Opening Bell: 8.21.15

Paulson likes Puerto Rico; JP Morgan hires General; Female Viagra; Twitter; "Hamas captures alleged Israeli spy dolphin"; and more.
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Maker of Addyi, ‘Female Viagra’ Drug, Being Sold to Valeant for $1 Billion (Dealboo)
Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which on Tuesday won regulatory approval for the first pill to aid a woman’s sex drive, will be acquired by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International for about $1 billion in cash. The deal, announced on Thursday, represents a sizable return for investors in Sprout, a privately held company in Raleigh, N.C., with 34 employees. A total of about $100 million has been invested in Sprout since its formation in 2011.

Hedge funder John Paulson goes on Puerto Rico spending spree (NYP)
John Paulson is expected to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in the Puerto Rican debt crisis, but it hasn’t stopped the big spender from living the high life with real estate mogul Fahad Ghaffar in San Juan. A source says Paulson and Ghaffar, who’s also managing director of Paulson & Co., have gone on a “buying spree,” scooping up properties including luxury hotels St. Regis, La Concha Resort and the Vanderbilt. “They see Puerto Rico as an incredible buying opportunity with high returns,” says the source.

Caesars conflict means trouble for John Paulson (NYP)
Junior creditors of Caesars Entertainment’s bankrupt operating unit argue a proposed restructuring deal between the casino giant and fewer than half of its creditors represents an “improper” conflict of interest. That’s because most of creditors who signed on to the deal also own equity in Caesars parent company, which has not filed for bankruptcy, lawyers for the junior creditors said Thursday. The proposed deal would allegedly allow Caesars parent company — and its shareholders — to keep the best assets while depriving creditors of the bankrupt operating unit. Paulson is one of the biggest shareholders in the parent company, with a 10 percent stake.

J.P. Morgan Names Former Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno as Adviser (WSJ)
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. will bring on Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the recently retired chief of staff of the Army, as a senior adviser to the firm, the bank announced Thursday. Starting Sept. 1, Gen. Odierno will advise the bank’s board and Chief Executive James Dimon on topics such as the risks of doing business in various countries, technology and physical and cybersecurity.

Hamas captures alleged Israeli spy dolphin (UPI)
Militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas announced it has captured a suspected Israeli spy: a dolphin equipped with cameras and other devices. Hamas, based in Gaza, said the naval unit of its military wing discovered a dolphin equipped with cameras and other spying devices off shore and captured the animal. The Arabic-language Al-Quds newspaper said the dolphin had been "stripped of its will" and turned into "a murderer" by the Israeli military. Israeli officials have not responded to the allegations.

Glencore CDS Costs Soar On Poor Results (WSJ)
The price investors must pay to insure against a default on Glencore PLC’s debt ballooned after poor results from the commodities giant. As of Thursday, investors had to pay $330,000 to insure against $10 million of Glencore debt for five years using credit default swaps, or CDS, according to data group Markit. That is more than three times the price of insuring against a default last September. At the end of last week, it cost $294,000.

Twitter Falls Below IPO Price as Concerns Mount Over CEO, Growth (Bloomberg)
The selloff was triggered three weeks ago, when Jack Dorsey, co-founder and interim chief executive officer, warned that it would take a while before Twitter is able to reverse a slowdown in user growth. While his candor was applauded by analysts, investors appear to have taken his comments -- which also described product performance as “unacceptable” -- to heart.

Are Lawyers Getting Dumber? (Bloomberg)
Last August, the tens of thousands of answer sheets from the bar exam started to stream into the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The initial results were so glaringly bad that staffers raced to tell their boss, Erica Moeser...In Idaho, bar pass rates dropped 15 percentage points, from 80 percent to 65 percent. In Delaware, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas, scores dropped 9 percentage points or more. By the time all the states published their numbers, it was clear that the July exam had been a disaster everywhere. Scores on the multiple-choice part of the test registered their largest single-year drop in the four-decade history of the test.

Santa is Four Months From Christmas – But a Week From Bankruptcy (Bloomberg)
The problems started as tourists from Greece, Italy, Spain and then Russia stopped coming, Jarmo Kariniemi, chief executive officer of Dianordia Oy, which runs the Finnish Santa Claus office, said in a phone interview from Rovaniemi, close to the Arctic circle in Finnish Lapland. “The state of the global economy makes a big difference to our business,” Kariniemi said on Thursday. Most of the company’s debts — about 200,000 euros ($223,660) — are owed to the tax man, he said. Kariniemi says his company is “not yet bankrupt, and we are confident a solution will be found.” The challenge is adjusting to the shifting revenue streams as various countries get hit by economic shocks, he said.

