Opening Bell: 08.19.14

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Bidding War Breaks Out to Dominate Dollar Stores (WSJ)
Dollar General Corp, the biggest dollar-store chain in the U.S., on Monday offered to pay $9 billion in cash for the second-biggest, Family Dollar Stores Inc., the latest in a wave of retail mergers that comes as companies struggle with weak traffic and a glut of stores. The offer is an attempt to elbow out the smallest of the three rivals, Dollar Tree Inc., which signed an agreement to acquire Family Dollar three weeks ago. Family Dollar's board said on Monday that it would review the new $78.50-a-share offer, but continued to recommend shareholders vote for its $74.50-a-share deal with Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree declined to comment. Family Dollar's stock closed above either price at $79.81, suggesting investors expect the bids to go higher.

Louis Bacon’s Bahamas battle reaches New York court (FT)
A battle over Clifton Bay, a postcard-perfect patch of turquoise waters off the western coast of the Bahamas, has raged for years between a billionaire hedge fund owner and a Canadian clothing mogul. It has now spilled into a New York courtroom in what one side hopes will finally settle the score. Louis Bacon, the billionaire founder of hedge fund Moore Capital Management, took legal action last week by asking a US court to try to gain access to videotaped footage he believes will help him prove that Peter Nygard, founder of clothing manufacturer Nygard International and his Bahamian neighbour, has engaged in a smear campaign against him. The backdrop is a long-running legal feud involving multiple lawsuits over whether Mr Nygard is, as Mr Bacon alleges, harming the environment around Clifton Bay, a beach made famous by James Bond movies, where both men have compounds... The setting for the feud is the exclusive Lyford Cay community on Clifton Bay. In 1993 Mr Bacon bought a 150,000 sq ft estate in a gated community. His nextdoor neighbour is Mr Nygard, who also owns a large estate and has been a permanent resident of the Bahamas since 1986. Mr Nygard has constructed a “Robinson Crusoe playground” with volcanic, smoking Mayan temples, a disco club and 20 themed cabanas where he has hosted celebrities, according to his website.

Goldman to face Libya's sovereign wealth fund in court over trades (Reuters)
Goldman Sachs and Libya's sovereign wealth fund are set to meet in a London court over claims the Wall Street bank exploited a position of trust by encouraging the fund to invest more than $1 billion in trades that ended up worthless...The fund, which became a Goldman client in 2007, alleges that the bank deliberately exploited the relationship of trust and confidence it had established with LIA staff, causing the fund to enter into the disputed trades. The LIA estimates that Goldman made substantial profit of around $350 million on the trades, while it was left with "colossal" losses.

BofA’s Montag Becomes Sole COO as Darnell Seeks Transfer (Bloomberg)
Bank of America's’s Thomas K. Montag, the lender’s top-paid senior manager, will become sole chief operating officer as co-COO David Darnell takes a new title so he can move to Florida. Darnell, 61, will be vice chairman and continue overseeing global wealth and investment management, as well as business banking, Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan wrote in a memo to employees. Montag, who has split the COO job with Darnell since 2011, will still run the investment banking and capital markets businesses.

Steven Cohen's Firm Loses Another Top Executive (WSJ, earlier)
Thomas Conheeney, who rose over 15 years to become president of Mr. Cohen's giant hedge-fund firm, resigned Monday, capping a tenure as head of the firm during which eight current or former employees were convicted on criminal charges related to insider trading. Mr. Conheeney was one of the firm's most vocal defenders during the government's prosecution of SAC Capital Advisors LP, now called Point72 Asset Management. He will be succeeded by Douglas Haynes, a former director at McKinsey & Co. who was appointed earlier this year to the hedge-fund firm's executive committee. The turn to Mr. Haynes, 48 years old, is the latest in a series of changes the firm has made—or had thrust upon it—as it has grappled with the effects of the government's insider-trading investigation.

