Frontrunning: December 12

  • Here come the low margin products: Apple Tests Designs for TV (WSJ)
  • Obama and Republicans Trade Offers to Avert Fiscal Crisis (BBG)
  • Carney broaches dumping inflation target (FT)
  • Bernanke Critics Can’t Fight Bonds Showing No Inflation (BBG)
  • Corporate Taxes on Table in Cliff Talks (WSJ)
  • US business chiefs back tax rise (FT)
  • Greece Confident Bond Buyback Needed for Aid Succeeded (BBG)
  • New Faith in Europe's Banks (WSJ)
  • European Bank Sees Little Room for Rate Cuts (WSJ)
  • North Korea Claims Success in Rocket Launch (WSJ)
  • Xi stokes economic reform hopes in China (FT)
  • Lee Bequeaths Full Employment to South Korean Successor (Bloomberg)


Overnight Media Digest


* Sprint Nextel Corp is in advanced talks to acquire the 49 percent of Clearwire Corp it doesn't already own, people familiar with the matter said. Such a move would clear up a tangled ownership structure that has left Sprint unable to control the decisions of a key strategic partner.

* Delta Air Lines Inc confirmed plans to buy 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd for $360 million, aiming to create a trans-Atlantic joint venture that would substantially boost its market share in the lucrative U.S.-London market and pose a fresh competitive challenge to American Airlines.

* North Korea launched a multistage rocket Wednesday that appeared to travel the entire distance of a projected course and put an object into orbit, making it the most successful of the country's five attempts at testing long-range missile technology.

* The White House has told Republicans it would include an overhaul of the corporate-tax code as part of any deal to reduce the deficit, people familiar with the talks said, a move to court business groups as budget negotiations intensify.

* British law-enforcement authorities arrested three men Tuesday as part of a widening criminal investigation into attempted manipulation of interest rates.

* Ten Big Lots Inc executives sold a total of more than $23 million in the discount retailer's stock in March before the company announced news that sank its stock, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

* Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc's planned acquisition of two oil explorers is coming under fire from investors who say the tie-up is riddled with conflicts of interest and who recently held at least 9 percent of its shares.

* A FedEx Corp employee suspected the delivery company in 2011 of "systematically overcharging" its business customers and taking "no action" to address the problem, according to documents recently unsealed as part of a lawsuit against the company.

* The Treasury Department said it would generate $7.6 billion in proceeds from its sale of AIG Inc shares, as it sells nearly all its remaining holdings in the insurer it helped rescue at the height of the financial crisis.

* The Federal Reserve is pushing large U.S. banks to forget about all but the smallest acquisitions for a while amid a raging debate over the risk big lenders pose to the financial system.

* In one of her last acts as Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, Mary Schapiro is helping resolve conflicts among U.S. financial regulators over the contentious and oft-delayed "Volcker rule."

* U.S. oil demand is expected to rise by 0.5 percent to 18.73 million barrels a day in 2013, after slumping 1.6 percent to a 15-year low this year, a government forecast said Tuesday.

* Regulators sued a New Jersey consultant who was a prominent "gatekeeper" for Chinese companies in the U.S., alleging that he defrauded investors, manipulated trading and improperly sold securities in connection with some of the 20-plus Chinese firms he helped to gain access to U.S. markets.

* Rhode Island's rollback of public-employee retirement benefits has turned the small state into a national battleground over pensions.




Three British men, including a former UBS trader and two employees of interdealer broker RP Martin, have been arrested as part of a global probe into Libor manipulation.


Mark Carney, the next governor of the Bank of England, has suggested he will act much more aggressively to revive the UK economy when he takes charge next summer.


HSBC will spend $700 million on a global "know your customer" programme, as part of a 26-point plan agreed with U.S. regulators to settle money laundering and sanctions breaches.


Saudi Arabia has cut oil output to its lowest level for a year as a combination of surging U.S. crude production and weakening economic growth sapped demand.


Tullow Oil is to pay up to $672 million to acquire Norwegian explorer Spring Energy as part of a change in strategy for its business.


British Airways faces stronger competition on its transatlantic routes after Delta Air Lines unveiled plans to form a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic.


