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Murdoch’s new Sky bid should be probed says former UK minister

 

FILE PHOTO: Vince Cable during a keynote speech on the second day of Liberal Democrat party’s spring conference in Liverpool, northern England, March 14, 2015.REUTERS/Phil Noble/Files

Murdoch’s new Sky bid should be probed says former UK minister

By James Davey and Kate Holton | LONDON

Rupert Murdoch’s new takeover approach for British pay-TV firm Sky should be investigated by the UK’s competition authorities, according to opposition politicians, though analysts said a deal should be easier to get through this time round.

Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, who was Britain’s business secretary at the time of Murdoch’s first bid in 2010-11 told BBC radio the media tycoon’s new takeover attempt would not be in the public interest.

Cable referred Murdoch’s original bid to regulator Ofcom and said his latest offer should face the same scrutiny.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party and a critic of the Murdoch business family, also called on regulators to be ready to properly vet the deal – but did not oppose it outright.

On Friday, Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox said it had struck a preliminary deal to buy the 61 percent of Sky it does not own for around $14 billion. It came five years after a political scandal wrecked his previous bid.

That attempt to buy Sky through his News Corp business provoked uproar among some UK politicians, who said it would give the billionaire owner of The Sun and The Times newspapers too much control over Britain’s media.

It collapsed in 2011 when Murdoch’s UK newspaper business was engulfed in a phone-hacking scandal. It intensified political opposition, resulted in a criminal trial, and led to the closure of his News of the World tabloid newspaper.

Cable said the issue was the same five years on.

“This is yet again a threat to media plurality, choice, just as it was six years ago when I referred this to the competition authorities and it should be investigated,” he said.

“The ownership of the media, whether you’re looking at press, radio, television is very highly concentrated and this makes it even more concentrated.”

EASIER RIDE

However, analysts and Murdoch allies said Friday’s proposal was likely to have an easier ride, partly because News Corp has now separated from Fox, which means the bidding firm no longer owns UK newspapers, and because there are little or no competition issues, with very significant changes in the market for news in the UK since 2010.

They also said the British government was keen to promote investment in the wake of the Brexit vote and could present the deal as a sign of confidence in the economy.

Similarly Wilton Fry, analyst at stockbroker RBC Capital, saw “a high likelihood” of a deal being approved.

It will be up to Karen Bradley, the Conservative government’s culture, media and sport minister to decide whether the plurality situation has materially changed since 2010.

“Will the government really say he can’t own more than 39 percent of it? I don’t think so,” David Yelland, a former editor of Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, told Reuters.

“It takes a lot of negative energy to block a deal like this and I just don’t see it happening this time around.”

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Ros Russell)

Published at Sat, 10 Dec 2016 11:45:48 +0000

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FedEx CEO: Tearing up NAFTA would be ‘catastrophic’

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fred smith fedex

  @CNNMoneyInvest

Donald Trump’s trade threats are getting no love from Corporate America or Congress.

In some of the sharpest remarks since Trump’s victory, FedEx CEO Fred Smith warned about the dangers of clamping down on free trade, especially tearing up NAFTA, the free trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Getting out of NAFTA “would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy,” Smith said at a meeting on national competitiveness in Washington on Friday.

“Trade has made America great,” Smith said. Going the other way “would be a severe mistake with enormous consequences for America and the world.”

He pointed out that 25% of U.S. manufacturing jobs depend on shipments abroad. Overall, trade supports 40 million jobs in America.

Trump has called NAFTA “the worst trade deal,” and threatened to impose a 35% tariff on U.S. companies that move jobs to other countries.

“I believe there is a better way of solving a problem than getting into a trade war,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters earlier this week.

Trump blames NAFTA for the steep decline in manufacturing jobs in the United States over the past two decades.

However, Trump’s claim isn’t completely backed by research. While there have been job losses tied to NAFTA, most studies — even one from Congress — show that it wasn’t responsible for a mass exodus of manufacturing jobs. In fact, free trade with Mexico supports about 6 million current U.S. jobs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates.

Better technology — automation — is a bigger job killer than trade.

Trump’s recent deal with Carrier to save jobs in the U.S. has been in the headlines. As part of the deal Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, would make a $16 million technology investment in its Indiana facilities. That technology would end up taking away some jobs.

“What that ultimately means is there will be fewer jobs,” Greg Hayes, CEO of United Technologies(UTX), told CNBC earlier this week.

Smith, the FedEx (FDX) CEO, portrayed a gloomy future for America if Trump chose to fulfill his starkest campaign promises of high tariffs and torn up trade deals. He compared such a situation to America’s last trade war in the 1930s. All economists, even those on Trump’s staff, agree that situation made the Great Depression worse than it would have been otherwise.

