Frontrunning: April 28

  • U.S. Plans to Hit Putin Inner Circle With New Sanctions (BBG)
  • Russian Billions Scattered Abroad Show Trail to Putin Circle (BBG)
  • GE’s Alstom Bid Gains Steam as Hollande Said Not Opposed (BBG)
  • Russia-West tensions pressure stocks, buoy oil prices (Reuters)
  • Toyota Said to Plan to Move U.S. Sales Office to Texas (BBG)
  • Egyptian court seeks death sentence for Brotherhood leader, 682 supporters (Reuters)
  • Greece warned of 14.9 billion euro financing gap (FT)
  • Comcast to shed 3.9 million subscribers to ease cable deal (Reuters)
  • Big U.S. Banks Make Swaps a Foreign Affair (WSJ)
  • Doctors Get Millions From Medicare After Losing Their Licenses (BBG)
  • Europe Lacks Founding Father as Russia Sows Divisions (BBG)


Overnight Media Digest


* Pfizer Inc plans to pursue a bid for AstraZeneca Plc, eyeing a tie-up that would create a roughly $300 billion pharmaceutical giant and fuel an already booming year for merger-and-acquisition activity, particularly in health care. (

* Siemens AG barged in on Alstom's plans to sell its energy assets to General Electric Co, proposing a counter offer that would forge a global behemoth while keeping a symbol of French industry rooted in Europe. (

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's <IPO-ALIB.N> Taobao is one of the world's largest shopping sites, with 7 million sellers offering 800 million items. But ahead of Alibaba's high-profile IPO in the United States, critics say it needs to address the problem of rampant counterfeit goods. (

* Hedge-fund company Och-Ziff Capital Management Group helped finance controversial African oil and mining deals, a trail of corporate documents shows, and now faces scrutiny from U.S. authorities. Och-Ziff disclosed in a March filing that the Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department are investigating investments by some of its funds "in a number of companies in Africa" under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related laws. (

* As regulators tighten rules on the U.S. swaps market, large American banks are maneuvering to take some of the business overseas. Banks including Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are changing the terms of some swap agreements made by their offshore units so they don't get caught by U.S. regulations, according to people with knowledge of the situation. (

* In Ben van Beurden's first four months as chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the oil company has issued its first profit warning in a decade, halted major projects in Louisiana and Alaska, and moved to sell unprofitable U.S. shale properties. Shell reports earnings on Wednesday, and investors expect to gain clarity on how the 31-year Shell veteran plans to boost profit when costs are high and oil and gas are harder than ever to find. (

* As states stretching from Massachusetts to Maine thaw out from bitter cold, questions linger about why New England hasn't benefited from the energy boom in the nearby Marcellus Shale. The short answer is not enough pipelines. And the reason is an impasse between pipeline operators and power plants over how to pay for new capacity. (

* A newly discovered security hole in Microsoft Corp's Internet Explorer - the default Web browser for many users - could be particularly troubling for those still running Windows XP. Microsoft on Sunday warned about a flaw affecting versions 6 through 11 of its flagship browser. The coding flaw would allow hackers to have the same level of access on a network computer as the official user, Microsoft said, which is a best-case scenario for intruders. (

* A federal judge is slated to review this week how ready the city of Detroit is to hold a vote for more than 100,000 creditors considering a debt-cutting plan in the nation's largest municipal bankruptcy. A U.S. Bankruptcy Judge is scheduled to hold a hearing Monday to consider final approval of the plan's disclosure statement, a detailed explanation of Detroit's troubled financial past leading to an estimated $18 billion in long-term obligations. (



U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc could make a public declaration of its interest in Britain's second-biggest drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc as early as this week, according to sources.

French President Francois Hollande gathered ministers on Sunday to discuss General Electric's bid for French rival Alstom's energy business, with a separate proposal from Germany's Siemens on the table.

Prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice have gone to London to interview individuals as part of their probe into traders' alleged rigging of foreign exchange rates, three sources said.

Premier Oil has spurned a secret approach from Ophir Energy aimed at creating an enlarged oil exploration and production company with a market capitalisation of over 3 billion pounds.

Kazakhstan's $50 billion Kashagan oil project is likely to be delayed by two more years while 200 kilometers of pipeline is replaced, according to the country's minister for economy and budget planning.