The Reason We Yawn (WSJ)
To get to the bottom of yawning, scientists have performed dozens of experiments on groups of people and animals, including baboons and parakeets. Yawning is one of the animal kingdom's great unifiers. It seems almost any creature with a backbone does it. A leading hypothesis is that yawning plays an important role in keeping the brain at its cool, optimal working temperature. The brain is particularly sensitive to overheating, according to Andrew Gallup, an assistant professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Oneonta. Reaction times slow and memory wanes when the brain's temperature varies even less than a degree from the ideal 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Man Fakes Death To Avoid Wedding (HP)
August 15 would have been Alex Lancaster's wedding day -- if her fiancee hadn't faked his own death. Lancaster, 23, of the United Kingdom, reportedly met Tucker Blandford, also 23, in August 2012, when she was attending college in Connecticut. The two fell quickly in love. "He was such a gentleman. He showered me with jewelry. We would go out for a posh dinner on the tenth of every month to celebrate the day we got together," Lancaster said, according to the Mirror. "I'd never been in love like that before. I met his family and they treated me like a daughter. His mum and I became so close." Lancaster feared their good thing would come to an end when she returned home, so when Blandford proposed marriage, she was eager to say yes. The two talked every day and started planning a wedding in Connecticut. Lancaster said she spent money on a dress, invitations and for flights for Blandford so he could see her in the U.K. Things changed a few months ago, when she got a call from a man who said he was Blandford's father. "He told me Tucker had been deeply depressed and wanted to die, so had thrown himself in front of a car," she said, according to Yahoo! News UK. "The man explained that they had been trying to send Tucker off to a psychiatric unit for help. But it was too late. I couldn't breathe. It was absolutely devastating." She got off the phone emotionally shattered, but things took a weird turn when she called the family back a short time later. Blandford's mom answered the phone, but had no clue that her son had died. In fact, he was alive and well. "She said Tucker was absolutely fine –- but she also thought we'd split up," Lancaster told Reveal.co.uk. "She knew nothing about the wedding." Lancaster quickly discovered that the venue they had supposedly reserved for their wedding had no record of their booking. Although Blandford has since texted to say he was sorry, and has paid back half the $1,200 he owes her for wedding-related expenses, Lancaster refuses any contact...Blandford admits Lancaster's allegations are true. "I’m a terrible, awful person. I know I shouldn’t have told her I was dead, but I didn’t know what else to do," he said.

Singer to subpoena 123 companies for Argentina money (NYP)
Billionaire Paul Singer’s treasure hunt for Argentine assets will lead to a slew of fresh subpoenas this week, including one to a company located on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, The Post has learned. Singer’s hedge fund Elliott Management, which has been in hot pursuit of assets to satisfy $1.5 billion in judgments tied to defaulted Argentina bonds, won a big victory last week when a federal judge in Nevada authorized him to go after 123 Nevada-based companies tied to Argentine businessman Lazaro Baez. The probe into Baez put Elliott hot on the trail of another Argentine businessman Cristobal Lopez — the wealthy and well-connected pal of the late Argentina President Nestor Kirchner, sources close to the matter tell The Post. Nestor’s widow, Cristina, succeeded him as president. Now Singer intends to use the powers granted by the Nevada court last week to issue subpoenas to at least two Nevada companies tied to Lopez, a source familiar with Singer’s thinking said. He is seeking information that could let him seize state assets.

Pimco Scoops Up Quality Junk Cast Off in High-Yield Fund Exodus (Bloomberg)
In their rush to meet redemptions, high-yield money managers picked the wrong assets to sell and created pricing that’s “quite attractive” for some instruments rated just below investment grade, Mark Kiesel, Pimco’s global head of corporate bond portfolio management, said at a media briefing in Sydney today. “High-yield managers have been selling, in our opinion, what they shouldn’t be selling,” said Kiesel, who’s also a deputy chief investment officer at the Newport Beach, California-based company. “They’ve been selling the safest part of the high-yield market, the BBs. We’ve been cherry picking many of these assets over the last couple of weeks and buying them because they’re trading at significant discounts to where we think fundamental value is.”

SNB to Cap Franc Until 2016 as Euro-Area Recovery on Hold (Bloomberg)
The Swiss National Bank is seen maintaining its cap on the franc for at least another two years as the economic revival in the neighboring euro area struggles to gain tractions. More than three quarters of the respondents in the Bloomberg Monthly Survey of 23 economists say that the central bank will keep its ceiling of 1.20 per euro at least until 2016. Not even a 10th say it will remove the barrier next year.

Bitcoin’s Price Falls 12%, to Lowest Value Since May (Dealbook)
“This is just how Bitcoin trades, for better or worse,” said Barry E. Silbert, who oversees a Bitcoin investment fund through his company, SecondMarket. “This is normal — par for the course.”

