Frontrunning: August 29


  • UN Insecptors to leave Syria early, by Saturday morning (Reuters)

  • Yellen Plays Down Chances of Getting Fed Job (WSJ)

  • JPMorgan Bribe Probe Said to Expand in Asia as Spreadsheet Is Found (BBG)

  • No Section 8 for you: Wall Street’s Rental Bet Brings Quandary Housing Poor (BBG)

  • Euro zone, IMF to press Greece for foreign agency to sell assets (Reuters)

  • Brothels in Nevada Suffer as Web Disrupts Oldest Trade (BBG)

  • U.S., U.K. Face Delays in Push to Strike Syria (WSJ); U.S., U.K. Pressure for Action on Syria Hits UN Hurdle (BBG)

  • Renault Operating Chief Carlos Tavares Steps Down (WSJ)

  • Vodafone in talks with Verizon to sell out of U.S. venture (Reuters)

  • Dollar Seen Casting Off Euro Shackles as Fed Tapers (BBG)

  • Libor Rate-Probe Spotlight Shines on Higher-Ups at Citigroup, Other Banks (WSJ)

  • Thai Rubber Farmers Protest Over Prices (WSJ)

  • BOJ policymaker warns emerging markets may see more outflows (Reuters)


Overnight Media Digest


WSJ


* White House deliberations over a successor to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke are entering their final stages, and the Fed's No. 2, Janet Yellen, is playing down her chances of getting the job. Yellen has indicated to some associates that she sees herself as the underdog and is uncomfortable with the contentious public spectacle that the succession has become. President Barack Obama is expected to announce his choice for the job sometime after Congress returns from recess on Sept. 9.


* Federal regulators retreated from a proposal that would have toughened rules for the mortgage securities market, a defeat for advocates of tighter standards and a victory for the housing lobby. Six regulators on Wednesday issued new proposed rules that would require banks and other issuers of mortgage-backed securities to retain 5 percent of the credit risk of the bonds on their books, as mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law.


* Ally Financial Inc plans to submit a revised capital plan to the Federal Reserve next week as the government-owned auto lender moves ahead with efforts to repay its crisis-era $17.2 billion bailout.


* Wal-Mart is planning to respond to questions from investors over its sourcing practices in Bangladesh during a briefing on Thursday, indicating that its shareholders have some concerns about a series of deadly disasters at overseas garment factories that make clothes for Wal-Mart and other retailers.


* Workers at a United States Steel Corp's mill in Canada are expected Friday to reject the company's latest offer on a new five-year contract, prolonging a five-month lockout that is weighing heavily on a firm trying to reverse its sagging fortunes.


* Verizon and Vodafone have rekindled talks over a buyout of the U.K. company's stake in their U.S. wireless joint venture, a deal that would likely cost Verizon north of $100 billion. In a sign that the talks, which had cooled off in recent months, have reached a more serious level, one of the people said Verizon is in discussions with banks about the tens of billions of dollars in loans it would need to complete the deal.


* Sales of BlackBerry's keyboard-equipped Q10 smartphone have been dismal, according to carrier executives and retailers in the United States and Canada. In another indication the new BlackBerry devices aren't selling well, used phone dealers aren't reporting the flood of old BlackBerrys that typically comes when updated devices are released.


* Northrop Grumman agreed to buy the defense unit of Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways in a deal that highlights the drive for defense contractors to boost revenues at a time of declining military budgets.


* The private company that conducted the last background check of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blamed the federal government for not catching any problems with its 2011 investigation of the man who has said he leaked top-secret documents.


* The industry group overseeing the Nasdaq data feed at the center of last week's three-hour trading outage plans to meet next week to dissect the breakdown and discuss ways to prevent another one, according to the group's head.


FT


Bank of England Governor Mark Carney's second attempt to convince investors that BoE will hold interest rates at record lows for possibly three more years did little to alter market expectations.


G4S Plc, the world's largest security services firm, raised almost 350 million pounds through a share placing as its new chief Ashley Almanza seeks to cut debt and repair its battered reputation.


A judge rejected a second request by BP Plc for an injunction to suspend compensation payments under the settlement over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, saying there was no "credible evidence" to support the company's allegations of fraud in the claims process.


Shares in mainland energy giant PetroChina dived almost 5 percent on Wednesday after reports that four key executives were detained in relation to a corruption probe.


Britain's competition watchdog ordered Ryanair Holdings Plc to sell most of its stake in Irish rival Aer Lingus Group Plc, in a keenly anticipated ruling that the low-cost carrier vowed to appeal.


Online retailer Amazon.com Inc has hired one of Washington's most prominent lawyers Ted Olson to take to the U.S. Supreme Court the high-stakes legal battle about taxation of its shoppers in New York state.


