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Frontrunning: February 11

  • Methodology change sees Indian economy grow faster than China's (Reuters)
  • Can Greek Businesses Even Survive? (WSJ)
  • Putin to travel to Minsk talks raising hopes of a deal over Ukraine (Euronews)
  • Ukraine contact group representatives deny ceasefire deal in Minsk (Reuters)
  • Moar buybacks! Hedge Fund-Backed Investor Puts Himself Up for G.M. Board (NYT)
  • Ukraine peace summit overshadowed by some of war's worst fighting (Reuters)
  • Time for non-non-GAAP excluding China: Tesla CEO threatens firings after dismal China sales - sources (Reuters)
  • Syrian ‘Monuments Men’ Race to Protect Antiquities as Looting Bankrolls Terror (WSJ)
  • Jon Stewart leaving Comedy Central's 'The Daily Show' (Reuters)
  • Currency Warriors Get Boost at G-20 Meeting (WSJ)
  • Greece’s Tsipras Wins Austerity Vote of Confidence (BBG)
  • Remember when this was all "humanitarian intervention" - Obama seeks some limits on ground troops for Islamic State fight (Reuters)
  • Sheikh to U.S. Airlines: Improve So People Choose You (BBG)
  • 50 Shades of Shadow Banking: China Risks Reined In (BBG)
  • Banks May Have Overplayed Their Hand Fighting Wall Street Regulation (BBG)
  • Leader of Belgian militant Islamist group sentenced to 12 years (Reuters)

 

 

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* The U.S. oil boom is slowing down as drillers cut back in response to lower crude prices, according to new data set to be released on Wednesday. Companies drilled 28 percent fewer oil wells in January across the continental United States than they did last June, before oil prices started falling from more than $100 a barrel to about $50 today, according to the study by Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. (http://on.wsj.com/1uCPilx)

* The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a probe to determine whether a computer data breach led to the filing of false tax returns through TurboTax software, according to a person familiar with the case. The move comes as states try to contain a wave of bogus state tax filings through TurboTax amid signs that the fraud may also involve federal returns, according to some security specialists and taxpayers. (http://on.wsj.com/1z5SBOP)

* NBC suspended "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams for six months without pay for telling a false war story repeatedly, putting a major blemish on the career of one of America's star newscasters. (http://on.wsj.com/1CTrhtf)

* Jeb Bush faces a unique dilemma as he builds a Republican presidential campaign, whether to follow in the foreign-policy footsteps of his father or his brother. One early indication suggests he is leaning toward his father's more pragmatic and restrained philosophy. (http://on.wsj.com/1DDxpFe)

* As the Federal Reserve prepares to begin raising interest rates later this year, it is readying for what may be another big challenge in 2015: the shift to a Republican-controlled Congress. (http://on.wsj.com/1EX7r0V)

* An architect of General Motors Co's 2009 bailout who fought those calling for its demise now has emerged as one of its chief antagonists, urging the auto maker to return more cash to shareholders and boost its flagging stock price. Harry J. Wilson, a former hedge fund executive who helped usher GM through a government-led restructuring that ultimately cost taxpayers about $10 billion, said GM needs to be "more attentive to its cash balance and its operating performance." (http://on.wsj.com/1z6nKl2)

* Billionaires David Koch and Charles Koch are helping launch an investment fund aimed at financing small leveraged buyouts, the latest entrant in the potentially lucrative market. Koch Industries Inc, the brothers' closely held conglomerate with $115 billion in annual sales, has contributed $100 million to a new fund raised by Eaglehill Capital Partners LP, according to Koch Industries Chief Financial Officer Steve Feilmeier. (http://on.wsj.com/1MbrTNK)

* U.S. businesses in China have voiced increased concerns over what they see as rising anti-foreign sentiment and increasingly difficult operating conditions as the economy posts slower growth. (http://on.wsj.com/1zurw6S)