Every time a congressional staffer has edited the Choco Taco Wikipedia page (WaPo)
The Twitter bot @CongressEdits has, since July 9, gleefully collected the Wikipedia edits of anonymous congressional staffers. Some of the edits are funny; some serious; some mundane. But surely none has enchanted the cynical public more than the entry for Choco Taco, which has been edited six times by staffers at either the House of Representatives and the State Department, during the workday (!!), since the page was opened in January 2007.

Zoo-Goer Climbs Into Giraffe Pen, Gets Kicked In Face (AP)
A police report says 24-year-old Amanda Hall, of San Luis Obispo, California, climbed over one fence and almost got over the second fence of the giraffe enclosure at the Henry Vilas Zoo about 5:30 p.m. Saturday. A 2-year-old, 12-foot-tall giraffe named Wally gave Hall a lick, then turned and kicked her in the face. Zoo staff told police that giraffes are capable of killing lions, so the woman was fortunate that her injuries were not life-threatening. Police ticketed Hall for harassment of zoo animals, which has a fine of $686. The police report says Hall told officers she climbed into the exhibit because she loves giraffes.

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Opening Bell: 10.05.12

Merkel’s First Greek Crisis Visit Seen Sending Signal to Critics (Bloomberg) German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Athens for the first time since Europe’s financial crisis broke out there three years ago, a sign she’s seeking to silence the debate on pushing Greece out of the euro. Merkel’s visit to the Greek capital Oct. 9 to meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras underscores the shift in her stance since she held out the prospect last year of Greece exiting the 17-nation currency region. “The meeting could mark the turning point to the Greek crisis,” said Constantinos Zouzoulas, an analyst at Axia Ventures Group, a brokerage in Athens. “This is a very significant development for Greece ahead of crucial decisions by the euro zone for the country.” Spain Finance Minister’s ‘No Bailout’ Remark Sparks Laughter (CNBC) “Spain doesn’t need a bailout at all,” finance minister Luis de Guindos said, straight faced and somber, as mirth spread throughout the audience (even de Guindos’ assistant interpreter couldn’t mask a smile). US Probes Credit Suisse Over Mortgages (Reuters) U.S. federal and state authorities are investigating Credit Suisse over mortgage-backed securities packaged and sold by the bank, people familiar with the probe said on Thursday. The Justice Department and the New York Attorney General are among those probing Credit Suisse's actions, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. New Shuffle At JPMorgan (WSJ) Barry Zubrow, a trusted lieutenant of J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Executive James Dimon, is expected to give up his job as regulatory affairs chief in what would be the latest reshuffling to follow a multibillion-dollar trading blunder. The change is expected before year-end, said people close to the bank. It is possible the 59-year-old executive will remain with the company in an advisory role, these people added. More executive shifts also are possible. The chairman of the corporate and investment banking unit, Jes Staley, was recently in the running to become chief executive of British banking giant Barclays PLC, according to people close to Mr. Staley, but didn't get the job. He gave up day-to-day oversight of J.P. Morgan's investment bank in a July reorganization. J.P. Morgan declined to comment about Mr. Staley, and he couldn't be reached. Investors Back Away From 'Junk' Bonds (WSJ) The massive "junk"-bond boom is raising alarm bells among some large money managers, who warn the market is showing signs of overheating. So much money has flooded into the junk-bond market from yield-hungry investors that weaker and weaker companies are able to sell bonds, they say. Credit ratings of many borrowers are lower and debt levels are higher, making defaults more likely. And with yields near record lows, they add, investors aren't being compensated for that risk. India’s NSE Says 59 Erroneous Orders Caused Stock Plunge (Bloomberg) “India has joined the big league with this trading disaster,” A.S. Thiyaga Rajan, a senior managing director at Aquarius Investment Advisors Pte., which manages about $400 million, said by phone from Singapore. “It’s very surprising so many erroneous orders went through. Exchanges and regulators must be one step ahead as systems and technologies upgrade.” Halloween Horror Story: Case Of The Missing Pumpkin Lattes (WSJ) For Asher Anidjar, the arrival of fall isn't marked by turning leaves or a chilly breeze, but a steaming seasonal drink. Recently, though, when he headed to his local Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, he left with a bitter taste in his mouth. They were out of the