NYT


* Switzerland and the United States are close to announcing an agreement to end their long dispute over how to punish banks that helped Americans evade taxes, banking and government officials said on Wednesday.


* Globant, an Argentine software and information technology services company, has filed to go public on the New York Stock Exchange, in a move to broaden its reach.


* A number of private equity groups have been knocked out of the running to acquire Hutchison Whampoa Ltd's ParknShop, the Hong Kong supermarket chain owned by the billionaire Li Ka-shing that is considering selling itself in a deal that could command $3 billion to $4 billion, according to people with knowledge of the matter.


* Nintendo Co Ltd on Wednesday introduced a new portable gaming system, the Nintendo 2DS. The device will cost $130, or $40 less than its 3DS sibling. It is capable of running all the games made for the 3DS, but without 3-D effects.


* The Advertising Council and the United States Army, hoping to lower absenteeism in schools across the country, are introducing a public service campaign this week aimed at helping parents keep track of their children's absences.


* Fewer people signed contracts to buy American homes in July, but the level stayed close to a six-and-a-half-year high. The modest decline suggests that higher mortgage rates have yet to slow sales sharply.


* The Bank of England's new governor took his ideas for spurring Britain's sluggish economy on the road on Wednesday, traveling to the heart of the country to convince households and managers that interest rates will remain low and that he will not follow the United States in reining in the bank's stimulus efforts just yet.


* Portugal is finding that increasing exports is the way to pull its economy out of a recession. Portuguese authorities said this month that rising exports were the main reason Portugal posted the strongest growth in the second quarter among the nations of the European Union.


* A federal bankruptcy court judge granted the city of San Bernardino eligibility for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, raising the possibility that the city will propose a plan to dig itself out of debt by cutting money promised to the public pension system. Canada


THE GLOBE AND MAIL


* Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party, is banking on multimillionaire Stephen Bronfman to turn around the Liberal Party's financial fortunes in order to take on the formidable Conservative fundraising machine.


* Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he has smoked "a lot" of marijuana, but is not saying when that drug use took place. Ford's comments follow those made by federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who told reporters last week he smoked pot as recently as three years ago.


* Police are still unable to say whether two female escorts found dead in a New Westminster apartment block in Vancouver were murdered, or even if their deaths are related, after autopsies on both women have now come back inconclusive.


Reports in the business section:


* Bombardier Inc is moving aggressively to boost its presence in Russia with preliminary deals to sell 100 Q400 NexGen turboprop aircraft, valued at $3.4-billion that would be assembled in the country.


* Capital Power Corp is selling assets in the United States - a deal that will result in a loss related to the transaction - and shuttering offices in order to focus its business on Alberta.


* National Bank of Canada's shares surged after the lender reported a record profit that beat analyst expectations. Its earnings rose on higher capital market trading and wealth management fees, which also helped rivals Bank of Montreal and Bank of Nova Scotia post higher third-quarter profits.


NATIONAL POST


* An Ottawa court has awarded more than $330,000 to an aspiring lawyer who tripped on a curb and injured her shoulder. Michelle Botosh caught her left foot on the inch-and-a-half high curb slope and tripped, throwing her right arm forward to break her fall on Nov. 8, 2003. The Byward Market sidewalk had been under construction, but there were no signs warning pedestrians of the changes to the curb.


* Parti Québécois Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville on Wednesday downplayed the significance of Montreal's resolution saying Quebec's proposed charter of values goes too far. Refusing to view the resolution adopted by council Tuesday evening as a setback, Drainville turned things around to say he welcomes all input into the debate.


* An English-language school board in Montreal says enrolment numbers have dropped by nearly 10,000 students since a decade-old bill tightened restrictions on who is eligible to learn in English.


FINANCIAL POST


* Loblaw Cos Ltd, which last month announced a $12.4-billion deal to buy Shoppers Drug Mart Corp, will submit its application to the competition bureau after investors vote on the deal next month, Shoppers' chief executive said on Wednesday.


* If you are sitting on the sidelines hoping for the condo market to crash, the Conference Board of Canada says you'll have to wait. The report, funded by Genworth Canada, the largest private provider of mortgage default insurance in the country, says the sector will avoid a major downturn because of population growth and employment gains which will drive demand and soak up supply.


Hong Kong


SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST


-- Shanghai private investment conglomerate Fosun International Ltd Vice-chairman Liang Xinjun said early next month the company would announce a multi-billion-yuan investment in a global brand, followed by investments of several billion yuan in retail projects and a finance project in Europe.


-- Sino Land Co Ltd chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong said the city's property market had been undergoing changes as a result of economic and property-related policies. The group is mindful of the upcoming uncertainties in a challenging market and management will be responsive to market changes.