* RadioShack Corp is looking for bankruptcy-court approval to pay up to $3 million in bonuses to key employees as it races to liquidate half its stores and turn over the rest to the highest bidder at a coming auction. Eight executives and up to 30 other employees are in line for the payouts, which the company says are essential to maximizing the sale price of the beleaguered company and to keeping people from leaving during the bankruptcy process. (http://on.wsj.com/17bC84S)

 

FT

iPhone maker Apple Inc on Tuesday became the first U.S. company to close at a market valuation above $700 billion. This led the company's Chief Executive Tim Cook to comment that the company could overcome the "law of large numbers" and continue to grow rapidly.

Fiat Chrysler's Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne has said that the carmaker's next level of growth will come from a recovering Europe as the U.S. market approaches saturation.

Frederic Cilins, a French businessman who was under custody for two years for obstructing an investigation involving a multi-million dollar African mining deal, has been released and deported.

Spanish airport operator Aena is poised to bring in the biggest IPO in Spain since 2007, as the country moves to a sustained economic recovery. Aena's shares have been priced at 58 euros ($66) a share, its upper limit, buoyed by last-minute interest by investors.

 

NYT

* Harry Wilson put himself up for a seat on the General Motors Co board, as part of a campaign to persuade the company to buy back at least $8 billion worth of shares by next year. (nyti.ms/16Q1X9s)

* Tesla Motors Inc has stumbled in China, facing homegrown competition in electric vehicles and customers who worry about charging infrastructure. (nyti.ms/1AVX9ww)

* Amy Pascal recently said she would step down from major roles at Sony Pictures in the fallout over its hacking scandal, but she will produce some important film properties. (nyti.ms/1zGnZa9)

* Junior investment bankers who graduated from college only last year are being madly courted by private equity firms like Apollo Global Management LLC, Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Carlyle Group. (nyti.ms/1DZq5S7)

* Saba Software Inc, a troubled cloud-computing firm based in Silicon Valley, has agreed to be taken private by Vector Capital for about $300 million. Vector, a private equity firm that had previously provided a loan to Saba, will pay $9 a share for Saba, which was delisted from the Nasdaq in 2013 and is currently traded over the counter. (nyti.ms/1CTouAh)

* Brian Williams, the embattled NBC news anchor whose credibility plummeted after he acknowledged exaggerating his role in a helicopter episode in Iraq, was suspended for six months without pay, the network said on Tuesday night. (nyti.ms/1yb3Bc0)

 

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

** Inovent Capital Inc, the spurned merger partner of Canada Jetlines Ltd, is upset at the 11th-hour breakup of a planned corporate marriage and baffled by the fledgling carrier's early release of its anticipated route network that focuses on Vancouver, Winnipeg and Hamilton. (http://bit.ly/1IRftvk)

** Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose said she can't help but get emotional over some parents' decision not to get their children vaccinated against infectious diseases. (http://bit.ly/16SelWP)

** Egypt's President, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, says he is considering amnesty for a Canadian journalist and his Egyptian colleague who have spent more than 400 days behind bars in Cairo. (http://bit.ly/1zVfBTd)

NATIONAL POST

** Wind Mobile Corp has been talking with Mobilicity about taking over the struggling carrier, the Financial Post has learned. Mobilicity, meanwhile, has also been devising a different route through its restructuring that would allow it to sell its spectrum licences to a major wireless player, despite Ottawa's opposition. (http://bit.ly/1Abalhu)

** One of the two men accused of planning a terror attack on an Ontario train abandoned the plot in 2012 after a chance run-in with the police, court heard Monday. Raed Jaser told his alleged co-conspirator Chiheb Esseghaier to "get someone else," after the two men were questioned by police. (http://bit.ly/1KLr8Ht)

** In what is expected to be its last major financial accounting, Talisman Energy Inc took a $1.37 billion writedown Tuesday on some of its highest-profile assets, including the troubled North Sea partnership that depressed its share price and led to its $8.3 billion takeover by Spain's Repsol SA. (http://bit.ly/1DE3lJu)

** A former American soldier who claims he was tortured by U.S. authorities probing the Anonymous hacker collective has been denied asylum in Canada, signaling a forced return to the United States in a bizarre, high-profile case. (http://bit.ly/1EXw5yk)

 

China

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL
- China's Ministry of Finance, State Administration of Taxation and China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) are studying the possible introduction of a commercial health insurance system and will promulgate it as quickly as possible, CIRC's vice chairman Huang Hong said.

