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Holiday Bell: 12.30.14

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Tech Startup Values Reach the Sky (WSJ)
Xiaomi is just the latest example. On Monday it raised more than $1 billion from investors, giving it the $46 billion overall valuation. Only Facebook Inc. raised capital at a higher value from private investors, at $50 billion in 2011. This year, venture capitalists, mutual funds and big banks bestowed valuations of $1 billion or more on about 40 startups world-wide, doubling the number of such companies at the start of the year, according to research firm Dow Jones VentureSource. Adjusted for inflation, the current roster of 70 “billion dollar” startups globally is nearly twice as large as the number during the boom years 1999 and 2000.

‘Cartel’ Chat Room Tied to BP Gave FX Tips From Banks to Client (Bloomberg)
Copies of messages sent to BP traders over the course of a year were provided to Bloomberg News by a person with access to the online conversations. The person, who redacted the names of banks sending the messages and dates of conversations, said they came from firms whose senior foreign-exchange traders belonged to a chat room called “The Cartel” that was set up by Usher and included dealers at JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc., Barclays Plc and UBS Group AG. The information offered an insight into currency moves minutes, sometimes hours before they happened. The messages could drag the U.K.’s biggest energy company into a scandal that has enveloped 11 banks and led to more than 30 traders from London to Singapore losing or being suspended from their jobs. Last month six banks were fined $4.3 billion for passing along information about their clients and working together to rig foreign-exchange markets.

Shake Shack Files for IPO That Could Value It at $1 Billion (Bloomberg)
Shake Shack Inc. is going public and may be worth as much as $1 billion -- not bad considering New York restaurateur Danny Meyer started the joint as a public service. Founded more than a decade ago to help support the restoration of Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, Shake Shack was an instant success, drawing long lines of urbanites attracted by Meyer’s modern spin on a roadside burger stand. Today, Shake Shack has more than 63 outlets in 30-plus cities from London to Dubai. Shake Shack started as a hot-dog cart that later became a permanent kiosk and neighborhood fixture. Hungry urbanites have been known to hop on the subway to get their fix of $4.95 burgers and $5.15 shakes.

Eight Revealing Facts From Shake Shack's IPO Filing (BusinessWeek)
The burgers aren't the only things that come with cheese. Here are some other semicreative uses of the word "shack" from the filing: Shack-o-nomics. Same Shack Sales. Shack-level operating profit. The company's stock will trade under the ticker SHAK, natch.

Petition launched in support of ‘manspreading’ on TTC (Globe And Mail)
While a new campaign by New York’s transportation authority aimed at tackling the phenomenon of “manspreading” has drawn interest from transit users in Toronto, some say a similar concept north of the border would unfairly target men. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is set to unveil public service ads that encourage men spreading their legs in crowded subways cars to be more courteous to their fellow travelers. The term “manspreading” has been coined as a reference to men spreading their legs wide, into a V-shaped formation while slouching, ultimately taking up extra space on public transportation. But a new online petition challenges TTC riders who have applauded the MTA’s upcoming advertisements, stating that those who seek a similar campaign on Toronto buses and subways should simply mind the gap. “This sets a very bad precedent as men opening their legs is something we have to do due to our biology. It's physically painful for men to close their legs and we cannot be expected to do so, and it's also a biological necessity for us to do so,” reads the petition, which calls “manspreading” a “sexist term.” “We can't force woman to stop breast feeding on busses or trains and we can't force them to stop bringing strollers on, why should we force men to close their legs?” it continues...According to the petition, a ban on spreading one’s legs would “be a big blow to men's rights.”

FBI Takes Aim at High-Roller Junkets (WSJ)
The FBI is concerned that some poker players get financial backing from junkets that authorities suspect possess criminal ties. The agency has been tracking the links between the two gambling communities [of Las Vegas and Macau], according to a person familiar with the matter.

ECB's Weidmann says German 2015 growth may be better than expected (Reuters)
"As things are at the moment and if oil prices remain this low, inflation will be lower than expected, but growth will be better," Weidmann was quoted as saying. The Bundesbank this month halved its growth forecast for Germany to 1.0 percent for next year. It also cut its prediction for 2014 growth to 1.4 percent from 1.9 percent in June. "The situation in Europe isn't as bad as some people believe," added Weidmann.

Greek Patience With Austerity Nears Its Limit (NYT)
Nowhere have austerity policies been more aggressively tried — and generally failed to live up to results promised by advocates — than in Greece. After more than four years of belt tightening, patience is wearing thin, and tentative signs of improvement have not yet trickled down into the lives of average Greeks. Now, after its Parliament failed to pick a president on Monday, forcing early elections, Greece faces a turning point in how to heal its devastated economy. In the Jan. 25 general election, a majority center-right coalition government that has reluctantly stuck with austerity policies will face a charismatic left-wing challenger who says it is time for Greece to take its future into its own hands and do what it can to stimulate growth. Whichever path the country chooses, the outcome is likely to have broad implications for Greece and its place in the European Union.

