Frontrunning: August 15

  • Barack Obama's 'vacation from hell' (Politico)
  • Russian aid convoy checked; military vehicles mass near Ukraine (Reuters)
  • Ukraine Says APCs Entered From Russia to Aid Insurgents (BBG)
  • Islamic State Said to Challenge Al-Qaeda for Leadership (BBG)
  • Missouri protests calmer after governor puts black police captain in charge (Reuters)
  • Finally someone will prove the US is a pyramid scheme (in a 1000 page presentation): Ackman’s Pershing Square Sues U.S. Over Fannie, Freddie (BBG)
  • Banks, Financial Firms Load Up on Cheap Debt (WSJ)
  • Putin to Meet Finnish President as Threat of Cold War Grows (BBG)
  • SEC Casts Wide Net in Probe of Microcap Stock (WSJ)
  • Putin Pacific Gambit Threatens New Market (BBG)
  • Obama Won't Return Money From Tax Deals He Dislikes (BBG)
  • Apple stores user data on servers in China for first time (Reuters)
  • Traders Lured to Bet on Power Overloads Worth Billions (BBG)
  • Billionaire Lang Walker Says Sydney Home Market ’Too Hot' (BBG)
  • China’s Savers Put Record $2.1 Trillion in Wealth Products (BBG)
  • Obama says Sinjar siege broken, some personnel to leave Iraq (Reuters)



Overnight Media Digest


* Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relinquished power on Thursday, ending eight years of tumultuous rule and opening a new political chapter that U.S. officials hope will move Iraq towards a more united front against marauding jihadists. (

* Missouri Governor Jay Nixon put the state highway patrol in charge of security in Ferguson on Thursday in hopes of quelling nightly clashes between protesters angry over a police shooting of an unarmed black teenager and SWAT teams using tear gas. (

* The euro-zone economy stalled in the second quarter, raising the ugly prospect that the region's meager recovery has lost momentum just as it faces fresh headwinds from Russia and Ukraine. (

* The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the auditor of Cynk Technology Corp, the tiny social network that soared to a $6 billion valuation last month and then came crashing back down to earth, say people close to the probe. (

* Swedish appliance manufacturer Electrolux AB has held preliminary discussions about acquiring General Electric Co's appliance business, joining a group of other potential suitors considering a deal that could expand their reach in North America. (

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's <IPO-BABA.N> plan for a potentially record-breaking initial public offering is prompting other companies to push back their own stock-market debuts. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc's Citizens Financial Group Inc has pushed back the launch of its IPO, which was slated for the second week of September, according to people familiar with the matter. (

* In a risky bid to jolt sagging sales, Coca-Cola Co is paying $2.15 billion to acquire a 16.7 percent stake in energy-drink maker Monster Beverage Corp as part of an asset swap. (

* Federal regulators are looking into whether a hostile offer jointly pursued by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc and activist investor William Ackman to acquire Allergan Inc violates securities laws, according to people familiar with the matter. (

* Cutrale Group's bid this week to buy Chiquita Brands International Inc has put Brazil's secretive "Orange King" Jose Luis Cutrale in the spotlight. Cutrale is one of three companies operating in Brazil that account for about 80 percent of global orange-juice exports. (

* Banks and other financial companies world-wide are issuing bonds in the United States at a record pace, taking advantage of this year's surprising slump in interest rates and a brightening outlook for the sector. (

* Supermarket chain Supervalu Inc is investigating a potential data breach that might have affected more than 1,000 stores, according to people familiar with the situation, the latest attack against a big merchant in recent months. (

* Apple Inc created the blueprint for a smartphone when it covered the touch screen of its first iPhone in glass instead of plastic. Now, it is betting $700 million that sapphire, a harder and more expensive material, can replace glass and better protect future devices. (

* Less than 10 days after Gannett Co Inc said it would separate its publishing business from its broadcasting operations, activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed he had accumulated over the past couple of months a 6.63 percent stake in the company and had planned to push for such a split. (

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's film-production arm said it had uncovered possible accounting irregularities and would delay the release of its first-half financial results, and suspend trading of its stock while it investigated the matter. (

* Consumers may soon be able to pay for their Airbnb rentals or Uber car rides using bitcoin. EBay Inc has been quietly working to integrate acceptance of the virtual currency into its Braintree payments subsidiary, part of its PayPal unit, according to people familiar with the matter. (



Rosneft has asked Russia's government for $42 billion in support to help the oil producer offset the impact of Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's role in Ukraine.

