Opening Bell: 08.04.14 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 08.04.14

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Exclusive: Goldman group set to buy message system as alternative to Bloomberg (Reuters)
Wall Street firms led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc are close to buying a stake in chat and instant messaging startup Perzo Inc in pursuit of an alternative to a similar application from Bloomberg LP, sources familiar with Goldman's plans said. Banks are trying to cut costs as sluggish trading volumes and higher regulation weigh on revenues. Bloomberg has dominated messaging on Wall Street for years, but its application is part of a data, trading and news terminal that costs about $20,000 a year. The Perzo applications are free. Several banks and asset managers are considering an investment in Perzo, including Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings PLC, BlackRock Inc and the hedge fund Maverick Capital Ltd, said two sources briefed on the matter who declined to comment publicly...Goldman Sachs has been looking at alternatives to Bloomberg's messaging program for years, and launched a project internally called "Babel" in early 2013 to develop a competitor, according to two sources. As that project was underway, the bank learned that reporters in Bloomberg's news division had access to information about bank professionals that it assumed had been private, such as when an employee had last logged into his or her terminal, the sources said.

London Banker Jobs Decrease as Large Firms Slow Hiring (Bloomberg)
Job vacancies at London’s financial-services companies fell by 8 percent in July from the previous month as hiring by large securities firms slowed, according to a survey by a recruitment firm. The number of openings in the City and Canary Wharf financial districts decreased to 2,000 in July from 2,190 in June, London-based Astbury Marsden said in a statement today. However, smaller companies such as high-frequency and algorithmic trading firms, are “actively” creating new positions and adding employees, according to the recruiter.

TPG Is Said to Seek $12 Billion Fund After Boom-Era Busts (Bloomberg)
The total amount for TPG’s seventh buyout pool would include $2 billion the firm already obtained for a bridge fund, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The predecessor fund raised $19.8 billion in 2008, just before the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. triggered a global financial meltdown. TPG gathered $15.4 billion for its fifth fund in 2006 at the peak of the buyout boom.

BofA’s 2 Hour Rosneft Trade Halt Shows Sanction Confusion (Bloomberg)
Bank of America Corp. and Nomura Holding Inc. (8604)’s electronic-trading unit Instinet temporarily banned trading in Russian energy stocks OAO Rosneft and OAO Novatek last month after the U.S. sanctioned the firms over Russia’s policy on Ukraine, four people with knowledge of the matter said. Bank of America suspended trading in both stocks for about two hours as a precautionary measure after the U.S. Treasury issued sanctions on July 16, said two people, who asked not to be identified because the information hasn’t be made public. Nomura placed a ban on both companies’ shares for 24 hours on July 28, one of the people said. “The first reaction for risk managers will be to cut trading when these sanctions occur,” Chris Weafer, a senior partner at Moscow-based consulting firm Macro Advisory and former chief strategist at Sberbank CIB, said in an interview. “We will see this trend of voluntary prohibitions repeated because there are no medals for bravery, and risk managers will err on the side of caution.”

German schoolboy drops phone on fishing trip, drains entire pond to look for it (Metro)
A boy enjoying a fishing trip with a group of friends accidentally dropped his iPhone over the side of the boat – so he decided to drain the entire pond. The 16-year-old took matters into his own hands after the angling club refused to let him use his diving suit to retrieve the device, sneaking back later that night armed with a powerful pump and two hoses. ‘I thought two pumps would drain enough of the water from the pond so I could find my cellphone,’ he told his local paper in Cologne. ‘I knew the phone was probably dead but wanted to get the data card back with the numbers, pictures and videos of my friends.’ The youngster thought that if he directed the water into the angling club toilet he may get away with his plan – but he failed to notice that the toilet wasn’t attached to a sewage system. When the owner arrived to a flooded car park he quickly found the cause and called police. The boy was ordered to pay for the damage for the toilet, the clean-up operation and the water to refill the pond. And though he didn’t recover his phone, he was unapologetic. ‘It almost worked,’ he insisted.

New York Muscles Ahead of Hong Kong in Cross-Border IPOs (Money Beat)
Last year Hong Kong exchanges had $15 billion of listings for offshore companies, driven by $14.5 billion of business from China. The U.S. fared poorly by comparison, drawing in only $5 billion of offshore IPOs and a paltry $900 million in Chinese business. Already the trend has reversed in the first half of 2014. U.S. exchanges had $8 billion of cross-border IPOs, nearly tripling the amount from the same point last year. Of that, IPOs by Chinese companies on U.S. exchanges drew in $3.5 billion for the first half of the year. This compares with just $6 billion for Hong Kong exchanges so far in 2014, all of which came from China.

