Frontrunning: February 6

  • Tunisian opposition politician shot dead, protests erupt (Reuters)
  • China says extremely concerned after latest North Korea threats (Reuters)
  • Postal Service to cut Saturday mail to trim costs (AP)
  • Debt Rise Colors Budget Talks (WSJ)
  • Obama proposes short-term budget fix, Republicans swiftly object (Reuters)
  • S&P Analyst Joked of Bringing Down the House Before Crash (BBG)
  • Dell’s Bigger Challenge Ahead in Turnaround After Buyout (BBG)
  • Some of the Mark Carney Gloss Is Coming Off (WSJ)
  • Japan Official Says BOJ Tools Sufficient as Shake-Up Looms (BBG)
  • S&P Lawsuit Undermined by SEC Rules That Impede Competition (BBG)
  • Heavy Clashes Erupt in Syrian Capital (WSJ)
  • Carmakers Use Aluminum Over Steel in Boost for Rio (BBG)
  • Beijing vows to raise minimum wages (FT)
  • China Port Operators Step Up Overseas Investment (WSJ)

Overnight Media Digest


* A slowly improving U.S. economy and recently enacted tax increases will help bring down the federal deficit for the next few years, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday, but it will take another $2 trillion in belt-tightening over the next decade to begin to move the federal debt closer to historic levels.

* The U.S. government wants Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services to pay more than $5 billion – roughly what its parent company has earned in the past seven years – for giving its seal of approval to bundles of subprime mortgages that eventually crumbled, costing investors billions and helping sink the economy.

* Nasdaq OMX Group’s missteps during last year’s debut of Facebook Inc shares cost Wall Street an estimated $500 million. In the end, U.S. securities regulators may end up fining the exchange group 1 percent of that.

* Pinterest is in talks to raise a new round of financing that would value the online scrapbooking site at $2 billion to $2.5 billion.

* Regulators leading the world-wide probe into rate-rigging allegations are expected to announce Wednesday a settlement of around 400 million pounds ($626.72 million) with Royal Bank of Scotland, according to people close to the investigation.

* John Malone’s international cable business Liberty Global Inc has agreed to acquire U.K. cable-television and Internet provider Virgin Media Inc for $16 billion, in a deal that may create a stronger rival to market leader British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

* Walt Disney Co’s net income weakened in the latest quarter, even as revenue grew, reflecting slimmer profits at the movie studio, where home-video titles were less lucrative than those released in the final months of 2011.

* Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc and Panera Bread Co have posted solid results even as traditional fast-food chains like McDonald’s Corp and Yum Brands Inc are struggling with waning consumer confidence.


John Malone’s Liberty Global Inc struck a deal to buy British cable group Virgin Media for $23.3 billion in a cash and stock deal, a move that would put the U.S. billionaire up against old rival Rupert Murdoch.

Michael Dell struck a deal to take Dell Inc private for $24.4 billion in the biggest leveraged buyout since the financial crisis, partnering with the Silver Lake private equity firm and Microsoft Corp to try to turn around the struggling computer company without Wall Street scrutiny.

Business secretary Vince Cable is expected to revive a radical plan to return state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland to private sector hands by distributing free shares to the public.

BP Plc is facing demands of more than $34 billion in damages from states and local government in the United States over its 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The claims could significantly increase its potential bill for the Gulf of Mexico spill.

Swiss bank UBS said it was cutting bonus payments to its staff in a move to appease regulators and investors and recoup a large part of its $1.5 billion Libor fine.

Boeing said it sought permission from U.S. aviation authorities to start test flights of its 787 Dreamliner jet as part of its effort to identify the cause of battery failures that forced the plane to be grounded.

European aerospace and defence company EADS plans to bring an American on its board for the first time as the company plans to boost its credentials in the lucrative US market. The Airbus parent has nominated Ralph Crosby, a former executive at Northrop Grumman, to join its board.

Jim O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs’ asset-management division and the man who coined the acronym ‘BRIC’, will retire from the bank later this year.


* Court documents offer a look at the inner workings of Standard and Poor’s, which the U.S. government says inflated credit ratings with dire consequences for the entire economy.