RWE AG has revealed plans to shutter more power stations, as Germany's second-biggest utility by market value struggles to cope with the expansion of renewable energy supply in the country.

Undeterred by Balfour Beatty Plc's rejection of two takeover bids it made, Carillion Plc has approached the rival construction firm's investors, saying that its proposed deal to create a 3 billion pound ($5 billion) giant could deliver annual cost savings of 175 million pounds for the combined business.

U.S. media billionaire Barry Diller has strengthened his portfolio of Internet companies by purchasing - a youth social networking site that allows users to post questions and answers anonymously.

Berlin has banned the use of Uber, an app-enabled taxi service that allows users to summon a ride on their smartphone, after the company was found to be in violation of safety regulations.



* Coca-Cola Co announced that it had acquired a 16.7 percent stake in Monster Beverage Corp for $2.15 billion. The deal unites the biggest soda maker in the world with the largest energy drink brand in the United States. (

* Trading linked to congestion on New York State's electric grid, a market intended to protect power companies and ultimately benefit consumers, has made big profits for trading firms. (

* Financial regulators are pushing for an arcane but crucial modification to the contracts that stand behind the $700 trillion global market for derivatives. The change is part of the regulators' efforts to avoid the sort of systemic chaos that occurred after Lehman Brothers Holding Inc crashed. (

* Lenders to Puerto Rico's big electric power authority gave it a breather on Thursday instead of enforcing a looming deadline on the lines of credit the company uses to buy fuel for its power plants. The banks that provide the credit line gave the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority until March 31 to make good on principal repayments that originally came due at the end of July. (

* The Securities and Exchange Commission is examining whether Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc and Pershing Square Capital Management have broken any laws while pursuing a hostile takeover of Allergan Inc. The inquiry is in its early stages and may not lead to a formal investigation, according to a person briefed on the matter. (

* Starbucks Corp announced revisions on Thursday to the way the company schedules its 130,000 baristas, saying it wanted to improve "stability and consistency" in work hours week to week. The company intends to curb the much-loathed practice of "clopening," or workers closing the store late at night and returning just a few hours later to reopen, wrote Cliff Burrows, the group president in charge of American stores, in an email to baristas across the country. (

* Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has purchased SmartThings, a start-up that makes accessories that connect home appliances to the Internet. With its expansion, Samsung will be competing with Apple Inc and Google Inc. Google acquired Nest, also a smart home appliance maker, for $3.2 billion this year. In June, Apple introduced HomeKit, a set of software tools to make iPhones more integrated with the smart home. (




** Via Rail says another derailment on a troubled northern Manitoba railway line has forced an interruption of passenger services between Thompson and The Pas until further notice. Via said passengers scheduled to travel on the affected routes would be offered alternate transportation and trains would continue to operate between Churchill and Thompson, and The Pas and Winnipeg. (

** Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau lashed out on Thursday at the Canadian government over a Postmedia report that Health Canada has approached three doctors' groups to sign onto an anti-pot advertising campaign. During a visit to Saskatoon, he suggested the move was meant as an attack on him and his support for legalizing marijuana. (

Reports in the business section:

** Spotify, one of the Internet's biggest streaming music services, launched an invitation-only preview of its Canadian site, with plans to open it up to all users soon. Spotify joins a growing list of companies that have also launched Canadian streaming music sites, such as Songza and Google Inc. (