White Britons no longer make up the majority of people in London for the first time, according to the latest census data.


Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) could set up its first plant in the Middle East after an agreement with the Saudi Arabian government.



* A broad swath of the nation's leading chief executives dropped its opposition to tax increases on the wealthiest Americans on Tuesday, while the White House quietly pressed Wall Street titans for their support as well.

* British authorities have arrested three men in connection with a rate-rigging inquiry, including Thomas Hayes, a former trader at Citigroup and UBS.

* A deal to buy a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic signal led an effort by Delta Air Lines to go after the lucrative airline route between New York and London.

* Debt-weary Greece, after a frantic two days of cajoling and arm-twisting, finally persuaded local banks and foreign investors to sell back to the government about 32 billion euros worth of discounted bonds, bankers close to the buyback program said on Tuesday.

* With Democrats and labor leaders vowing retribution at the ballot box and beyond, the Republican-dominated Michigan Legislature on Tuesday approved sweeping, statewide changes to the way unions will be financed, substantially reducing their power in a state that has long been a symbol of union might and an incubator for the American labor movement.

* SolarCity, a prominent solar power energy company, has delayed its initial public offering by at least a day, as it struggles to price its stock sale, a person briefed on the matter said on Tuesday.

* A French court brought manslaughter and injury charges on Tuesday against a drug executive, Jacques Servier, and six companies of the Servier group in a case involving a diabetes and weight-loss drug that caused cardiovascular damage, the Paris public prosecutor's office said.

* On Tuesday, the European Parliament adopted a uniform patent system for Europe. If the plan goes into effect as expected by early 2014, it would try to remedy the country-by-country approach whose time and costs have long been an impediment to innovation across the European Union.

* A bill extending a federal program guaranteeing deposits in noninterest-bearing accounts at federally insured banks easily cleared a procedural hurdle on Tuesday, setting it up for a vote on final passage later this week.

But the bill, which is supported by most of the banking industry and by the White House, still faces an uphill battle in the Senate and the House




* In a major boost for the enemies of Bashar Al-Assad, the American government has recognized the Syrian National Council as the true representative of that nation's people.

* North Korea says it has successfully fired a rocket that put a satellite into space, defying warnings from the international community that it should not go ahead with a launch many governments saw as cover for testing Pyongyang's ballistic missile technology.

Reports in the business section:

* Canada would be dragged close to another recession if U.S. President Barack Obama and Congress can't strike a deal to avoid steep tax hikes and spending cuts set for Jan. 1, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney said on Tuesday.

* Chinese workers, hired by HD Mining International to work the Murray River coal project and due to join later this week, will walk squarely into a mushrooming debate about the use of temporary foreign workers in an industry running a massive labor deficit as Canada's work force ages and new mines come on stream.


* Canada told the Syrian opposition Tuesday it must reject extremism and embrace minorities before Ottawa will recognize its legitimacy as a successor to President Bashar Al-Assad, according to a federal official.

* Cinema makeup artist Rémy Couture posted photos of mutilated bodies online that were so realistic an Austrian pathologist who examined them concluded they might depict an actual murder.


* The "lack of hair" in management boards of Calgary's oil and gas companies highlights the coming labor shortage in the sector, according to an industry executive.




-- China's Ministry of Railways said fixed asset investment in railway construction in China reached 507 billion yuan till November this year, up 3.1 percent from a year earlier and accounting for 80 percent of the 2012 plan.


-- China has allocated another 7 billion yuan to subsidize domestic solar photovoltaic (PV) demonstration projects, bringing the total amount spent on the industry this year to 13 billion yuan.


-- China's president-in-waiting Xi Jinping pledged to pursue reforms and raise living standards during his trip to Shenzhen, the first travel destination after becoming the Communist Party chief.


