Frontrunning: February 20

  • Office Depot Agrees to Buy Officemax for $13.50/Shr in Stock
  • Bulgarian Government Resigns Amid Protests (WSJ)
  • Rome will burn, regardless of Italian election result (Reuters)
  • Abe Says No Need for Foreign Bond Buys Under New BOJ Chief (BBG)
  • Rhetoric Turns Harsh as Budget Cuts Loom (WSJ)
  • Muddy Waters Secret China Weapon Is on SEC Website (BBG)
  • Business Loans Flood the Market (WSJ)
  • Staples May Be Winner in Office Depot-OfficeMax Merger (BBG)
  • Fortescue Won't Pay Dividend, Profit Falls (WSJ)
  • Key Euribor rate on hold after rate cut talk tempered (Reuters)
  • FBI Probes Trading in Heinz Options  (WSJ)
  • Spain Said to Impose Yield Ceiling on Bond Sales by Regions (BBG)
  • BOK’s Kim Signals No Rate Cut Needed Now as Outlook Improves (BBG)


Overnight Media Digest


* The Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun a criminal investigation into a big trade in the options of H.J. Heinz Co made last Wednesday, a day before the announcement of the blockbuster $23 billion buyout of the ketchup maker.

* Apple Inc said on Tuesday that some employee computers were attacked by hackers, the latest episode underscoring the vulnerability of some of the world's most sophisticated technology firms to attacks.

* Dell Inc's earnings fell 31 percent, but its quarterly results supported the view that the plan to take the company private undervalues the PC maker.

* BHP Billiton Ltd promoted its nonferrous division head Andrew Mackenzie, a geologist with experience in both the oil and mining industries, as chief executive to succeed Marius Kloppers.

* Shares in Humana Inc and other major health insurers fell on Tuesday after analysts said a government proposal for 2014 rates for Medicare Advantage - health plan for seniors - is unfavorable for the companies.

* Nutritional supplements maker Herbalife Ltd, embroiled in a battle with hedge-fund manager William Ackman over the legitimacy of its business model, reported a 12 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings and raised its profit outlook for the year ahead.

* Bank of America Corp awarded Chief Executive Brian Moynihan $12 million in salary and bonus for 2012, reflecting a rebound year at the second-largest U.S. lender and vaulting him past JP Morgan Chase & Co chief James Dimon in the ranks of the best-paid U.S. financial executives.

* Swiss drug maker, Novartis AG abandoned a 72 million Swiss franc ($77.92 million) exit package for its chairman, bowing to pressure from shareholders and Swiss politicians after four days of increasing criticism.

* Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp unveiled its new flagship device HTC One as it seeks to regain lost ground in an increasingly competitive market.



CVC Capital Partners and BC Partners are preparing a 3.5 billion euro ($4.67 billion) bid for French catering company Elior.

BHP Billiton has named Andrew Mackenzie, head of its non-ferrous metals division, as its new chief executive, replacing Marius Kloppers who will step down in May.

Bumi Plc shareholder Standard Life Investments said it would support the company's board and vote against proposals from co-founder Nat Rothschild.

Novartis has scrapped its controversial plan to pay outgoing chairman Daniel Vasella $78 million for a consulting and non-compete agreement, yielding to a torrent of political and shareholder criticism.

Apple Inc's internal Mac systems were hacked by the same attackers that targeted Facebook and Twitter last month, the company, whose products have long been seen as more resistant to intrusion, said.

Warner Music has reached a deal with two independent record label groups as it seeks regulatory approval for its acquisition of former EMI labels.

The Irish government has sold insurance company Irish Life, which it was forced to nationalise during its banking crisis, to Canadian life insurer Great-West Lifeco for 1.3 billion euros.

Britain's electricity regulator warned that the country is heading for a "horrendous" gas supply crunch that will lead to higher energy bills for consumers.

Motor insurer Esure has appointed brokers Numis and Canaccord as the company speeds up plans for a stock market launch.

Telecoms regulator Ofcom is expected to reveal results of the 4G bandwidth auction on Wednesday.

European banks may have to reveal their taxes and profits on a country-by-country basis in the latest twist to EU negotiations over rules to make banks safer.

A U.S. company accused a Chinese military intelligence unit in Shanghai of conducting multiple online attacks on U.S. businesses.

Britons hiding money in the Isle of Man have three years to come clean or face penalties of up to 200 percent of unpaid tax.



* Unless the Justice Department and BP reach a last-minute settlement, the British oil company will return to court on Monday to face tens of billions of dollars in civil claims from the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico that could cripple the company for years to come.