** Ontario's environment ministry has confirmed that specimens collected on Monday from a bay in Upper Rideau Lake north of Kingston, Ontario, are blue-green algae and that toxins are present. The health unit said McNally's Bay cottagers and residents who draw drinking water from the lake should use an alternative source, as boiling does not remove the toxins. (

** The bizarre case of a former U.S. airman seeking asylum in Canada, claiming he was tortured by U.S. authorities probing his links to the shadowy Anonymous hacker collective, is sparking protest rallies and an international day of action. Matt DeHart, 30, is in prison in Ontario awaiting an Aug. 20 refugee hearing in Toronto during which he will argue his claim for refugee protection. (


** Energy financier Richard Grafton is planning a series of deals in the Canadian oil patch over the next 18 months after securing C$675 million in funding from a U.S. private equity firm and a UAE sovereign wealth fund. (

** The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is mulling two scenarios in this fall's anticipated initial public offering of Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd <IPO-BABA.N> - selling or taking a larger stake.


Hong Kong


-- At least a quarter of the 28,000-strong Hong Kong police force will turn out to handle the possible chaos should the Occupy Central movement for democracy carry out its threat to block streets in the main business hub later this month, sources close to the matter say. (

-- Former top judge Andrew Li Kwok-nang has expressed reservations about the view expressed in Beijing's recent white paper on the "one country, two systems" formula that Hong Kong judges have a "basic political requirement" to love the country. (

-- The first annual sales target cut announced by a Hong Kong-listed mainland developer has revealed the dilemma facing many players in an industry downturn: to take the hit now or give up a bit later. Fantasia cut its annual sales target to 10 billion yuan ($1.63 billion) from 15 billion yuan after reporting a 68 percent year-on-year slide in first-half profit. (


-- More than 126,000 people are expected to turn up on Sunday to show they are against the Occupy Central campaign in Hong Kong, according to the Alliance for Peace and Democracy. Convener Robert Chow Yung said more than 1,170 organisations have pledged their support and that the turnout could be even larger than estimated. (

-- CLP Holdings said it will raise tariffs next year but will be at a rate lower than previously estimated. Tariffs had been projected to rise between 3.9 percent and 11.8 percent in CLP's 2014-2018 development plan, with the average annual adjustment at 6.9 percent. (

-- Prosperity Real Estate Investment Trust said its interim distributable income rose 11.3 percent to HK$115 million ($14.8 million) from a year earlier. Revenue reached HK$197.8 million, up 18.4 percent, thanks to the contribution of rental and car park income. (


-- Chinese sportswear maker Peak Sport Products said first-half net profit rose 34.6 percent year-on-year to 120 million yuan ($19.5 million) as sales increased and profit margin improved.


-- Yuzhou Properties Co Ltd said it generated 5.85 billion yuan ($951 million) from property sales in the first seven months of 2014, representing 44.3 percent of its annual sales target.


-- Casual wear brand Giordano said first-half net profit plunged 48.8 percent from a year-ago period to HK$174 million ($22.45 million) amid a weak retail market, high rent in Hong Kong and foreign exchange loss.


The Times


Berkshire Hathaway's share price hit $200,000 for the first time yesterday, showing how far the conglomerate has come since Warren Buffett started buying shares for $7 in 1962 when it was a humble textile company.

SSE puts a national distribution charge in pipeline

Energy bills in the east Midlands and other densely populated areas could rise by up to 37 pound a year to reduce the cost to households of distributing energy in remote parts of the country under proposals put forward by SSE Plc.

The Guardian


The GMB union, which has pursued a long-running campaign over pay and conditions at the online retailer's British warehouses, said is calling on Co-operative members to help oust Amazon lockers from the mutual's grocery stores.

The Telegraph


James Crosby, the former boss of HBOS, will relinquish his last company directorship and collect a hefty windfall after Moneybarn, the car insurer he chaired, agreed to be bought by Provident Financial Plc for 120 million pounds ($200 million).