Cash-strapped American Apparel plans ‘slowdown’ at LA factory (NYP)
American Apparel, its cash situation worsened by a holiday discounting strategy that fizzled, is planning a slowdown at its Los Angeles factory to conserve funds, The Post has learned. The slowdown could result in “sharply reduced hours and weeks off” for thousands of the company’s garment workers in the coming weeks — and threatens a diminished supply of go-to fashions for the spring season, according to a source briefed on the situation.

5 dramatic ways to open Champagne this New Year’s Eve (With Video Tutorials) (NYP)
1. A glass 2. A sword 3. A spoon 4. An ax 5. A .50-caliber gun.

Pot Pie, Redefined? Chefs Start to Experiment With Cannabis (NYT)
In Colorado, which has issued more than 160 edible marijuana licenses, skilled line cooks are leaving respected restaurants to take more lucrative jobs infusing cannabis into food and drinks. In Washington, one of four states that allow recreational marijuana sales, a large cannabis bakery dedicated to affluent customers with good palates will soon open in Seattle. Major New York publishing houses and noted cookbook authors are pondering marijuana projects, and chefs on both coasts and in food-forward countries like Denmark have been staging underground meals with modern twists like compressed watermelon, smoked cheese and marijuana-oil vinaigrette. “It really won’t be long until it becomes part of haute cuisine and part of respectable culinary culture, instead of just an illegal doobie in the backyard,” said Ken Albala, director of the food studies program at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco...Although culinary skill might coax deliciousness from cannabis, dosing remains a vexing issue. Karin Lazarus runs Sweet Mary Jane, a commercial bakery in Boulder. Her recipes will be featured in “Sweet Mary Jane: 75 Delicious Cannabis-Infused High-End Desserts,” due out in June from the Avery imprint of Penguin Random House. Ms. Lazarus, who New York magazine called “the Martha Stewart of weed baking,” makes confections like the Scout’s Honor, which is a play on the Thin Mint cookie, and tart key lime and white chocolate truffles. Because law prohibits tasting dosed products at work, she first works out recipes without using marijuana, and then adds cannabis-infused sugar, oil or butter. She tests the products in a laboratory. They get taste tested as well, but not at work.

Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week, which is how Jesus and The New Year Elf would've wanted it. Opening and closing wraps, with some light posting/moral support throughout the day for those at unfortunately at work.


Holiday Bell: 2.16.15

Greece; Apple self-driving car; HSBC sorry about tax evasion; bank hackings; "Man and woman have afternoon sex in front of shoppers after first meeting"; AND MORE.