It was sparked by the Smoot-Hawley Act, which raised tariffs on thousands of goods with the initial aim of protecting American farmers. Other countries retaliated against the U.S. with tariffs of their own. Global trade plunged.

“This misguided act of Congress ignited the Great Depression,” Smith argued Friday. “Protectionism doesn’t work.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story, citing Bloomberg, reported that the Chamber of Commerce said it’s vying to stop Trump from fulfilling his campaign promise to tear up NAFTA. The Chamber says it is open to NAFTA being updated, as necessary.

 CNNMoney (New York)First published December 9, 2016: 12:04 PM ET

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Exxon CEO is now Trump’s secretary of state favorite -transition official

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ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo

 

 

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo

Exxon CEO is now Trump’s secretary of state favorite -transition official

By Steve Holland | GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.

Exxon Mobil Corp Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson emerged on Friday as President-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate for U.S. secretary of state, a senior transition official said.

Trump met Tillerson on Tuesday and may talk to him again over the weekend, the official said. Trump appears to be in the final days of deliberations over his top diplomat with an announcement possible next week.

Tillerson’s favored status was revealed as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani formally withdrew from consideration for secretary of state.

The transition official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tillerson, 64, had moved ahead in Trump’s deliberations over 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has met Trump twice, including at a dinner in New York.

But the official said Romney was still under consideration for the job, along with John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, and retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis.

Giuliani’s withdrawal came after he was fully vetted by the Trump transition team for his overseas business ties in what was described by the Trump official as an “intense” effort by lawyers and accountants.

Giuliani, who runs a global consulting firm, was given a clean bill of health, with Trump’s aides concluding his business interests would not pose a risk to his confirmation.

Should Tillerson be nominated, his business ties, too, will come under scrutiny. Exxon Mobil has operations in more than 50 countries and boasts that it explores for oil and natural gas on six continents.

In 2011, Exxon Mobil signed a deal with Rosneft, Russia’s largest state-owned oil company, for joint oil exploration and production. Since then, the companies have formed 10 joint ventures for projects in Russia.

In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson his nation’s Order of Friendship.

But U.S. sanctions against Russia for its incursion into Crimea cost Exxon Mobil dearly, forcing it to scrap some projects and costing it at least $1 billion in losses. Tillerson has been a vocal critic of the sanctions.

Trump has spoken of wanting warmer relations with Moscow, which has sparked concerns in Congress that he could lift or loosen some of the sanctions on Russia.

Tillerson has been chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil since 2006. He is expected to retire from the company next year.

Should Tillerson be nominated, climate change could be another divisive issue. The company is under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office for allegedly misleading investors, regulators and the public on what it knew about global warming.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and James Oliphant; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

 

 

Published at Sat, 10 Dec 2016 01:34:14 +0000

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Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox bids $14 billion for UK’s Sky

by Skitterphoto from Pixabay

Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox bids $14 billion for UK’s Sky

Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O) has struck a preliminary deal to buy the 61 percent of British pay-TV firm Sky Plc SKY.L it does not already own for around $14 billion, five years after a political scandal wrecked a previous bid.

 

The proposed offer of 10.75 pounds a share in cash, which is backed by Sky’s independent directors, would strengthen the position of James Murdoch – who is both chief executive of Fox and chairman of Sky – in his 85-year-old father’s media empire.

 

People familiar with the matter said Fox had pounced after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June sent the pound down about 14 percent against the U.S. dollar and Sky’s share price tumbling.

 

Owning Sky would give Fox, whose cable networks include Fox News and FX, control of a pay-TV network spanning 22 million households in Britain, Ireland, Austria, Germany and Italy.

 

It would also be the latest deal to marry distribution with content after AT&T Inc (T.N) announced an $85 billion bid to buy Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) earlier this year. While Sky does produce some of its own content, including in news and sport, the deal would give Fox full ownership of a wider distribution platform in Europe.

 

“Fox has always seen its 39 percent stake in Sky as an unnatural state of being and has long been trying to buy full control,” a person familiar with the deal said.

 

“Now it was the perfect moment. With the weak pound (and lower stock price), Sky has become 40 percent cheaper and the government is supportive of almost any investment in Britain.”

 

Rupert Murdoch’s previous attempt to buy Sky through his News Corp (NWSA.O) business provoked uproar among some UK politicians, who said it would give the billionaire owner of The Sun and The Times newspapers too much control over the country’s media.