Activist Firms Join Tax-Deal Push (WSJ)
Adding the latest in-vogue deal maneuver to their playbook, activist investors are pressing for overseas mergers that can slice tax bills. In the latest example, Marcato Capital Management LP hired an investment bank to try to drum up interest from U.S. hotel companies that could possibly cut down on their tax bills by buying U.K.-based InterContinental Hotels Group PLC, according to people familiar with the matter. The $3 billion activist hedge fund says it owns about a 4% stake in InterContinental and has already publicly called on the owner of the InterContinental and Holiday Inn chains to explore a deal. Now, the people said, Marcato is trying to ramp up the pressure by hiring the bank, Houlihan Lokey, and focusing on the possibility of a tax-beneficial merger.

US could lose $20B in tax revenue from corporate ‘inversions’ (NYP)
Apple, critics say, is an expert in complex tax arrangements, saving billions by having a large workforce in Ireland. Apple has come in for criticism by Washington for paying corporation taxes that, via complicated loopholes, may be as low as 3 percent. Senate investigators recently showed how Apple saved taxes on $44 billion of offshore income over several years. Google, another significant employer in Ireland, is said to employ the “Double Irish” tax arrangement. That has resulted in the majority of its worldwide profits avoiding income tax anywhere, experts say. Google’s worldwide income-tax bill was reportedly slashed by $2.2 billion in 2012.

Woman Walks Naked Boyfriend On Leash (HP)
Authorities are mulling whether to charge a West Virginia couple for a "consensual sex game" that startled many of their neighbors. The sight of a man wearing only a hood on his head and crawling on all fours as a nightgown-wearing woman led him down the street on a leash prompted witnesses to call police on July 29. The man's feet were also bound and apparently an unidentified object protruded from his anus, according to a police report obtained by the Smoking Gun. It was "the weirdest day ever," Ohio County Sheriff's Lt. Nelson Croft said. After searching the area around the busy intersection in Wheeling where the fetishistic couple was seen, deputies identified Barbara Jean “B.J.” Geardello, 53 and her boyfriend Robert Deyell, 56, as the exhibitionists. Deyell bore ligature marks on his ankles, but complained of no injures. “They said it was consensual sex, a consensual sex game," Croft told CBS Pittsburgh. And, in fact, the couple had a complaint of their own to share with authorities. "They were offended that people were stopping and calling them freaks," Croft said.

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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: 03.28.13

Cyprus's Banks Open After Two Weeks (Bloomberg) Cyprus’s banks opened for the first time in almost two weeks, with new rules curbing access to cash preventing an initial panic to withdraw deposits. “We expected much more people,” said Argyros Eraclides, manager of a Bank of Cyprus branch in the Stavrou area of Nicosia. “Fortunately there are only some people who needed cash for the day, but customers reacted fantastically. We expected some people to be more aggravated.” Banks opened at midday local time today, with lines of about 15 to 20 people waiting to enter branches in the Cypriot capital. The Central Bank of Cyprus’s money controls include a 300-euro ($383) daily limit on withdrawals and restrictions on transfers to accounts outside the country. Italy Minister Knows Nothing About Possible Downgrade (Reuters) Italian Economy Minister Vittorio Grilli said on Thursday he had no knowledge of any imminent decision by Moody's to cut Italy's sovereign debt rating. Fitch cut Italy's rating this month and market rumours have been swirling for days that fellow agency Moody's, which has a negative outlook on Italy, is poised to follow suit. "I have no news about that," Grilli told reporters in parliament. BofA Said to Ask Mortgage-Bond Buyers to Take Debt in Packages (Bloomberg) Investors seeking to buy higher yielding, riskier slices of home-loan bonds sold yesterday by EverBank Financial Corp. were told they’d have a better shot if they also purchased some of the AAA rated classes, showing weaker demand for the top-ranked debt. Bank of America Corp. and Barclays Plc, the underwriters of the deal, pushed investors to purchase the debt in a package as relative yields widen on AAA portions of securities tied to new mortgages without government backing, according to two people familiar with the discussions who asked not to be identified because the negotiations were private. Matthew 25 Fund Inspired By Scripture Returns 27% (Bloomberg) When the Matthew 25 Fund fell 40 percent in 2008, it kept Mark Mulholland awake at night. Mulholland, the founder and sole manager of the mutual fund -- named after a Bible passage -- says he would lie in bed thinking about the damage he had done to his investors, particularly the elderly whose nest eggs might not recover before they died. The assets he managed dwindled to $22 million from $115 million, Bloomberg Markets will report in its May issue. What Mulholland didn’t worry about were the stocks in his portfolio. “The companies we owned were so cheap that barring a total collapse of the economic system, I knew at some point we were going to make a lot of money,” he says. That time has come. Florida couple says they live next to 'neighbor from hell' (WTSP) A dispute over an alligator has ignited a feud between two neighbors that appears to be spiraling out of control. Drew and Nicole Carver say their neighbor, John McDonough, has consistently harassed them since last October. "We had a security system installed not because of the neighborhood that we live in, but because of the neighbor we live next to," said Nicole Carver. It started after the Carvers called out wildlife officials to remove an alligator from a retention pond they share with McDonough. The move apparently angered McDonough so much that he began to put up yard signs insulting Drew Carver, a trainer with the military at MacDill Air Force Base. One sign read, "In memory of Chris Kyle," an army sniper who was murdered by a fellow veteran back in February. "He removed Chris Kyle's name from the sign and he said, 'Your name will be in there next,'" said Nicole Carver. S&P Seeks to Merge State Suits Into One (WSJ) Seventeen lawsuits have piled up against Standard & Poor's Ratings Services by state attorneys general who claim the firm churned out shoddy ratings before or after the financial crisis. S&P wants to yank the cases into a federal court—and shrink the total to one. The moves are an important skirmish in a legal battle that could wind up costing S&P billions of dollars if the firm loses the cases or settles them to cut its losses. Funds Reshape Investment Mold (WSJ) Hedge funds that specialize in bonds are bulking up on stocks, in the latest sign of investor concern over the health of the long bull market in debt prices. Fund managers that have made winning bets in corporate loans, mortgage bonds and distressed debt are altering course after a flood of cash has pushed up the prices of all sorts of debt investments, raising risks and depressing expected returns. Ratings Relief For JPM (NYP) JPMorgan Chase had its credit outlook raised to stable from negative by Standard & Poor’s as doubts about last year’s record trading loss eased. Wells Fargo distances itself from 'Harlem Shake' video filmed in Atlanta bank (AP) Wells Fargo bank officials say a viral video filmed inside an Atlanta bank branch was not approved or produced by the company, and employees participated on their own time. The video, one of many depicting the "Harlem Shake," features characters dancing in the lobby of a Wells Fargo branch. One wears a diaper and has a pacifier, and another is dressed as a bottle of Colt 45.