Holiday Bell: 12.26.12

Budget Talks Cloud Outlook (WSJ) Lawmakers returning to town this week will see whether they can agree on a plan to avoid the full brunt of the fiscal cliff, the combined $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to begin next week. Little if any progress was made in the talks before Congress and President Barack Obama left town last Friday for Christmas. The president plans to leave his vacation in Hawaii late Wednesday night, returning to Washington on Thursday, the White House said. Aides in both parties say they expect a potential solution to start taking shape by the end of the week. But with so little time, hopes are dimming for anything other than a partial agreement, which would prolong the uncertainty and leave in place some tax or spending measures that act as a serious drag on the weak recovery. This could even trigger another recession, exacerbating the global economic slowdown. Grand Bargain Shrinks as Congress Nears U.S. Budget Deadline (Bloomberg) “At this point there’s zero percent chance of a big deal and maybe a 10 percent chance of a small deal before Jan. 1,” said Stan Collender, a former staff member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House and Senate Budget committees who is now at Qorvis Communications in Washington. He has predicted a no-deal scenario since before Memorial Day, and said the past two weeks of inaction reinforced his projection. At this point, Collender said, whether the Senate moves first won’t matter. “Nothing will move House Republicans if they don’t feel like getting moved,” he said. “They’ve never been swayed by the Senate before.” The remaining option for averting the cliff, he said, would be if Boehner risks his House speakership to put to the floor a tax deal that would get a majority of Democrats to support it and few -- perhaps less than 50 -- Republicans. “The Republican caucus would never forgive him,” he said. “The statesmanlike thing to do would be to say I’m the speaker of the House, not the head of the Republican party. That is the equivalent of never running for speaker again.” Some 'Cliff' With Your Coffee? Starbucks Urges Unity (Reuters) Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in Starbucks' roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write "come together'' on customers' cups on Thursday and Friday, as U.S. President Barack Obama and lawmakers return to work and attempt to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the Christmas holiday. Herbalife Goes On Offensive (WSJ) Herbalife Ltd. said it has hired a strategic adviser and will hold an analyst and investor meeting next month in an effort to thwart a wave of criticism reignited by investor William Ackman. In addition, Herbalife is working with law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in connection with the dispute, according to people familiar with the matter. It wasn't immediately clear what kind of counsel Boies Schiller might provide...The company's moves, announced Monday, come after Mr. Ackman last week revealed that his firm has been betting against Herbalife shares for months in a negative wager that he characterized as "enormous." He also said the nutritional-supplement maker operates as a "pyramid scheme." He said distributors, or salespeople, for the Los Angeles-based company make more money by recruiting other distributors than by selling the company's diet and nutritional products. Herbalife last week called Mr. Ackman's stance "a malicious attack on Herbalife's business model based largely on outdated, distorted and inaccurate information." NJ Pension Fund Sues NYSE-Euronext on ICE Deal (Reuters) The New Jersey Carpenters Pension Fund on Friday filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan contending that NYSE-Euronext breached its duty to maximize returns for shareholders. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of other NYSE-Euronext shareholders and aims to block the sale. Titan to Withdraw Money From SAC (WSJ) Titan Advisors LLC recently told clients that it had decided to withdraw its entire investment from SAC, said clients who received phone calls from Titan. "They've told us they still think SAC is a good firm but Titan doesn't need the headline risk, and we sure don't," said Tom Taneyhill, executive director of the Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of the City of Baltimore, on Friday...Titan's departure is significant given SAC's long-standing relationship with one of Titan's founders. Titan co-founder George Fox began investing in SAC in the mid-90s, several years after Mr. Cohen started what became the firm in 1992. Madoff, in Christmas Eve Letter, Says Insider Trading Has Gone on 'Forever' (CNBC) In a Christmas Eve letter from the medium security federal prison in North Carolina where he is serving a 150-year sentence for running a massive Ponzi scheme, Madoff tells CNBC that insider trading has been around "forever." He also rails against what he calls a lack of transparency in the financial markets, and says the growth of hedge funds is forcing market players to take outsized risks in order to earn decent returns. [...] "(O)ne would be led to believe that with the recent spate of insider trading prosecution that insider trading is a new development," Madoff writes. "This is false. It has been present in the market forever, but rarely prosecuted. The same can be said of front running of orders." Venture Capital to Suppress Its Appetite for Risk in 2013 (WSJ) Internet entrepreneurs have had the upper hand over venture capitalists in recent years but that balance of power is now showing some signs of shifting, a trend that could accelerate in 2013. Spurring the change is a dramatically lower appetite for risk from venture capitalists. Many investors rushed to get into Web startup deals in 2010, 2011 and in the early part of this year, often acceding to entrepreneurs' demands for rising valuations in order to snag a stake in their companies. But following the disappointing stock market performances of recently public Web companies Facebook, Zynga, and Groupon venture capitalists are reining in their spending in areas like the consumer Internet. Israel Hedge Funds Defy Iran Threat Multiplying in Tech Center (Bloomberg) Tal Keinan, an Israeli fund manager, was ready for the question he’s always asked when he met with investors in New York in October: Why put your money with a manager whose country Iran has threatened to obliterate. “We tell them ‘if the Iranians attack, the worst thing that can happen is you lose your money manager not your money’,” Keinan, chief executive officer of Tel Aviv-based KCPS & Company, which oversees $1 billion in assets, said in an interview on Oct. 14. “The notion is trade global markets with global assets and clients, but just do it from Israel because of the concentration of talent here.” The country is becoming a magnet for hedge fund managers as lower operating costs, the world’s highest number of Ph.D.s and hi-tech startups per capita overshadow concern that Israel may be attacked by missiles from Tehran. The number of funds has grown to 60 overseeing about $2 billion from 13 in 2006, according to a survey of the local industry published in July by Tzur Management. Israel may be on track to replicate the growth that propelled Singapore’s industry from fewer than 20 managers in 2001 to 320 overseeing $48 billion in 2009, Yitz Raab, founder and managing partner of the Tel Aviv-based fund administration company, said in an interview on Nov. 11. Even Cupid Wants To Know Your Credit Score (NYT) The credit score, once a little-known metric derived from a complex formula that incorporates outstanding debt and payment histories, has become an increasingly important number used to bestow credit, determine housing and even distinguish between job candidates. It’s so widely used that it has also become a bigger factor in dating decisions, sometimes eclipsing more traditional priorities like a good job, shared interests and physical chemistry. That’s according to interviews with more than 50 daters across the country, all under the age of 40. Report: Hedgies prime for comeback (NYP) Banking giant UBS says so-called active investing could be making a comeback after several years of lagging performance, according to a recent report sent to clients. “Although the recent market environment has been difficult for active managers, conditions appear to be improving,” according to the report by UBS’s wealth-management group, which advises clients on their investment strategies. “We expect this to lead to better manager performance.” London VC Spared Jail After ‘Groin Thrusting’ Sexual Assault On Tube During Olympics (TechCrunch) Stefan Glaenzer, a partner in London VC firm Passion Capital has been spared jail after pleading guilty to, and being convicted of, sexual assault on the London underground during the Olympics period...In November, the former chairman of admitted sexually assaulting an American tourist on a packed Central Line train by thrusting his groin into her back, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard. His defence was that he was under the influence of cannabis. Programming Note: We’re on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week (opening news roundups and limited updates whenever the urge to reach out and touch you moves us). We still want to hear from you, though, so if anything happens that you think might tickle our fancy, do not hesitate to let us know.


Holiday Bell: 11.22.17

Uber did a bad bad thing; Tourbillon Capital could use a little bear market right now; another bitcoin exchange looks ready to blow; the flat-earth space program appears to be off to an auspicious start; and much more.