Frontrunning: March 20

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  • Cyprus works on Plan B to stave off bankruptcy (AP)
  • Cyprus seeks Russian bailout aid, EU threatens cutoff (Reuters)
  • Freddie Mac Sues Multiple Banks Over Libor Manipulation (BBG)
  • Bernanke Seen Keeping Up Pace of QE Until Fourth Quarter (Bloomberg)
  • Italian president seeks way out of political stalemate (Reuters)
  • Chinese factories struggle to keep staff (FT)
  • BlackBerry Inventor Starts Fund to Make Star Trek Device Reality (Bloomberg)
  • South Korean banks, media report network crash (CBC)
  • Osborne Should Be Fired, Voters Say in Pre-Budget Poll (Bloomberg)
  • Obama Begins First Visit to Israel as President (WSJ)
  • Anadarko finds ‘potentially giant’ oilfield (FT)
  • Britain's Osborne boxed in by austerity on budget day (Reuters)
  • MF Global reaches agreement with JPMorgan (FT)

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* JP Morgan Chase & Co was downgraded in a confidential government scorecard over concerns about the company's management and its board, a blow to a firm that has long been considered one of the best-run on Wall Street.

* Walgreen Co, Alliance Boots GmbH and AmerisourceBergen Corp are forming a partnership to distribute and sell prescription drugs, a move that could transform the way medications are purchased and shipped globally.

* Federal regulators are investigating Microsoft Corp's relationship with business partners that allegedly bribed foreign government officials in return for software contracts, according to people familiar with the matter.

* The European banks that own Visa Europe may soon decide to sell the credit-card organization to U.S.-based Visa Inc and set up a rival system in Europe.

* SABMiller Plc and Diageo Plc are in a race to target lower-income African drinkers. One of the main ways brewers are expanding market share in Africa: specially negotiated tax deals that help them keep prices low.

* Eclat Textile Co, the Taiwanese supplier to Lululemon Athletica Inc hit back saying the clothes it shipped weren't "problematic" after the yoga-clothes retailer blamed it for producing a shipment of pants that were unacceptably see-through.

* The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp, known as Freddie Mac, sued more than a dozen of the world's biggest banks for alleged manipulation of interest rates, in the first government-backed private litigation over the rate-rigging scandal.

* Volkswagen AG will recall 384,181 vehicles sold in China due to gearbox problems, according to China's quality-control agency, following a critical television report that illustrates the power of state-run media over foreign brands.

* In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Brookfield Asset Management Inc is betting that it can put together the pieces of an investment that was undercut by the U.S. recession and drug wars.

* Executives for American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc on Tuesday defended their planned merger against claims from consumer advocates who said it could lead to higher fares, fewer regional routes and decreased competition.

 

FT

Finance minister George Osborne on Tuesday ordered ministers to come up with 2.5 billion pounds of extra spending cuts as the government seeks to use the proceeds of the cuts towards long-term investments.

Cyprus's parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposed levy on bank deposits as a condition for a European bailout on Tuesday, throwing international efforts to rescue the latest casualty of the euro zone debt crisis into disarray.

U.S. mortgage finance company Freddie Mac has sued more than a dozen big global banks and the British Bankers Association for alleged manipulation of the Libor benchmark interest rate.

Budget Irish airline Ryanair handed Boeing its largest European order ever on Tuesday, a deal for 175 jets worth $16 billion.

BAE Systems has frozen the pay of Chief Executive Ian King and two other top executives, after group earnings were hit by U.S. budget cuts and delays to a deal with Saudi Arabia. Oil and gas company BG Group is set to sign a 20-year contract worth as much as $20 billion to provide liquefied natural gas to the western Indian state of Gujarat

IntercontinentalExchange has revised the structure of its proposed acquisition of NYSE Euronext to help the deal get regulatory approval.

Spanish construction group FCC will announce on Wednesday a plan to sell more than 2 billion euros ($2.58 billion) worth of assets to cut debt as a result of the country's devastating property crash.

 

NYT

* JP Morgan Chase & Co will make changes to protect consumers who have borrowed money from a rising power on the Internet - payday lenders offering short - term loans with interest rates that can exceed 500 percent.

