Opening Bell: 1.6.15

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Profit at Point72, Cohen’s New Firm, Outshines Many a Hedge Fund’s (Dealbook)
If Steven A. Cohen’s investment firm were operating as a hedge fund, it would have been one of the industry’s most profitable in 2014. Mr. Cohen’s family office, Point72 Asset Management, generated a gross profit of $2.5 billion to $3 billion, said several people briefed on the firm’s performance who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Bill Gross Says the Good Times Are Over (Bloomberg)
Bill Gross, the former manager of the world’s largest bond fund, said prices for many assets will fall this year as record-low interest rates fail to restore sufficient economic growth. With global expansion still sputtering after years of interest rates near zero, investors will gradually seek alternatives to risky assets, Gross wrote today in an investment outlook for Janus Capital Group Inc. (JNS), where he runs the $1.2 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund. “When the year is done, there will be minus signs in front of returns for many asset classes,” Gross, 70, wrote in the outlook. “The good times are over.”

Debt Dispute Between Hedge Funds and Argentina at Impasse (Dealbook)
Axel Kicillof, the economy minister, said Argentina’s overtures to the holdouts would be on the same terms that it had offered other bondholders, with some sweeteners. But Argentina is still asking the holdouts to accept a haircut of 65 percent on the bond principal, Mr. Kicillof told a local news website over the weekend. He said it would be “as if the exchange were taking place in 2005.” He did claim, however, that Argentina would offer some extra money, such as all the accrued interest on the discounted bonds since 2005. The holdouts, led by Paul Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management, and other bondholders that did not file suit, are owed a total of $23 billion, Mr. Kicillof estimated. Under the most recent preliminary offer, he said, they would receive $6.5 billion.

France reclaims 'entrepreneur' roots with leading number of start-ups in Europe (CNBC)
"We are a tech republic," says Nicolas Vassitch, head of the IT department at Ubifrance. It's just that no one knows it, he says. "We have excellent engineers, but most go abroad. You don't even notice them," Mr. Vassitch says. The government is trying to change that. As Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron put it at a recent party to celebrate the French presence at the CES: "We need to find again our spirit of conquest. The word entrepreneur, don't ever forget, is a French word. It's been stolen from us." The start-ups at Ubifrance are working to steal it back. At the practice pitch event one woman stands up and shows off the Bel-T, a belt that is more than a tool to keep pants in place, she says. "It adapts to you," says Carine Coulm, the general manager of Emiota, whether that means you've had a big lunch or simply like your belt looser in the afternoons.

New Jersey man arrested for stealing $1K worth of breast pumps: police (NYDN)
A New Jersey man has been busted for allegedly stealing $1,000 worth of breast pumps from a Burlington Coat Factory, police said. Joseph Galucci, 34, was charged with shoplifting Wednesday after surveillance video capturing the outrageous Dec. 1 theft was posted on social media, Brick Township Police stated in a release. The 34-year-old was identified by police with the public's help after this surveillance video, showing Galucci entering the store, was posted online. The 34-year-old was identified by police with the public's help after this surveillance video, showing Galucci entering the store, was posted online. Tips consequently poured in, leading to his identity and eventual arrest. Galucci is being held at the Ocean County jail on $20,000 bail.

Apollo Plots Salvaging of Bad Caesars Bet (WSJ)
Through a series of financial maneuvers, Apollo has positioned itself to salvage some of the $1.7 billion it invested in Caesars, which it took private seven years ago in a $28 billion leveraged buyout with fellow private-equity firm TPG. The restructuring hinges on the bankruptcy of Caesars’s largest unit, which could come as soon as mid-January, and transfers of the unit’s best assets that have infuriated creditors.

White House Expected to Nominate Community Banker to Federal Reserve (WSJ)
President Barack Obama is expected to nominate a community banker to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors as soon as this week, according to several people familiar with the administration’s plans. A White House official didn't comment on the report and said Monday the administration had no personnel announcements. Mr. Obama’s plans were first reported by Politico. Members of the Senate Banking Committee had urged the White House to tap a community banker to increase the diversity of experience on the seven-member board, which sets short-term interest rates and regulates banks.

CNBC to Stop Using Nielsen for Ratings (WSJ)
For years CNBC and its parent company, Comcast Corp. ’s NBCUniversal, have complained that Nielsen underreports the size and wealth of its audience by failing to track “out of home” viewing in places such as offices and airports. CNBC’s switch to Cogent is the latest barb for Nielsen, which has faced criticism from media companies that it has been slow to adapt its traditional ratings to changing media consumption habits. While many media companies say they are frustrated with Nielsen, CNBC is the first network to opt out of its ratings.