- China Railway Group has announced that it would raise up to 12 billion yuan ($1.92 billion) via private placement of its Shanghai-listed A-shares.

SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS

- President Xi Jinping called for stable urbanisation and better food security during a government economic meeting on Tuesday.

21st CENTURY BUSINESS HERALD

- Guangdong's free trade zone plan is expected to be approved in the near term, said Li Hongchun, director of the province's development and reform commission.

CHINA DAILY

- In a rare move, China's anti-corruption watchdog has reprimanded the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Environmental Protection for poor management and bad behaviour. The Ministry of Environmental Protection may soon replace its minister, the newspaper said citing sources close to the government.

 

Britain

The Times

Hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, some as young as 13, have been coerced into sex or sexual activity by a boyfriend, according to research into adolescent relationships. (thetim.es/1978uhA)

David Cameron came under pressure to justify his appointment in 2011 of Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint as trade minister after it was revealed that the former boss of HSBC was the main director responsible for its Swiss private banking business. (thetim.es/1AahGO9)

The Guardian

Shares in Europe have risen amid hopes that the new Syriza-led government in Greece is edging close to a debt deal with its eurozone partners. (bit.ly/1vhxHuv)

The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce has thrown a spoke into Labour's wheels by saying the best way to end political uncertainty over the UK's relations with Europe is to hold an early referendum. (bit.ly/1974Wfx)

The Telegraph

U.S. oil services giant Halliburton Co has announced plans to cut up to 8 percent of its workforce because of tumbling oil prices. (bit.ly/1CSnMn1)

Shares in Tesco Plc and Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc surged on Tuesday after the strongest growth in British food sales since 2008 helped to resuscitate the embattled supermarket groups. (bit.ly/17cB94c)

Sky News

Sky has won the rights to show 126 live Premier League matches per season for three years from 2016-17 after winning the rights to five packages of games. (bit.ly/1IOIUOy)

David Cameron has hailed business as "the country's job engine" as he unveiled plans to help expanding firms through the financial "valley of death". (bit.ly/1MaUh2z)

The Independent

UBS has said it is being investigated by the US authorities over whether it sold certain securities that potentially violate American tax law. (ind.pn/1KIdgxU)

Chief Executive Martin Wheatley said the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was not notified prior to media reports that HSBC's private Swiss bank may have helped clients to avoid paying millions of pounds in tax. (ind.pn/1ATcspO)

 

 

Fly On The Wall Pre-market Buzz

ECONOMIC REPORTS
Domestic economic reports scheduled for today include:
DOE petroleum inventory reports for week of Feb. 6 at 10:30
Treasury budget for January at 14:00--consensus deficit $19.0B

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

Dun & Bradstreet (DNB) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Stifel
EnPro (NPO) upgraded to Buy from Hold at KeyBanc
Insperity (NSP) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Roth Capital
M.D.C. Holdings (MDC) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Nu Skin (NUS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
VMware (VMW) upgraded to Market Perform from Underperform at Bernstein
WesBanco (WSBC) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at FBR Capital
Yelp (YELP) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Brean Capital