Fly on the Wall 7:00 AMMarket Snapshot



Alnylam (ALNY) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
Prosperity Bancshares (PB) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Sterling Bancorp (STL) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at BMO Capital
Take-Two (TTWO) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
Towers Watson (TW) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
3D Systems (DDD) upgraded to Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan


IDEX Corp. (IEX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Brean Capital
National Oilwell (NOV) downgraded to Outperform from Buy at CLSA
Novartis (NVS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN) downgraded to Outperform from Buy at CLSA
Seagate (STX) downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Stifel Financial (SF) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Xcel Energy (XEL) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie
Ziopharm (ZIOP) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies


City National (CYN) initiated with a Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Cosan (CZZ) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays
Deckers Outdoor (DECK) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Expedia (EXPE) initiated with a Neutral at Janney Capital
Kilroy Realty (KRC) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
MakeMyTrip (MMYT) initiated with a Neutral at Janney Capital
Mattress Firm (MFRM) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
Nike (NKE) initiated with a Neutral at JPMorgan
OpenTable (OPEN) initiated with an Overweight at JPMorgan
Orbitz Worldwide (OWW) initiated with a Buy at Janney Capital
Under Armour (UA) initiated with an Underweight at JPMorgan
Xcel Energy (XEL) initiated with a Neutral at Goldman
Yelp (YELP) initiated with a Neutral at JPMorgan
Yelp (YELP) initiated with an Outperform at Credit Suisse (PCLN) initiated with a Neutral at Janney Capital


Williams (WMB) to purchase $2.4B Access Midstream Partners (ACMP) stake, ACMP acquired Chesapeake (CHK) assets for $2.16B
Williams and Global Infrastructure Partners enter $1.6B subscription agreement with Access
BHP Billiton (BHP) to sell Browse Venture stakes to Petrochina (PTR) for $1.63B
Molycorp (MCP) announced CEO Mark Smith has left company
Tesoro Logistics (TLLP, TSO) acquired Chevron Pipe Line’s (CVX) Northwest Products System for $400M
White Mountains (WTM) to acquire American Fuji from AIG (AIG)
Chubb (CB) estimated $880M in losses from Sandy
Cenovus Energy (CVE) expects to invest $3.2B-$3.6B in oil assets in FY13
Danaher (DHR) to "remain active" on the acquisition front
FMC Corporation (FMC) said company is on track to double sales, earnings by 2015
DuPont (DD) authorized $1B share repurchase program
Cummins (CMI) announced new $1B stock repurchase program
Furmanite (FRM) to acquire ENGlobal Midstream Inspection division
Sucampo's Rescula (SCMP) received FDA approval for an sNDA
CSC (CSC) agreed to sell Australian IT staffing unit for $73.5M


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include: Joy Global (JOY), Costco (COST), Joy Global (JOY), Greif (GEF)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Geospace (GEOS)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Central Garden & Pet (CENT)


Apple (AAPL) is working with component suppliers in Asia to test several TV set designs, including a large screen high resolution TV, sources say, the Wall Street Journal reports
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold’s (FCX) planned acquisition of McMoRan Exploration (MMR) and Plains Exploration & Production (PXP) is coming under fire from investors who say the move is riddled with conflicts of interest and who recently held at least 9% of its shares. The  transactions that will cost the mining giant about $20B including assumed debt, the Wall Street Journal reports
The Fed is expected to announce a new round of bond buying today as part of its moves to support a fragile economic recovery threatened by political fighting over the government's budget, Reuters reports
An impasse over plans for the ECB to supervise banks will be front and center today at a finance ministers' meeting, Reuters reports
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MTU) is set to announce the $471M purchase of Bank of America’s (BAC) 49% stake in their Japanese private banking venture, sources say, Bloomberg reports
Unilever (UN) CEO Paul Polman said Europe is facing 10 years of economic stagnation while the U.S. grapples with the rise of an “emerging poor” class dependent on government benefits, Bloomberg reports


Access Midstream Partners (ACMP) files to sell 13.75M common units for limited partners
Connecticut Water Service (CTWS) intends to offer 1.475M shares of common stock
Genpact (G) announces offering of 10.91M shares of common stock for holders
Harvard Bioscience (HBIO) files IPO statement for Harvard Apparatus Regenerative
Idera Pharmaceuticals (IDRA) files to sell 16.98M shares of common stock for holders
Northstar Realty (NRF) commences offering of 25M shares of common stock
Sensata (ST) files to sell 10M ordinary shares for selling shareholders
Spectra Energy (SE) 12.8M share Secondary priced at $26.75
Williams (WMB) intends to offer 46.5M shares of common stock


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