Opening Bell: 09.03.13

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Microsoft To Buy Nokia's Handset Business For $7.2 Billion (Bloomberg)
The devices and services unit, which accounted for half of Nokia’s 2012 revenue, along with 32,000 employees, will transfer to Microsoft, the companies said. Nokia Chief Executive Officer Stephen Elop, 49, will return to Microsoft after a three-year stint running the Finnish manufacturer. The move stoked speculation he may be a successor to CEO Steve Ballmer, who said last month he’d retire within 12 months.

Citi Sheds 'Alternative' Holdings (WSJ)
The nation's third-largest bank by assets last week sold a $4.3 billion private-equity fund called Citi Venture Capital International for an undisclosed price to Rohatyn Group, a private-equity fund run by Nick Rohatyn, son of financier Felix Rohatyn, said people familiar with the matter. It couldn't be determined what price the fund fetched. On Aug. 9, Citigroup sold a $1.9 billion emerging-markets hedge fund to the fund's managers, the people said.

Banks' 'Princelings' Hires Were Widespread in China (WSJ)
Investment banks in Hong Kong have long hired princelings, the relatives of high-ranking Chinese government officials, for their knowledge of the Chinese financial system and their connections inside China, people in the industry say. They add that most are well-educated graduates of Western universities. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are trying to determine whether the banks' hiring practices violated U.S. laws against paying bribes overseas, according to people familiar with the matter...The scrutiny goes beyond the probe disclosed by J.P. Morgan in August, according to people with knowledge of the situation. A J.P. Morgan spokeswoman has said the bank is cooperating with investigators.

Worst Of Crisis Over For Asian Emerging Markets, Nomura Says (Bloomberg)
“We’re through the worst of the crisis but it doesn’t mean individual countries won’t continue to suffer significant challenges,” Steve Ashley, London-based head of global markets at Nomura, said in an interview. “We remain relatively positive on the longer term performance of risk assets in Asian emerging markets.”

Microsoft Board Shows Little Taste For Bold Choice In CEO (WSJ)
"Judging from the makeup of the board and the CEO they've been accustomed to in Steve Ballmer, the likelihood that they pick anything other than a stay-the-course guy is small," said Jeffrey F. Rayport, a longtime digital strategist and a senior adviser of private-equity firm Castanea Partners Inc., which doesn't hold Microsoft shares.

Police Break Up 'Drug-Fueld Sex Party' At Masonic Temple In Michigan (RS)
Police ordered people to leave a Masonic Temple in Michigan early Sunday after discovering women in their birthday suits performing indecent acts on a stage. Officers were called at 2:19 a.m. about a possible fight at the Battle Creek Masonic Center. When they arrived, they were surprised to find couples performing lewd acts, drug activity and multiple nude women. Some men were also videotaping the action. Police described the scene as a “drug fuel sex party.” Multiple arrests were made. Police told Newshchannel 3 it wasn’t the first time the Masonic Temple had been the scene of an out of control party. A man known as “Charlie” told Newshchannel 3 that an identified group had rented the Masonic Temple for a dancing party. The Masonic Lodge has suspended all future rental parties.

Casinos Heed US Reporting Warning (WSJ)
Some casino companies are revamping their anti-money-laundering procedures after being put on notice by the Justice Department that they need to comply with federal reporting requirements, casino executives say.

Bank of America cutting China bank holdings with $1.5 billion stake sale (Reuters)
Bank of America Corp launched on Tuesday an up to $1.5 billion share offering in China Construction Bank Corp, exiting an eight-year investment in China's second-biggest lender in a bid to shore up its own balance sheet.

Icahn Eyeing Apple Hookup (NYP)
The chatter first kicked in several weeks ago when Icahn — who at the time had a 16.4 percent stake in Nuance, the maker of the popular Siri speech recognition technology — also revealed a “large position” in Apple. Tamping expectations, however, was Icahn’s curiously passive position in Nuance in the form of a generic 13G regulatory filing. That changed late Thursday when Icahn switched to a 13D filing, which warns companies of activist intentions. He announced an elevated 16.9 percent stake and said he thinks the shares are undervalued. The change to a 13D reignited chatter that a deal between Nuance and Apple could be in the pipeline. “It would be a small acquisition for Apple,” said hedge-fund consultant Charles Gradante, who thinks Apple could buy Nuance for $7 billion — mere pocket change for the gadget maker. “Nuance is a leader in voice. Voice is the future. Apple needs to expand its future,” Gradante added.