Bitcoin exchange Bitstamp suspends service after security breach (Reuters)
Bitstamp, one of the largest exchanges for trading the digital bitcoin currency, said it has suspended its service after a security breach on Sunday, resulting in loss of around 19,000 bit coins. The breach represented a small fraction of its total bitcoin reserve and the majority was held in secure offline systems, the Slovenia-based firm posted on its website on Tuesday. Reuters was unable to contact Bitstamp officials in Slovenia or the United Kingdom, but one of the company's founders, Damijan Merlak, told Slovenian state-owned news agency STA that Bitstamp has enough liquid assets to meet its short-term obligations. "At present we are setting up a duplicate of the whole infrastructure with experts in San Francisco which should be finished within 24 hours. Then we will be able to resume our services," Merlak told STA.

Woman sues over picture on 'rehab' novelty flask (UPI)
A New Mexico woman's lawsuit against a novelty product maker alleges she was defamed when her high school picture was used on a flask with a joke about "rehab." Veronica Vigil's lawsuit, which was filed in state District Court late last year and has now been moved to federal court, alleges the Chimayo woman's 1970 high school graduation picture was used without her permission by Anne Taintor Inc. to decorate a flask with the caption, "I'm going to be the most popular girl in rehab." The lawsuit, which also names Santa Fe gift shop Doodlet's as a defendant, alleges the product defames Vigil by linking her image to substance abuse. "Plaintiff is an active member of her church and does not consume alcohol or drugs," the lawsuit states. "Given the seriousness of the issues of substance abuse in the community in which plaintiff resides, she has held herself out by reputation for her children and her community, to refrain from abuse or even use of alcohol and illicit drugs and has set an example that the issue is a very serious one that destroys families and lives." Blair Dunn, Vigil's lawyer, said the flask was spotted by the plaintiff's adult daughter at a store in Florida. The product was not available on Taintor's website Tuesday, but was listed on Amazon along with other products bearing the same image.