The Bank of England has flatly denied claims from the Scottish government that the two have held talks on a currency union should Scotland vote for independence next month.

Sky News


Apple Inc is banning two potentially hazardous chemicals from its final assembly process for iPhone and iPad. It is removing benzene and n-hexande from its production lines following a five-month campaign from labour activists in China.



Fly On The Wall Pre-Market Buzz


Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
Producer Price Index for July at 8:30--consensus up 0.2%
Empire State manufacturing survey for August at 8:30--consensus 20.0
Industrial production for July at 9:15--consensus up 0.3%
Capacity utilization for July at 9:15--consensus 79.1%
UMich consumer sentiment index first read for August at 9:55--consensus 82.3



Alcentra Capital (ABDC) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Anglo American (AAUKY) upgraded to Sector Perform from Underperform at RBC Capital
China Mobile (CHL) upgraded to Neutral from Underperform at Mizuho
Cypress Energy (CELP) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
G&K Services (GK) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan
Perrigo (PRGO) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at B. Riley
Starwood (HOT) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
Ultra Petroleum (UPL) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS


Apollo Global (APO) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
bebe stores (BEBE) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
DaVita (DVA) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Fifth Street Finance (FSC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Gilford Securities
Harmony Gold (HMY) downgraded to Underweight from Neutral at HSBC
Ignite Restaurant (IRG) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at Piper Jaffray
K12 (LRN) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
KKR (KKR) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Lithia Motors (LAD) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
New York & Co. (NWY) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
OCI Partners (OCIP) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Barclays
OmniVision (OVTI) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird


Achillion (ACHN) initiated with an Outperform at FBR Capital
Enanta (ENTA) initiated with an Outperform at FBR Capital
G-III Apparel (GIII) initiated with a Buy at Wunderlich
Gilead (GILD) initiated with an Outperform at FBR Capital
Intercept (ICPT) started with Underperform, $172 target at FBR Capital
NXP Semiconductors (NXPI) initiated with a Buy at Stifel
Palo Alto (PANW) initiated with an Outperform at Imperial Capital
Virtusa (VRTU) initiated with a Buy at Maxim


Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway:

NEW STAKES: Charter Communications (CHTR), and Now Inc (DNOW). INCREASED STAKES: Suncor (SU), Verizon (VZ), General Motors (GM), Liberty Global (LBTYA), and Visa (V). DECREASED STAKES: Graham Holdings (GHC), ConocoPhillips (COP), DIRECTV (DTV), Phillips 66 (PSX), and Liberty Media (LMCA). LIQUIDATED STAKES: Starz (STRZA)

Carl Icahn:

NEW STAKES: Gannett (GCI). INCREASED STAKES: Navistar (NAV), eBay (EBAY), and Icahn Enterprises (IEP). DECREASED STAKES: Netflix (NFLX). LIQUIDATED STAKES: Forest Laboratories (FRX)

David Tepper’s Appaloosa:

NEW STAKES: Google (GOOG), Mohawk (MHK), Weatherford (WFT), and Ryland (RYL). INCREASED STAKES: Facebook (FB), General Motors (GM), American Airlines (AAL), Priceline (PCLN), and Masco (MAS). DECREASED STAKES: Citigroup (C), Eastman Chemical (EMN), and Du Pont (DD). LIQUIDATED STAKES: QUALCOMM (QCOM), JP Morgan Chase (JPM), MetLife (MET), Trinity (TRN), and Delphi (DLPH)

Paulson & Co:

NEW STAKES: Allergan (AGN), DIRECTV (DTV), Covidien (COV), Hillshire Brands (HSH), and Questcor (QCOR). INCREASED STAKES: Shire (SHPG), Cobalt (CIE), Mallinckrodt (MNK), Family Dollar (FDO), and Dollar General (DG). DECREASED STAKES: Thermo Fisher (TMO), Vodafone (VOD), Freeport-McMoRan (FCX), CNO Financial (CNO), and CBS (CBS). LIQUIDATED STAKES: American Airlines (AAL), Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD), Hess (HES), General Motors (GM), and Digital Realty Trust (DLR)