* Dell Inc, seeking to revive itself after years of decline, said on Tuesday it had agreed to go private in a deal led by its founder and the investment firm Silver Lake.

* U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on Congress to quickly pass a new package of limited spending cuts and tax increases to head off substantial across-the-board reductions to domestic and military spending set to begin on March 1, but his appeal for more revenue was dismissed by Republicans.

* Liberty Global Inc, the international cable company owned by American billionaire John Malone, agreed on Tuesday to buy the British cable company Virgin Media Inc for about $16 billion.

* Law firm Debevoise & Plimpton’s move to get out of the estate-planning business comes as the legal industry continues to emphasize more profitable practices.

* Twitter confirmed on Tuesday that it was acquiring Bluefin Labs, a company that analyzes online chatter about TV shows and companies and sells its findings.

* Jim O’Neill, the economist who a decade ago coined the term “BRICs” – the acronym for the emerging growth economies in Brazil, Russia, India and China – plans to retire from Goldman Sachs Group Inc later this year, the firm announced on Tuesday.



* The Canadian government is prepared to knock holes in the hefty tariff walls shielding dairy producers from foreign competition and admit more European cheese into the country in return for greater access to EU markets for Canada’s beef and pork.

* The Conservative government is preparing to commit long-term cash for infrastructure in its 2013 budget in an effort to squeeze more projects – including partnerships with the private sector – out of limited public funds.

Reports in the business section:

* Suncor Energy Inc has taken a writedown of nearly C$1.5 billion on its Voyageur project, a massive oil sands plant that is now at serious risk of cancellation.

* Kathleen Taylor spent years preparing for the top job at Four Seasons Hotels Ltd, but the company said on Tuesday that she will be replaced only three years after she finally sat down in the corner office.


* Prime Minister Stephen Harper would seek a constitutional amendment to give the House of Commons primacy over any future elected Senate, said Harper’s point-person on reform in the Senate.


* Car loans drove Canadians to record debt in the fourth quarter of 2012 as the pace of consumer borrowing began to pick up after a brief lull, according to a survey released on Tuesday.



— Top Chinese steel maker Baoshan Iron & Steel Co said it had so far bought back 424 million shares in response to a regulatory call last year for listed companies to buy back their own shares to support the stock market.


— Chinese health authorities have launched a campaign to address abusive practices in the country’s growing assisted reproductive technology industry.

— Beijing weather authorities have launched a “fireworks index” to inform residents celebrating the upcoming Spring Festival holiday whether conditions are appropriate for setting off fireworks.


— Ten people who illegally detained citizens trying to take complaints to the central government have been jailed. The defendants allegedly intercepted people coming to Beijing to complain about land seizures. The practice is believed to be common in China, the report said.

— Clothing retailer H&M has been fined by the Shanghai city market watchdog for selling substandard shoes.


— China will announce the names of the 10 most polluted cities in the country every month, said Wu Xiaoqing, vice minister of environmental protection.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot



Allergan (AGN) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at JMP Securities
Carlyle Group (CG) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Dell (DELL) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Citigroup
Express (EXPR) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Gannett (GCI) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Marsh & McLennan (MMC) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman


Arch Coal (ACI) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Ashford Hospitality (AHT) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
C.H. Robinson (CHRW) downgraded to Underperform from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Centene (CNC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Charter (CHTR) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James
Expedia (EXPE) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Hologic (HOLX) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill
Intercontinental Hotels (IHG) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
Marcus (MCS) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
McClatchy (MNI) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Minerals Technologies (MTX) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Pebblebrook Hotel (PEB) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
SandRidge Permian Trust (PER) downgraded to Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Silgan Holdings (SLGN) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Sirius XM (SIRI) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie (SOHU) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie
Trimble Navigation (TRMB) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Validus (VR) downgraded to Neutral from Conviction Buy at Goldman
Vascular Solutions (VASC) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Benchmark Co.