Torrey Smith 'endorses' Deez Nuts for president (UPI)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith shared his distaste for Donald Trump with an unfavorable comparison to another presidential hopeful: Deez Nuts. Smith issued a short tweet Thursday comparing the Republican frontrunner with the independent, who is actually a 15-year-old Iowa boy named Brady Olson. "Deez Nutz > Donald Trump" Smith tweeted, misspelling the fictional candidate's last name. A Facebook page purporting to be the official page for the Deez Nuts camapign took Smith's tweet as a show of support. "Former NFL WR Torrey Smith has been the latest person to endorse Deez Nuts for the White House," the post on the Deez Nuts for President 2016 page reads. Deez Nuts made headlines when the Public Policy Polling group released data showing the candidate was polling at 9 percent in North Carolina.

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Opening Bell: 9.3.15

Private equity eyes Petco; Hedge fund losses; "Who Wants to Ring the Closing Bell on Bad Days?"; Puerto Rico still not doing so hot; "Hawaii woman announces plan to use dolphin as a midwife"; and more.

Opening Bell: 7.29.15

Puerto Rico sitch not great for US; Hedge funds like London; Disneyland Paris probe; Twitter; Yelp; Brazil; "Fugitive-turned-actor arrested after U.S. Marshals read film write-up"; and more.