 

That bid collapsed in 2011 when Murdoch’s UK newspaper business was engulfed in a phone hacking scandal that intensified political opposition, resulted in a criminal trial and led to the closure of his News of the World tabloid.

 

Liberum analysts said Friday’s proposal was likely to have an easier ride, partly because News Corp has now separated from Fox, which means the bidding firm no longer owns UK newspapers, and because there are no competition issues.

 

 

They also said the British government was keen to promote investment in the wake of the Brexit vote and could present the deal as a sign of confidence in the economy.

 

Prime Minister Theresa May met Rupert Murdoch after a visit to the United Nations in September, according to media reports.

 

Fox said it would reinforce Britain’s standing as a top global hub for content generation and technological innovation.

 

Tom Watson, deputy leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party and a key critic of the Murdochs during the 2011 scandal, called on regulators to be ready to properly vet the deal – but did not oppose it outright.

 

“This bid has been expected since 2011,” he said.

 

 

JAMES TIGHTENS GRIP

 

Fox’s proposed bid is a 36.2 percent premium to Sky’s closing share price on Thursday. It values the company at about 18.5 billion pounds ($23.2 billion) and the stake Fox does not already own at 11.25 billion pounds, according to Reuters calculations.

 

Martin Gilbert, a member of Sky’s board who will assess the bid as part of its independent committee, told Reuters the offer was a good premium worth presenting to shareholders.

 

Even so, analysts at Citi characterized the offer as a “low-ball bid,” citing a fair value assessment of 13.50 pounds per share.

 

 

Sky’s shares closed up 26.7 percent at around 10 pounds, while Fox’s were down 1.8 percent at $28.12 at 2020 GMT.

 

Before Friday’s surge, Sky’s shares had dropped 30 percent this year in part due to concerns of an UK economic slowdown caused by Brexit.

 

The deal has also been made more attractive for Fox by a drop in the value of sterling, which makes it cheaper for foreign firms to buy UK assets. British tech company ARM was snapped up by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T) in the days after the Brexit vote and shares in UK commercial broadcaster ITV (ITV.L) Plc closed up 5 percent on Friday on speculation it could be next.

 

Long tipped as his father’s successor, James Murdoch’s reappointment as chairman of Sky earlier this year reignited speculation of another bid approach by Fox.

 

Britain’s takeover watchdog has set Fox a deadline of Jan. 6 to make a firm bid or walk away. Sky said that “certain material offer terms” remained under discussion, and that there could be no certainty that an offer would be made by Fox.

 

The terms still under discussion include the size of the break-up fee, as well as some other contractual obligations of the two companies to close the deal, according to people familiar with the matter. These are not expected to present any major hurdle to agreeing a deal, the people added.

 

Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE) and Centerview Partners Holdings LLC are advising Fox, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) also provided it with some advice. PJT Partners Inc (PJT.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and Barclays Plc (BARC.L) ‎are working with Sky.

 

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle in London, Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang, Mark Potter and Lisa Shumaker)

 
Published at Sat, 10 Dec 2016 01:10:14 +0000

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HBO, Netflix Get VR Upgrades

by fill from Pixabay

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HBO, Netflix Get VR Upgrades

Virtual reality (VR) entertainment is slowly making its way to every mainstream platform. Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) will get there with help from Google and its Daydream View headset.

For those unfamiliar, the Daydream isn’t a stand-alone headset but a device into which users must plug a compatible phone. Add VR-compatible apps, turn on the View, and you’ve immersive VR. HBO and Netflix have already upgraded their apps, which means it’s now possible to watch fully immersive episodes of Game of Thrones or any of Netflix’s Marvel TV series, for example.

Why should investors care? While we’re still in the early stages of the VR revolution, analysts are projecting huge growth in the years to come. IDC says the market is on pace to grow more than 181% annually between 2015 and 2020 if you also count augmented reality (AR) platforms and applications such as Pokemon Go. With numbers like that, Netflix and Time Warner shareholders should want to see as many experiments and deployments as possible.

Over time, it’s possible we’ll see both studios developing original VR and AR concepts. For now, though, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he’d rather stick with formats that lend themselves to binge watching. “We are more focused on a lean-back, relaxing experience,” he said in a May interview with VentureBeat.

Warner, for its part, isn’t just placing content on platforms like Daydream. Earlier this year the company’s HBO subsidiary joined Discovery Communications in making an equity investment in privately held OTOY, which specializes in 3D holographic content. Comedian Jon Stewart is also working with OTOY to produce new programming for HBO, though it isn’t yet clear exactly what he has in mind.

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the point is that IDC’s crazy estimates suggest we’ll see many more investments — in both companies and content — in the years to come, which makes the VR market a must-follow for any investor interested in emerging technologies.