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Opening Bell: 10.04.12

France’s LBO Firms See ‘Death’ From Hollande’s 75% Carry Tax (Bloomberg) Hollande, who released his first annual budget on Sept. 28, plans to tax fund managers’ share of the profit from their investments, known as carried interest, at a rate of as much as 75 percent, part of a wider effort to increase taxes on the wealthy and narrow the country’s deficit. France also plans to as much as double taxes on capital gains and restrict the amount of debt interest payments a company can deduct from its taxable income, a measure that will reduce returns on leveraged buyouts. Facebook Test Turns Users Into Advertisers (FT) Facebook is testing a new product in the US that allows ordinary users to pay to promote their own status updates, marking a shift in the social network’s willingness to charge its users for a core service. The product has potential to generate revenues, analysts said, but could also threaten the organic feel of the site as people pay to market their own social lives. Mark Zuckerberg Confirms: 'I wear the same thing everyday' (DL) "I mean, I wear the same thing every day, right? I mean, it's literally, if you could see my closet," Zuckerberg starts to explain, as Lauer asks if he owns 12 of the same gray t-shirt. "Maybe about 20," Zuckerberg admits, somewhere between discussing the future of Facebook, his daily routine, the iPhone 5, and his wedding to college sweetheart Priscilla Chan last May. The Facebook CEO says that he doesn't really have much in his closet — it's mainly used by his wife, who graduated from medical school at the University of California at San Francisco shortly before their marriage. Instead, Zuckerberg's identical t-shirt collection lives in the one drawer he's allotted. Tiger Global Up 22.4 Percent (Reuters) Tiger Global, one of the world's best-performing hedge funds, ended the third quarter with strong gains, leaving the fund up 22.4 percent for the year, two people familiar with the numbers said on Wednesday. The roughly $6 billion fund, run by Chase Coleman and Feroz Dewan, has been the darling of the investment community for its string of strong returns at a time when the average hedge fund is delivering only low single-digit returns. In 2011, when most funds nursed losses, Tiger Global captured headlines with a 45 percent gain for the year after having made a good chunk of money on the short side, people familiar with the portfolio said. 'Dark Pool' And SEC Settle (WSJ) The Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in its order that Boston-based broker-dealer eBX LLC allowed the third-party operator of its trading platform, called LeveL ATS, to use details on client orders, including the stocks involved and whether they were buy or sell orders, to its own advantage. That operator is Lava Trading, an electronic-trading unit of Citigroup, according to eBX. eBX agreed to pay $800,000 to settle the SEC's allegations. It did so without admitting or denying wrongdoing. Mohamed El-Erian: No corner offices at PIMCO (Fortune) "It doesn't matter whether you're CEO or whether you're an associate, you have the same size office. No corner offices. Just a conference room. And then I knew that I had made the right decision when my very first outing with PIMCO, I had come from the IMF, 15 years working on emerging markets. I had a swagger, I thought I knew what I was talking about. I put forward my view, and this summer intern felt safe enough to get up and say, "You know what? Mohamed is wrong and this is why he's wrong." The fact that PIMCO had created this safe zone where a summer intern could get up and question someone who was supposed to be an expert confirmed to me that I was in the right place." Bank-Friendly U.S. Regulator Shifts Focus to Revamp Reputation (Bloomberg) In a stately hearing room stuffed with senators and bankers, Thomas Curry began his apologies. His agency should have stopped a major bank from helping drug cartels launder cash. The violations went on for years while his agency was overly passive. “I deeply regret we did not act sooner,” he said. Curry had been on the job for just over three months on that day in July, so the mistakes hadn’t been made on his watch. His apologies were less a confession than a signal the new Comptroller of the Currency -- long seen as the most bank- friendly of U.S. regulators -- was changing course. “I’m not interested in what people thought about in the past,” Curry said in an interview. “My focus is going forward.” Since he took over in March, at least two key staff members closely associated with the agency’s pro-industry stance have departed, notably chief counsel Julie Williams. Williams, a 19- year OCC veteran, was known for helping nationally chartered banks resist state regulation by arguing they were preempted by often less-stringent federal rules. Curry has also raised the profile of consumer protection and shifted focus toward “operational risk” -- the idea that bank practices and management can pose as much of a threat to safety and soundness as external forces. Argentine Navy Ship Seized In Asset Fight (FT) An Argentine naval vessel crewed by more than 200 sailors has been seized in Ghana as part of an attempt by the US hedge fund Elliott Capital Management to collect on bonds on which Buenos Aires defaulted in 2001. A Ghanaian court ordered an injunction and interim preservation order against the ARA Libertad, a 100-metre long tall ship, following an application by Elliott subsidiary NML Capital on Tuesday. The hedge fund, run by the US billionaire Paul Singer, has been closely monitoring the course of the Libertad, according to sources familiar with the firm. Elliott had been waiting for the ship to stop in a port where it would have a chance to enforce legal judgments previously awarded by UK and US courts. The hedge fund declined to comment. Argentina slammed the interception of the Libertad as a “trick which these unscrupulous financiers” had pulled, adding that it “violates the Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity”. Morgan Stanley commodities talks with Qatar hit snag (Reuters) Morgan Stanley's talks with Qatar's sovereign wealth fund over the sale of its commodities business have run into difficulty, and the deal may need to be reworked if it is to go ahead, banking sources said. One of the top banks in commodity trading over the past 30 years, Morgan Stanley has been in discussion for more than a year with Qatar over the sale of at least a majority stake in the energy-focused trading business, the bankers said. "There have been some differences, and Qatar is a bit lukewarm about it," one said. "It's not dead yet but definitely not imminent." Maple syrup stolen in Quebec seized by police in New Brunswick (The Star) Quebec police have seized between 700 and 800 barrels of maple syrup from a New Brunswick exporter, linking the drums to August’s massive heist of the sweet stuff. Étienne St-Pierre, owner of S.K. Exports in Kedgwick, N.B., told the Star that police executed a search warrant Sept. 26 and hauled away the barrels. “They said they were searching to find some stolen drums from Quebec,” he said. “It was a surprise. That was the first news I received.” St-Pierre said each barrel weighs about 270 kilograms and holds 170 litres of syrup, meaning police seized at least 119,000 litres of gooey Quebec gold. A spokesperson for the Sûreté du Québec, Sgt. Bruno Beaulieu, confirmed a search warrant had been executed in Kedgwick but said he could not comment on the investigation. The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has never revealed the amount of syrup stolen from its secure St-Louis-de-Blandford, Que. warehouse in August. The facility held about 3.75 million litres of syrup, enough to fill one and a half Olympic swimming pools. St-Pierre said he obtained the barrels from a regular Quebec supplier, who he refused to identify.

Opening Bell: 5.14.15

Germany still giving Greece tough love; Pimco execs depart; Morgan Stanley fined; Guy robs credit union for girlfriend's bail money; and more.

By Sachyn Mital (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Opening Bell: 6.15.16

Caspersen's lawyer says fraud was fueled by gambling addiction; Fed expected to hold steady; Billionaire gets approval to build NYC mega-mansion; Sean Penn was going to name his son Steak; and more.