Advanced Energy (AEIS) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
Finish Line (FINL) initiated with a Neutral at RW Baird
First Solar (FSLR) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
Foot Locker (FL) initiated with an Outperform at RW Baird
Global Eagle (ENT) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
MEMC Electronic (WFR) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
SunPower (SPWR) initiated with a Buy, added to Top Picks Live at Citigroup
Suntech (STP) initiated with a Sell at Citigroup
Tesaro (TSRO) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche Bank
Thor Industries (THO) initiated with an Outperform at BMO Capital
Trina Solar (TSL) initiated with a Neutral at Citigroup
Yingli Green (YGE) initiated with a Neutral at Citigroup


Liberty Global (LBTYA) to acquire Virgin Media (VMED) for $23.3B
Silver Wheaton (SLW) acquired some gold production from two Vale (VALE) mines for $1.9B
Biogen (BIIB) to acquire full rights and control of Tysabri from Elan (ELN)
Disney (DIS) said confident about FY13, ability to create long-term growth
Ford (F) announced 900 dealers to be certified to sell plug-in EVs by spring
Home Depot (HD) to hire 80,000 associates for spring season
Chipotle (CMG): Confident in continued ability to drive sales growth in 2013
Sees 2013 comparable restaurant sales flat to low single digits
3M Company (MMM) authorized $7.5B share repurchase program
Moody’s affirmed MetLife’s (MET) ratings, long-term ratings’ outlook to negative
Fitch: Yum! Brands (YUM) ratings not immediately impacted by China weakness
Equity Residential (EQR) sees Q1 FFO 62c-66c, consensus 66c
Zynga (ZNGA) sees FY13 EBITDA margin 0%-10%
Said no full year 2013 year guidance, cites platform transition
Netflix (NFLX), Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment announced multi-year deal


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Elan (ELN), W.R. Grace (GRA), KKR Financial (KFN), Horace Mann (HMN), Genworth (GNW), Jive Software (JIVE), Take-Two (TTWO), Hanesbrands (HBI), Panera Bread (PNRA), Hain Celestial (HAIN), Zynga (ZNGA)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
AU Optronics (AUO), C.H. Robinson (CHRW), Stanley Furniture (STLY), Chipotle (CMG), Expedia (EXPE)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Myriad Genetics (MYGN), Aflac (AFL), Fiserv (FISV), CME Group (CME), Thoratec (THOR)


U.S. stock exchanges, banks, trading firms and mutual funds want the SEC to study the effect of pricing some small stocks in nickels and dimes, rather than in pennies, the Wall Street Journal reports
Microsoft’s (MSFT) contribution to the Dell (DELL) buyout is a $2B gamble that the software firm can boost up one of its major customers without upsetting all the others, the Wall Street Journal reports
The Federal Reserve said that one of its internal websites had been briefly breached by hackers, though no critical functions of the U.S. central bank were affected by the intrusion, Reuters reports
Softbank (SFTBF) will issue $3.2B in corporate bonds, the biggest ever by a non-financial Japanese firm to retail investors, to convert part of the $17.7B in short-term loans used to purchase Sprint Nextel (S) to longer term debt, sources say, Reuters reports
With Michael Dell’s (DELL) deal to take his company private, he now faces the larger challenge of turning a business falling behind in personal computers into a provider of high-margin cloud-computing tools and services, Bloomberg reports
Automakers from Ford (F) to Audi (VLKAY) and Jaguar Land Rover (TTM) are using record amounts of aluminum to replace heavier steel, providing relief to producers of the metal facing excess supplies and depressed prices, Bloomberg reports


Boise Cascade (BCC) 11.765M share IPO priced at $21.00
Celldex (CLDX) 12M share Secondary priced at $7.50
MagnaChip (MX) 5M share Secondary priced at $14.50
NCI Building Systems (NCS) files to sell 54.14M shares of common stock for holders
Rose Rock Midstream (RRMS) files to sell 2M common units for holders
Silver Bull (SVBL) proposes public offering of units
TICC Capital (TICC) files to sell 3M shares of common stock
WNS Holdings (WNS) files to sell 12.6M ADSs for Warburg Pincus

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