Opening Bell: 05.14.12

JPMorgan Loss Claims Official Who Oversaw Trading Unit (NYTimes) The $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase will claim its first casualty among top officials at the bank as early as Monday, with chief executive Jamie Dimon set to accept the resignation of the executive who oversaw the trade, Ina R. Drew. Ms. Drew, a 55-year-old banker who has worked at the company for three decades and serves as chief investment officer, had repeatedly offered to resign since the scale of the loss became apparent in late April, but Mr. Dimon had held off until now on accepting it, several JPMorgan Chase executives said. Two traders who worked for Ms. Drew also planned to resign, JPMorgan Chase officials said. Her exit would mark a stunning fall from grace for one of the most powerful women on Wall Street, as well as a trusted lieutenant of Mr. Dimon...Former senior-level executives at JPMorgan said it was a shame that Ms. Drew has ended up suffering much of the fallout from the soured trade. They said that Thursday’s announcement of the $2 billion loss was the first real misstep that Ms. Drew has had and said that the position was not meant to drum up bigger profits for the bank, but rather to ensure that JPMorgan could continue to hold lending positions in Europe. “This is killing her,” a former JP Morgan executive said, adding “in banking there are very large knives.” Jamie Dimon: Trading Losses Are Not Life-Threatening (CNBC) “This is a stupid thing that we should never have done but we’re still going to earn a lot of money this quarter so it isn’t like the company is jeopardized,” he said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet with Press.” “We hurt ourselves and our credibility, yes — and that you’ve got to fully expect and pay the price for that.” Yahoo’s Thompson Out Amid Inquiry; Levinsohn Is Interim CEO (Bloomberg, earlier) Thompson, 54, was brought on to orchestrate a turnaround after Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. lured users and advertising dollars. Thompson’s undoing stems from erroneous biographical references to him as holding a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Stonehill College. A former EBay Inc. (EBAY) executive, he earned a degree in accounting from the Easton, Massachusetts- based school, and the information is correctly listed in EBay regulatory filings and some Yahoo press releases. The incorrect degree showed up in Yahoo’s April 27 10-K filing, as well as on the company’s website. As part of the board changes, Daniel Loeb, chief executive officer of Third Point, joins as a director along with Harry Wilson and Michael Wolf. A fourth nominee, Jeffrey Zucker, said in today’s statement that he withdrew his nomination to allow a quick transition. Euro Officials Begin to Weigh Greek Exit (Bloomberg) Greek withdrawal “is not necessarily fatal, but it is not attractive,” European Central Bank Governing Council member Patrick Honohan said in Tallinn on May 12. An exit was “technically” possible yet would damage the euro, he said. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble reiterated in an interview in Sueddeutsche Zeitung that member states seeking to hold the line on austerity for Greece could not force the country to stay. LightSquared Moves Toward Bankruptcy Filing (WSJ) Hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone's LightSquared Inc. venture was preparing Sunday to file for bankruptcy protection after negotiations with lenders to avoid a potential debt default faltered, said people familiar with the matter. LightSquared and its lenders still have until 5 p.m. Monday to reach a deal that would keep the wireless-networking company out of bankruptcy court, and there were some indications over the weekend that a final decision hadn't yet been reached on its fate. Still, the two sides remained far apart, and people involved in the negotiations expected LightSquared to begin making bankruptcy preparations in earnest. Facebook cofounder living large in Singapore as he stiffs US for a possible $600M in taxes (NYP) Saverin is renouncing his US citizenship in favor of Singapore, the Southeast Asian city-state