Frontrunning: April 21

  • Putin playing the long game over Russian kin in Ukraine (Reuters)
  • U.S.-Russia Relations Come Full Circle After Ukraine (WSJ)
  • Japan PM makes offering to Yasukuni Shrine, angers China, South Korea (Reuters)
  • In Gold Miners' Talks, Scale Is Crucial: Combined Barrick-Newmont Would Be Able to Trim Costs (WSJ)
  • SEC Said to Weigh Shining Light on Brokers’ Stock Routing (BBG)... and protmply unweigh it
  • Exelon Beating Facebook in S&P 500 After Valuation Scare (BBG)
  • Court Case May Help Define 'Insider Trading' (WSJ)
  • Spanish banks face tough rivalry in small companies bet (Reuters)
  • TPG-Led Group Closes $450 Million Investment in Airbnb (WSJ)
  • Friends, and Influence, for Sale Online (NYT)
  • Pfizer Said to Have Held Now-Dormant Talks to Buy AstraZeneca (BBG)
  • Apple, Google Vie to Offer Exclusive Game Apps  (WSJ)
  • PS4 outsold Xbox One in March while Titanfall led software sales (CNET)


Overnight Media Digest


* Some of tech's biggest names - Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, Bill Campbell - conferred and squabbled and made peace privately for years, documents in a current Silicon Valley antitrust case reveal. But they were unable to pull a new company into the club, the court documents show: Facebook declined their friend request. (

* Federal officials are considering spending more than $1 billion of the remaining $3.6 billion of rebuilding aid on disasters other than superstorm Sandy, money that New York and New Jersey are banking on to finish repairs to thousands of homes and complete major infrastructure projects. (

* Richard Branson made headlines in 2010 when he boasted that Virgin Hotels, his new boutique hospitality brand, would shake up the industry. The first property was projected to open within 18 months, with up to two dozen more operating within seven years. Nearly four years after Branson's boast, Virgin Hotels still has not opened a single property, and has had to deal with the departure of two top executives. (

* Business economists' outlook for near-term hiring strengthened this spring to the highest mark in nearly three years, a new survey found. The poll by the National Association for Business Economics said 43 percent of corporate economists expect hiring within their firm or industry to increase during the next six months. (

* A case pending before a federal appeals court could help define a financial crime that has been in the spotlight for the past few years. At issue in the appeal is whether, to be considered to have traded on confidential material information, a trader must have known the tip had been illegally disclosed in exchange for a reward. (

* A long-running battle between Apple Inc and Google Inc for mobile dominance is spreading to the most lucrative genre of apps: videogames. The two Silicon Valley giants have been wooing game developers to ensure that top-tier game titles arrive first on devices powered by their respective operating systems, people familiar with the situation said. (

* With 10 days left in April, General Motors Co needs a strong finish in new-car and pickup-truck sales for the month to persuade Wall Street its recall problems are not keeping customers away from showrooms. (

* Samsung Electronics Co overtook Apple Inc to become the world's biggest smartphone maker by selling hardware using Google Inc's popular Android operating system. As it tries to beef up in software, the South Korean tech giant has been hiring more engineers to develop its own platform and applications for mobile devices, wearables and other consumer electronics. (

* Pomegranate-juice maker POM Wonderful LLC, owned by Los Angeles billionaires Lynda and Stewart Resnick, heads to the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking to revive a lawsuit accusing Coca-Cola Co of misleading consumers about the contents of a rival fruit beverage. Next week, POM is scheduled to appear in federal appeals court, where it is battling Federal Trade Commission findings that the company engaged in product deception of its own. (

* Commercial real estate data firm CoStar Group Inc has forced a small competitor, New York startup CompStak Inc, to give up the names of four CompStak users who CoStar alleges violated its licensing agreement. CompStak turned over the names Friday under a ruling by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan. CoStar alleges the individuals infringed its copyrights by providing CompStak with CoStar data. (

* BlackRock Inc, T. Rowe Price Group Inc and Fidelity Investments are among the mutual-fund firms pushing into Silicon Valley at a record pace, snapping up stakes in high-profile startup companies including Airbnb Inc, Dropbox Inc and Pinterest Inc. (



* After years of legal skirmishes, four leading Silicon Valley companies are scheduled to go on trial next month on claims of conspiring to keep their employees down. (

* The Californian city of San Bernardino, which had stopped making its required pension contributions in 2012, is in another fight with Calpers over skyrocketing pension costs that could embolden other municipalities seeking relief from crippling payments to the nation's largest public pension system. (

* The Volcker Rule does not go into effect until 2015, but that hasn't stopped United States' big bankers and their supporters in Washington from trying to undermine it. The latest fight involves another complex Wall Street creation, a financial instrument known as a collateralized loan obligation. Big banks want to be allowed to own them but regulators say such holdings can be hazardous and may allow the banks to evade the Volcker Rule's prohibition on risky trading. (

