Frontrunning: August 27

  • Opposition figure: major decisions on Syria expected within hours (Al Arabiya)

  • Syria challenges U.S. to "produce the evidence" that Assad regime launched chemical attack (CBS)

  • British PM says world must act on Syria, weighs response (Reuters)

  • U.S. Treasury to Hit Debt Limit in Mid-October (WSJ)

  • U.S. could look beyond U.N. Security Council in any Syria strike (Reuters)

  • Nasdaq, NYSE at odds on outage cause as SEC seeks facts (Reuters)

  • Ackman’s J.C. Penney Sale Ends Failed Saga to Agitate for Change (BBG)

  • Zandi, LaVorgna, Blinder, Rattner all is one con puff piece (BBG)

  • Best Buy Founder Schulze Plans Stock Sale to Diversify Assets (BBG) - "diversify assets" = dump overpriced junk

  • Zero Worship: Credit-Card Firms Compete With No-Interest Transfers (WSJ)

  • Len Blavatnik wins $50m in JPMorgan lawsuit (FT)

  • Danone Finds Yogurt’s All Greek as Oikos Chases Chobani (BBG)

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* Secretary of State John Kerry began laying out the U.S. case for possible military action against Syria, saying there was undeniable evidence that chemical weapons had been used in a deadly attack against a rebel enclave and that it was "a moral obscenity."

* Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman moved to dump his entire 18 percent stake in J.C. Penney ending a failed bet on the retailer that cost his fund more than $600 million, resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs and left the 1,100-store chain still struggling to right itself.

* As worries over China's debt problem mount, the burden of paying off those loans could be the trigger that tips runaway credit into slower economic growth and financial stress.

* The Treasury Department said it would hit its borrowing limit in mid-October and be unable to pay all of its bills soon after that time.

* Amgen Inc's $10.4 billion deal to purchase Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc may be most notable for what didn't occur: a bidding war among multiple suitors and a purchase price significantly above Amgen's initial offer earlier this year.

* Telefónica has sweetened the terms of its offer for KPN's German mobile business, securing the support of the Dutch telecom operator's largest shareholder America Movil for the deal.

* Toyota is racing to catch rivals in Latin America, making up for decades of neglect that has put the Japanese auto giant in about sixth place in the region's booming car market.

* SoundExchange, the entity that collects performance royalties from digital music services - and distributes them to performers and record labels - sued Sirius XM Radio for allegedly refusing to pay for recordings made prior to 1972.

* Starbucks is planning to open its first coffee shop in Colombia next year, using locally grown coffee. The Seattle-based chain will open the first store in Bogota and plans to open at least 50 there and in other cities throughout Colombia over the next five years.

FT

Telefonica won over top KPN shareholder Carlos Slim on Monday after raising its bid for the company's German mobile unit E-Plus to 8.55 billion euros ($11.5 billion)from 8.1 billion euros.

Britain should scrap plans for the 50-billion-pound high speed rail link between London and the north, the Institute of Directors, a large and influential business group, said on Tuesday.

Activist investor Daniel Loeb's hedge fund Third Point LLC increased its stake in Sotheby's to 5.7 percent, pushing shares in the auction house up as much as 6 percent on Monday.

The chief executive of Russia's Uralkali, the world's top potash producer, was arrested in Minsk on Monday after being invited to a meeting with the Belarusian prime minister, following the collapse of a joint Russian-Belarussian venture.

Nationwide, Britain's biggest customer-owned financial services group, has delayed its plans to expand into lending to small and medium-sized businesses as it struggles to meet tougher capital requirements set out by the financial regulator earlier this year.

A New York state judge ordered JPMorgan Chase & Co to pay more than $50 million of damages including interest to Leonard Blavatnik after the Russian-American billionaire won a claim for breach of contract in a lawsuit against the bank.

NYT

* The stock market sagged on Monday after the Obama administration ratcheted up its pressure against Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry said there was "undeniable" evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack in Syria last week and suggested the administration was edging closer to a military response.

* Hedge fund manager William Ackman moved on Monday to sell his roughly 18 percent stake in J.C. Penney Co Inc, nearly two weeks after he resigned from the board amid an unusual public battle with his fellow directors.

* Unless Congress raises the debt ceiling, the Treasury Department said on Monday that it expected to lose the ability to pay all of the government's bills in mid-October.

* Behind the roiling conversation over whether President Obama might make Janet Yellen the first female leader of the Federal Reserve is an uncomfortable reality for the White House: the administration has named no more women to high-level executive branch posts than the Clinton administration did almost two decades ago.