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Tim Beyers owns shares of Netflix and Time Warner.

Published at Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:04:03 +0000

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Will Sony Win With Marvel’s “Spider-Man” Makeover?

by theTEJESHWARMAGAR from Pixabay

Will Sony Win With Marvel’s “Spider-Man” Makeover?

A teaser trailer for Spider-Man’s latest adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe went up on Wenesday, energizing fans who’ve been waiting for Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is headed to the big screen on July 7, 2017.

Investors should be similarly excited. Not investors in Disney, which now owns Marvel — investors on Sony (NYSE: SNE). A February 2015 deal to allow the web-slinger to appear in Marvel Studios’ movies allows Sony to continue making (and profiting from) films starring Spidey. The House of Mouse won’t share in the profits.

If that sounds strange, that’s because it is. For years, investors have been treated to unofficial reports of fighting between Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ: FOX)(NASDAQ: FOXA), which controls rights to Marvel characters tied to the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. Only recently have Fox and Marvel begun cooperating to support the upcoming FX television series Legion, which tells the story of a team of young mutants set in Fox’s version of the Marvel Universe. The structure of Sony’s deal with Marvel may have influenced the thaw.

According to a February report in Variety, Sony retains not only the rights to make Spiderman movies at its discretion but also keep the profits. Marvel and its parent will consult on those films and retain the right to add Spidey to MCU movies. And the price of this deal? Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Sony investors must be loving this arrangement, especially after the disaster that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The lowest grossing of Sony’s five films starring the wall-crawler — both globally and domestically — ASM 2 got approval from just 52% of critics and 65% of audiences, who also gave it a “meh” B+ CinemaScore. Combined the ratings help to explain why Sony chose to partner with Marvel and give actor Tom Holland a shot as the hero.

If the box office numbers from his first movie appearance, in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, are any indicator — $408.1 million domestically, $1.15 billion worldwide — it was a smart decision. And this time, with Homecoming, it’s Sony that will reap the financial rewards.

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Published at Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:35:02 +0000

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Column: How part-time work hurts U.S. workers’ retirement security

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A cashier holds hundred dollar bills up to the light on the Thanksgiving Day holiday in Manchester, New Hampshire November 22, 2012.REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Column: How part-time work hurts U.S. workers’ retirement security

By Mark Miller | CHICAGO

The Great Recession took any number of wrecking balls to the retirement security of American workers, including wages and pension benefits, home equity and savings. But one of the less understood areas of hurt continues to this day: part-time work.

The recession pushed the U.S. part-time labor force to 20.1 percent in January 2010 from just under 17 percent, and it remains high today at 18.3 percent of the workforce, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

New research from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows who that trend is hurting most when it comes to saving for retirement: young people, Latinos and African-Americans.

These workers tend to be employed in “lower-hour” industries where part-time work is more prevalent, including retail trade, arts, entertainment, recreation, hospitality and food service. And they are far less likely to have a retirement plan – or other benefits, such as health insurance and paid time off.

The availability of a workplace plan is a key component of success in building savings for retirement. Often, enrollment is automatic when workers start new jobs, as are the pretax contributions that follow. “It’s all about providing access,” said John Scott, director of Pew’s retirement savings project. “For the most part, people take advantage of the opportunity to save if it’s easy.”

For young people, lack of access is especially troubling because getting an early start on retirement saving is the financial equivalent of low-hanging fruit. The magic of compounding means that early starters can do more with less, accumulating savings with lower contribution rates.

For minority workers, the access problem is a key driver of retirement security later in life – namely, the yawning racial divide in retirement savings that has been evident for years. Savings among nonwhite households near retirement (age 55-64) average $30,000 – four times less than white households, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security.

Pew’s research, based on U.S. Census Bureau survey data, found that 56 percent of part-time workers in lower hour industries do not have access to a 401(k) or other retirement plan, compared with just 29 percent of fulltime workers in higher hour industries. And when a plan is offered, participation rates also are lower than average for part-time workers.

CLOSING THE GAP

The gaps affect millennials and minorities disproportionately. Nearly 39 percent of millennials work in lower-hour industries, compared with 20 percent of older workers. Meanwhile, 28 percent of Hispanics and 26 percent of African-Americans work in lower hour jobs, compared with 23 percent of whites.

The gaps could close somewhat if the economy continues to expand, creating more full-time jobs in high-hour industries, such as manufacturing, construction, technology, education and healthcare. But policy advocates also have called for structural changes to workplace savings plans to encourage higher coverage rates for part-time workers.