Soros Fund:

NEW STAKES: CONSOL Energy (CNX), Google (GOOG), Level 3 (LVLT), Time Warner (TWC), and New Oriental (EDU). INCREASED STAKES: YPF SA (YPF), Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), AIG (AIG), and American Airlines (AAL). DECREASED STAKES: Teva (TEVA), Liberty Global (LBTYK), Barrick Gold (ABX), EQT (EQT), and Comcast (CMCSA). LIQUIDATED STAKES: FedEx (FDX), Monster Beverage (MNST), Google (GOOGL), Devon Energy (DVN), Marathon Petroleum (MPC)

Trian Fund:

NEW STAKES: Allergan (AGN), DIRECTV (DTV), Covidien (COV), Hillshire Brands (HSH), and Questcor (QCOR). INCREASED STAKES: Shire (SHPG), Cobalt (CIE), Mallinckrodt (MNK), Family Dollar (FDO), and Dollar General (DG). DECREASED STAKES: Thermo Fisher (TMO), Vodafone (VOD), Freeport-McMoRan (FCX), CNO Financial (CNO), and CBS (CBS). LIQUIDATED STAKES: American Airlines (AAL), Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD), Hess (HES), General Motors (GM), and Digital Realty Trust (DLR)


Monster Beverage (MNST) and Coca-Cola (KO) announced a strategic partnership where Coca-Cola will take a 16.7% stake in the company, as well as swap certain brands with the energy drink maker
SuperValu (SVU) said its computer network experienced criminal intrusion. The company has not determined that any such cardholder data was in fact stolen by the intruder, and it has no evidence of any misuse of any such data
Nordstrom (JWN) said the purchase price for Trunk Club is $350M in stock and the company sees the acquisition dilutive to FY14 EPS by 3%-5%
J.C. Penney (JCP) forecast Q3 and FY14 SSS up mid-single digits
Samsung (SSNLF) acquired home automation startup SmartThings, terms not disclosed


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
J.C. Penney (JCP), (JD), Banro Corporation  (BAA), SINA (SINA), La Jolla (LJPC), Bridgeline Digital (BLIN), WidePoint (WYY), Extreme Networks (EXTR), Autodesk (ADSK), Agilent (A), Applied Materials (AMAT)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Kite Pharma (KITE), Ultrapetrol (ULTR), Alexco Resource (AXU), Cascade Bancorp (CACB), ZS Pharma (ZSPH), Intrexon (XON), Echo Therapeutics (ECTE), Mandalay Digital (MNDL), Summer Infant (SUMR), Cypress Energy (CELP), Opexa Therapeutics (OPXA)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Weibo (WB), Superior Drilling (SDPI), Professional Diversity Network (IPDN), Lucas Energy (LEI), Paylocity (PCTY), Nordstrom (JWN)


Apple (AAPL) considering sapphire glass in upcoming iPhone, smartwatch, WSJ reports (GTAT, GLW)
Sprint's (S) new CEO to introduce 'disruptive' prices next week, Re/code reports
Alibaba's (BABA) Pictures unit uncovers possible accounting issues, AP reports
eBay's (EBAY) Braintree unit considering accepting bitcoin, WSJ reports
Wal-Mart (WMT) sees rise in DVD orders following Disney (DIS), Amazon (AMZN) feud, Bloomberg reports
Wal-Mart (WMT) not a bargain, Barron's reports


Biodel (BIOD) files to sell 6.1M shares for holders
Energy Focus (EFOI) files to sell 6.25M shares for holders
Hannon Armstrong (HASI) files to sell 3.18M shares for holders
NeoGenomics (NEO) files to sell common stock
Priceline (PCLN) prices $1B senior notes offering
Selectica (SLTC) files to sell 999,999 shares for holders