- Nato chief defends eastern advance (FT)
- Russia looks east as it seeks to rebalance trade interests (FT)
- Plane from Guinea briefly quarantined in Paris after Ebola scare (AFP)
- US attacks Japan’s stance on Trans-Pacific Partnership (FT)
- Thank you IMF: Ukraine PM says will stick to austerity despite Moscow pressure (Reuters)
- U.S. Army seeks motive for Fort Hood shooting rampage (Reuters)
- China Slowdown Adds to Emerging-Market Growth Hurdles, IMF Says (BBG)
- Top investors press Allianz to step up oversight of Pimco (Reuters)
- U.S. to Evaluate Role in Mideast Peace Process, John Kerry Says (WSJ)
- ECB Addresses The Zero Lower Bound (FT)
- Scientists dismiss claims that Yellowstone volcano about to erupt (Reuters)
- Ukraine detains 12 riot police on suspicion of ‘mass murder’ (Reuters) – on CIA orders?
Overnight Media Digest
* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed on Thursday it continues to receive answers and documentation from General Motors Co regarding the ignition switch recall, but is yet to release a timetable on when the information will be made public. (http://link.reuters.com/sac38v)
* Anadarko Petroleum Corp agreed to pay $5.15 billion to settle fraud claims from a 2006 acquisition, making it the largest environmental settlement won by the U.S. government. The deal extracted a much heavier price than Anadarko had envisioned, but investors rejoiced at the resolution of a liability that could have run as high as $14 billion. (http://link.reuters.com/gac38v)
* Young workers in the United States signed up for employer-sponsored health plans at a lower rate than last year, a surprising result that kept overall workplace enrollment rates flat. (http://link.reuters.com/hac38v)
* Delta Air Lines Inc said it is considering buying up to 50 wide-body jetliners from Boeing Co and Airbus Group NV to replace its aging long-haul aircraft. (http://link.reuters.com/kac38v)
* U.S. ethanol and railroad industry groups clashed on Thursday over transportation constraints that have triggered soaring prices for the biofuel in recent weeks. Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said the “sheer chaos” of the rail system has pushed up prices for ethanol and caused consumers to pay more at the pump. (http://link.reuters.com/mac38v)
* Prescription-data provider IMS Health Holdings Inc said on Thursday that it has priced its initial public offering at $20 a share, raising $1.3 billion in the second-largest IPO in the United States so far this year. (http://link.reuters.com/pac38v)
* Exxon Mobil Corp agreed to publicly disclose more details on the risks of hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells, reversing a long-held opposition by environmental groups and investors. (http://link.reuters.com/qac38v)
* Chief Executive Brendan Eich resigned from Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox web browser, after intense criticism over his opposition to gay marriage. Six years ago, Eich made a $1,000 donation in support of a 2008 California ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. (http://link.reuters.com/wac38v)
* Imgur said on Thursday it raised $40 million from Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm and a small investment from Reddit, the forum that contributed to Imgur’s rapid ascent. A spokesman for Imgur said this is the company’s first major funding other than a $25,000 grant in 2010 from Ohio University, founder Alan Schaaf’s alma mater. (http://link.reuters.com/bec38v)
* The Pentagon is ready to pit entrepreneur Elon Musk against a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp in a contest to launch a military satellite next year. The joint venture, known as United Launch Alliance Llc, has held a near-monopoly on military and intelligence contracts since 2006. (http://link.reuters.com/dec38v)
* John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp will sell most of its roughly 17 percent stake in Barnes & Noble Inc. The stock is being acquired by institutional investors. Barnes & Noble has been grappling with heavy losses at its Nook device and e-book business as well as declining sales at its retail stores. (http://link.reuters.com/fec38v)
* Globalfoundries Inc has emerged as the leading candidate to buy International Business Machines Corp’s semiconductor-making operations. IBM also held talks with chip makers Intel Corp and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co but TSMC has dropped out of the talks. While Intel is still involved, Globalfoundries appears to have a stronger interest. (http://link.reuters.com/gec38v)
* Mylan Inc is looking at buying Swedish drug maker Meda AB. Executives at Mylan, which has a $18.5 billion market capitalization, have been open about doing a big acquisition. When announcing its fourth-quarter earnings in February, the company said it expected to do a “substantial deal” this year. (http://link.reuters.com/hec38v)
* Specialty retailer Brookstone Holdings Corp filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday with a plan to sell its business to an affiliate of Spencer Spirit Holdings Inc for $147 million. (http://link.reuters.com/jec38v)
* The Star-Ledger newspaper of Newark, will eliminate about 167 jobs, including a quarter of its journalists, the company’s publisher said on Thursday. The Star-Ledger is owned by the Advance Publications, which also owns magazine publisher Condé Nast and stakes in TV properties such as Discovery Communications Inc. (http://link.reuters.com/mec38v)
* The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved an injection that could be used by consumers to counteract an overdose of narcotic painkillers. The new product called Evzio, contains the drug naloxone used by paramedics as an injection to revive patients during an overdose of prescription pain drugs. (http://link.reuters.com/rec38v)
* General Motors Co said it expects to incur unexpected charges of $1.15 billion in its first quarter results. The automaker disclosed a $400 million charge on Thursday in response to the change in Venezuela’s exchange rate. The cost is in addition to the $750 million charge the Detroit-based GM is taking related to expenses associated with recalls announced since February. (http://link.reuters.com/tec38v)
U.S. generic drugmaker Mylan Inc is looking to make a takeover bid for European rival Meda AB in a deal that is expected to value the business to more than $23 billion.