A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published in October noted that even long-term part-time workers can be excluded from retirement plans if they work less than 1,000 hours annually (about 19 hours weekly). The Obama administration proposed in its 2017 budget to drop that ceiling to 500 hours annually over a three-year period.

The GAO’s study concluded that plan rules on eligibility and vesting pose a significant barrier that should be tackled through reforms of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). For example, “last day” rules used by some plans require workers to be employed on the last day of the year to receive an employer match. And some plans prohibit participation by workers younger than 21 years old.

GAO also urged Congress to consider re-evaluation of rules on vesting in light of rising workforce mobility. The report found, for example, that if a worker leaves two jobs after two years, at ages 20 and 40, where the plan requires three years for full vesting, the employer contributions forfeited could be worth $81,743 at retirement (in future dollars).

Finally, improving overall availability of workplace saving should be a priority, since roughly half of all workers have no access to a workplace retirement plan. Some states, led by California and Illinois, are creating their own programs for uncovered workers that would require employer participation (reut.rs/2dAT4pW).

In September, the Senate Finance Committee sent legislation to the full Senate (the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act of 2016) calling for changes to ERISA to allow employers from different industries to band together to create “pooled plans” as a way of reducing expense and administrative burdens of plan sponsorship.

If you are curious about how retirement coverage stacks up where you work, check this interactive tool created by Pew ((bit.ly/1Ps88zT), which lets users visualize retirement plan access and participation rates by a variety of factors, including age, gender, state, income level and industry.

(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.)

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Published at Thu, 08 Dec 2016 12:11:43 +0000

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Report: Time Hires Banks to Help in Potential Sale

by nile from Pixabay

Report: Time Hires Banks to Help in Potential Sale

The ever-shifting media landscape looks as if it might be hit with another tremor before long. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, citing “people familiar with the matter,” storied magazine publisher Time (NYSE: TIME) has drafted a pair banks to help it evaluate buyout and partnership offers from outside parties. The two banks are Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, the report said.

The article comes shortly after reports appeared in other media that a consortium of investors, headed by onetime Time Warner Music chairman Edgar Bronfman, offered $18 to $20 per share in cash for the company. Time apparently turned down the offer, which would have been worth as much as $2 billion in total. That per-share price range represents a premium of at least 30% on Time’s closing stock price the day before those reports were published.

Neither Time nor the two mentioned banks have yet commented on the Journal‘s article.

Time has not been a stellar performer since being spun off from former parent Time Warner in June 2014. Its revenue has eroded, while in three of its previous five quarters it has posted net losses. Despite a recent uptick due to the takeover speculation, its share price is 15% lower than on the day it hit the stock exchange as an independent entity. By contrast, its former parent has taken off — Time Warner stock has risen by nearly 35% across that same stretch of time.

The Journal article stressed that, despite the potential investor interest and the hiring of the banks, there is no guarantee a sale will ultimately occur.

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Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned.

Published at Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:30:04 +0000

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Trump sold stocks, but what about his hedge fund millions?

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Donald Trump is Time’s Person of the Year

Trump sold stocks, but what about his hedge fund millions?

  @byHeatherLong

Donald Trump no longer owns any stocks.

He sold all of them in June, he says, because he was worried about conflicts of interest.

“I don’t think for me to be owning stocks when I’m making deals for this country that maybe will affect one company positively and one company negatively — I just felt it was a conflict,” Trump said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show.

But here’s the catch: Trump wasn’t just invested in stocks. He also had his millions invested in hedge funds. The same conflict of interest concerns apply to hedge funds as well.

The Trump transition team did not respond to CNNMoney’s repeated requests for clarification on whether Trump also sold his hedge funds.

Trump’s potential hedge fund problem

If he hasn’t sold, Trump’s decisions as president will almost certainly affect the performance of his hedge fund holdings too.

In fact, they already have. Here’s one example: According to his latest financial disclosure in May, Trump is invested in three hedge funds run by John Paulson, a major donor to his campaign and the Republican Party this year.

Paulson is famous for making a lot of money during the financial crisis. He was one of the few investors who recognized the U.S. housing market was in a major bubble. He bet that a lot of Americans wouldn’t be able to pay their mortgages — and he was right. He made billions when the rest of Wall Street and Main Street suffered huge losses, or were wiped out, in the 2008-09 crash.

But Paulson has struggled in recent years. Bloomberg reported that the Paulson Partners Fund, which Trump was invested in (and may still be), was down 22% between January through September.

However, Paulson’s fortunes may be looking up again since Trump was elected. Some of his funds have had a major uptick and he can thank Trump for that.