* Many visitors at the New York International Auto Show have not lost their confidence in General Motors Co despite the company's long-delayed recall of millions of small cars for an ignition switch defect that General Motors has linked to 13 deaths and 31 accidents and has led to federal investigations, contentious hearings in Congress and mounting criticism from lawmakers and consumer advocates. (

* Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian businessman who made billions brokering gas deals, now faces both a criminal indictment and a racketeering lawsuit in United States courts as middlemen like him have come under increased scrutiny for their business and political activities in the months after the Ukranian revolution. (




* A Toronto-area teenager who alleges repeated homophobic discrimination at his Catholic high school feels he is "winning" now that a rights tribunal is looking into his complaints. (

* Authorities in British Columbia are anxious to bring a Netherlands resident to a Canadian courtroom on cyberbullying charges in a teen suicide case, but legal experts say it's unclear when or even if they might get the chance. (

Reports in the business section:

* Barrick Gold Corp and Newmont Mining Corp , the world's two largest gold producers, are still open to merger discussions and could rekindle talks ahead of Barrick's annual shareholder meeting on April 30 after negotiations hit a snag late last week and the companies decided to take a break. (


* With more than half its ships and submarines being repaired, modernized or in a reduced state of readiness, the Royal Canadian Navy is acknowledging that it has hit the low point in availability of its vessels. (

* With Toronto city councillor Adam Vaughan emerging as a star candidate for the Liberal party in an upcoming by-election, the local riding association is stressing that the high-profile announcement was not yet a "coronation" for Vaughan. (


* The Canadian government demanded an answer immediately on the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline. It has now received a reply from the United States government that amounts to: Maybe next year. The project is now paralyzed for an indefinite period, with the U.S. administration on Friday announcing another delay in a process already beset by political and legal challenges. (




- China will remain self-sufficient in its main food crops, including wheat and rice, in the coming decade, according to a report by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.


- China is set to resume reviewing new applicants of stock initial public offering (IPOs) after an 18-month suspension. A total of 606 companies are now on a waiting list to launch IPOs.

- Officials and economists participating in an industrial forum over the weekend warned that China should not try a "big leap forward" in its latest urbanisation drive.


- China's Xinjiang hopes to make itself into a new strategic energy base for the country, according to a plan by the regional government to expand the local economy.

- Top Chinese insurer China Life Insurance Co has opened tenders to hire managers for stock investments of its assets worth of 20 billion yuan ($3.2 billion).


- China's catering industry registered its slowest growth in 20 years in 2013 as the official anti-corruption campaign targeting official excess took its toll on high-end business, a report by the China Cuisine Association showed.


- More than 1,000 police officers now carry guns when on routine patrol in Shanghai as part of a national security campaign in the wake of the fatal knife attack in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming last month.



The Sunday Times


Oil explorer African Petroleum, founded by Frank Timis, is planning to float on the Oslo stock exchange after the natural resources entrepreneur was barred from listing the company in the UK four years ago. The company is listed in Australia where it stock price has gyrated wildly.


The head of the UK's new regulator for the North Sea is set to be one of the best-paid public servants in Britain.

The new regulator, created after a government review into Britain's offshore oil sector last month, is searching for candidates to lead the body which is tasked with maximising recovery of North Sea oil and gas reserves.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change hopes to have someone in place by July.


American financier Gary Klesch could mount a last-ditch bid to save Murco's Milford Haven oil refinery. Klesch is among a handful of investors interested in the refinery which Murphy Oil , Murco's American parent, has been looking to sell for three years.


Phlexglobal, which helps bigger drug companies to run trials for new medicines, is being groomed for sale by its private equity backer Inflexion, with price target of around 50 million pounds. The company could be sold to a bigger drug services company or a rival private equity investor.


Tesco's online video service Blinkbox has lost tens of millions of pounds since Tesco bought it three years ago. The subsidiary lost 18.5 million pounds last year, 5.7 million pounds in 2012 and an insider told Sunday Times these losses had deepened to 30 million pounds this year.


Royal Bank of Scotland has put Bob Hedger, one of its top corporate troubleshooters, in charge of its loans to Britain's troubled Co-Operative Group.

The Sunday Telegraph


Britain's shale gas and oil industry could create tens of billions of pounds for the UK supply chain, according to a report by UK Onshore Operators to be published this week.

Report will highlight how specific sectors, such as manufacturers of steel for fracking equipment, could benefit.


Royal Bank of Scotland is considering suing Lawrence Tomlinson for libel after he alleged the lender of deliberately putting customers out of business for profit.