that has no capital-gains tax, where he has lived like royalty since 2009. The move already has saved him about $288 million in taxes, and will save him much more if he chooses to sell his $4 billion personal stake in Facebook, which goes public next week. “This pisses me off,” fellow tech-industry billionaire Mark Cuban spat on Twitter Friday upon hearing news of Saverin’s decision. Saverin’s spokesman has defended the move, claiming he has investments in the Far East, and Europe and the permanent move makes perfect sense. “Eduardo recently found it more practical to become a resident of Singapore since he plans to live there for an indefinite period of time,” Saverin’s spokesman told Bloomberg. JPMorgan Unit's London Staff May Go as Loss Prompts Exits (Bloomberg) The entire London staff of JPMorgan Chase’s chief investment office is at risk of dismissal as a $2 billion trading loss prompts the first executive departures as soon as this week, a person familiar with the situation said. The firm is examining whether anyone in the unit, which employs a few dozen people in London, sought to hide risks, said the person, who requested anonymity because the deliberations are private. In Wake Of JPMorgan Loss, Rivals Fret About New Rules, Downgrades (WSJ) Over the weekend, rival banks scurried to explain why they believe a similar trading loss couldn't happen at their firm. Some companies pointed to moves already taken to reduce risk and sell off volatile and opaque assets such as derivatives on credit indexes. In a statement, Citigroup "has a small amount of straight-forward economic hedges managed at the corporate center to mitigate our credit exposure, principally relating to consumer loans." About half of that total is in cash, with most of the rest in U.S. Treasury bonds and other conservative investments. At Morgan Stanley, the portfolio most similar to J.P. Morgan's investment office is a $32 billion "available for sale" portfolio. The portfolio primarily consists of easily traded U.S. Treasury and government agency securities. It doesn't hold any derivatives instruments, a person familiar with Morgan Stanley's operations said. Goldman Sachs has no similar unit to the one at J.P. Morgan that suffered the loss. Apple Founder Wozniak to Buy Facebook Regardless of Price (Bloomberg) “I would invest in Facebook,” he said in an interview yesterday on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t care what the opening price is.” Missing: Stats on Crisis Convictions (WSJ) It is a question that has been asked time and again since the financial crisis: How many executives have been convicted of criminal wrongdoing related to the tumultuous events of 2008-2009? The Justice Department doesn't know the answer. That is because the department doesn't keep count of the numbers of board-level prosecutions. In a response earlier this month to a March request from Sen. Charles Grassley (R.,Iowa), the Justice Department said it doesn't hold information on defendants' business titles. "Consequently, we are unable to generate the [requested] comprehensive list" of Wall Street convictions stemming from the 2008 meltdown, the letter from the Department of Justice to Mr. Grassley said. Man Charged in Death Offers Victim's Foot for Deal (AP) A homeless man charged with killing and dismembering his friend says he can't remember much about the crime. But in a jailhouse interview, Leslie Sandoval told the Anderson Independent-Mail he remembers where he put the victim's missing left foot and is willing to tell a prosecutor if she will make him a deal. Sandoval says he went on a January drinking binge with Seth Foster. Foster's torso was found under an Anderson home, and his head, hands and right foot were found different places. Sandoval says he is confused about exactly what happened. But he disagrees with a coroner's finding he beat Foster and denies a claim from investigators that he confessed and gave them the knife used to dismember Foster.

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Opening Bell: 9.2.16

Carl Icahn's son wants a promotion; Banks vs stress tests; Pamela Anderson, rabbi pen op-ed saying porn is "for losers"; and more.