Two of his big investments, Fannie and Freddie stocks, are up 150% since Trump appointed Steve Mnuchin as his Treasury Secretary. One of the first things Mnuchin did after his nomination was to go on Fox Business and say, “We’ve got to get them out of government control.”

The stocks jumped. Paulson made money. So did Trump, if he still owns those hedge funds.

Paulson had bet big on Fannie (FNMA) and Freddie (FMCC)(known officially as the Federal National Mortgage Association and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation). The government took control of Fannie and Freddie during the crisis. Most of the profits Fannie and Freddie receive go directly to the U.S. Treasury. But Trump’s nominee for Treasury Secretary wants to change that so that profits would flow to shareholders instead of the government.

Stocks soar 150% thanks to Trump

“Mnuchin was a business partner of Paulson’s. The connections seem really close,” says Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, a watchdog group.

Trump is planing a major announcement December 15 on what he will do with his business empire when he is sworn in as president. Whether he will discuss his hedge fund holdings isn’t clear. Typically, presidents put their investments into a blind trust that someone else controls. Or they do what President Obama did and invest only in “plain vanilla” government bonds and index funds like the S&P 500.

“Trump just needs to liquidate everything. There’s just no way to balance these things out,” says Hauser.

Verifying that Trump really did sell all his stocks is difficult. His last financial disclosure came in May 2016 — a month before Trump says he sold his stocks.

Trump isn’t required to submit another disclosure to the Office of Government Ethics until May 2018.

Back in May, Trump disclosed that he owned 100 individual company stocks, including Apple(AAPL, Tech30), Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30), Pepsi (PEP)and GE (GE). It sounds like a lot, but his stock holdings added up to a mere $10 million — a small fraction of his overall business empire that he says is worth billions.

Trump reported up to $85 million invested in hedge funds in his May disclosure, according to a CNNMoney analysis.

Here are Trump’s hedge fund holdings and the amount in each (according to his May 2016 disclosure):

1. BlackRock Obsidian Fund: $25 million to $50 million.

(BlackRock (BLK) CEO Larry Fink is one of 16 CEOs on a new economic advisory team for Trump.)

2. Paulson Credit Opportunities: $1 million to $5 million.

(John Paulson was a major campaign donor to Trump and the Republican Party in 2016.)

3. Paulson Advantage Plus: $1 million to $5 million.

4. Paulson Partners: $1 million to $5 million.

5. AG Diversified Strategies: $1 million to $5 million.

6. AG Eleven Partners: $1 million to $5 million.

7. Midocean Credit Opportunities Fund: $1 million to $5 million.

8. Advantage Advisers Xanthus Fund: $1 million to $5 million.

Trump’s total hedge fund holdings: $32 million to $85 million.

 CNNMoney (New York)First published December 8, 2016: 4:24 PM ET

My Trading Journal: 30 Day Trading Journal

Published at Thu, 08 Dec 2016 21:24:27 +0000

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Saudi Arabia tells oil buyers of cuts after OPEC deal, PIRA says

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A gas flame is seen in the desert near the Khurais oilfield, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2008.REUTERS/Ali Jarekji/File Photo

Saudi Arabia tells oil buyers of cuts after OPEC deal, PIRA says

Saudi Arabia is informing its customers of cuts to their January crude oil supplies to comply with the latest OPEC agreement, according to a PIRA note late on Thursday.

The note adds that cuts will be to varying degrees, but is likely to be larger to North America due to lower margins.

Last week, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to scale back output, its first cut since 2008.

(Reporting by Catherine Ngai; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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Published at Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:41:53 +0000

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T-Mobile DIGITS Offers One Phone, Many Numbers

by Unsplash from Pixabay

T-Mobile DIGITS Offers One Phone, Many Numbers

By Investopedia | December 7, 2016 — 6:38 PM EST

Given the incredible power of modern smartphones, it has always seemed a bit bizarre that in most cases, they only let you use a single phone number.

Yes, there are apps that offer workarounds to solve that problem, no major wireless carrier offered its customers the ability to have multiple numbers on a single phone, Now, however, T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) has answered that challenge with a new product, DIGITS.

With DIGITS, individuals can have their work, home, and personal lines all ring on the same phone. In addition, the new technology also lets customers have their T-Mobile number work on “virtually all your connected devices — phones, tablets, wearables and computers,” the company said in a press release.

“Phones today are nothing like they were just a decade ago, but the phone number has basically stayed the same forever. It’s time to shake things up!” said CEO John Legere. “DIGITS works just like your T-Mobile phone number, except it is way more powerful. DIGITS works across virtually ALL your devices, and those devices can have multiple numbers on them. And this is my favorite part: you can even use DIGITS on Verizon, AT&T and other smartphones!”