-- Lenovo Group Ltd chief financial officer Wong Wai-ming confirmed that production has commenced on x86-standard servers, which are embedded in storage equipment from strategic partner EMC, the world's top enterprise storage systems maker. He did not say whether that operation began in the quarter to June or in the current quarter.


HONG KONG ECONOMIC JOURNAL


-- Qinhuangdao Port, China's largest coal marina which originally planned an initial public offering in Shanghai, has submitted its listing application to the Hong Kong stock exchange, aiming to raise about $500-700 million, sources said. It is expected to be listed by the end of this year.


HONG KONG ECONOMIC TIMES


-- Luggage maker Samsonite International S.A. is looking for acquisition opportunities in Europe, Asia and the United States, with the main focus on low-grade and medium-grade leisure products, said chairman Timothy Charles Parker. The company is capable of making an acquisition worth $1 billion, he added.


-- China Rongsheng Heavy Industries Group Holdings Ltd Chief Financial Officer Sean Wang said the company has plans and arrangements to repay about 10 billion yuan ($1.63 billion) of short-term debt due in 12 months. It does not have financing plan so far, Wang added. The company is China's largest private shipbuilder.


THE STANDARD


-- China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd chairman Zhu Xinli said the injection of his personal upstream assets into the listed firm is expected to be completed within the second half Of the year. (link.reuters.com/dyx62v)


Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot


ANALYST RESEARCH


Upgrades


AMC Networks (AMCX) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at B. Riley
Cash America (CSH) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital
Entergy (ETR) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at ISI Group
Mohawk (MHK) upgraded to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James


Downgrades


ABB (ABB) downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at HSBC
AutoNavi (AMAP) downgraded to Underperform from Outperform at Macquarie
The Fresh Market (TFM) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Wipro (WIT) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at HSBC


Initiations


ServiceNow (NOW) initiated with a Neutral at RW Baird
Sovran Self Storage (SSS) initiated with an Outperform at Raymond James
Stemline (STML) initiated with a Buy at Jefferies
Teradata (TDC) initiated with a Neutral at Longbow


HOT STOCKS


Bill Ackman sold J. C. Penney (JCP) stake to Citigroup (C) for $492.35M, or $12.60 per share
Verizon (VZ), Vodafone (VOD) renewed talks on Verizon Wireless stake, DJ reports
Northrop Grumman (NOC)  to buy Qantas' defense services unit
Bombardier (BDRBF), Deutsche Bahn signed vehicle contract worth $289M
Carlyle Group (CG) to invest $200M in strategic partnership with Shanghai Yupei


EARNINGS


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
K12 (LRN), Shanda Games (GAME), Delta Apparel (DLA), Casella Waste (CWST), Guess (GES), eGain (EGAN), Culp (CFI), Tilly's (TLYS)


Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
JA Solar (JASO), SWS Group (SWS)


Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
ACETO (ACET), The Fresh Market (TFM)


NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES



  • Regulators in the U.S. and U.K. are probing up to a dozen banks (UBS, BCS), including Citigroup (C), in connection with alleged efforts to manipulate Libor, in order to benefit their trading positions. They want to know whether senior executives knew of, or participated in, illegal activity, the Wall Street Journal reports

  • Many companies are turning to operations like Amazon Web Services (AMZN) or Rackspace Hosting (RAX) instead of buying and maintaining their own systems. That adds to a growing list of pressures for makers of servers (HPQ, INTC, AMD, CSCO, CRM, DELL, VMW), a crucial class of computers whose growth and profitability is being squeezed, the Wall Street Journal reports

  • The $300T privately traded U.S. derivatives markets could be on the verge of the biggest change in their 30-year history if investors embrace new electronic trading platforms that would reduce the market dominance of large banks (JPM, CME), Reuters reports

  • Josef Ackermann, chairman of Zurich Insurance (ZURVY) and former Deutsche Bank (DB) head, resigned today over the apparent suicide of the insurer's CFO, further roiling the top ranks of the firm, Reuters reports

  • An SEC and DOJ probe of JPMorgan Chase’s (JPM) hiring practices in China has uncovered red flags across Asia, including an internal spreadsheet that linked appointments to specific deals pursued by the bank, sources say, Bloomberg reports


SYNDICATE


LRR Energy (LRE) files $400M mixed securities shelf
LRR Energy (LRE) files to sell 8.57M common units for selling holders
Prima BioMed (PBMD) files to sell $60M of American Depositary Shares
Tasman Metals (TAS) files $25M mixed securities shelf


ACTIVIST/PASSIVE FILINGS


S.A.C. Capital reports 5.1% passive stake in Diamond Foods (DMND)

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