Downgrades

AkzoNobel (AKZOY) downgraded to Hold from Buy at ING Group
Blue Nile (NILE) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Crane (CR) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Exelis (XLS) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Impax (IPXL) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Goldman
Life Time Fitness (LTM) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
ManTech (MANT) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Cowen
Marketo (MKTO) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Maximus (MMS) downgraded to Equal-Weight from Overweight at First Analysis
NICE Systems (NICE) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan
Pier 1 Imports (PIR) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Taylor Morrison (TMHC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
Teck Resources (TCK) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Valero Energy Partners (VLP) downgraded to Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Wal-Mart (WMT) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at HSBC
Western Union (WU) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank

Initiations

Orbital ATK (OA) initiated with a Buy at Stifel
Orbital ATK (OA) initiated with an Outperform at Wells Fargo
Super Micro Computer (SMCI) initiated with a Positive at Susquehanna

COMPANY NEWS
Viacom's (VIA) Comedy Central losing Jon Stewart as Daily Show host
First Solar (FSLR) announced that Apple (AAPL) has committed $848M for clean energy from First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project in Monterey County, California
Target (TGT) said it will discontinue Target Ticket, effective March 7
InterXion (INXN), TelecityGroup reached non-binding agreement on all-share merger
Genworth (GNW) said it began the consolidation of its U.S. Life Insurance Division and corporate holding company functions in January, which resulted in the reduction of key leadership positions
Pier 1 Imports (PIR) said CFO Charles Turner retires, named Laura Coffey as interim CFO. Alex W. Smith, President and CEO, “I am extremely disappointed that we will not achieve our prior financial guidance. Following a strong holiday period, we registered respectable company comparable sales growth of 5.7% in January -- but the results were well below our forecast, which had overestimated the recapture of lost sales from last year’s storms. This is also causing us to take a more cautious view of sales for February"

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Voya Financial (VOYA), Generac (GNRC), Wix.com (WIX), Euronet (EEFT), OCI Resources (OCIR), Brookfield Residential (BRP), HCC Insurance (HCC), Charles River Labs (CRL), Rush Enterprises (RUSHA), RPX Corp. (RPXC), National General (NGHC), Paycom (PAYC), ViaSat (VSAT), Jive Software (JIVE), Echelon (ELON), ReachLocal (RLOC), Tessera (TSRA), CNO Financial (CNO), FirstService (FSRV), Arch Capital (ACGL), LifeLock (LOCK), Marketo (MKTO), Xoom (XOOM), Team Health (TMH), Thoratec (THOR), Genomic Health (GHDX), Seattle Genetics (SGEN), Sangamo (SGMO), , Western Union (WU), Akamai (AKAM), CAI International (CAP)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
WellCare (WCG), WellCare (WCG), Blackbaud (BLKB), Genworth (GNW), Kinross Gold (KGC), USANA (USNA), Willis Group (WSH), Covisint (COVS), Corium (CORI), A10 Networks (ATEN), A10 Networks (ATEN), Forward Air (fwrd), Pioneer Natural (PXD), Kforce (KFRC), Andersons (ANDE), Phibro Animal Health (PAHC), FMC Technologies (FTI)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Caesarstone (CSTE), Ruckus Wireless (RKUS), Trimble (TRMB), Cerner (CERN)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

Sycamore near buyout of Chico's FAS (CHS), WSJ says
Trian preparing new DuPont (DD) strategy paper, Bloomberg reports 
Apple (AAPL) hits $710B market cap, CEO cites strong Chinese performance, WSJ reports
eBay Enterprise (EBAY) banned from selling ads on eBay, Re/code reports
Target (TGT) settles for $3.9M in false advertising suit, SF Gate reports

SYNDICATE

AMAG Pharmaceuticals (AMAG) files to sell 1.6M shares for holders
Achillion (ACHN) files to sell 10M shares of common stock
Delcath Systems (DCTH) files to sell common stock and warrants
Jones Energy (JONE) files to sell 4.25M shares of common stock
TherapeuticsMD (TXMD) files to sell common stock, no amount given
Waste Connections (WCN) files automatic mixed securities shelf