Frontrunning: February 11

  • Frustrated by Karzai, U.S. Shifts Afghanistan Exit Plans (WSJ)
  • Yellen Testimony Guide From Payrolls Report to Emerging Markets (BBG)
  • Gold hits three-month high, shares up ahead of Yellen (Reuters)
  • Tightfisted New Owners Put Heinz on Diet (WSJ)
  • Senator describes “gruesome” bin Laden photos (Reuters)
  • More reasons for the ongoing economic contraction: U.S. Winter Storm Seen Spreading Snow, Sleet Across South (BBG)
  • Barclays Cuts Up to 12,000 Jobs as Quarterly Profit Falls  (BBG)
  • Boeing Considering 787-Size Medium-Range Jetliners (WSJ)
  • AOL Chief Apologizes for ‘Distressed Babies’ Comment (BBG)
  • U.S. Looks to Target American With Drone (WSJ)
  • Volkswagen Car Sales Rise in January (WSJ)
  • London Underground Union Suspends Strike Tonight Following Talks  (BBG)
  • Dartmouth Applications Drop 14% After Tumultuous Year of Protests (BBG)


Overnight Media Digest


* The U.S. military has revised plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan to allow the White House to wait until President Hamid Karzai leaves office before completing a security pact and settling on a post-2014 U.S. troop presence, officials said.

* Most employers won’t face a fine next year if they fail to offer workers health insurance, the Obama administration said Monday, in the latest big delay of the health-law rollout. The Treasury Department, in regulations outlining the Affordable Care Act, said employers with 50 to 99 full-time workers won’t have to comply with the law’s requirement to provide insurance or pay a fee until 2016.

* House Republican leaders tried Monday to build support for raising the federal debt limit by linking it to a reversal of planned cuts in some military pensions, working to overcome vocal opposition from conservatives in hopes of bringing it to a vote Wednesday.

* 400 workers at H.J. Heinz Co’s Idaho plant have become casualties in a cost-cutting campaign that is the talk of the food industry. Although Heinz had been considered one of the industry’s leanest organizations, the Brazilian lead investors, private-equity firm 3G Capital, believe they have identified plenty of fat.

* Billionaire investor Carl Icahn gave up his fight Monday to force Apple Inc to boost its share repurchase program by $50 billion.

* Nokia, whose mobile-device business will soon be bought by Microsoft, plans to introduce this month a smartphone powered by a version of Google’s Android mobile software, according to people familiar with the matter.

* KKR & Co is shuttering two funds for individual investors, a move that comes less than two years after the buyout firm launched them.

* The executive in charge of BlackBerry Ltd’s instant-messaging tool, BBM, has left the company, creating a hole in one of the smartphone company’s core offerings. Andrew Bocking, executive vice president in charge of BBM, “has made the decision to leave” the company, according to a BlackBerry spokeswoman.

* Rackspace Hosting Inc Chief Executive Lanham Napier stepped down from the Web infrastructure provider he led for nearly eight years, following a sharp slowdown last year that sank its stock.

* In a move to end misconceptions, General Motors Co said Chief Executive Mary Barra will be eligible for a $14.4 million pay package this year, a 60 percent increase over the compensation awarded to her predecessor Dan Akerson. The pay disclosure was in response to ongoing reports in both the mainstream media and on social websites accusing the Detroit auto maker of paying Barra less than Akerson.

* A leading bitcoin exchange Monday blamed a long-unresolved technical issue for its decision to abruptly halt customer withdrawals last week.

* The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is preparing to ease restrictions on swaps trading overseas, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could shift some trading abroad as banks and other firms look for ways to circumvent tough U.S. rules.



Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn gave up on his proposal that Apple Inc spend $50 billion on share buybacks before the end of September after the shareholder advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc recommended that investors vote against it.

UBS said it had put two Hong Kong-based bankers on leave as the lender investigates the appointment of Chinese banker with close connections to a potential Chinese corporate client.

Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin America, is closing in on an initial public offering after the U.S. carrier recorded its first profit since it was founded 10 years ago.

British and the Netherlands have filed a lawsuit for up to 556 billion Icelandic crowns ($4.85 billion) against Iceland’s deposit insurance fund, reigniting a controversial dispute over the collapse of online lender Icesave during the financial crisis in 2008.

Chinese carmaker BYD, backed by Warren Buffett, will on Tuesday launch London’s first ever all-electric taxi fleet, pulling ahead of rivals such as Nissan in the race to meet Mayor Boris Johnson’s zero emission cabs rule by 2018.



* Mary Barra, chief executive of General Motors Co, will earn as much as $14.4 million in compensation during her first year on the job, the company said on Monday.

* What was once the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, appeared near collapse on Monday, the latest symbol of the woes facing early players in the world of virtual currencies. A few days after cutting off withdrawals for customers, Mt. Gox said on Monday that its problems were a result of a more fundamental flaw in the computer program that underlies Bitcoin.

* Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is closing two mutual funds less than two years after it started them, a setback for the private equity giant as it looks to attract smaller investors.

* The court-appointed monitor in the Apple e-book price-fixing case can get back to work. A federal appellate court on Monday rejected Apple’s request to stay the monitor, Michael Bromwich, a Washington lawyer, from doing any more work pending the outcome of its challenge to a judge’s earlier order appointing the monitor in the first place.

* According to a lawsuit filed against the Justice Department on Monday, the crucial details of the $13 billion settlement deal with JPMorgan Chase were for the government’s eyes only. The lawsuit filed by Better Markets, a nonprofit group critical of Wall Street, challenged the constitutionality of the deal, a landmark settlement stemming from accusations that JPMorgan overstated the quality of mortgage securities it sold before the financial crisis.

* Goldman Sachs Group on Monday named Ashok Varadhan as co-head of the securities division, a significant promotion that has in the past paved the way to the bank’s upper echelons for other top-ranking executives.

* After six months of urging Apple Inc to pay out more money to shareholders, the billionaire Carl Icahn dropped his effort on Monday. His decision came after strong opposition from other big investors and an influential shareholder advisory firm. Still, Icahn may have prevailed in the end anyway, as Apple continued to emphasize returning money to investors.

* More people have gone to work during the past three months than at any time in decades. Those same three months have seen fewer jobs created than during any similar stretch in more than a year.




* A new strain of computer malware infecting payment card terminals in restaurant and gas station has compromised nearly 700 credit cards in Canada, a computer security firm says.

* The Conservative government is scrapping Canada’s decades-old immigrant investor program in the 2014 budget, ending a path to citizenship that has been criticized for allowing foreigners to buy their way into this country without generating sufficient long-term benefit.

Reports in the business section:

* A wide array of manufacturing groups and companies is urging the federal government to reach a free-trade agreement with South Korea, warning that Canada is being beaten by rivals in the race to do business with the fast-growing country.


* Toyota Motor Corp has just announced it would close its manufacturing plant in Melbourne, Australia, ending more than five decades of building cars in the country. On the heels of similar decisions by Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co, it means by 2017 Australia will no longer have an automobile manufacturing industry.

* Canada’s first Green member of a provincial legislature has shaken up the British Columbia anti-pipeline sector after expressing what appeared to be tacit support for a $25 billion refinery that would be built at the western edge of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.


* Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper remains relatively unperturbed about the drawn-out Keystone XL pipeline review, maintaining its approval is “inevitable.” As far as he is concerned, history and economics carry far more weight in Canada-United States relations than whoever happens to occupy the White House at a given moment.

* The Haisla First Nation is urging Ottawa to delay a decision on Enbridge Inc’s $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline, warning that a hasty approval “would be illegal” in the absence of “meaningful” consultation with aboriginal groups.




– China will strengthen guidance for industries suffering from industrial overcapacity, encouraging outbound investment to tap offshore demand.

– The Shanghai government has set the development of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone as a top policy priority for 2014.

– The ongoing antimonopoly investigation into Qualcomm Inc will create opportunities for local companies to catch up in technology and lower purchase cost in negotiation.


– More antitrust probes are in the pipeline, said an official with the State Council’s anti-corruption body, and regulators will add staff to handle the new investigations.


– Local airlines are warning passengers not to use third-party mobile apps to check in or get boarding passes. Air China and China Eastern both warned of apps such as those developed by VeryZhun, Lvmama and, saying the apps infringe on the carrier’s rights and are not supported.

– The Shanghai government will more tightly regulate the online finance sector as state media expresses concerns that high-yielding wealth management products like Alibaba’s Yu-ebao are risky.



The Telegraph


British banks will be benchmarked against one another other to track their performance, with lenders expected to publish figures ranging from the number of staff that make whistle-blowing complaints, to how many employees are in professional training.


The costs of decommissioning and re-processing at the Sellafield nuclear site are soaring to “astonishing” levels, with latest estimates putting the figure at more than 70 billion pounds ($114.79 billion), according to a committee of Members of Parliament.


Vittorio Colao, chief executive of Vodafone, has sounded a warning to American mobile operators eyeing the European market, telling them that they are unlikely to do a better job than the current players.


Ireland’s one-time richest man on Monday defended his decision to keep gambling on the success of the now defunct Anglo Irish Bank despite plunging share prices.

The Guardian


Mental health issues are costing Britain 70 billion pounds a year, the west’s leading economic thinktank said on Monday, as it urged the government to help those with depression, stress and anxiety into work.

The Times


Barclays rushed out its profits numbers a day ahead of schedule yesterday amid fears that price-sensitive information had been leaked.


The British and Dutch authorities are suing Iceland’s tiny depositor lifeboat fund for a sum equal to two thirds of the island nation’s GDP.


Glencore Xstrata is under pressure to explain its links to a controversial businessman after details of an new offshore loan emerged.

The Independent


Gatwick handled 6.6 percent more passengers in January compared to a year earlier as Brits headed east to escape the wet weather.


