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Opening Bell: 12.10.13

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Companies, Activists Declare Truce in Boardroom Battles (WSJ)
Activist investors are increasingly encountering an unusual reception when approaching corporate targets: an open door. Instead of pulling up the drawbridge as activists approach, corporate executives and directors more often are engaging, concluding that it is easier and cheaper to negotiate rather than resist and risk a public fight, advisers and executives said. Even Carl Icahn, long seen as the archenemy of chief executives, is finding the path to the boardroom easier to tread. Mr. Icahn, among the most relentless of activists, secured representatives on more boards this year than he ever has, without resorting to shareholder-vote battles. "I'm even surprised," Mr. Icahn said in an interview. "Being admitted to all these boards without a proxy fight would have been unthinkable only a year ago."

Hilton Moves Up IPO To Wednesday (WSJ)
Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. has accelerated the timetable for its potential $2.7 billion IPO and is now planning on pricing its shares after markets close on Wednesday, instead of on Thursday, people familiar with the matter said. The acceleration reflects strong demand for the IPO from investors who have met with management during the ongoing road show, the people said.

Candy Crush maker not sweet on IPO in ‘13 (NYP)
Candy Crush Saga — the popular mobile game — will not go public this year, according to published reports. The company behind the game — Midasplayer — has delayed its initial public offering on the Nasdaq until next year amid fears that the flagship game has been “too successful”. The British company does not wish to be seen as a one-trick pony with Candy Crush and wants to take some time developing other games to add to the portfolio before coming to public markets.

Nomura to Hire 20 U.S. Bankers in Bid to Regain M&A Rank (Bloomberg)
The company will seek people to work on leveraged lending and building relationships with private-equity firms such as KKR & Co., global investment banking head Kentaro Okuda said in an interview in Tokyo. Others will be recruited to cover the hotel, real estate, casino and gaming industries, he said. The hiring plans mark a shift by Chief Executive Officer Koji Nagai toward resurrecting Nomura’s global ambitions after spending the first 16 months of his tenure fixing his predecessor’s missteps, such as ballooning overseas costs and an insider-trading scandal that roiled domestic operations. The brokerage is expanding in leveraged finance as stricter global capital requirements make the business more expensive for banks. “We’ve entered the phase where we can think about how to make deals and obtain clients in the Americas,” Okuda, 50, said in the Nov. 28 interview. “There are tons of deals there.”

SAC analyst claims sleep kept him from passing along tips (NYP)
It is hard to do insider trading in your sleep. That just about sums up Jon Horvath’s testy comeback to defense lawyer Barry Berke’s continued jabs in Manhattan federal court Monday. On Feb. 9, 2009, Horvath received an email from Primary Global Research’s Danny Kuo, a member of his insider-trading circle, who had developed an accounting-manager source inside Nvdia who gave him inside information about upcoming earnings of the tech company. But Horvath did not pass the information along to his boss, portfolio manager Michael Steinberg, when the two communicated that day and Steinberg traded in the stock. Horvath, trying to show the jury that not every illicit tip was passed along, responded to Berke: “I think I was in Taiwan and didn’t see this at the time. It was difficult to do in my sleep.”

Bowlers Journal International Rolls On (WSJ)
In its October issue, Bowlers Journal International offered advice to college freshmen, encouraging them to study hard, think positive and avoid excessive curve on the ball. "You do not have to hook it that much," said the column. The issue also profiled a Latvian bowling queen, identified the sport's most powerful people and reviewed new balls such as the Reign On: "With the hybrid Reign On, players get the traction of a dull solid reactive, but with the extra backend of a pearl reactive." As a magazine that covers bowling, Bowlers Journal operates at the intersection of bad and worse. Not only is the magazine industry troubled, losing advertisers to the Internet. But since 1980, the number of competitive bowlers in America has plummeted from almost nine million to about two million, leaving most bowling publications with no place to go except broke. The latest to tumble: 20-year-old Bowling This Month, a magazine that published its final issue this autumn, citing economic difficulties. By contrast, Bowlers Journal turned 100 last month, and marked the occasion by publishing a 300-page commemorative edition "celebrating 100 years of world-class bowling journalism." It is a milestone few magazines ever reach, and those that do tend to cover topics that never fall out of style. For instance, Good Housekeeping. "You hear people say that magazines are dead, and you hear people say that bowling is dead. Yet here you have a 300-page bowling magazine," says Samir A. Husni, director of the University of Mississippi's Magazine Innovation Center.