Who is this for?

T-Mobile pointed out in its press release that over 30 million Americans carry more than one device, with many of those carrying two phones for business, personal, or other reasons. DIGITS makes that unnecessary.

“If you juggle identical phones with work and personal numbers, you can stop paying for two devices, two plans and two times the network access fees — a practice that costs US wireless customers an extra $10 BILLION every year,” the company wrote. “And, you’ll never have to compromise your security by giving out your personal number because you can use an extra set of DIGITS any time you don’t want to give out your primary phone number.”

That makes this smart technology for people who use separate business and personal numbers. It’s also going to be a boon for anyone wary about giving out their regular number to someone they just met.

What happens next?

T-Mobile customers can sign up to be part of the Beta test for DIGITS. To take part consumers will need Android 5.0 and newer, iOS 9.0 and newer; or Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome (on their non-phone devices). The company has not specified what the eventual fees will be for the service, but it noted in the press release that any charges will be refunded during the beta period.

This is T-Mobile once again doing something other carriers have not been able or willing to do. It’s a useful service that many people will take advantage of. It may not be enough to get dedicated fans of other carriers to make the switch, but it could be the tipping factor for people on the fence.

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Published at Wed, 07 Dec 2016 23:38:03 +0000

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Western Digital Guidance May Signal PC Turnaround

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Western Digital Guidance May Signal PC Turnaround

By Alan Farley | December 7, 2016 — 11:13 AM EST

Data storage giant Western Digital Corp. (WDC) gave the beaten down tech sector a lift on Tuesday evening, raising second quarter guidance while renewing a patent cross-license agreement with Samsung. The S&P 500 component gapped up at Wednesday’s opening bell, held gains in excess of 5% through the first hour of the session and could trade even higher in coming days.

PC peripheral stocks have struggled in recent years due to the exodus from home computers into tablets and smartphones. The industry now expects 2016 to end with a 6.4% sales decline, which is lower than previous estimates. Negative growth is expected to continue in 2017 at a slower pace, with analysts projecting a 2.6% annual decline while looking for overall flat sales into 2020.

WDC Long-term Chart (1993-2016)

WDC

The stock bottomed out at $1.00 in 1991 following a 4-year downtrend and turned higher, returning to the 1987 high at $16.32 in 1996. It broke out and zoomed higher, peaking at $54.75 one year later. The Dot-com bubble failed to end the subsequent downtrend, which carved a series of volatile lows into the 2001 bottom at $1.95, less than a point above the 1991 low.

It completed a 4-year basing pattern in 2003 and broke out above resistance at $8.80, entering an uptrend that carved several deep corrections into the June 2008 peak at 40.00. The stock turned sharply lower with world markets during the economic collapse, finding support at the base breakout in November. The subsequent recovery wave unfolded at the same trajectory as the prior decline, completing a V-shaped 100% retracement in November.

Price action then eased into a multi-year range, finally breaking out in 2013. It rallied through the 1997 high a few months later and continued to gain ground into its December 2014 all-time high at $114.69. The subsequent downtrend did extensive technical damage, with the stock losing 70% of its value into the May 2016 low at $34.99. The bounce since that time has carved a rising wedge pattern that’s undermined momentum after each small-scale breakout.

WDC Short-Term Chart (2014 – 2016)

WDC

The decline that started at the end of 2014 cut through the 1997 high at the start of 2016 signaling a major failure and remounted that level in September. This turnaround issued a 2B buy signal, which denotes the failure of bears to hold a resistance level, confirmed by higher prices into December. However, the rally has failed to build enough momentum to break free from the rising wedge pattern and make significant upside progress.

The stock gapped above the .386 retracement level after Wednesday’s opening bell, but it’s too early to tell if that gap will hold. If successful, the door will open to a continued advance that faces massive resistance in the mid-70s, where the .50 retracement level and broken third quarter lows have narrowly aligned. That barrier warns trend followers to expect a back-and-fill tape rather than quick recovery into triple digits.

On Balance Volume (OBV) fell to a 3-year low in May 2016 and turned higher, gaining ground at a faster pace than price. This signals a bullish divergence that predicts higher prices in coming months. In fact, this volume pattern contradicts the more bearish price pattern, telling us buyers will stay in control of price action well into 2017. At a minimum, it warns short sellers to look elsewhere for exposure.

The Bottom Line

Western Digital rose more than 6% on Wednesday morning after raising guidance and renewing a patent cross-license agreement with Samsung. The rally has lifted the stock to a 13-month high in the upper 66s, with good odds for continued gains into strong resistance in the mid-70s.