Zurich Suicide Aftermath Attempts To Threaten Ackermann's Legacy (Bloomberg)
Pierre Wauthier, who was found dead on Aug. 26 at his home near Zug, Switzerland, mentioned Ackermann in a suicide note. The Swiss native, 65, quit as chairman three days later and called the allegations “unfounded.” Zurich Insurance, facing renewed concerns about its financial health, has since said it’s looking into whether undue pressure was placed on the CFO. “No matter which way you cut it, the departure amounts to a personal failure,” said Lutz Roehmeyer, a fund manager at Landesbank Berlin Investment, who helps oversee more than 11 billion euros ($14.5 billion). “He’ll be seen either as a bad guy who forced a person to suicide, or someone who couldn’t push through what he wanted. This will limit his job opportunities to companies that wouldn’t normally have come into question.”

London's Newest Skyscraper Is Melting Cars Parked Near It (Jalopnik)
Nicknamed the Walkie-Talkie, 20 Fenchurch Street in London's busy financial district turns out to be a giant magnifying glass parabolic reflector as well as a 37-story skyscraper, melting cars and forcing pedestrians to shield their eyes on the street. The most recent casualty is a Jaguar XJ...It only took an hour of parking on the street for businessman Martin Lindsay to end up with a Jaguar that had most if its plastics melted beyond repair. He is not the only one. Another unlucky driver came back to his van only to find a melted dashboard and a twisted bottle of Lucozade in the cabin.

