks, which are not subject to the same remuneration rules, which means we simply can’t pay what these guys are paying,” Mr. Gulliver, who is set to take over as chief executive of HSBC this year, said on a media call about the banks’ third-quarter earnings.

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Opening Bell: 01.08.13

Obama Said Close to Choosing Lew for Treasury Secretary (Bloomberg) President Barack Obama may choose White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to replace Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner as soon as this week, according to two people familiar with the matter. The selection of Lew would trigger a White House shuffle for Obama’s second term as he replaces his chief of staff and moves senior aides into new roles, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters. While Obama hasn’t made a final decision to pick Lew, the president’s staff has been instructed to prepare for his nomination, said one of the people. Rescued by a Bailout, AIG May Sue Its Savior (NYT) The board of A.I.G. will meet on Wednesday to consider joining a $25 billion shareholder lawsuit against the government, court records show. The lawsuit does not argue that government help was not needed. It contends that the onerous nature of the rescue — the taking of what became a 92 percent stake in the company, the deal's high interest rates and the funneling of billions to the insurer's Wall Street clients — deprived shareholders of tens of billions of dollars and violated the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property for "public use, without just compensation." Greenberg: 'Cadre' Hurt AIG (NYP) Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, former chief executive officer of American International Group, says in a soon-to-be-published book that the company was almost destroyed by overzealous overseers. The insurer was “ultimately taken over and run aground by a cadre of auditors, lawyers, outside directors, and government officials,” according to an excerpt of “The AIG Story” on Amazon.com’s website. JPMorgan’s Staley Quits to Join BlueMountain Hedge Fund (Bloomberg) ames E. Staley, the JPMorgan Chase executive who was once seen as a possible candidate to become chief executive officer, quit to join BlueMountain Capital Management LLC, a $12 billion hedge fund with close ties to the New York bank. Staley, who was at JPMorgan for more than 34 years, most recently as chairman of the corporate and investment bank, will become a managing partner and purchase a stake in BlueMountain, the New York-based firm said today in a statement. Proceeds from the stake sale will be invested in new infrastructure, technology and people, the firm said. “I’m very excited to be joining BlueMountain at a time when sea changes in the financial industry combined with the firm’s unique strengths open up enormous possibilities to deliver value to clients,” Staley, 56, said in the statement. HSBC N.J. Client Admits Conspiracy in Offshore Tax Case (Bloomberg) A New Jersey client of HSBC Holdings pleaded guilty to charges that he hid as much as $4.7 million through Swiss and Indian accounts not declared to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Sanjay Sethi, 52, who owns SanVision Technology Inc., conspired with HSBC bankers in New York, London and Geneva to hide assets from the IRS, he admitted yesterday in federal court in Newark, New Jersey. Sethi will pay a $2.37 million penalty for failing to file reports required for foreign accounts. “Sethi and his co-conspirators used nominee and shell companies formed in tax-haven jurisdictions and elsewhere to conceal the defendant’s ownership and control of assets and income from the IRS,” according to his charging document. Bill Ackman Says Just Getting Started Exposing Herbalife (Bloomberg) “We’re prepared to spend whatever it costs and do whatever is required to make sure that the world understands the facts about this company,” he said in a telephone interview. “We can’t imagine how the SEC or the Federal Trade Commission or any other relevant regulator will ignore what we have said.” Ackman said he would make all his information available to U.S. regulators. Chinese Tech Titans Eye Brazil (WSJ) The Chinese like emerging markets because, for a change, they don't have to start way behind established American companies. By moving into Brazil aggressively, Chinese PC maker Lenovo Group and Internet-search company Baidu hope to gain an edge over companies like Hewlett-Packard and Google In addition, some U.S. companies that are leaders at home and in Europe have a smaller footprint here because of Brazil's long history of protectionism and red tape and its high cost of labor, particularly compared with Asia. Oregon brewer Daniel Keeton creates nutritional, non-alcoholic brew for his dog (NYDN) Oregon man Daniel Keeton enjoys serving beer to customers at the brewery he works for, so why shouldn't he serve up some healthy brew for the dog he cares about? The dog brew is non-alcoholic of course, but it is a big hit with Keeton's canine Lola Jane. And now Keeton's special brew is available to anyone who wants it. After years of planning, Keeton launched his company Dawg Grog over the summer. Keeton, who works at Boneyard Brewery in Bend, says Dawg Grog is good for the dogs, and they can't seem to get enough of it. "Bend is a dog-loving community and a beer-loving community," Keeton told