* Cyprus lawmakers rejected a 10 billion euro bailout package on Tuesday, sending President Nicos Anastasiades back to the drawing board to devise a new plan that might still enable the country to receive a financial lifeline while avoiding a default that could reignite the euro crisis.

* Federal authorities are examining Microsoft Corp's involvement with companies and individuals that are accused of paying bribes to overseas government officials in exchange for business, according to a person briefed on the inquiry.

* Monster Beverage Corp, United State's biggest seller of energy drinks, has decided after a decade of selling the popular high-caffeine Monster Energy as a dietary supplement to market it as a beverage, a switch that will bring significant changes in how it is regulated.

* In a forehead-slapping development, Neiman Marcus and two other retailers settled federal claims that they had marketed rabbit, raccoon and other real fur as fake fur.

* A former candidate for governor of Oregon was arrested in Florida on Tuesday and accused of defrauding investors who hoped to buy shares of Facebook Inc before its initial public offering in 2012, federal authorities said.

* Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista confirmed Tuesday that he was negotiating to sell part of his stake in MPX Energia SA , his natural gas and electricity generation company, which has over $3 billion in debt.

 

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

* The last time childhood friends Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin decided to work together, they ended up inventing the BlackBerry, creating the modern smartphone industry and turning Research In Motion into what was briefly Canada's most valuable company.

Now, after revolutionizing the wireless industry and cementing their home base of Waterloo, Ontario, as a tech hotspot, the two men have reunited in a business venture that, albeit different, is no less bold.

In an interview Wednesday, Lazaridis detailed a brand-new, $100-million venture capital fund that he will run with Fregin. Called Quantum Valley Investments, it is an initiative that pools some of the two wealthy men's money behind a vision to make Waterloo the centre of entirely new industries focused on the immense but largely untapped power of quantum computing.

* With Keystone XL and other pipeline projects hanging in the balance, Alberta Premier Alison Redford says questions from opposition parties about the province's environmental record are "not good for Canada."

Reports in the business section:

* Canada's Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, has pressed Manulife Bank into reversing a mortgage rate cut, underscoring the government's determination to prevent lenders from stoking the housing market at a time of soaring consumer debt.

NATIONAL POST

* Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein is seriously ill in the Calgary seniors' facility that has been his home since 2011. Klein, who led Alberta from 1992 to 2006, has been suffering from frontal lobe dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

FINANCIAL POST

* Alamos Gold Inc has abandoned its hostile bid for Aurizon Mines Ltd after a provincial regulator refused to strike down a controversial break fee from a rival offer.

The move frees up Hecla Mining Co to complete a friendly C$796 million takeover of Aurizon, combining two companies focused on precious metals in North America.

* In what appears to be a divide-and-conquer strategy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named a special representative Tuesday to investigate first hand why First Nations in British Columbia are so opposed to energy infrastructure projects, including the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline.

 

China

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

-- Dozens of companies have submitted self-examination reports to the China Securities Regulatory Commission for initial public offerings while others were planning to cancel the process ahead of a deadline, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

-- Stock investors are expected soon to be allowed to engage in margin trading six months after opening brokerage accounts rather than the current 18 months, several securities companies told the newspaper.

-- Individual home loans in Shanghai increased 5.56 billion yuan in February from a year earlier, the city's branch of the People's Bank of China said.

-- China's National Energy Administration said it will approve power projects during the 12th five-year plan that will be able to produce 28.72 million kilowatts.

21st CENTURY BUSINESS HERALD

-- About 20 billion yuan from cash deposits flowed out of China's 'big four' banks in early March, an authority at a state-owned bank said.

SHANGHAI DAILY

-- Shanghai will take further measures to rein in car plate prices if current curbs fail to cool speculation at this month's auction, the government said. Auto license plates have sold at auction for record prices for eight straight months and surpassed 80,000 yuan in February.

CHINA DAILY

-- Debts accumulated by the now-defunct railways ministry could lead to price increases that may render train travel more expensive than flying, a leading rail engineer with the Chinese Academy of Engineering said.

