Holiday Bell: 1.2.15


SAC's Steinberg Appeal Delayed as U.S. Weighs Challenge (Bloomberg)
SAC Capital Advisors LP hedge fund manager Michael Steinberg’s appeal of his insider trading conviction was further delayed by a court as the government decides how to respond to a ruling that upended guilty verdicts in two related cases. The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York Wednesday granted Steinberg’s request to keep his appeal on hold while prosecutors decide whether to seek further review of its ruling throwing out the convictions of Level Global Investors LP co-founder Anthony Chiasson and former Diamondback Capital Management LLC manager Todd Newman in an alleged $72 million scheme.

Bill Ackman taking Herbalife fight to Hispanic community (NYP)
For the first time in his more than two-year campaign against Herbalife, the billionaire investor will take his argument directly to the Hispanic community he believes is being defrauded by the diet-shake company. Ackman, who now has a $2 billion bet that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme, will be the key speaker at a town hall meeting in Chicago on Jan. 12 sponsored by the League of United Latin American Citizens, also a critic of Herbalife. “He is our brother in the struggle,” said LULAC’s Julie Contreras, the activist who is organizing the event.

Huge Ski Resort for the Rich Is Bouncing Back (Dealbook)
Just a few years ago, such activity would have been hard to fathom. This alpine redoubt defaulted on a $375 million loan in November 2008, epitomizing the risky loans and real estate speculation that precipitated the financial crisis, and it became mired in bankruptcy and a messy divorce case. Today, six years after its bankruptcy, the Yellowstone Club [a 13,600-acre private ski club just north of Yellowstone National Park] is thriving. In the last two years alone, the club has sold nearly $1 billion in real estate. It has doubled its membership, which includes the likes of Bill Gates and the investor and Hollywood producer Peter Chernin, to more than 500 households from 260 in 2009, and it is gearing up for what is likely to be its busiest winter since the club broke ground more than 15 years ago. Of course, busy here is relative, and that is one of the biggest selling points. “Look at the crowds at Breckenridge on opening day,” said Sam Byrne, the financier who bought the Yellowstone Club out of bankruptcy in 2009. He pointed to a web camera showing what looked like ants dotting a ski run at the Breckenridge resort in Colorado, then called up satellite images of lift lines at Vail Ski Resort.

Pimco Fund Trails Peers in 2014 After Missing Rally (Bloomberg)
The $162.8 billion Pimco Total Return Fund, managed by Chief Investment Officers Scott Mather, Mark Kiesel, and Mihir Worah after the surprise departure of Bill Gross on Sept. 26, returned 4.7 percent in 2014, trailing 53 percent of comparable funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In 2013, it lost 1.9 percent, lagging behind 65 percent of peers.

7-inch T-bird part removed from man's arm 51 years after car crash (UPI)
Arthur Lampitt, 75, of Granite City, said he was treated for injuries to the surface of his arm after the 1963 crash, but he did not know anything had remained stuck there until he set off a courthouse's metal detector about 10 to 15 years ago. Lampitt said his doctor performed an X-ray and determined there was a metallic object in his arm, but it was recommended it be left where it was as there was no pain or loss of functionality in his arm. The retired real estate agent said the arm finally began to hurt a few weeks ago while he was doing work at a house he is repairing, and a specialist recommended surgery when the affected area started to swell. Lampitt unearthed some pictures from his 1963 crash and began to suspect the metal object in his arm was the turn signal lever when he realized the object was missing after the Thunderbird's demise. Surgeons at City Place Surgery Center in St. Louis, Mo., operated on the arm for about 45 minutes on New Year's Eve and discovered the cause of Lampitt's problems was indeed the 7-inch turn signal lever. Lampitt said he is planning to do something special with the lever, possibly turn it into a key chain.

Fed’s Policy-Setters Likely to Be More United (WSJ)
The Federal Reserve’s top policy-making body is likely to appear more united in 2015 than in 2014, even though the central bank’s internal debate is heating up over when to raise interest rates. The rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee recorded at least one dissent at five of its eight meetings last year, culminating with a high of three nay votes in December. All the dissents were cast by three officials, none of whom will be on the panel this year due to the regular rotation of voting seats among the regional Fed bank presidents. The new voters in 2015 appear likely to side more consistently with Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

Euro Forecasters See Pain After Worst Year Since 2005 (Bloomberg)
Europe’s common currency, which appreciated to $1.3993 that May day, ended last year down 12 percent against the dollar, its biggest loss since 2005. Strategists, who were too timid with their call for a decline in 2014 to $1.28, now see a slump to $1.18 by the end of this year. The euro set a four-year low of $1.2035 today.

Merkel ally urges ECB not to buy struggling states' bonds (Reuters)
A senior member of Angela Merkel's party warned the European Central Bank not to pour money into Greece and other struggling euro zone states through bond purchases, saying this would reduce pressure on them to enact much-needed reforms. Michael Fuchs, deputy parliamentary floor leader of the German chancellor's Christian Democrats (CDU), told Deutschlandfunk radio on Friday: "We shouldn't pump extra money into these states, but rather make sure they continue along the reform path. "I'd be grateful if (ECB President Mario) Mr Draghi would make statements along these lines."

TPG’s 2015 IPO plans hit fundraising snag (NYP)
Private equity mogul David Bonderman hopes to take his TPG Capital public in the second half of 2015 — but difficult fundraising may stop his plans, two sources close to the firm said. Going public this year is a “mission critical event,” a source said. That contrasts with what Bonderman has said publicly, including in September, when he told Reuters he was cautious about the possibility of bringing TPG public. TPG — with $65 billion in assets — believes it can attract a roughly $6 billion valuation, the source said. The Blackstone Group, in comparison, has a $39 billion market cap, KKR $19 billion, and Apollo Global Management $9 billion.

Chinese man gets 13 years for eating three tigers (UPI)
A Chinese court upheld a 13-year jail sentence for a man convicted of purchasing and eating three endangered tigers in separate incidents. Authorities told Qinzhou City Intermediate People's Court the man, identified by the surname Xu, organized three trips to Leizhou, Guangdong province, in 2013 for himself and 14 other people. During each trip, Xu purchased a tiger which was then killed via electric shock, dismembered and served to the group as food. One of the incidents was recorded on a cellphone camera and the video was handed over to police. Investigators said they searched Xu's home and found animal skeletons, a tiger's penis, and remains of endangered animals including giant geckos and a cobra. Xu told police he paid more than $70,000 for each tiger.

Programming note: We're on an abbreviated, vacation-esque schedule this week. Opening/closing wraps and light posting/moral support throughout the day for at the office. We'll see you back here in full force on Monday.


Holiday Bell: 10.12.15

AB InBev offers SABMiller $103.6 billion; Central bankers tell Fed to get its sh*t together; HBS grad wants to start a cannabis bank; Gross suffers outflows; "Texas students to protest campus weapons policy with sex toys"; 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: 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.