the Daily News on Monday. "I wanted to marry those two together in some way." Keeton spent years refining the ingredients to his special brew, which includes low-sodium vegetable broth, water and spent grain from Boneyard Brewery. "After a couple of years of trying recipes I came up with one that I am really happy with, and one that my dog is really happy with," he said. Secret Goldman Team Sidesteps Volcker After Blankfein Vow (Bloomberg) MSI wagers about $1 billion of the New York-based firm’s own funds on the stocks and bonds of companies, including a mortgage servicer and a cement producer, according to interviews with more than 20 people who worked for and with the group, some as recently as last year. The unit, headed by two 1999 Princeton University classmates, has no clients, the people said...The team of about a dozen people, based at the firm’s Manhattan headquarters, is headed by Daniel Oneglia and Geoff Adamson. Oneglia was treasurer of the Princeton eating club Tiger Inn, where his nicknames included “the Don” and “the Weasel,” according to the university’s website. Adamson was coxswain for men’s heavyweight varsity crew. A Boston Globe photo shows teammates flinging him into a Massachusetts lake after a victory. Carlyle Bags $4 Billion Profit From China Insurance Exit (Reuters) Private equity firm Carlyle Group sold its remaining stake in China's No.3 insurer CPIC in a deal valued at $793 million, exiting the business with its largest dollar profit on an investment. After several stake sales in the past two years, Carlyle will finish with a total profit of more than $4 billion, five times the $800 million it invested in CPIC between 2005 and 2007 for a 17 percent stake, Thomson Reuters calculations show. By private equity standards, where making two times cash paid and a few hundred million is considered a success, the CPIC exit is an historic deal for Carlyle. London Quantitative Hedge Funds Report Second Year of Losses (Bloomberg) The performance of the funds belies their popularity with investors, who’ve poured $108.2 billion into the pools since the end of 2008, according to Fairfield, Iowa-based BarclayHedge Ltd. While quants made money during the financial crisis when other hedge funds didn’t, they’ve since stumbled as market sentiment swung from optimism to pessimism following political announcements in Washington and Brussels, breaking up the trends they try to follow. That may force investors to withdraw money. Japan Executives Warn Yen May Get Too Weak (WSJ) The executives, who gathered at an annual New Year's reception held by Japan's three biggest corporate lobbies, praised Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new government for its proposals to boost the economy and tame the strong yen, which erodes exporters' profits and makes it harder to sell Japan-made goods overseas. But they also cautioned that if the economy stays weak, or if the government doesn't take steps to get its bloated finances under control, investors could lose confidence in Japan and flee, sending the yen into free fall. KFC diner stumbles upon strange brain-like organ in his meal (TS) Disgusted Ibrahim Langoo was tucking into a Gladiator box meal when he spotted what he thought was a “wrinkled brain” inside a piece of chicken. KFC have apologised and, after having the photographs analysed, reckon the unsightly organ may in fact be a kidney. The 19-year-old took a photograph of the three-inch stomach-churning discovery on his mobile phone and complained to staff. Apologetic bosses at the fast-food chain – known for its Finger Lickin’ Good slogan – have now offered him vouchers for even more KFC meals.

Opening Bell: 05.11.12

JPMorgan's $2 Billion Blunder (WSJ) The CEO emphasized that the bank remains profitable despite the trading loss. "While we don't give overall earnings guidance and we are not confirming current analyst estimates, if you did adjust current analyst estimates for the loss, we still earned approximately $4 billion after-tax this quarter give or take," he said on the call. The bank earned $5.38 billion in the first quarter. Drew Built 30-Year JPMorgan Career Embracing Risk (Bloomberg) JPMorgan Chief Investment Officer Ina R. Drew, head of the unit responsible for a $2 billion trading loss, built a 30-year career at the largest U.S. bank by embracing risk and avoiding the spotlight. “With everything she does, she thinks in terms of trading,” said Stephen Murray, head of CCMP Capital Advisors LLC, created from a JPMorgan private-equity unit in 2006. “There are risk-lovers, there are risk-haters, and the best traders will take the risk as long as they get paid for it.” Drew’s operation, which helps manage the bank’s risk, has been transformed under Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon to make bigger speculative bets with the firm’s own money, according to five former employees, Bloomberg News reported last month. Some bets were so big JPMorgan probably couldn’t unwind them without roiling markets, the former executives said. JPMorgan Holding Talks With UK Regulator (WSJ) JPMorgan has been holding discussions with U.K. regulators about the roughly $2 billion of trading losses incurred by the giant bank's investment office, according to people familiar with the matter. The talks with the Financial Services Authority don't represent a formal inquiry by the regulator, one person said, and it isn't clear whether it will result in