PEOPLE'S DAILY

-- A survey by the People's Bank of China showed 68 percent residents think domestic house prices are unacceptably high and most of them think prices will continue to rise in the next quarter.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 Am Market Spanshot

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

AmerisourceBergen (ABC) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
BlackBerry (BBRY) upgraded to Overweight from Underweight at Morgan Stanley
Cummins (CMI) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at William Blair
Polycom (PLCM) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
Spreadtrum (SPRD) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies
Syntel (SYNT) upgraded to Neutral from Negative at Susquehanna
Walgreen (WAG) upgraded to Buy from Sell at Citigroup
Walgreen (WAG) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Walter Investment (WAC) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee

Downgrades

AGCO (AGCO) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
AmerisourceBergen (ABC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at ISI Group
Cardinal Health (CAH) downgraded to Buy from Strong Buy at ISI Group
Cardinal Health (CAH) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Cimarex Energy (XEC) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital
Deere (DE) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Maxwell (MXWL) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Tesoro Logistics (TLLP) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Wunderlich
Zynga (ZNGA) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at BofA/Merrill

Initiations

Cardinal Health (CAH) coverage resumed with an Overweight at JPMorgan
Fortinet (FTNT) initiated with a Buy at Mizuho
Palo Alto (PANW) initiated with a Neutral at Mizuho
Sarepta (SRPT) initiated with an Outperform at William Blair
ServiceNow (NOW) initiated with a Market Perform at Northland Securities
The Fresh Market (TFM) initiated with a Strong Buy at Raymond James
Whole Foods (WFM) initiated with a Market Perform at Raymond James

HOT STOCKS

American Realty (ARCP) offered to buy CCPT III for at least $5.7B
JPMorgan (JPM), MF Global (MFGLQ) reached $546M settlement
Deutsche Bank (DB) raised provisions for litigation, lowered net income
DirecTV (DTV), Univision signed multi-year agreement
Kraft Foods (KRFT) sees long-term mid-to-high single digit EPS growth
Williams-Sonoma (WSM) sees three year EPS growth in low double-digits to mid-teens
ConocoPhillips (COP) announced significant oil discovery in deepwater Gulf of Mexico
Adobe (ADBE) CEO told CNBC he sees 10%-15% CAGR as growth rate for ”Creative” business
Erickson Air-Crane (EAC) acquired Evergreen Helicopters for $250M
LATAM Airlines (LFL) lowered FY13 passenger ASK growth guidance

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Lennar (LEN), Williams-Sonoma (WSM), AAR Corp. (AIR), Adobe (ADBE)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Cintas (CTAS)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) was downgraded in a confidential government scorecard by the the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency over concerns about the company's management and its board, a blow to a firm that has long been considered one of the best-run on Wall Street, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • With Walgeen (WAG), AmerisourceBergen (ABC) and Alliance Boots forming a large new partnership to distribute and sell prescription drugs, the move could transform the way medications are purchased and shipped globally, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • The Fed looks set to sustain its $85B monthly bond-buying stimulus despite improving U.S. economic data as a new flare-up in the euro zone crisis reminds officials of a risky global environment, Reuters reports
  • Patent competition in the U.S. is usually a fierce arena for private companies, but now the South Korean and French governments are joining in as they launch patent-acquisition companies, with the goal of helping domestic technology firms and possibly making some money in the process. China and Japan are making moves into the business as well, Reuters reports
  • South Korean stocks declined the most in two months, with the Kospi index extending losses in the last minute of trading as a possible cyber attack shut down computer networks at some of the largest banks and broadcasters, Bloomberg reports
  • Retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT) see an opportunity to claim victory in a lobbying battle against online companies (EBAY) that don’t collect sales tax from their customers. They’re urging U.S. senators to take a non-binding vote this week to demonstrate support for allowing states to impose sales taxes on out-of-state online sellers, Bloomberg reports

SYNDICATE

Cardiovascular Systems (CSII) files to sell common stock
Hawaiian Electric Industries (HE) 6.1M share Secondary priced at $26.75
Memorial Production (MEMP) files to sell 8.5M common units
Model N (MODN) 6.74M share IPO priced at $15.50
New Mountain Finance (NMFC) files to sell 2M shares of common stock
New Mountain Finance (NMFC) files to sell 4M shares of common stock for holders
Parkway Properties (PKY) 11M share Spot Secondary priced at $17.25
RLJ Lodging Trust (RLJ) files to sell 11.5M shares of common stock