Opening Bell: 11.17.14

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Actavis Nears Deal to Acquire Allergan (WSJ)
Actavis PLC is nearing a deal to acquire Allergan Inc. in a tie-up that would likely be the year’s largest and could help shield Botox maker Allergan from a hostile takeover. The boards of Actavis and Allergan are expected to meet in coming days to review a cash-and-stock takeover, people familiar with the matter said, and an announcement is expected this week. The price under discussion couldn’t be learned, but likely would be at a premium to Allergan’s market capitalization of $59 billion. Closing such a deal is still a big if, however, in part because hostile suitor Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. could improve its offer for Allergan, which Valeant already has done several times. And buying Allergan would be a chunky bite for Actavis, whose $64 billion market value is barely bigger than its target’s.

Facebook seeks foothold in your office (FT)
Facebook is secretly working on a new website called “Facebook at Work” to get a foothold in the office that will see the social network of more than 1bn people compete directly with Google, Microsoft and LinkedIn. The Silicon Valley company is developing a new product designed to allow users to chat with colleagues, connect with professional contacts and collaborate over documents, competing with Google Drive and Microsoft Office, according to people familiar with the matter. High quality global journalism requires investment. The new site will look very much like Facebook – with a newsfeed and groups – but will allow users to keep their personal profile with its holiday photos, political rants and silly videos separate from their work identity.

Trading desk bonuses coming from grunts, expenses ‘capped’ (NYP)
The huge swarms who do grunt work for the masters of the universe must rein in costs — because their bank and brokerage employers need more cash for a slimmed-down bonus season, according to financial services pros. From support staff to supervisors, firms are slashing expense accounts — even pulling the plug on once-lavish holiday parties — as they shore up finances for the annual ritual of payouts and year-end bonuses. Overall comp, including cash and stock, will remain flat, according to one analyst, dipping as much as 10 percent from last year for equity, bond and many hedge-fund professionals. Of course, that’s not shabby compared to the traders in hard-hit sectors like commodities. Commodity payouts will be abysmal, said several pros. Wealth management, bolstered by the expanding fortunes of America’s richest families — and served by financial advisers who can earn multimillion-dollar annual pay packages — is the most surprisingly tight fisted, according to one recruiter. Advisers will have a superlative year, but thousands who support them are mad as hell. “It strikes me that the wealth management industry is still behaving and compensating their people as if we are still in a bear market,” recruiter Danny Sarch told The Post. Sarch pointed to Morgan Stanley, which apparently is acting like the Grinch who stole Christmas. “I am hearing there’s a cap per person there on holiday parties, and on what employees can expense elsewhere,” he said. “Employees have to submit an original receipt, say for a meal with a client, rather than a copy, that kind of thing. They are not trusting the employee.” Sarch said employees must grin and bear it. “They are comparing it to the pre-Crash days,” he said, adding that the pattern may be systemic across the Street.

Silk Road kingpin appears to send tweets from jail (NYP)
Blake Benthall — churchgoer by day, alleged drug kingpin by night — appears to be sending tweets from his jail cell asking for money. “Donate bitcoin,” read a recent plea from Benthall’s Twitter page, just days after his arrest for allegedly running online drug bazaar Silk Road.

Forex fines show still much to do on UK banking reform: lawmakers (Reuters)
Regulators last week imposed fines totaling $4.3 billion on HSBC Holdings Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, UBS AG and Bank of America Corp, for failing to stop traders from trying to manipulate the forex market, following a year-long global investigation. Last year Britain's Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards (PCBS), set up to look at improving behavior at banks in the wake of scandals including the rigging of interest rate benchmarks such as Libor, recommended a range of reforms. "These reforms are badly needed to tackle serious lapses in banking standards and a collapse of trust in the industry. The forex scandal has exposed how much work there is still to do," lawmaker Andrew Tyrie, who led the PCBS, said.

Fresno State student accused of having sex with sheep: police (NYDN)
It was his first time. With a sheep. That’s what a Fresno State University student told police early Tuesday after he was caught on top of an ewe with his pants down. “Am I going to be expelled for this,” the 23-year-old man, only described as a fifth-year computer engineering student, told police. He’s now accused of bestiality, according to a KMPH-TV report. A spooked student had called Fresno State police after hearing strange noises near the Fresno Sheep Unit. Officers found the student in the barn, apparently having sex with the defenseless farm animal. The student claimed he had been wrestling with cattle, according to a police report, but when there was obviously not a cow in sight, he referenced the sheep and admitted, “it was all the same,” KMPH-TV wrote.

Thorny Pay Point Arises in Dow Chemical Feud (WSJ)
Third Point LLC would pay two potential Dow Chemical Co. board nominees more if the firm’s stock rises during their board tenure, reviving a controversial compensation structure and adding to tension between Dow and the activist hedge fund. The planned arrangement was a key reason the company rejected Third Point’s nominees as directors last week, according to people familiar with the matter. The clash puts the New York hedge fund and the chemical giant on the verge of a full-blown proxy fight.

Japan Falls Into Recession (WSJ)
Japan’s economy shrank for a second quarter in row, heightening Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ’s struggle to salvage a pro-growth platform that has drawn world-wide notice. Mr. Abe, who has sought to revive the world’s third-largest economy after two mostly sluggish decades, is set to announce this week that he will delay plans to raise the nation���s sales tax next year and call elections in December. The prime minister hopes that delaying the tax increase, along with the Bank of Japan’s move on Oct. 31 to pump tens of billions of dollars of cash into the economy, will keep so-called Abenomics humming, said advisers.

JPMorgan Settles Claims It Cheated Shale-Rights Owners (Bloomberg)
JPMorgan Chase & Co. settled a lawsuit by Texas mineral-rights owners who accused it of cutting sweetheart deals with oil company clients to cheat them out of $681 million in compensation. The dispute centered on payments for rights to drill in the Eagle Ford, a shale formation underlying much of central and southwest Texas that has helped put the U.S. in competition with Saudi Arabia and Russia for title of world’s largest oil producer. Beneficiaries of the South Texas Syndicate Trust accused the bank, which was supposedly working on their behalf, of instead hatching favorable deals with commercial-banking clients Petrohawk Energy Corp. and Hunt Oil Co. for cut-rate prices on the trust’s rights in the Eagle Ford, the highest-yielding oil field in the U.S.

Money Surges Into Shanghai Stocks on Stock Connect’s First Day (WSJ)
Investors poured money into China’s stock market Monday on the first day of trading in a program that opened up the country’s markets to trading through Hong Kong. Global investors snapped up a total of 6.9 billion yuan ($1.12 billion) of Chinese stocks in the premarket session, representing 54% of the $2.1 billion daily quota. After about 45 minutes of trading, 67% of the daily quota was filled.

New Jersey police use officer in Donald Duck suit for traffic sting (UPI)
Police in New Jersey ticketed several drivers on Halloween for failing to yield to a man in a Donald Duck costume. The effort was part of the Fort Lee police's Pedestrians in the Crosswalk safety program, WABC reports. An officer wore a costume resembling a Donald Duck mascot and would attempt to cross the road. Drivers who failed to yield to the pedestrian were ticketed by police further down the street, with more than 100 receiving $230 citations and two-point deductions from their driver's licenses. Several such commuters were upset about the deception. Karen Haigh told WABC she thought the costumed duck was a "crazy guy on Halloween," and that she intends to fight the ticket. "They told me that I was getting a ticket for not stopping for a duck," she said. "But it scared me. I'm a woman. This huge duck scared me." Fort Lee Police Chief Keith Bendul said the effort was designed to reduce pedestrian casualties on the roadways.

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