any action by the regulatory agency. The FSA has been requesting information from J.P. Morgan about how the trading losses occurred and what steps the bank is taking to avoid such situations in the future, the people said. Volcker Rule Proponents Say JPMorgan Loss Bolsters Case (Bloomberg) Senator Carl Levin, the co-author of the so-called Volcker rule and chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said the New York-based bank’s disclosure yesterday served as a “stark reminder” to regulators drafting the proprietary-trading ban required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. “The enormous loss JPMorgan announced today is just the latest evidence that what banks call ‘hedges’ are often risky bets that so-called ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks have no business making,” Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said in a statement. Wall Street's Go-To Guy Trips Up (WSJ) "I am not sure how many times I can say this: It was bad strategy, executed poorly," Mr. Dimon said of the losses the company suffered in the past six weeks. The acknowledgment is a rare blow for Mr. Dimon, 56 years old, who has been on the top of the banking heap since joining J.P. Morgan Chase in 2004. He regularly extols J.P. Morgan's "fortress balance sheet" and has repeatedly lashed out against lawmakers and regulators who have slapped more rules on the banking industry. Italian man becomes mayor by accident (BBC) Though he had not given much thought to a political platform before the vote, now he is in office he has said that he will focus on promoting tourism to the area. EU Signs Of Recovery, Risks Remain (WSJ) "A recovery is in sight, but the economic situation remains fragile, with still large disparities across member States," Olli Rehn, Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs said in a statement. "Without further determined action, however, low growth in the European Union could remain." Chesapeake Deals Carry $1.4 Billion In Undisclosed Liability (WSJ) Most of these costs will hit this year and next, at a time when the company needs to raise substantial cash to cover operating expenses and its move into the more lucrative oil business. Faber Sees '87-Type Crash If U.S. Stocks Rise Without QE3 (Bloomberg) “I think the market will have difficulties to move up strongly unless we have a massive QE3,” Faber, who manages $300 million at Marc Faber Ltd., told Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop” from Zurich today, referring to a third round of large-scale asset purchases by the Fed. “If it moves and makes a high above 1,422, the second half of the year could witness a crash, like in 1987.” Third masseur accuses John Travolta of inappropriate behavior (NYP) Fabian Zanzi, a Chilean-born cruise worker who worked in VIP services, said Travolta offered him $12,000 for the tryst. Zanzi says he refused. Travolta was on the five-day cruise in 2009 without wife Kelly Preston and hit on Zanzi with a cheesy pickup line, the cruise worker said. “He said that I had something on my neck. I thought it was lint,” Zanzi told the Chilean news show “Primer Plano.” “When he got close to me, he took off his white robe and he was naked.”

Opening Bell: 08.03.12

JPMorgan London Whale Was Prodded (WSJ) A JPMorgan executive encouraged the trader known as the "London whale" to boost valuations on some trades, said a person who reviewed communications emerging from the bank's internal probe of recent trading losses. After reviewing emails and voice-mail messages, the bank has concluded that Bruno Iksil, the J.P. Morgan trader nicknamed for the large positions he took in the credit markets, was urged by his boss to put higher values on some positions than they might have fetched in the open market at the time, people familiar with the probe said. The bank's conclusion is based on a series of emails and voice communications in late March and April, as losses on his bullish credit-market bet mounted, the people said. The bank believes they show the executive, Javier Martin-Artajo, pushing Mr. Iksil to adjust trade prices higher, according to people close to the bank's investigation. At the time, Mr. Martin-Artajo was credit-trading chief for the company's Chief Investment Office, or CIO. RBS Loss Widens (WSJ) The 82%-government-owned bank reported a net loss of £1.99 billion ($3.09 billion), wider than the loss of £1.43 billion a year earlier. However, the result was hit by a £3 billion accounting charge for the fair value of the company's debt and a number of provisions for misselling financial products. Analysts focused on the more-positive underlying figures for the half, helping to make its shares the leading gainer on the FTSE 100. Excluding the own-debt charge, RBS would have posted a net profit of £287 million. It posted an operating profit of £1.83 billion, down from the £1.97 billion a year earlier. Nevertheless, RBS warned that it faces a number of lawsuits. The bank is cooperating with regulators in the U.S., Japan and the U.K., who are probing whether banks colluded to try and rig benchmark rates including the London interbank offered rate. RBS said that it had fired a number of traders following the investigations but said it was too early to estimate the fines the bank may have to pay. RBS’s CEO Blames Libor-Manipulation On ‘Handful’ Of Individuals (Bloomberg) RBS dismissed four employees for trying to influence the individual