* BHP Billiton said on Tuesday that Chief Executive Marius Kloppers would retire this year after almost two decades at the company.

* After Facebook Inc and Twitter announced that they were breached by sophisticated hackers in recent weeks, Apple Inc said it had been attacked, too, in a rare admission for the technology giant.

* A federal judge said he was leaning toward the hedge fund manager David Einhorn's contention in a lawsuit that Apple Inc violated securities regulations by improperly bundling several shareholder proposals into one matter.

* Days away from another fiscal crisis and with Congress on vacation, President Obama began marshaling the powers of the presidency on Tuesday to try to shame Republicans into a compromise that could avoid further self-inflicted job losses and damage to the fragile recovery. But so far, Republicans were declining to engage.

* First centered on Britain and Ireland, the scandal over beef products adulterated with horse meat escalated across continental Europe on Tuesday after Nestle SA, one of the world's best-known food companies, said it was removing pasta meals from store shelves in Italy and Spain.

* The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a criminal inquiry into suspicious trades placed ahead of the $23 billion acquisition of H.J. Heinz, a person briefed on the matter said on Tuesday.

* Nickelodeon designed its first app as a noisy, colorful smorgasbord of animated clips, music videos and games. But there's very little actual television.

* A freewheeling and almost entirely one-sided argument at the Supreme Court indicated that the justices would not allow Monsanto's patents for genetically altered soybeans to be threatened by an Indiana farmer who sused them without paying the company a fee.




* Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Chief Executive Gerry McCaughey said Canada should reform its pension plan to allow people to make voluntary contributions that are beyond what they already pay through their salaries.

The move could give many Canadians something they do not have with Registered Retirement Savings Plans and other investment vehicles tied to the markets: a predictable payout when they retire.

* Alberta's projected deficit is on track to be four times larger than its original forecast, and the government argues it could not have predicted how quickly oil markets would swing against the province.

The Progressive Conservatives, led by Alison Redford, expect to run a deficit of between C$3.50 billion ($3.47 billion) and C$4 billion in the fiscal year, up C$1 billion from the forecast they reiterated in December.

Reports in the business section:

* The British Columbia government will take another year to finalize details of its proposed tax on exports of liquefied natural gas, casting uncertainty over the fledgling industry just as it contemplates major new investments.

The B.C. Liberal government last week announced plans to introduce the new LNG tax, but didn't provide details about how it would work or how much it will cost companies.

* Great-West Lifeco Inc is buying Ireland's biggest life insurer for $1.75 billion, a bet that the end of the European economic crisis - which killed the same deal more than a year ago - is in sight. The Winnipeg-based insurer first eyed Irish Life Group Ltd in 2011, but walked away as waves of downgrades, bailouts and government spending cuts swept across Europe.


* Presenting the B.C. government's new budget and three-year fiscal plan on Tuesday, provincial finance minister Mike de Jong said he plans to win over skeptics and "fill the gap" between billion-dollar deficits and a $197-million surplus he projects for fiscal 2013-2014. Under his plan, the surplus would more than double by 2015 to $460 million.

* Montreal's city hall has been locked down and is being swept by police in one of numerous raids being conducted across the city. These latest raids in Quebec are part of a two-year-old investigation related to fraud, breach of trust, and falsified documents. A number of arrests have already been made in connection with construction corruption, which is also the subject of an ongoing public inquiry. ())


* Up to C$35 million in grants will be made available over five years through Alberta's climate fund "to produce multiple technologies that will provide significant net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions," according to a news release.

* Royal Bank of Canada is shutting down the consumer accounts of Ally Financial and integrating its operations, after acquiring the Canadian auto finance and deposit business earlier this month. The bank said customers will no longer be able to open new accounts with Ally, effective immediately. It also plans to close down the high-interest savings accounts operated by Ally on April 30.




Film box office collections during China's Lunar New Year hit 760 million yuan ($121.71 million) for the week, with a single day high of 200 million yuan, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.


-- China's Beidou satellite navigation system, a competitor to the U.S. GPS and Europe's Galileo, will reach 200 million users in 100 cities by 2020, China's vice-minister of science and technology, Cai Jialin told the official paper. The network currently has 16 satellites above the Asia-Pacific region.

-- China will introduce a proactive tax on carbon dioxide emissions as it tries to curb excessive pollution, according to Jia Chen, a senior official at the Ministy of Finance.


-- Wuhan Iron and Steel Co Ltd said it will raise prices of major products from 150 to 300 yuan per tonne, while Angang Steel Co Ltd said it will raise prices from 150 to 200 yuan per tonne.