Volcker Rule Eases Market-Making While Hedges Face New Scrutiny (Bloomberg)
The Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and three other agencies are set to sign off tomorrow on the proprietary trading ban, which has been contested by Wall Street banks JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and their industry allies for more than three years. Wall Street’s lobbying paid off in part. Regulators granted a broader exemption from the ban for banks’ market-making desks, on the condition that traders aren’t paid in a way that rewards proprietary trading, according to a draft of the final rule. The final version also exempts securities tied to foreign sovereign debt from the ban. At the same time, regulators gave banks less leeway for bets considered hedges for other risks.

SAC agrees to sell reinsurance business to investor group (Reuters)
A group of investors led by insurance-industry veteran Brian Duperreault struck a deal to buy billionaire trader Steven A. Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors LP's reinsurance business. The deal for Bermuda-based SAC Re Ltd. is expected to close in December, a spokesman representing Duperreault and the investor group said on Monday, declining to specify terms. SAC Re will be renamed Hamilton Re upon the deal's closing, with Duperreault becoming chief executive officer.

Wealth Tide Doesn't Lift All Boats (WSJ)
Compared with last year, the well-off are probably feeling much better this holiday season. The less well-off, whose spending power is dictated more by gains in wages than wealth, aren't feeling nearly as flush. Beyond its uneven nature, spending fueled by rising asset values lacks the staying power that income-generated spending does. The Fed reported that third-quarter household net worth equaled 615% of after-tax income, up from 570% a year earlier.

Psychologist comes up with most frustrating tongue twister EVER (NYDN)
Forget about "she sells seashells down by the seashore" and "Peter piper and his peck of pickled peppers." There's a new tricky tongue twister in town — so tough, in fact, that a top psychologist claims it's the English language's most difficult EVER. The phrase "pad kid poured curd pulled cold" may not make much sense. But it completely stumped every single volunteer recently asked to repeat it 10 times in a row. "If anyone can say this phrase 10 times quickly, they get a prize," lead researcher Dr. Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, from MIT, told Boston Magazine.