New chief executive of RSA Insurance Group, Stephen Hester, will attempt to cut hundreds of millions of pounds of costs as the insurer moves into the next stage of its rehabilitation, although no specific savings target has been set.


Greek businessman Athanasios Papistas is claiming 1.1 billion pounds in damages from Vodafone after the British telecoms company pulled out of a retail franchise deal with the businessman. The case is not due to be heard before Greek courts until 2016. Vodafone denies the allegations.


The Financial Conduct Authority will next month look at changing the listing rules so that a majority investor will have to get support from a large number of smaller shareholders to take a company private


Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot


Domestic economic reports scheduled today include:
Chicago Fed national activity index for March at 8:30--consensus 0.2
Leading indicators for March at 10:00--consensus up 0.7%



Aimco (AIV) upgraded to Equalweight from Underweight at Barclays
Arch Coal (ACI) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman
Armstrong World (AWI) upgraded to Buy from Hold at KeyBanc
athenahealth (ATHN) upgraded to Hold from Underperform at Jefferies
Aviv REIT (AVIV) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
Badger Meter (BMI) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Big Lots (BIG) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
Boardwalk Pipeline (BWP) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Boston Properties (BXP) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Cowen
Chipotle (CMG) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
CoStar Group (CSGP) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at B. Riley
Cornerstone OnDemand (CSOD) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
Dynegy (DYN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
HNI Corporation (HNI) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James
Home Bancshares (HOMB) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James
Hub Group (HUBG) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Longbow
Morgan Stanley (MS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Nomura
Plexus (PLXS) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Cross Research
Plexus (PLXS) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Needham
Simmons First National (SFNC) upgraded to Outperform at Keefe Bruyette
Time Warner Cable (TWC) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Brean Capital
United Microelectronics (UMC) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman
Watts Water (WTS) upgraded to Outperform from Perform at Oppenheimer
Zimmer (ZMH) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Cantor


American Electric (AEP) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at ISI Group
BB&T (BBT) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Dover (DOV) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Stifel
Jabil Circuit (JBL) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Mack-Cali Realty (CLI) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Cowen
MoneyGram (MGI) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at JMP Securities
PDC Energy (PDCE) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Pacific Coast Oil (ROYT) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
TransCanada (TRP) downgraded to Sector Performer from Outperformer at CIBC
Walter Energy (WLT) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman
Yum! Brands (YUM) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan


Applied Genetic (AGTC) initiated with a Buy at Cantor
Applied Genetic (AGTC) initiated with an Outperform at BMO Capital
Navient (NAVIV) initiated with a Buy at Goldman
Pacira Pharmaceuticals (PCRX) initiated with a Buy at BofA/Merrill
Puma Biotechnology (PBYI) initiated with a Buy at Citigroup
Sallie Mae Bank (SLMVV) initiated with a Neutral at Goldman
Square 1 Financial (SQBK) initiated with a Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette


Supreme Court denied Teva (TEVA) stay in generic Copaxone case
Beam (BEAM) said CFO Robert Probst resigning ahead of Suntory acquisition
State Department extended deadline for Keystone Pipeline Project (TRP)
Perfect World (PWRD) entered into agreements to acquire shares in Shanda Games (GAME)
Abaxis (ABAX) announced court approval of shareholders lawsuit settlement
Omega Healthcare (OHI) raised quarterly dividend to 50c from 49c


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Hasbro (HAS), SunTrust (STI)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Old Line Bancshares (OLBK)


Twitter (TWTR), Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN) look pricey, Barron's says
Home Depot (HD) could rally 25%, Barron's says
Meridian Bioscience (VIVO) could return 20%, Barron's reports
Revlon (REV) still looks cheap, Barron's says
Sarepta (SRPT) shares could double, Barron's reports
Raytheon (RTN) could have 20%-30% upside, Barron's says
Pfizer (PFE) said to be considering GBP60B bid for AstraZeneca (AZN), Sunday Times says
Nike (NKE) to pull out of wearable-hardware market, CNet says
Court documents say Silicon Valley giants (AAPL, GOOG, INTC, ADBE) discussed hiring, WSJ says
General Motors (GM) sees minimal impact on U.S. sales from recall, WSJ reports
GM (GM) waited years to recall 335,000 Saturn Ions despite complaints, AP reports
Barrick Gold (ABX), Newmont Mining (NEM) merger talks said to be called off, WSJ says
Ahead of TWC (TWC), deal Comcast (CMCSA) in talks to sell subscribers to Charter (CHTR), Reuters says
Musk says Tesla (TSLA) to produce vehicles in China within 3-4 years, Bloomberg says


New York REIT (NYRT) files automatic mixed securities shelf
Umpqua Holdings (UMPQ) files to sell 43.3M shares, 4.95M warrants for holders


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