* Activist investor Daniel Loeb disclosed on Monday that he had acquired a large stake in the auction house Sotheby's . Third Point is now one of Sotheby's biggest shareholders, with a 5.7 percent stake, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Third Point said it planned to "engage in a dialogue" with Sotheby's board.

* A New York state judge found JPMorgan Chase & Co liable to the Russian-American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik for breach of contract for placing risky subprime mortgage securities in an investment account he held, and ordered the bank to pay more than $50 million in damages, including interest.

* On Tuesday, the Australian surf wear company Billabong International Ltd reported its worst financial results ever - a net loss of A$859.5 million, or about $772 million, for the fiscal year ended June. Most of that was due to accounting charges as Billabong wrote down the value of its namesake brand to zero, compared with a carrying value of 252.1 million dollars a year earlier.

* Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica on Monday improved its offer for E-Plus, the German unit of KPN , winning support from KPN's biggest shareholder, America Movil. Telefonica had agreed to pay the equivalent of 8.55 billion euros ($11.44 billion) for E-Plus, up from an earlier offer of $10.8 billion. América Móvil also said it still planned to go ahead with its separate $9.6 billion cash bid for the remaining shares in KPN that it does not already own.

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

* After a summer on the road, Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, is refining his middle-class message and gearing up to fight Prime Minister Stephen Harper on pocketbook issues - an area of economic policy where the Liberals believe the Tories are weak and where Trudeau can shine.

* Rising house prices made home-ownership slightly less affordable in Canada in the second quarter, when buyers returned to the market after a lengthy slump.

* Ontario's government is set to expand the use of tasers by police, a move that will give more officers access to weapons other than their sidearms.

* The minority Parti Quebecois government has won a measure of support in the polarizing debate over religious rights in Quebec, with the Coalition Avenir Quebec party saying it backs a ban on religious headgear for teachers and some other public servants.

Reports in the business section:

* After five years of trending lower, mortgage rates have reversed course and started to rise. Aspiring first-time home buyers are being priced out of the market by these increases, but at least they've avoided a costly mortgage entanglement. Existing homeowners may simply have to pay more.

* Brazil's Embraer SA will extend its regional jet market leadership over Canada's Bombardier Inc in the coming years, according to transportation analyst Derek Spronck of RBC Dominion Securities.

* Canadians want Verizon Communications Inc to come to Canada but don't believe the U.S. company should be given any advantages over domestic carriers, a new poll suggests.

NATIONAL POST

* Amid fears that he would be a target of Canadian Sikh activists, an Indian minister has canceled his trip to Canada after allegedly being refused an Royal Canadian Mounted Police security detail.

* The Ontario minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services is expected to make an "important announcement" about police use-of-force on Tuesday. This news comes in the wake of the July streetcar shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim. Yatim was holding a small knife on an empty streetcar when a Toronto police officer fired nine shots into the streetcar, killing him.

FINANCIAL POST

* Smartphone maker BlackBerry says it has received an order for 2,000 new keyboard smartphones from Hispanic broadcaster Univision Communications. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company says the order for the BlackBerry Q10 devices will upgrade all of the BlackBerry phones used by employees at Univision.

* Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is recalling the specter of the aborted Mackenzie Valley pipeline to warn that resource projects have a limited shelf life, as the federal government seeks consensus on major energy projects.

* The Fraser Institute right-leaning think tank added its voice to what has become a popular call for Ottawa to lift all restrictions on foreign ownership in the telecommunications sector. It said eliminating all limits on foreign investment in telecom could be one part of a plan to foster "workable competition."

China

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

- A Shanghai lawyer entrusted by five investors sent a letter of investigation request to the China Securities Regulatory Commission on Monday, alleging Everbright Securities Co Ltd of fraudulent transactions, insider trading and stock market manipulation.

SECURITIES TIMES

- China's State Council plans to suspend three laws on foreign investors and capital for the development of the future Shanghai free trade zone. According to the plan, the three laws, along with the Law on Protection of Cultural Relics, may be suspended for three years.

- China's economy will grow steadily in the latter half of the year, analysts said, after Beijing issued a series of policies on restructuring and reforming its economy since July. The focus of investment in the second half of the year will be infrastructure, urbanisation, energy conservation and environmental protection.

CHINA DAILY

- China will soon issue its overall plan for resolving industrial over capacity. National Business Daily cited an official from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Monday saying the plan draft has been finished.