Opening Bell: 03.11.13

EU Chiefs Seeking to Stave Off Euro Crisis Turn to Cyprus (Bloomberg) European leaders grappling with political deadlock in Italy and spiraling unemployment in France will turn to a financial rescue for Cyprus in an effort to stave off a return of market turmoil over the debt crisis. European Union leaders will meet for a March 14-15 summit in Brussels to discuss terms for Cyprus, including the island nation’s debt sustainability and possibly imposing losses on depositors. That comes as Italy struggles to form a government after an inconclusive Feb. 24-25 election and as concern over the French economy mounts with unemployment at a 13-year high. Spain's Bailout Fund Said to Seek Help on Bank Strategy (WSJ) Spain's bank bailout fund is seeking to hire advisers to help shape a long-term strategy for dealing with its portfolio of nationalized lenders, a week after calling off an auction of one of the most troubled banks. People briefed about the plan said the fund, known by its Spanish acronym FROB, will make contact with strategic consultants, and possibly with investment banks, once the plan has been approved by the FROB's board of directors. Is There Life After Work? By Erin Callan (NYT) "I didn’t start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time. Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left...I have often wondered whether I would have been asked to be C.F.O. if I had not worked the way that I did. Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short. I was talented, intelligent and energetic. It didn’t have to be so extreme. Besides, there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor. I didn’t have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn’t have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn’t have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place with at least some better version of a personal life. Not without sacrifice — I don’t think I could have “had it all” — but with somewhat more harmony. I have also wondered where I would be today if Lehman Brothers hadn’t collapsed. In 2007, I did start to have my doubts about the way I was living my life. Or not really living it. But I felt locked in to my career. I had just been asked to be C.F.O. I had a responsibility. Without the crisis, I may never have been strong enough to step away. Perhaps I needed what felt at the time like some of the worst experiences in my life to come to a place where I could be grateful for the life I had. I had to learn to begin to appreciate what was left. At the end of the day, that is the best guidance I can give. Whatever valuable advice I have about managing a career, I am only now learning how to manage a life." Paper Trail Goes Cold in Case Against S&P (Reuters) In early 2007, as signs of distress began appearing in securities backed by residential mortgages, executives at Standard & Poor's began advising analysts responsible for rating mortgage bonds that they should put the phrase "privileged and confidential" on emails to one another. Analysts working for the McGraw Hill Cos division also were discouraged from doodling on notepads and official documents during meetings to discuss pending deals and existing ratings, several former S&P employees said. That was not the first time S&P had tried to caution employees about paper trails. In 2005, a full two years before the housing market began to melt down, several top S&P managers attended an off-site meeting at hotel in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, to discuss ways to increase the fees it collected from Wall Street banks for rating mortgage bonds. A former S&P executive said that after the meeting, employees were instructed to discard any notes they had taken from the meeting. InTrade Shuts Down (WSJ) InTrade, the Ireland-based website that allows users to place wagers on non-sports-related upcoming events, announced on Sunday that it is shutting its site down. In an official statement, the company does not go into great detail as to why it is closing its doors, only that it is related to “financial irregularities which, in accordance with Irish law,” require InTrade to cease operations until resolved. “At this time and until further notice, it is not possible to make any payments to members in accordance with their settled account balance until the investigations have concluded,” the company said. Commodities Squeeze Banks (WSJ) The sharp fall in commodity revenue has already claimed some victims. UBS AG, the Swiss bank that has been under pressure to cut costs and improve its performance, last year closed all its commodities-trading desks aside from those dealing in precious metals. Goldman, UBS, Deutsche Bank, and Barclays have all suffered departures of senior commodity traders to hedge funds and independent trading companies over the last several months. Average staffing in commodities trading declined 5.9% last year at major banks, according to Coalition. Artist Teaches George W. Bush How To Paint (Fox5) An artist in Cumming, GA spent a month teaching former President George W. Bush how to paint. Bonnie Flood said that President Bush has a passion for painting and shows real potential as an artists. "He started off painting dogs. I think he said he painted 50 dogs," Flood said. "He pulled out this canvas and started painting dogs and I thought, 'Oh my God, I don't paint dogs!" Flood, who does most of paintings at her home in Cumming, occasionally conducts workshops in Florida. That's where the former President heard about her. The next thing she knew, she was packing up her paints to spend a month in Boca Grande with President Bush. She said that she spent about six hours a day with the President, mixing paints and teaching him proper brush strokes. She says she wasn't intimidated but admits she really didn't know what to call him until she found the magic number. "I called him '43' because that's the way he signed his paintings. "When I really wanted him to do something, I would say, 'Mr. President you know that you don't do it that way.'" She says the President learned quickly and soon started painting fewer dogs and more landscapes. "He has such a passion for painting, it's amazing," Flood said. "He's going to go down in the history books as a great artist." Hostess Creditor, Private-Equity Firms Show Interest in Twinkies Brand (Reuters) Hostess Brands creditor Silver Point Capital and hedge fund Hurst Capital have expressed interest in buying Hostess's snack cake brands, including Twinkies, the New York Post reported. Paulson Said to Explore Puerto Rico as Home With Low Tax (Bloomberg) John Paulson, a lifelong New Yorker, is exploring a move to Puerto Rico, where a new law would eliminate taxes on gains from the $9.5 billion he has invested in his own hedge funds, according to four people who have spoken to him about a possible relocation. More US Profits Parked Abroad (WSJ) A Wall Street Journal analysis of 60 big U.S. companies found that, together, they parked a total of $166 billion offshore last year. That shielded more than 40% of their annual profits from U.S. taxes, though it left the money off-limits for paying dividends, buying back shares or making investments in the U.S. The 60 companies were chosen for the analysis because each of them had held at least $5 billion offshore in 2011. Twitter, Social Media Are Fertile Ground For Stock Hoaxes (Reuters) "Twitter pump and dump schemes are obviously something for the market to be concerned about, even if they are just a new way for people to do schemes that have been done forever," said Keith McCullough, chief executive officer at Hedgeye Risk Management in New Haven, Connecticut. He uses Twitter and has more than 22,000 followers. In such hoaxes, anonymous users set up accounts with names that sound like prominent market players, issue negative commentary, and spark massive declines. The selling that follows shows how the rapid spread of information on social media can make for volatile trading, and is a warning to investors who trade on news before fully verifying the source. SEC: Goldman Cannot Ignore Proposal to Split Chairman, CEO Roles (Reuters) SEC staff sent a letter to Goldman internal counsel Beverly O'Toole this week, saying the agency is "unable to concur" with Goldman's view that the shareholder proposal does not warrant a vote. El Paso Sheriff's deputies arrest 2 ice cream men for possession of pot (EPT) Saturday afternoon, Sheriff's deputies spotted a purple ice cream truck with a cracked windshield and an expired registration sticker along the 8600 block of Alameda. During the traffic stop, one of the occupants left the vehicle and led deputies on a brief foot pursuit before being caught. Two tupperware bowls containing a green leafy substance, believed to be marijuana, was found on the man, who was identified as 19-year-old Elijah Sanchez. The second occupant, identified as 29-year-old Anthony Arellano, was also charged with possession of marijuana after deputies found marijuana inside the vehicle. Arellano has been arrested in the past for numerous felony charges and a previous possession of marijuana charge in 2006, deputies said.

Opening Bell: 8.4.15

Puerto Rico; Pimco; Promontory Financial; 210 year-old bottle of cognac; "No plans to probe hitchhiking robot vandalism"; and more.