Opening Bell: 11.12.14 - Dealbreaker

Opening Bell: 11.12.14

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As Currency Settlement Draws Near, Barclays Is Said to Get Cold Feet (Dealbook)
On the eve of a multibillion-dollar settlement with six giant banks suspected of manipulating the foreign currency market, regulators in Washington and Britain encountered a last-second complication: One of the banks was dropping out of the deal. The giant British bank Barclays has informed regulators that it might not join the settlement, according to people briefed on the matter, a decision that grew more and more final as the hours dragged on. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Conduct Authority of Britain were planning to announce the settlement in London around 6 a.m. on Wednesday. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, the Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and HSBC were poised to settle, making Barclays the lone holdout.

Will Ferrell’s Funny Or Die Seeks Serious Money in Sale (Bloomberg)
Funny or Die, the comedy website founded by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, has hired a financial adviser to evaluate options including a possible sale, Chief Executive Officer Dick Glover said in a memo to employees. The asking price is $100 million to $300 million, people with knowledge of the matter said...Management at Funny or Die is working with the investment bank Moelis & Co. (MC), which has contacted potential buyers to gauge their interest in a deal, said one person, who asked not to be identified because the review is private.

Ackman Takes Stake in Animal-Health Company Zoetis (WSJ)
Activist investor William Ackman has taken a roughly $2 billion stake in Zoetis Inc. and could push the animal-health company to sell itself to a large drug maker such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., according to people familiar with the matter...Zoetis, which was spun off Pfizer Inc. last year, makes vaccines and medicines for livestock and household pets. With $4.6 billion in sales in 2013, Zoetis is the largest company in the animal-health industry.

New York State Bank Regulator Lawsky Likely to Leave Post Next Year (WSJ)
Benjamin Lawsky , New York state’s top banking regulator and one of Wall Street’s most dogged pursuers, will likely leave his government position early next year, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Lawsky has explored options in the private sector in recent weeks, the person said, but has not come to a final decision about when he will leave his state government post.

Owl attacks hawk at L.L. Bean store opening (UPI)
An L.L. Bean grand opening in Vermont was interrupted when violence broke out between two birds of prey brought into the store for the event. Lorrie Schumacher of Talons! A Bird of Prey Experience said the European eagle owl and Harris' hawk have appeared together at previous events without any trouble, but the owl attacked the hawk Friday at the grand-opening celebration for L.L. Bean at Burlington's Town Center mall. "They've never, ever have gone after each other," Schumacher told the Burlington Free Press. "They're always in close proximity, we make sure their leashes are not too close, and this time it was a matter of inches. They're predators." Witnesses said the owl had the hawk grasped in its claws for a few minutes before the birds were separated. Schumacher said the owl and hawk have been working together for about six years. She said the hawk suffered multiple puncture wounds in the attack, but is expected to make a full recovery.

‘Putin’s banker’ begins legal challenge against asset freeze (FT)
Sergei Pugachev, the man once known as “Putin’s banker”, told the High Court in London that he is now worth “no more than about $70m” as he began a legal challenge to a court order freezing his assets up to $2bn. The freezing order was issued by the High Court in July after an application brought by the Russian Deposit Insurance Agency, which is acting as the liquidator of Mezhprombank. That bank, co-founded by Mr Pugachev – once one of Moscow’s richest men – collapsed in 2010 with a deficit of more than $1.7bn. The DIA is suing Mr Pugachev in Russia and England for $2bn. It alleges that, after the ailing Mezhprombank received substantial loans from the Central Bank of Russia in December 2008, he carried out a number of schemes designed to extract money from it.

As Sears Gasps, Lampert Turns to Financial Engineering to Revive It (Dealbook)
...retailing is a graveyard for bricks-and-mortar shops that cannot adapt to the Internet or find their niche. Sears, like another dying retailer, RadioShack, is firmly in this category. It has never found a way to leverage its historic brand, losing ground to Target, Walmart and other retailers, not to mention Amazon.com. Even J.C. Penney is doing better. Part of the problem appears to be Mr. Lampert. With the supreme confidence that only a billionaire hedge fund manager can bring, he has run Sears into the ground. From his perch in Florida, Mr. Lampert has failed to find a strategy to turn Sears around. He has adopted an almost Ayn Rand-like view of the business, like having more than 30 divisions compete among themselves and breaking apart and putting together brands...But with Sears’s downfall, Mr. Lampert has stepped into an area he is familiar with: financial engineering. Sears is being broken up to cash in. Sears Canada was sold to raise $300 million in a rights offering that left Mr. Lampert’s fund with a 46.7 percent stake. Lands’ End was spun off, with Mr. Lampert retaining a 48.6 percent stake. Meanwhile, Sears has refinanced its debt and closed more than 100 stores. Other more valuable stores are being sold, with one in Cupertino, Calif., recently going for $102.5 million.

Twinkie maker’s success story tempting Entenmann’s (NYP)
A slim-downed Hostess Brands is the envy of bloated baking rival Entenmann’s. Twinkie maker Hostess, which was bought out of bankruptcy last year, is a leaner, meaner company after scrapping its labor contracts, shedding 18,000 jobs and selling its snack-cake business to a pair of private-equity firms. A year later, new owners Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co. are preparing to shop the much smaller but profitable bakery outfit for $1.5 billion — more than triple the $410 million they paid for it, sources said.

Yahoo Buys Digital Ad Service BrightRoll for $640M (AP)
Yahoo is buying digital video advertising service BrightRoll for $640 million in the Internet company's latest attempt to boost its revenue after years filled mostly with financial futility. The acquisition announced Tuesday marks Yahoo's first major purchase since reaping a $9.4 billion windfall in September by selling part of its stake in a rapidly rising Internet star, Chinese e-commerce service Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Yahoo Inc. has promised to distribute at least half of the $6.3 billion in after-tax proceeds from the Alibaba stake sale to its shareholders. That gives CEO Marissa Mayer the option of spending the rest on acquisitions that could enable the Sunnyvale, California, company to recover some of the ground that it has lost to rivals Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. in the booming online ad market.

Man mails 15 live chicks to his ex-girlfriend in Washington, D.C. (NYDN)
The package arrived in the mail with a brief note. "There are lots of chicks out there," read the missive from a Washington, D.C., woman's ex-boyfriend. And in the box were 15 fluffy, yellow baby chickens. It could have been worse, perhaps, if the man had been thinking about the fish-in-the-sea idiom. She told the postman she was going to throw them away, but he volunteered to take them off her hands and delivered them to the Washington Humane Society, where workers gave them to the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Maryland, according to the group's Facebook page. "Unbelievably, it is legal to ship baby chicks in the regular mail," reads a post, with photos of the tiny birds. The feathered mail specimens were healthy, save for one with an injured leg.

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