responsible for Libor submissions following an internal investigation, the bank said today, without identifying the staff involved. Hester said it is too early to estimate the potential cost of fines and litigation linked to rate-rigging. “The Libor issue is more to do with the wrongdoing of individuals than it is to do with a systemic problem,” Hester, 51, said on a call with journalists today after the Edinburgh- based bank reported a 22 percent drop in second-quarter operating profit. “It’s hugely regrettable that the actions of a relatively small number of wrongdoers, which seems to be the key issue here, has such a tainting effect on the industry.” Knight Said To Open Books To Suitors As Loss Pressure Grows (Bloomberg) Bank of America Corp. was among several potential partners that was in talks with Knight yesterday, said a person with knowledge of the matter. John Yiannacopoulos, a Bank of America spokesman, declined to comment. Loss Swamps Trading Firm (WSJ) Knight wouldn't comment on the status of the rescue talks. But market participants said the firm is running out of time. In the span of two days, the company's market value has plunged to $253.4 million from $1.01 billion, and its shares continued their nosedive in after-hours trading. "If they don't get an investor within the next 48 to 72 hours, I think Knight's going to have trouble surviving," said David Simon, chief executive of hedge fund Twin Capital Management LLC. Mt. Sinai urologist busted on charges he used spy cam to peek up subway riders’ skirts (NYDN) Dr. Adam Levinson, an assistant professor of urology at the hospital’s school of medicine, allegedly clipped a pen camera to a folded newspaper so he could peek up a woman’s skirt on a southbound 4 train about 5 p.m. Tuesday, authorities and a witness said. Sheldon Birthwright, 46, a construction worker who once worked for the Transportation Security Administration, said he sensed something wrong almost immediately after Levinson stepped on the train at E. 59th St. The doctor — a New York Medical College grad who twice won a national Patients’ Choice Award — held the newspaper at his side as he inched toward a woman wearing a knee-high dress and reading a Kindle. “He’s leaning on the pole right next to the door,” Birthwright told the Daily News. “He has a paper in his hand. But what’s mysterious about it, there’s a pen attached to the paper...He has it down in a very unsuspicious way. But every time the woman would move, he would move.” Catholic Fund Fails To Convince Believers (FT) JPMorgan Asset Management had hoped to attract investors who wanted exposure to investments that would not clash with tenets on issues such as birth control and civil rights. It also eschewed investments in governments of countries that have the death penalty. The aim was to replicate the success of funds compliant with Shariah law which have been in strong demand with Muslim investors. However, JPMorgan is to liquidate the Global Catholic Ethical Balanced Fund just over a year since it was launched. At May 31, it had net assets of just 4.3 million euros ($5.24 million), far short of a $30 million threshold outlined in its prospectus. Fake-bookers (NYP) Facebook admitted that some 83 million of the social network’s 955 million total users are fakes — meaning duplicates, spam or silly pages for pets. That represents nearly 9 percent of profiles on the site. The rash of fakes — equal to the population of Egypt — has shot up since Facebook’s rocky public debut in May, when it estimated “false” profiles accounted for 5 percent to 6 percent of its users. “These estimates are based on an internal review of a limited sample of accounts, and we apply significant judgment in making this determination, such as identifying names that appear to be fake or other behavior that appears inauthentic,” the company said in a recent regulatory filing. The spike is a major cause for concern, with advertisers and investors questioning Facebook’s effectiveness in reaching consumers. In particular, Facebook has been under scrutiny for slowing ad sales growth. Economy Adds 163,000 Jobs (WSJ) U.S. employers stepped up hiring in July as the economy continued its uneven recovery heading into this fall's presidential election. U.S. payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 163,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, but the unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, ticked up one-tenth of a percent to 8.3%. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 95,000 in payrolls and an 8.2% jobless rate. Family kept grandparents' deaths secret from Chinese diver until she won gold medal (YS) Chinese diver Wu Minxia's celebrations at winning a third Olympic gold medal were cut short after her family revealed the details of a devastating secret they had kept for several years. Wu's parents decided to withhold news of both the death of her grandparents and of her mother's long battle with breast cancer until after she won the 3-meter springboard in London so as to not interfere with her diving career. "It was essential to tell this white lie," said her father Wu Yuming...Wu's mother defended the decision to keep her situation private and admitted she only broached the subject of her breast cancer at this point because she is now in remission. Both of Wu's grandparents died more than a year ago, but the diver knew nothing of their passing until this week.