special sauce that gives the treat its distinctive autumnal flavor. "I just left, depressed," said Mr. Anidjar, a 26-year-old commercial real-estate analyst who lives in Manhattan. The drink crops up on the Starbucks menu annually for a limited time, and this year there has been an unusual run on the pumpkin batch. Thanks in part to a frothy dose of buzz brewed up by the Seattle-based coffee giant before the beverage's Sept. 4 debut, the craze has drained supplies at stores across the country. Baristas are hitting the street, searching for stashes of the flavored sauce at other stores. Customers denied their fix—which costs about $4 for a small cup, or "tall" in Starbucks speak—are tweeting about their dismay. "My world almost ended this morning when the local Starbucks told me they were out of Pumpkin Spice Latte," tweeted Jason Sizemore, 38 years old, of Lexington, Ky. Fed Seeks To Clarify Plans (WSJ) Since August 2011, the Fed has been saying it will keep short-term interest rates near zero until a particular date. Right now that date is mid-2015. The hope has been that these assurances would help hold down longer-term interest rates, as well as short-term ones, and thus boost spending and investment. But the Fed isn't happy with this approach. While central-bank officials believe the assurances have helped hold down long-term interest rates, they find the fixed date to be confusing, and they are looking at a new approach. The idea under consideration is to keep offering assurances of low rates, but tie those assurances to what is happening in the economy rather than a point on the calendar. Dave And Buster's IPO Plan A Bust (Bloomberg) Dave & Buster’s Entertainment, operator of 59 company-owned dining and gaming stores, withdrew its plans for a US initial public offering, citing market conditions. The company had sought to raise as much as $107.7 million. Black Swans In The Red Until Turmoil Hits (NYP) The Apocalypse has not arrived — but that hasn’t stopped some of the country’s wealthiest investors from betting on it. The investors, mostly pensions funds, hedge funds of funds and deep-pocketed individuals that were burned during the financial meltdown in 2008, are jumping into these so-called Black Swan investments that carry promised returns of up to 1,000 percent — if another financial Armageddon strikes. The Cassandras of the hedge-fund world that are offering these funds — also called tail risk funds and often with a geographic focus — would suffer terribly in the absence of disaster...The hot sector has attracted such well-known names as Saba Capital’s Boaz Weinstein, Hayman Capital’s Kyle Bass, Corriente Advisors’ Mark Hart, and Universa’s Mark Spitznagel...When markets are buoyant, of course the funds lose money. Through August, Saba Tail Hedge was down 16 percent, Pine River Tail Hedge had fallen 23 percent and Corriente Europe Divergence is down 24 percent, according to investors. Bass’s Japan short fund, which he launched two years ago, is down more than 60 percent since inception. By design, it will lose all of its investors’ money in three years if Japanese bonds don’t go into a tailspin. Bridezilla’s demanding email to potential bridesmaids: If you can’t commit, ‘you’re going to the wrong wedding’ (NYDN) One woman’s over-the-top email of demands to potential bridesmaids has gone viral since it was posted on Gawker.com. “You all have a big roll [sic] in this wedding, so before we continue I’m going to be setting some ground rules and it’s very important you read and think everything through before you accept this honor to be a bridesmaid,” the unnamed bride-to-be begins. If recipients don’t answer emails when outside the country, can’t attend every wedding-related event, or don’t have the cash for several flights and a bridesmaid’s dress, they might not make the cut. “If money is tight and you can’t afford to contribute to the bachelorette party or won’t be able to afford a dress, then [I] don’t have time to deal with that, I’m sorry,” the woman wrote. Of course, she’ll aim for what’s affordable, but, “If you think it’s going to be a $25 Forever 21 dress then you’re going to the wrong wedding.” The lucky bridesmaids must also be available — at any moment — between February and August. “If you don’t think you’ll be able to attend one party but can make the rest of them, I’m sorry, but I’ll have to take you out as a bridesmaid and put you as a guest,” the woman wrote. And please, don’t ignore phone calls. “I don’t have time to wait around for responses, everyone has their phone on them,” she wrote. “It shouldn’t take you more than a day to get back to me. Really think about everything I've said. This is really going to be the most epic wedding ever so I hope you girls can share this special day with us!"

Opening Bell: 11.19.15

All signs point to December rate lift; Ackman down big; AIG; Match; Square; "Klingon Sword Brandished In Trekkie Trash Dispute, Cops Say"; and more.