21 CENTURY BUSINESS HERALD

- The Beijing city government has issued a plan for coal reduction and clean energy. According to the plan, Beijing will shut down all its coal plants and replace coal fired-power plants with gas plants by 2017. The plan aims at reducing 13 million tonnes of coal burning and limiting its coal burning under 10 million tonnes by 2017.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

Cimarex Energy (XEC) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital
Monsanto (MON) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Qihoo 360 (QIHU) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies
Safe Bulkers (SB) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Select Comfort (SCSS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Longbow

Downgrades

Accretive Health (AH) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer

Initiations

Athlon Energy (ATHL) initiated with a Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Athlon Energy (ATHL) initiated with a Neutral at Goldman
Athlon Energy (ATHL) initiated with a Neutral at UBS
Athlon Energy (ATHL) initiated with an Outperform at RBC Capital
Athlon Energy (ATHL) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Curtiss-Wright (CW) initiated with a Buy at Topeka
FMC Corporation (FMC) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Marrone Bio (MBII) initiated with a Buy at Jefferies
Marrone Bio (MBII) initiated with a Buy at Stifel
Marrone Bio (MBII) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Minerals Technologies (MTX) initiated with a Hold at KeyBanc
Sarepta (SRPT) initiated with a Neutral at Citigroup
Synergy Resources (SYRG) initiated with a Buy at SunTrust
Wabash (WNC) initiated with a Buy at Stifel

HOT STOCKS

Ackman's Pershing Square to sell entire J. C. Penney (JCP) stake of about 39M shares
Microsoft (MSFT) reassured staff that reorganization on track, Bloomberg reports
Facebook (FB) unveiled new photo album sharing feature
Nissan (NSANY) to boost Americas production capacity to more than 2M in 2014
ONEOK Partners (OKS) to acquire NGL infrastructure in Powder River Basin for $305M
Dean Foods (DF) effects 1-for-2 reverse stock split, reaffirmed Q3, FY13 outlook
Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) acquired Means Knaus Partners
Kimco Realty (KIM) to sell Mexican shopping center portfolio for $92M

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
QIWI (QIWI), Sanderson Farms (SAFM), Amira Nature Foods (ANFI), China Cord Blood (CO)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Regis (RGS)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES


  • U.S. credit card companies (JPM, DFS, C), hungry for new customers as many Americans continue to shun debt, are flooding mailboxes and email accounts with offers that allow new customers to transfer their existing credit card balances from other institutions without paying interest for as long as two years, the Wall Street Journal reports

  • So much oil and water is being removed from South Texas' Eagle Ford Shale (APA, BHP, RDS.A, XOM, COP, NFX) that the activity has probably led to a recent wave of small earthquakes, according to a study that appears in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, the Wall Street Journal reports

  • The SEC asked Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ) and NYSE Euronext (NYX) to come up with a timeline of Thursday's three-hour trading disruption, but the rival exchange operators have been unable to agree on the details, sources say, Reuters reports

  • Daimler’s (DDAIF) Mercedes-Benz will launch about 20 new or upgraded car models in China over the next two years. The plan aims to boost Mercedes-Benz car sales there by a third to more than 300,000 cars a year by 2015, sources say, Reuters reports

  • BP’s (BP) allegations of misconduct in the program set up to pay claims in the settlement over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill were called unfounded by Patrick Juneau, the administrator of the program, who yesterday asked a U.S. District judge to reject the company’s bid to temporarily halt payments, Bloomberg reports

  • Chobani Inc. got Americans hooked on Greek yogurt. Now Danone (DANOY), the world’s largest yogurt maker, aims to take back the dairy aisle with its Dannon Oikos brand, Bloomberg reports

SYNDICATE

J. C. Penney (JCP) files prospectus for resale of 39M shares by Pershing Square
J. C. Penney (JCP) 39.076M share Spot Secondary priced at $12.90
Lumos Networks (LMOS) files to sell 5.68M common stock for selling holders

ACTIVIST/PASSIVE FILINGS

Boxer Capital reports 14.34% passive stake in Sophiris Bio (SPHS)
Frigate Ventures LP reports 5.2% passive stake in Sonde Resources (SOQ)
Frigate Ventures LP reports 9.9% passive stake in Good Times Restaurants (GTIM)
Great Point Partners reports 7.93% passive stake in Sophiris Bio (SPHS)
Lone Pine Capital reports 5% passive stake in BE Aerospace (BEAV)
Lone Pine Capital reports 5.4% passive stake in Dollar General (DG)
Lone Pine Capital reports 5.6% passive stake in DSW (DSW)
Wolverine Asset Management reports 9.99% passive stake in Good Times Restaurants (GTIM)

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