Opening Bell: 09.25.14

Goldman Sachs-Led Group Near Deal to Buy Messaging Startup Perzo (WSJ)
Wall Street firms led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are close to a deal to create an instant-messaging service to rival that of Bloomberg LP. A buyout of messaging startup Perzo Inc. could be announced as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter. While it could be months before the firms have a product ready for trading desks, the project is gaining momentum, the people say. The number of banks and money managers working with Goldman on the purchase has swelled to 14 in recent weeks, as Wall Street's search for an alternative to the data and media giant's chat services turns rivals into allies. Banks and money managers have long relied on Bloomberg terminals to keep their employees up to speed on market moves and to help them communicate with one another electronically. But increasingly they have griped about the $20,000-a-year price tag that Bloomberg charges for each terminal, and the data company's refusal to sell many services on an a la carte basis.

JPMorgan tops investment bank league table in first half (Reuters)
JPMorgan was the top performing investment bank in the first half of the year, making $11.5 billion in revenue and ranking first for both its fixed income and deals advisory businesses, data showed on Thursday. The U.S. bank ranked ahead of Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, who shared second place, according to industry analytics firm Coalition. They were followed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citi, then Morgan Stanley in sixth, Credit Suisse seventh, Barclays eighth, UBS ninth and then BNP Paribas.

Lucarelli pleads guilty to insider trading (NYP, earlier re: attire)
Lucarelli, the cocaine-addled former Wall Street executive, pleaded guilty Wednesday to using inside information to pocket nearly $1 million in fraudulent profits. The former investor-relations honcho, on his 52nd birthday, admitted using advance knowledge of clients’ upcoming quarterly results to profitably trade in those stocks. Lucarelli made more than the usual ripple of news caused by common white-collar crooks because after his initial appearance in Manhattan federal court in August, he was seen on video running away from reporters in his sweatpants and a tanktop. He must have been late for a very important meeting that afternoon, because he ran right out of his flip-flops and continued east down Pearl Street barefoot — barely missing a beat.

Griesa to decide whether Argentina’s in contempt of court (NYP)
Federal judge Thomas Griesa has agreed to hold a hearing Friday to decide whether to find the country in contempt for passing a law to allow bondholders to swap their bonds into local Argentine law bonds to avoid paying a small group of so-called holdout creditors, including Singer, some $1.6 billion. The hearing was requested by the holdout group, which has proposed sanctions of $50,000 a day and attorney’s fees, which at this point probably are in the tens of millions of dollars. Most Argentine bondholders did not get the $539 million in interest payments due in June because Argentina refused to follow the court’s order that the country pay the holdouts at the same time they paid the others. The case stems from Argentina’s debt default in 2001. After the default, 93 percent of the bondholders agreed to exchange their debt for bonds with a 70 percent haircut, while a few hedge funds held out for the full 100 percent. On Friday Argentina will have to show why it should not be held in contempt for violating the US federal court orders.

Teacher Resigns After Allegedly Talking Of Robots Killing Misbehaving Students (AP)
U-T San Diego reported Tuesday that Tuyet-Mai Thi Vo was allowed to resign last year and receive a $92,000 settlement instead of being fired. Oceanside Unified School District officials investigated complaints that Vo said in 2012 that if robots were teachers, she would program them to shoot students when they misbehaved. The district report says the 48-year-old told her class she would program robots to kill all of the students. The teacher maintains the allegations are untrue, and she has a positive recommendation letter from then-Superintendent Larry Perondi to vouch for her ongoing fitness for the classroom.

Hedge Funds Get Jostled by Inversions' Jiggles (WSJ)
Hedge funds Paulson & Co., Magnetar Financial LLC and Elliott Management Corp. are among eight firms that have together snapped up more than $8 billion of Shire stock, or about 17% of the Dublin pharmaceutical company, anticipating a big payoff if its $54 billion purchase by AbbVie Inc. is completed. The collective bet is one of the biggest wagers on a deal in recent memory, some hedge-fund managers said. But the Obama administration's announcement this week of measures to discourage so-called inversion deals such as AbbVie's—in which U.S. companies buy offshore competitors and redomicile overseas, avoiding higher U.S. taxes as a result—has thrown the outcome of this deal and others into doubt. AbbVie plans to move its home for tax purposes to Ireland.

Harvard Picks Insider to Run $36.4 Billion Endowment (Bloomberg)
Blyth, 46, is an eight-year veteran of Harvard Management Co., which runs the largest college endowment. He was hired from Deutsche Bank AG for his bond-trading acumen and rose through the ranks. A statistician with a doctorate from Harvard, he is known for his commitment to the university, teaching classes, serving on faculty committees and advising a cricket team.

Loosened Rules for Startups Also Benefit Older Companies (WSJ)
Salon Media Group Inc., a 19-year-old financially struggling Internet media company, and Giggles N Hugs Inc., a seven-year-old food-and-play-space chain, are among dozens of publicly traded firms that have indicated they intend to solicit investors using the new freedoms in the JOBS Act. Both trade on the over-the-counter market, and auditors have raised concerns about their ability to continue operations. The companies are seeking new investors using a portion of the JOBS Act that lets small private firms advertise to wealthy individuals, known as "accredited investors," modifying an 80-year-old "general solicitation" advertising ban designed to protect investors. The firms' use of marketing freedoms intended for young startups illustrates how an unexpectedly broad range of players hope to gain an edge under the new law. "You can put it into the category of unintended consequences," says New York securities lawyer Douglas Ellenoff, referring to the use of the JOBS Act by publicly traded companies. "The whole point" of the law "was to make it easier for private companies to raise money," he adds.

Larry Ellison Boosts Oracle Credit Line to $9.9 Billion (Bloomberg)
Billionaire Larry Ellison has increased the amount of Oracle Corp. stock pledged against personal indebtedness and lines of credit to $9.9 billion, or 5.6 percent of the market capitalization of the world’s largest database company. Ellison holds 250 million shares of the Redwood City, California-based software maker as collateral, according to the company’s proxy statement released Sept. 23. That compares to 215 million shares last year and 139 million in 2012.

Danish Restaurant Hot Buns Selling Sex Toys With Burgers (HP)
Starting Thursday, Hot Buns is adding dild0s, vibrat0rs, whips and other sex-oriented products to the menu. It's a natural fit, considering the restaurant puts as much emphasis on the tank top and hot pants worn by its all-female staff as it does on the burgers. The restaurant's Instagram page even posts cleavage shots of employees and invites followers to guess which woman it is. Hot Buns owner Mathias Kaer says the sex toys will only be available in evening hours. He believes he's onto something. "On Friday and Saturday nights there are only two things most people want: sex and food. We're combining them both," Kaer said.


Opening Bell: 2.3.16

Argentina attempting to settle with hedge funds; Parmesan bonds; Horse Owner Complains Man Took Prize-Winning Selfie Without 'Consent'; and more.