Opening Bell: 04.22.13

Bill Gross Attacks UK and Euro Zone Austerity (FT) Bill Gross, manager of the world's largest bond fund for Pimco, has launched a stinging attack on efforts by Britain and much of the euro zone to cut debt rapidly with severe austerity measures, warning that such action risks stifling recovery. "The U.K. and almost all of Europe have erred in terms of believing that austerity, fiscal austerity in the short term, is the way to produce real growth. It is not," Mr Gross told the Financial Times. "You've got to spend money." Argentina's New Debt Offer Rejected by Holdout Creditors (WSJ) Holdout creditors on Friday rejected Argentina's proposal to pay them about 20 cents on every U.S. dollar of bonds they own, leaving a U.S. appeals court to decide how to enforce a ruling that may push Argentina into a new default. "Not only are the details of Argentina's proposal unacceptable and unresponsive; Argentina fails even to provide this court with meaningful 'assurances' that it will actually comply with its own proposal," said Theodore Olson, a lawyer for the holdouts, in a brief filed Friday. Argentina's own math values the offer at $210 million, less than 15% of the $1.47 billion that holdouts were owed on their defaulted bonds as of March 1, according to the brief. Hedge Fund Stars Suit Up At Yankee Stadium To Attract Investors (NYP) Hedge-fund mogul Stevie Cohen will be pitching at Yankee Stadium tomorrow. No, the 56-year-old billionaire is not suiting up for the Bronx Bombers — but he will be hoping the magic of the House that Ruth Built will yield some investment cash. Cohen, whose SAC Capital faces a loss of $1.7 billion from investors who want out of his $15 billion hedge fund, is one of about 70 hedge fund managers who’ll be at the Stadium tomorrow making a pitch to prospective new investors at a day-long event sponsored by Goldman Sachs. Singapore Will Replace Switzerland As Wealth Capital (CNBC) Switzerland has $2.8 trillion in assets under management, with $2.1 trillion of that coming from offshore wealth. Switzerland accounts for 34 percent of the $8.15 trillion in total global wealth. Yet the report said Singapore could overtake Switzerland in offshore assets under management by 2020. It said Swiss offshore assets could fall below $2 trillion by 2016, while Singapore's assets could more than quadruple by then. Somali Banking Starts From Ground Up (WSJ) Abdusalam Omer is a central bank governor without much to govern. The Central Bank of Somalia doesn't hold reserves in the country's currency, the shilling. There are no functioning commercial banks in the strife-torn country for it to regulate. The 75-strong staff that still turns up for work after two decades of civil war is a motley crew of money men and handymen. "I don't know why the central bank employs painters," says the 58-year-old who was named the country's top banker in January. Eventbrite Funding Slows Its IPO Chase (WSJ) Eventbrite Inc., an event ticketing company, has raised $60 million from two investors, making it the latest example of a startup to raise significant private late-stage funding that puts off an initial public offering. San Francisco-based Eventbrite had sparked expectations of an imminent IPO when it said earlier this month that it hired a chief financial officer, Mark Rubash, who previously worked at Yahoo Inc. and eBay Inc. Instead, it joins a growing number of companies that have found plentiful funding in the private markets rather than going public at an early stage. The company has raised the new cash from mutual-fund firm T. Rowe Price Group Inc. and Tiger Global Management LLC, an investment-management firm, said Kevin Hartz, co-founder and chief executive. That brings its total private fundraising to some $135 million since its inception in 2006. "This gives us flexibility in setting the timeline for a later IPO, on our schedule," said Mr. Hartz. Deutsche Bank Margin Call on Vik Sparks $2.5 Billion Dispute (Bloomberg) Alexander Vik went to Deutsche Bank AG’s London office in October 2008 to meet account managers who congratulated the Norwegian entrepreneur on how well his Sebastian Holdings Inc. investment fund was doing. Within a month, as global markets tumbled into crisis, the same bankers demanded about $530 million against the fund’s currency bets and began to liquidate its positions. Vik, 58, will argue at a 12-week trial starting in London today that the bank’s actions resulted in losses and missed profits totaling about $2.5 billion. A judge will have to decide whether Sebastian’s calculation of lost trading gains is accurate, said John Day, a lawyer at London-based litigation firm DaySparkes. Zimbabwe Prepares Law to Seize Company Stakes Without Paying (Bloomberg) Zimbabwe’s government is preparing a law that would allow it to seize controlling stakes in companies without compensation, according to a draft of the legislation obtained by Bloomberg News. The law would be an amendment to a 2007 act that compels foreign and white-owned companies such as Rio Tinto Group, Sinosteel Corp. and Impala Platinum Holding Ltd. to sell or cede 51 percent of their shares to black nationalsor state-approved agencies.