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Opening Bell: 04.04.12

Chinese Premier Blasts Banks (WSJ) In an evening broadcast on state-run China National Radio, Mr. Wen told an audience of business leaders that China's tightly controlled banking system needs to change. "Let me be frank. Our banks earn profit too easily. Why? Because a small number of large banks have a monopoly," said Mr. Wen, according to the transcript of the program on the broadcaster's website. "To break the monopoly, we must allow private capital to flow into the finance sector." Regulators Expected to Penalize JPMorgan Over Lehman Collapse (NYT) The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is expected this week to file a civil case against JPMorgan. The bank is expected to settle the Lehman matter and pay a fine of approximately $20 million...The Lehman action stems from the questionable treatment of customer money — an issue that has been at the forefront of the recent outcry over MF Global. JPMorgan was also intimately involved in the final days of that brokerage firm. The trading commission is expected to accuse JPMorgan of overextending credit to Lehman for two years leading up to its bankruptcy in 2008, the people briefed on the matter said. Fitch Ditched in Bond Dispute (WSJ) Fitch Group's new chief executive said Credit Suisse Group AG CSGN.VX -1.61% dropped the firm's rating from a mortgage-backed security because Fitch took a harsher view than two rivals that assigned triple-A ratings to the deal. "It was an 11th-hour thing when they decided which agency it would be to publicly rate it," said Paul Taylor, who took over this week as chief executive of Fitch Group, in an interview. "We had a materially different take." Mr. Taylor said Fitch Group, which includes credit-rating firm Fitch Ratings, had been compensated for its rating on the mortgage-backed deal. Fitch shared its differing view with investors after the deal closed Friday, publishing a report critical of Standard & Poor's Ratings Services and DBRS Ltd. for issuing triple-A ratings on the residential-mortgage-backed security issued by Credit Suisse. Fed Signals No Need for More Easing Unless Growth Falters (Bloomberg) “A couple of members indicated that the initiation of additional stimulus could become necessary if the economy lost momentum or if inflation seemed likely to remain below” 2 percent, according to minutes of their March 13 meeting released today in Washington. That contrasts with the assessment at the FOMC’s January meeting in which some Fed officials saw current conditions warranting additional action “before long.” Spanish Bond Sale Fizzles (WSJ) Spain sold a total of €2.589 billion ($3.43 billion) of the 4.4% January 2015, 4.25% October 2016 and 4.85% October 2020 bonds, against its €2.5 billion to €3.5 billion target. Wednesday's sale, brought forward by one day due to a national holiday on Thursday, brought Spain's 2012 bond issuance completion to almost 46% of the €86 billion gross bond issuance target. ‘Apple Fever’ Prompts Predictions of $1 Trillion Value (Bloomberg) “Apple fever is spreading like a wildfire around the world,” Brian White, the Topeka analyst, said in a report that initiated coverage of the company with a buy recommendation. White’s new 12-month target of $1,001 is the highest among the 45 analysts tracked by Bloomberg and represents a 59 percent increase over today’s closing price. He said Apple’s market value will eventually top $1 trillion. £200,000 bar bill trader, arrested in FSA probe (CityAM) Alex Hope, the 23 year-old trader who hit the headlines after spending £125,000 on a single bottle of champagne, has been arrested on suspicion of being involved in an unauthorised foreign exchange trading scheme. Hope, who claims to be a self made foreign exchange trader, became infamous when he ran up a £125,000 bar bill in one evening at a Liverpool nightclub. Most of this was spent on a single 99lb bottle of champagne...Hope's publicist last night confirmed that he had been arrested but said that he denies all allegations. His personal website describes him as “a name to watch out for in the city” and “an expert in the UK economy” who regularly "trades millions." It calls him a “talented, charismatic and thoroughly likeable man." SEC Puts Exchanges on Notice Over Computer-Driven Trades (Bloomberg) “The consequences of a big failure are so severe that the SEC should be paying close attention to these issues,” James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s business school in Washington, said in an e-mail. “No human system is perfect and eventually something will happen, so they also want policies and procedures in place for catching problems quickly and cleaning up the mess afterwards.” Ready for a rumble: Falcone vs. Icahn (NYP) Falcone, who has funneled a whopping $2.9 billion into LightSquared, is desperate to salvage his shaky investment amid a battle with federal regulators over building out the wireless network. Falcone has said both publicly and privately that bankruptcy is not an option. However, some LightSquared creditors, including Icahn, would rather put the company into bankruptcy as part of a plan that would give them equity stakes in the company and greater control over its future, sources said. The deadline for creditors to decide is fast approaching. Icahn and other owners of LightSquared’s $1.6 billion loan due 2014 have given the company until the end of April before they decide whether to put LightSquared into default for breaching some loan covenants tied to its customer contracts. ADP: 209,000 Jobs Added (WSJ) Private businesses hired at a modest rate in March close to what economists expected, according to a report released Wednesday. Private-sector jobs in the U.S. increased 209,000 last month, according to a national employment report published by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing Inc. and consultancy Macroeconomic Advisers. The gain was just above economists' median expectation of 200,000 contained in a survey done by Dow Jones Newswires. Occupy London Hinders Burrito Sales More Than Banker Bonuses (Bloomberg) The protesters were evicted from St. Paul’s on Feb. 28 and at least one restaurant found its bookings jump back to pre- occupied levels. Sales were down 40 percent to 50 percent while the camp was at St. Paul’s, resulting in two or three staff members losing their jobs, said Pollie Hall, events manager at the Paternoster Chop House. “This isn’t the corporate fat cats they were affecting, it was average working Joes,” said Hall, who said her customers were verbally abused by protesters and she was called a “devil- worshipping mason.” A wedding scheduled at the restaurant on the first day of the protest had to be moved. Mega ‘winner’: $105M tix stashed in this McDonald's (NYP) The Baltimore woman who claims to have one of three winning Mega Millions tickets now says it’s hidden somewhere in the McDonald’s restaurant where she works. Marlinde Wilson, 37, coyly wouldn’t reveal whether she had stashed the slip of paper behind the McFlurry machine or under the all-beef patties. “I’m waiting for things to calm down so I can go back to McDonald’s and get it. The people [at McDonald’s] are too excited. I want their heads to cool down before I go back,” she said.

Opening Bell: 2.23.15

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Opening Bell: 6.8.17

Bill Gross remains less than optimistic; Amazon wants to eat your lunch; Paul Singer is a “pain in the ass”; weed pizza; and more.