Tesco finance director Laurie McIlwee is set to resign as early as next week, days before Britain’s biggest retailer is expected to announce another sharp decline in profitability.
Israeli digital ad firm Matomy Media Group <IPO-MMGP.L> scrapped its London IPO plans as the company could not meet UK listing requirements as well as due to the volatility in the ad technology sector.
Private equity groups Carlyle Group and PAI Partners entered exclusive talks to buy majority stake in French electrical gear maker Schneider Electric in a deal which would value the company’s sensor unit at $900 million including debt.
Switzerland’s second-largest bank Credit Suisse Group AG set aside an extra 425 million Swiss francs ($476.67 million)to settle a U.S. tax dispute.
Progress in export projects on liquefied natural gas in the U.S. is making the country a promising prospect for European players looking to enter the booming LNG revolution.
* General Motors Co confirmed on Thursday it had hired Jeff Eller as crisis management adviser. Eller, who cut his teeth in the Clinton administration, represented Firestone in its tire recall in 2000.
GM faces investigations over ignition switch defects linked to deadly crashes and mounting recalls. (http://link.reuters.com/nyb38v)
* Nest Labs, the home automation company recently acquired by Google Inc for $3.2 billion, said on Thursday it was halting sales of its smoke and carbon monoxide detector over safety concerns. (http://link.reuters.com/nec38v)
* Texas-based oil company Anadarko Petroleum Corp agreed to pay $5.1 billion for a vast environmental cleanup, a sum the Justice Department said was the largest it had ever won in such a case. (http://link.reuters.com/sec38v)
* Liberty Media Corp said on Thursday it would sell almost its entire position in Barnes & Noble Inc, removing one of the major backers as United States’ last major bookstore chain struggles to compete with Amazon.com Inc and navigate the shifting landscape for books and media. (http://link.reuters.com/vec38v)
* Opower Inc, an energy-saving company which helps utilities use competition among neighbors to encourage residential customers to cut their electric use, hopes to raise more than $100 million through a stock sale that could leave it with a value close to $1 billion. (http://link.reuters.com/buc38v)
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
* Conservative Party MP Eve Adams is vowing to fight allegations of improper conduct and unfair advantage in a heated Toronto-area nomination contest. The MP said a letter sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper by Oakville-area Conservative officials making accusations against her contained a “slew of inaccuracies.” (http://link.reuters.com/red38v)
* Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois pledged to cut taxes if her party wins the April 7 Quebec elections. Thursday’s announcement that Parti Quebecois would reduce personal-income and corporate payroll taxes appears designed to attract middle-class French-speaking voters, whom the party will need if it hopes to stay in power. (http://link.reuters.com/sed38v)
Reports in the business section:
* Hudson’s Bay Co Chief Executive Richard Baker said in an interview that it is “highly likely” that the company will spin out its valuable properties into a real estate investment trust. (http://link.reuters.com/xed38v)
* Dimitri Soudas, who was fired by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as executive director of the Conservative party, has claimed he actually “stepped down” from the high profile role. PM Harper has begun the hunt to find someone new to spearhead the Conservative party’s election preparedness for what is supposed to be a fall 2015 campaign. (http://link.reuters.com/hud38v)
* An American pilot was charged with multiple weapons-related offences after screening officers at the Calgary International Airport discovered a loaded handgun in a piece of luggage. (http://link.reuters.com/jud38v)
* Husky Energy Inc is mulling a LNG project in Canada’s Atlantic Coast amid interest from European countries looking to diversify their natural gas supplies away from Russia. (http://link.reuters.com/mud38v)
* Air Canada said it now expects its first quarter results to be roughly in line with last year after its revenue performance was stronger than expected. In February, Air Canada said it expected its EBITDAR earnings during the first quarter to fall by $15 million to $30 million compared to last year after severe weather, the weaker Canadian dollar and the impact of increased capacity in certain markets dragged on its earnings. (http://link.reuters.com/nud38v)
CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL
– The trial in a lawsuit filed by Yang Jianbo, the former head of brokerage Everbright Securities Co Ltd’s trading unit, was held at Beijing First Middle Court on Thursday. The court session focused on the identification of inside information and inside trading.
SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS
– Several state-owned firms in Shanghai including Bright Diary & Food Co Ltd, Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding Co Ltd and Shanghai Huayi Group Company have begun selling shares to investors as the local government accelerates ownership reforms for state-owned firms.
– Inventories of residential properties in 20 major Chinese cities hit 84 million square meters by the end of March, up 16.3 percent from a year earlier, the highest in five years, according to data from a real estate research institute in Shanghai.
– The bond ratings of nine listed companies have been cut to speculative grade by rating firms since the end of February, while only two were downgraded in the same period last year, highlighting rising risks of China’s corporate bond market.
– Denmark’s shipping conglomerate Maersk Line plans to expand its business in China, as more Chinese companies trade with emerging markets.
– China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba unveiled an online sales platform for brokerage products for financial institutions on Thursday. The platform will be operated by the newly established Shanghai Zhaocaibao Financial Service and Information Co.
PLAIN PACKAGING FOR CIGARETTES ‘CONTRAVENES EU LAW’
Tobacco companies have sent a thinly veiled warning to ministers that a decision to press ahead with plain packaging for cigarettes in England could be challenged through the courts.
TREASURY WOULD HAVE ‘OVERRULED’ REGULATOR IN FAVOUR OF CO-OP BID
Treasury lawyers clashed with financial regulators over the Co-op Bank aborted takeover of 632 Lloyds Banking Group branches after concerns were raised over the legal changes needed at the mutual to allow it to proceed with the deal.
SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE WILL BRING ‘GUARANTEED’ COSTS, WARNS WEIR GROUP
One of Scotland’s largest companies, Weir Group, believes that independence will “guarantee” higher costs for business but produce few and uncertain benefits.
TESCO FINANCE DIRECTOR LAURIE MCILWEE MAY QUIT AFTER FALL IN PROFITS
Speculation was growing that Tesco’s finance director, Laurie McIlwee, could quit in the coming days as the supermarket group battles shrinking sales and falling profitability.
CALL FOR TOP-RATE TAX CUT AFTER TREASURY’S 9 BLN STG BONUS
George Osborne is facing demands to cut the top rate of tax again to 40 pence after figures suggested the wealthy had paid more tax since he cut the 50 pence rate.
BLACKSTONE LOOKS TO BACK BUILDERS
Blackstone and other institutional investors, including Clearbell Capital, have invested 94 million pounds in Pluto Finance. This is in addition to the 100 million pounds raised last May and takes Pluto’s total lending firepower to 360 million pounds.
LLOYDS SEEKS APPROVAL TO BOOST PAY OF TOP 400
Lloyds Banking Group is to seek approval to boost the pay packets of up to 400 of its most senior staff in a move that could stoke political tensions over bankers’ remuneration.
MOULTON MULLS BID TO RESCUE AILING UK COAL
The veteran investor Jon Moulton is mulling a multimillion pound investment aimed at rescuing Britain’s biggest remaining coal miner from collapse.
Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot
Domestic economic reports scheduled today include:
Nonfarm payrolls for March at 8:30–consensus 200K
Unemployment rate for March at 8:30–consensus 6.6%
Anadarko (APC) upgraded to Overweight from Underweight at JPMorgan
Ann Inc. (ANN) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie
Artisan Partners (APAM) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
BlackRock (BLK) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
Dynegy (DYN) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at UBS
Eldorado Gold (EGO) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Canaccord
Emerge Energy Services (EMES) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at RW Baird
Finish Line (FINL) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
GameStop (GME) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Genesco (GCO) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Sterne Agee
Huntsman (HUN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
JPMorgan (JPM) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie
Myriad Genetics (MYGN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Mizuho
Pearson (PSO) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies
Potbelly (PBPB) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at William Blair
Scripps Networks (SNI) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Wunderlich
ServiceNow (NOW) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Evercore
Southwestern Energy (SWN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at ISI Group
Ultra Petroleum (UPL) upgraded to Neutral from Cautious at ISI Group
Antero Resources (AR) downgraded to Buy from Strong Buy at ISI Group
Cobalt (CIE) downgraded to Buy from Strong Buy at ISI Group
Franklin Resources (BEN) downgraded to Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
Hasbro (HAS) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Needham
PPL Corp. (PPL) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Macquarie
Sonic (SONC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Buckingham
Vodafone (VOD) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Nomura
Aruba Networks (ARUN) initiated with an Outperform at Northland Securities
Barracuda Networks (CUDA) initiated with an Outperform at Imperial Capital
Cisco (CSCO) initiated with an Outperform at Northland Securities
CoreSite Realty (COR) initiated with a Market Perform at Cowen
CyrusOne (CONE) initiated with an Outperform at Cowen
Digital Realty (DLR) initiated with an Underperform at Cowen
DineEquity (DIN) initiated with a Neutral at Longbow
DuPont Fabros (DFT) initiated with an Outperform at Cowen
F5 Networks (FFIV) initiated with a Market Perform at Northland Securities
Juniper (JNPR) initiated with a Market Perform at Northland Securities
Kodiak Oil & Gas (KOG) initiated with a Buy at BofA/Merrill
Micron (MU) assumed with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Netgear (NTGR) initiated with a Market Perform at Northland Securities
Nimble Storage (NMBL) initiated with an Overweight at Piper Jaffray
Oil States (OIS) initiated with a Neutral at BofA/Merrill
Ruckus Wireless (RKUS) initiated with a Market Perform at Northland Securities
Tetraphase (TTPH) initiated with a Buy at Brean Capital
General Motors (GM) said it expects $400M pre-tax charge on currency adjustment
Nest Labs (GOOG) halted sales of smart smoke alarms
Anadarko (APC) confirmed settlement of Tronox (TROX) Adversary Proceeding
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) named Ewen Stevenson as CFO
Scientific Games (SGMS) announced a three-year contract extension with the Delaware State Lottery
Homex Development (HXM) announced discussions regarding new credit facilities that will finance the construction of 8,000 new homes
Citigroup’s (C) Corbat enlisted Eugene McQuade to lead the CCAR process over next year
Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Micron (MU), SYNNEX (SNX), Global Payments (GPN)
Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Synergy Resources (SYRG), AZZ Inc. (AZZ)
Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
Franklin Covey (FC), SeaChange (SEAC)
Mylan (MYL) eyes takeover of Swedish rival Meda, FT reports
Meda chairman says firm had preliminary discussions with Mylan (MYL), Reuters says
JPMorgan (JPM) restructures chief investment office, FT says
McDonald’s (MCD) has ceased operations in Crimea, Reuters reports
Apple (AAPL) acquires Novauris, terms not disclosed, Re/code reports
Boeing (BA) weighs buy of Mercury Systems (MRCY), Reuters says
BofA (BAC) in talks for $800M settlement over credit card practices, WSJ says
Globalfoundries in lead to buy IBM (IBM) chip plants, TSMC (TSM) out of talks, WSJ says
Artisan Partners (APAM) files to sell 10.02M shares of Class A common stock
Five9 (FIVN) 10M share IPO priced at $7.00
GrubHub (GRUB) 7.41M share IPO priced at $26.00
IMS Health (IMS) 65M share IPO priced at $20.00
Intellicheck (IDN) 2.617M share Secondary priced at 80c
Intercept (ICPT) 1M share Secondary priced at $320.00
Old Second Bancorp (OSBC) 13.5M share Secondary priced at $4.40
Opower (OPWR) 6.1M share IPO priced at $19.00
SeaWorld (SEAS) 15M share Secondary priced at $30.00
Western Asset Mortgage (WMC) files to sell 13M common shares