Opening Bell: 09.26.12

Spain Prepares More Austerity, Protesters Battle Police (Reuters) Protesters clashed with police in Spain's capital on Tuesday as the government prepared a new round of unpopular austerity measures for the 2013 budget to be announced on Thursday. Thousands gathered in Neptune plaza, a few metres from El Prado museum in central Madrid, where they formed a human chain around parliament, surrounded by barricades, police trucks and more than 1,500 police in riot gear. Police fired rubber bullets and beat protesters with truncheons, first as protesters were trying to tear down barriers and later to clear the square. The police said at least 22 people had been arrested and at least 32 injured, including four policemen. Facebook's Next Fight: Suits And More Suits (WSJ) About 50 lawsuits have been filed against Facebook, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. and underwriters of Facebook's May IPO, according to lawyers involved in the cases. In addition, securities lawyers who represent Facebook investors say they expect hundreds of arbitration claims to be launched against brokers and securities firms that pitched the company's shares. Credit Suisse Said to Consider Merging Its Asset-Management Unit (Bloomberg) The bank is considering combining its asset-management unit with the private and investment banking divisions, a person familiar with the matter said. SAC Capital Fund Manager Said To Be Uncharged Conspirator (Bloomberg) The role allegedly played by Michael Steinberg emerged in court papers filed by the U.S. in the securities-fraud case of Jon Horvath, a former technology analyst at Cohen’s $14 billion hedge fund who Steinberg supervised. Steinberg, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, is the fifth person to be tied to insider trading while employed at SAC. Horvath faces trial Oct. 29 in Manhattan federal court along with two other portfolio managers for his part in what Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called a “criminal club:” a conspiracy of hedge fund managers, co-workers and company insiders who reaped millions of dollars on illegal tips about Dell Inc. and Nvidia Corp. “The government added four additional co-conspirators,” prosecutors wrote in a Sept. 6 letter filed with the court, with the names blacked out. One of them, the U.S. said, is “the portfolio manager to whom Jon Horvath reported at his hedge fund.” That person was Steinberg, said the people, who declined to be identified because the matter isn’t public. UK Group To Give Up Libor Oversight (WSJ) The council of the BBA, a private trade association, voted earlier this month to give up management of Libor, according to people familiar with the matter. The move clears the way for what is likely to be the biggest change in Libor's 26-year history, and introduces the possibility that British or international regulators could be in charge of overseeing the rate, which is tied to trillions of dollars of financial contracts. Rent-a-reptile: Florida company adds alligators to kids’ pool parties (NYDN) Bob Barrett gives Florida kids pool parties they’ll never forget — because they get to swim with real live alligators. Jump houses? Pizza parties? Boring, says Barrett. “You jump for a while and that’s it, we’ve had that party before,” he told the Daily News. “Clown party, Chuck E. Cheese party, they’ve all been done.” Barrett,who runs Alligator Attractions in Madeira Beach — where visitors get to hold gators — was already bringing his reptiles around to birthday parties when he was inspired to take the next step. “We would do [an alligator demonstration] at someone’s house and they would have a pool,” he explained. “And I said, you know, ‘Hey, let’s put ‘em in the pool.’” Hedge Fund Skeptics Warn on ‘QE Infinity’ (FT) “A man’s got to know his limitations,” says “Dirty Harry” Callahan, the gun-toting, rule book-ignoring cop immortalized by Clint Eastwood in “Magnum Force.” It is a principle the U.S. Federal Reserve – which earlier this month embarked upon its own, third bout of “unorthodox” enforcement, “QE3” – could learn from, according to Stephen Jen, the former Morgan Stanley foreign-exchange guru turned hedge fund manager. “The Fed officials are some of the smartest economists around,” he wrote in his most recent note to clients. The trouble is, said Mr. Jen, “they know everything except their own limitations.” Irish Bank Offers Properties For 70% Less Than 2007 Value (Bloomberg) RBS's Irish unit offered to sell properties, including 640 apartments and a hotel, for about 70 percent less than their value at the market’s 2007 peak, according to the broker managing the sale. The Gemini portfolio, containing buildings in the Irish cities of Dublin and Cork, has an asking price of 75 million euros ($97 million), according to Domhnaill O’Sullivan, a director at Savills Plc (SVS)’s Dublin office. MIT Miscounts Its New B-School Students (WSJ) After realizing they had a student surplus, school officials emailed the incoming class on Aug. 7, offering "guaranteed admission to the class of 2015 for the first 20 admitted students who request it." The school gave them until Aug. 13 to respond, according to one student's copy of the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. But it didn't get enough takers. So, like an airline offering vouchers to travelers willing to hop off oversold flights, the school put money on the table, offering students who expressed an interest a $15,000 scholarship to be applied to next year's tuition. Students still balked, and on Aug. 21, a day after pre-term refresher courses began, Sloan raised the offer to $20,000 for the first 10 respondents. (Tuition for the 2012-2013 academic year is $58,200, with total expenses—including books, housing and food—estimated at just under $89,000.) NFL replacement referee who blew touchdown call in Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game is a full-time banker (NYDN), particular those in Wisconsin, said the 52-year-old southern California banker with no previous professional or major college refereeing experience should have never left his desk to become a replacement during the NFL’s lockout of unionized refs. Even the Lingerie Football League piled on, revealing that some of the scab refs weren’t qualified to work its games. “Due to several on-field occurrences of incompetent officiating, we chose to part ways with a crew which apparently is now officiating in the NFL,” said Mitch Mortaza, commissioner of the female bra-and-panty league. “We have a lot of respect for our officials, but we felt the officiating was not in line with our expectations.”