-- More than 20 provincial regions in China are piloting a scheme that will allow patients to pay after they have received medical treatment rather than before: a hot topic in China where there have been reports of hosptials threatening to withhold treatment if patients fail to pay in advance.


-- According to a commentary piece in the official paper, over half of domestic pharmacy wholesale firms face being weeded out under stringent new 'Good Supply Practice' rules.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot



Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Daimler (DDAIF) upgraded to Equal Weight from Underweight at Morgan Stanley
PNM Resources (PNM) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Radian Group (RDN) upgraded to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna
Royal Bank of Canada (RY) upgraded to Equal Weight from Underweight at Barclays
Staples (SPLS) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Citigroup
Meredith (MDP) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Alexion (ALXN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Lazard Capital


Barclays (BCS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Canadian Imperial Bank (CM) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Delek US Holdings (DK) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Express Scripts (ESRX) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie
HollyFrontier (HFC) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
L-3 Communications (LLL) downgraded to Underperform at RBC Capital
OfficeMax (OMX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
SAIC (SAI) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
SAIC (SAI) downgraded to Underperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Sealed Air (SEE) downgraded to Underperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Sirona Dental (SIRO) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
Starwood Hotels (HOT) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Total System (TSS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Windstream (WIN) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at UBS


Cytori Therapeutics (CYTX) initiated with a Buy at Ascendiant Capital
Hospitality Properties (HPT) initiated with a Market Perform at JMP Securities
Memorial Production (MEMP) initiated with a Buy at Wunderlich
Roadrunner (RRTS) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche Bank


HSBC (HBC) to sell HSBC Bank Panama to Bancolombia (CIB) for $2.1B
BP (BP) won U.S. agreement to cut potential spill fine by $3.4B to $17.6B, Bloomberg reports
Dell (DELL) not providing guidance for Q1 or FY14
Sees market competitiveness and margin pressure continuing in 2013
Total System (TSS) acquired NetSpend (NTSP) for $16 per share in an all cash transaction valued at about $1.4B
Demand Media (DMD) exploring separating businesses into two publicly traded entities
FedEx (FDX) sees pre-tax cost of voluntary buyout program $550M to $650M
Micron (MU) and Elpida Memory given antitrust clearance in China
Basic Energy (BAS) sees FY13 revenue similar to FY12
La-Z-Boy (LZB) confident in their business model, will continue strategic investments
Gray Television (GTN) sees FY13 local revenue ex-political up 5% to 7% vs. FY12
Integra LifeSciences (IART) received warning letter from FDA


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Marriott (MAR), SINA (SINA), Herbalife (HLF), CF Industries (CF), La-Z-Boy (LZB), Bob Evans (BOBE), Dell (DELL)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Toll Brothers (TOL), FreightCar America (RAIL),Terex (TEX), Kaiser Aluminum (KALU), Allscripts (MDRX), Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Millennial Media (MM), BJ's Restaurants (BJRI)


There’s a renewed willingness by some banks to lend cheaply and on flexible terms. But a new concern is emerging: Is the pendulum swinging too far the other way? So-called commercial and industrial loans were up 4.4% in Q4 and 16% for all of 2012, according to SNL Financial data, the Wall Street Journal reports
Some oil companies (CVX, RDS.A) are still making multibillion-dollar bets on finding crude in the deepest waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The target is called the Lower Tertiary, considered by many to be the Gulfs last frontier, the Wall Street Journal reports
Boeing (BA) has found a way to fix battery problems with its grounded 787 Dreamliner jets which involves increasing the space between cells, sources say, Reuters reports
Antitrust experts said there were no guarantees that a deal to merge Office Depot (ODP) with OfficeMax (OMX) would win government approval, Reuters reports
The biggest U.S. banks (JPM, C, BAC, STI) are lending the smallest portion of their deposits in five years as cash floods in from savers and a slow economy damps demand from borrowers. The average loan-to-deposit ratio for the top eight commercial banks fell to 84% in Q4 from 87% a year earlier and 101% in 2007, according to Credit Suisse Group data, Bloomberg reports
CME Group’s (CME) decision to allow users of its interest-rate swap future contracts to avoid tougher oversight is drawing scrutiny from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Bloomberg reports


Michael Kors (KORS) files to sell 25M ordinary shares for holders
Northstar Realty (NRF) announces offering of 30M shares of common stock
Post Holdings (POST) to offer $175M of convertible preferred stock
Terreno Realty (TRNO) files to sell 5M shares of common stock


Paulson Capital reports 4.33% passive stake in S&W Seed (SANW)
Paulson Capital reports 4.67% passive stake in BioCurex (BOCX)


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