* Charter Communications Inc is set to announce a roughly $22 billion deal with Comcast Corp on Monday that would bolster its subscriber base, people briefed on the matter said on Sunday. The three-part plan, which is scheduled to be announced along with Charter's first-quarter earnings, would allow the cable company to expand from its current largely regional presence to become the country's second-largest cable operator. (

* Pfizer Inc is close to publicly unveiling its interest in acquiring AstraZeneca Plc of Britain, a person briefed on the matter said on Sunday, in what would be one of the biggest in an already swelling series of deal efforts among drug makers. (

* A Wall Street executive who helped Goldman Sachs Group Inc make more than a billion dollars betting against mortgages now wants to buy up troubled home loans. Donald Mullen, who was the architect of Goldman's trade against the housing market just before the financial crisis, is seeking to raise as much as $1 billion for a new fund. (

* The French government on Sunday sought to put the brakes on General Electric's bid for Alstom SA, one of the largest industrial companies in France, warning that national interest was in play and that the state would have a say in the outcome. (

* The deep recession wiped out primarily high-wage and middle-wage jobs. Yet the strongest employment growth during the sluggish recovery has been in low-wage work, at places like strip malls and fast-food restaurants. In essence, the poor economy has replaced good jobs with bad ones. That is the conclusion of a new report from the National Employment Law Project, a research and advocacy group, analyzing employment trends four years into the recovery. (




* Restaurants in Canada are bracing for significant new limits on their ability to hire temporary foreign workers, but are hoping to avoid a permanent ban. Employment Minister Jason Kenney promised Sunday that the federal government would unveil more changes to the controversial program within weeks. (

* About half of Ontario's school principals have asked parents to keep their child at home because they could not accommodate their special education needs, says a new report that sheds light on how budget constraints have affected students with learning disabilities. (

Reports in the business section:

* Bombardier Inc seems to have settled into a smoother flight path these days. There have been no additional disclosures of major setbacks on the high-stakes C Series new-jet program. The Learjet 85 finally had its first flight recently after a number of development stalls and glitches. (


* Canadians at risk of joining foreign terrorist groups in Syria and elsewhere are now being tracked under a program led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a senior counter-terrorism officer has revealed in an interview. (

* The Canadian government is poised to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that will overhaul the country's prostitution laws - possibly targeting the pimps and johns as criminals while leaving the prostitutes themselves free from criminal prosecution. (


* Winter storms flattened much of the economic data in North America and may have clouded the early outlook for growth this year. But a clearer picture could be developing - one that reveals a stronger underlying performance in Canada and the United States. (


Hong Kong


-- A former mayor in Shanxi, Yan Guoping, who was sacked for failing to curtail illegal mining operations in his city, has turned out to be a key figure in helping China Resources to make inroads in the coal-rich province. (

-- More than 40 retired senior government officials serving as independent directors at China's top listed firms find themselves under the spotlight after a mainland flagship newspaper questioned whether they had carried out their responsibilities to protect small investors. (

-- Brokers believe Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing will face an uphill battle to promote its four commodity products to be introduced later this year mainly because investors are used to trading these products overseas. (


-- The MTR has come under fire for not telling passengers quickly enough about a 35-minute suspension of East Rail services in Hong Kong on Sunday, with lawmakers calling on the government to fine the corporation heavily. (

-- Locals have given Hong Kong an early glimpse of the proposed May Day stink planned by mainlanders by mock pooing in the streets and at Harbour City in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui. (

-- Most social workers are opposed to the screening of candidates in the 2017 chief executive election, a survey shows. The Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union surveyed about 500 members between April 3-19. (


-- Hong Kong's Mandatory Provident Fund has registered a 0.65 percent return in April, against a 0.67 percent fall in March. It slid 0.36 percent for the first four months of 2014, according to data from financial research group Morningstar.


-- Fashion retailer La Chapelle, which trying to position itself as China's Zara, is set to raise $300 million in an initial public offering in May, according to market sources.


-- Property prices in Hong Kong's primary market have fallen by 20-30 percent from their peak, according to government sources. Developers are set to continue selling flats at low prices as potential buyers expect a further slide in prices, industry observers said.