RWE Npower employs seven ‘meditation gurus’ to help staff deal with stress after the energy firm announced it would axe 1,400 jobs as part of a major business overhaul.



Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot


NFIB small business optimism index for January at 7:30–consensus 93.8
Wholesale trade inventories for December at 10:00–consensus 0.6%



Buckeye Partners (BPL) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Burlington Stores (BURL) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
CenturyLink (CTL) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie
Finisar (FNSR) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies
L’Oreal (LRLCY) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
ONEOK Partners (OKS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
Primerica (PRI) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
Ralph Lauren (RL) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Atlantic Equities
Reliance Steel (RS) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Steel Dynamics (STLD) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Tetra Technologies (TTI) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James


Advanced Photonix (API) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at B. Riley
Aircastle (AYR) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Annie’s (BNNY) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Apache (APA) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
Atlas Air (AAWW) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
BG Group (BRGYY) downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley
Carbonite (CARB) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Carnival (CCL) downgraded to Underperform from Hold at Jefferies
Grainger (GWW) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Goldman
Infoblox (BLOX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Needham
Insperity (NSP) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Roth Capital
Post Properties (PPS) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Raymond James
Qualys (QLYS) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at Pacific Crest (SOHU) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
TRI Pointe Homes (TPH) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at JMP Securities
U.S. Steel (X) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup


AT&T (T) initiated with a Buy at Drexel Hamilton
Ashford Hospitality Prime (AHP) initiated with a Buy at SunTrust
Cypress Energy (CELP) initiated with an Outperform at Raymond James
Hilton Worldwide (HLT) initiated with a Positive at Susquehanna
OncoMed (OMED) initiated with a Buy at Mizuho
RSP Permian (RSPP) initiated with an Overweight at Barclays
The Inventure Group (SNAK) initiated with an Outperform at Wedbush
Verastem (VSTM) initiated with a Buy at Mizuho
Xilinx (XLNX) initiated with a Buy at MKM Partners


Nestle (NSRGY), L’Oréal (LRLCY) boards unanimously approved sale of 48.5M shares
comScore (SCOR), Google (GOOG) partner to offer comScore vCE
Blount (BLT) said may report material weakness in Form 10-K, to consolidate North American lawn, garden blade ops
Rackspace (RAX) CEO Lanham Napier to retire, Chairman Graham Weston named CEO
ConAgra (CAG) said Ardent Mills transaction will be delayed, citing regulatory review
Cubic (CUB): FY12, FY13 financial statements cannot be relied upon, to be restated


Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Huntsman (HUN), Proto Labs (PRLB), Dr. Reddy’s Labs (RDY), Regal-Beloit (RBC), Owens & Minor (OMI), Markel (MKL), Flotek (FTK), Primerica (PRI), Waste Connections (WCN), Pioneer Natural (PXD), Danaos (DAC), CAI International (CAP)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Genesee & Wyoming (GWR), NGL Energy Partners (NGL), Masco (MAS), Forward Air (FWRD), Molina Healthcare (MOH), KapStone (KS), Wausau Paper (WPP)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Capstone Turbine (CPST), M/A-COM (MTSI), Immunomedics (IMMU), Rackspace (RAX), Qualys (QLYS)


Goldman’s (GS) Blankfein: Emerging markets stronger than in past, Bloomberg reports
Court denies Apple’s (AAPL) request to sideline e-book monitor, NY Times reports
Barclays (BCS) to cut up to 12,000 jobs this year, BBC News reports
Boeing (BA) faces production issues for 787 Dreamliner, Reuters reports
Whitney Tilson takes stake in magicJack (CALL), Bloomberg reports
Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation Vita to see North American release in spring, Engadget reports
Vodafone (VOD) CEO eyes strategic deals with $30B to $40B to spend, Reuters reports
KKR (KKR) closing two funds for individuals investors, WSJ reports


Aastrom (ASTM) files to sell 1.75M shares of common stock for holders
Atmos Energy (ATO) files to sell 8M shares of common stock
Canadian Solar (CSIQ) files to sell 2.6M shares; $100M convertible senior notes
Highwoods Properties (HIW) files to sell 3.62M shares for holders
Ironwood (IRWD) files to sell $150M in common stock
MacroGenics (MGNX) files to sell 2.5M shares for holders
MagneGas (MNGA) files to sell 5.6M shares for holders
Mattson (MTSN) 12.245M share Secondary priced at $2.45
Navios Maritime Partners (NMM) files to sell 5.5M common units for limited partners
Nephrogenex (NRX) 3.1M share IPO priced at $12.00
PTC Therapeutics (PTCT) files to sell $75M in common stock
Puma Biotechnology (PBYI) 980K share Secondary priced at $122.50
StealthGas (GASS) 3.4M share Secondary priced at $9.71
StoneMor Partners (STON) files to sell 1.8M common units for limited partners


via Zero Hedge Tyler Durden

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