The Telegraph


BSkyB is preparing a major overhaul of its set-top box technology to address the threat to its subscription business from internet-based television services from American giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google . (


A former director at Wm Morrisons who served under Ken Morrison has warned the grocery retailer is a "supertanker heading towards an iceberg" and called for management to step aside. (


Britain's biggest energy suppliers could pocket a 2 billion pound ($3.36 billion) windfall over the next three years after the government miscalculated a deal to cut green levies, new research claims. (

The Guardian


Siemens entered the battle for French engineering group Alstom on Sunday, after the French government encouraged a European counterbid following a $13 billion offer last week by the U.S. company General Electric. (


The director of CBI Scotland, Iain McMillan, has announced he is retiring after the independence referendum in the wake of the organisation's disastrous registration as a no campaigner. (

The Times


Royal Bank of Scotland has guaranteed that the minimum pay of its new boss will be 50 percent higher than that of his predecessor, Stephen Hester, who left the taxpayer-backed bank last year after a series of bruising rows over his bonus arrangements. (


The cream of the City of London is to be hauled across town this week to the Palace of Westminster in an unprecedented three days of parliamentary inquiry into last autumn's privatisation of the Royal Mail Plc. (


Britain's privacy watchdog is to investigate a short-term credit provider that requires potential customers to hand over their PIN and online banking passwords, after an investigation by The Times. (



Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot



AstraZeneca (AZN) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Societe Generale
Autodesk (ADSK) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at Pacific Crest
Deckers Outdoor (DECK) upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at Credit Suisse
Empresas ICA (ICA) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Hornbeck Offshore (HOS) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Wunderlich
LCNB Corp. (LCNB) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital
Macatawa Bank (MCBC) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Keefe Bruyette
Masco (MAS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Meritage Homes (MTH) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at UBS
Newmont Mining (NEM) upgraded to Sector Performer from Underperformer at CIBC
TD Ameritrade (AMTD) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein


Air Products (APD) downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at Atlantic Equities
BCE (BCE) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
CenturyLink (CTL) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Clean Harbors (CLH) downgraded to Outperform from Strong Buy at Raymond James
Diageo (DEO) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
FLIR Systems (FLIR) downgraded to Fair Value from Buy at CRT Capital
Knightsbridge Tankers (VLCCF) downgraded to Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
Mattress Firm (MFRM) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
Panera Bread (PNRA) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Longbow
Sociedad Quimica (SQM) downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at HSBC
USG (USG) downgraded to Equalweight from Overweight at Barclays
Wesco Aircraft (WAIR) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan


Corium (CORI) initiated with a Buy at Jefferies
Corium (CORI) initiated with an Outperform at Leerink
Rubicon Project (RUBI) initiated with a Neutral at Goldman
Rubicon Project (RUBI) initiated with an Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Tarena (TEDU) initiated with a Buy at Goldman
Tarena (TEDU) initiated with an Outperform at Oppenheimer
United Insurance (UIHC) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo


Pfizer (PFE) confirmed a $76.62 per share offer for AstraZeneca  (AZN)
AstraZeneca (AZN) said Pfizer's (PFE) offer 'significantly udnervalued' prospects
Comcast (CMCSA) said it will divest 3.9M video customers to Charter (CHTR) following the completion of the merger with Time Warner Cable (TWC)
Meda rejected Mylan's (MYL) revised proposal, said lacks shareholder support
HealthSouth (HLS) received additional subpoenas for seven hospitals from an office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General
Hartford Financial (HIG) said it would sell its Japanese annuity subsidiary for $895M to ORIX Life Insurance Corporation
BG Group (BRGYY) CEO Chris Finlayson resigned for 'personal reasons'
Youku Tudou (YOKU) announced a $1.22B investment led by Alibaba Group


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
TGC Industries (TGE), Carter's (CRI), Boardwalk Pipeline (BWP), New Oriental Education (EDU)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Haemonetics (HAE), Loews (L), Charter (CHTR), (SOHU), (CYOU)


Siemens (SI) looks to compete with GE on Alstom offer, Bloomberg says
Starbucks's (SBUX) coffee purchases have slowed as coffee bean prices soar, WSJ says
Omnicom (OMC), Publicis (PUBGY) working out differences to complete deal, Reuters reports
Mining executive said to make offer for BHP (BHP) coal unit, Sunday Times reports
Merck (MRK) nears deal to sell consumer healthcare unit, Reuters says
Citigroup (C) and DOJ plan to begin mortgage settlement talks, WSJ says
Bayer (BAYRY) exploring sale of $10B plastics unit, Bloomberg reports
Whirlpool (WHR) 'worth another spin' despite mixed results, Barron's says
Pfizer (PFE) could rise 25%, Barron's says
LinkedIn (LNKD) shares look overvalued, Barron's reports
Zoetis (ZTS) 'worth a look,' Barron's reports
Apple (AAPL) shares could continue to climb, Barron's says
Sarepta (SRPT) still has more upside, Barron's says
Saneamento Basico (SBS) could be at risk of violating debt agreements, Barron's reports


GasLog Partners files 8.4M common unit IPO at $19-$21 each


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