Disclosure: The author held no position in Western Digital at the time of publication

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Published at Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:13:00 +0000

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Exclusive: In mammoth task, BP sends almost three million barrels of U.S. oil to Asia

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Exclusive: In mammoth task, BP sends almost three million barrels of U.S. oil to Asia

By Florence Tan
| SINGAPORE

Oil major BP (BP.L) is shipping almost three million barrels of U.S. crude to customers across Asia, pioneering a lengthy and complex operation likely to become more popular after OPEC last week announced deep production cuts.

BP’s efforts, involving one of the world’s longest sea routes, seven tankers and a series of ship-to-ship transfers, underscore a desire among oil traders to develop new routes to sell swelling supplies of cheap U.S. shale oil to Asia, the world’s biggest consumer region.

While exports of U.S. crude have been allowed since a 40-year ban was lifted a year ago, the distance, cost and complexity of shipping to Asia has so far kept the flow to a trickle.

Now, using its global shipping and trading network, BP was able to grapple with U.S. port limitations and the need to transfer oil between ships off Malaysia to split cargoes for customers across Asia, according to trade sources and shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon.

“Keeping regional price differentials, different tanker rates, and the forward price curve in mind while considering the delivery needs and schedules of your counterparties is not something many oil trading firms can do,” said a shipping source in Singapore, who had knowledge of the operations.

“BP is one of perhaps half a dozen firms capable of doing so,” he added, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to publicly discuss operations.

BP declined to comment.

(For graphic on U.S. shale costs falling, click tmsnrt.rs/2fO4b17)

OPEC INCENTIVE

While BP’s operations are currently the most sophisticated, others have also begun developing U.S./Asia trade.

China’s Unipec, the trading arm of Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec (600028.SS), is shipping about 2 million barrels of WTI to China this month, while trading house Trafigura is also exporting some 2 million barrels of U.S. oil to Asia.

Incentives to bring U.S. crude into Asia have risen after the Middle East-led producer club of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia agreed to cut output, encouraging refiners across the region to seek alternatives to offset potential supply shortfalls.

“OPEC is putting U.S. shale oil to the test… (and) we will truly see what it can deliver,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodity analyst at SEB. He predicted 2017 would be a “shale oil party” with a surge in U.S. exports after the OPEC production cuts.

The operation to send the oil, worth around $150 million, to Asia-Pacific buyers lasted four months and involved BP traders in the United States and Singapore, while colleagues from London were responsible for ship chartering, the sources said and data showed.

BP took advantage of arbitrage between cheaper U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CLc1 crude and the global benchmark Brent LCOc1.

The deal was aided by cheap tanker rates and a price/time curve, where future oil deliveries are more expensive than those for immediate discharge, making sourcing oil from as far away as North America profitable.

FROM GOLA TO MALAYSIA

BP’s operations to Asia kicked off in mid-September, when it chartered the large Suezmax-class tanker Felicity to load crude from the smaller Aframax-class vessel Eagle Stavanger in the Galveston Offshore Lightering Area (GOLA) off Texas.

Days later, also at GOLA, BP transferred oil from three Aframax-class tankers to the C. Excellency, a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC).

The transfers were necessary as American ports cannot load oil on the biggest tankers.

A VLCC can carry 2 million barrels of oil, enough to meet two days’ worth of Britain’s consumption, while a Suezmax and an Aframax can load 1 million barrels and 800,000 barrels, respectively.

Too big for the Panama Canal, the Felicity and C. Excellency sailed around South Africa to the Linggi International Transhipment Hub in Malaysia where their cargoes were split up again for delivery across Asia-Pacific.

In late October, the Felicity transferred part of its oil to the smaller Aframax Taurus Sun, which then delivered 300,000 barrels of WTI Midland crude to Thailand, according to shipping data.

The C. Excellency received the rest of the Felicity’s cargo in Malaysia, then transferred oil to Aframax-class British Gannet in November.

On Wednesday, shipping data shows that the British Gannet docked at BP’s Kwinana refinery in Perth, Australia to make its final delivery. The cargo will have traveled more than 16,000 nautical miles (30,000 km) from GOLA.

Meanwhile, C. Excellency received some fuel from another super-tanker, the Gener8 Andriotis, and this week headed to Sriracha in Thailand to deliver 300,000 barrels of WTI, shipping data showed. Sources involved with the shipment said some of that oil would likely proceed to Japan.

While BP’s operation stands out size and complexity, more long-haul trades are likely.

“As Middle East producers and Russia are due to cut their output, large crude buyers (in Asia)… will likely import an incremental amount from longer-haul sources,” said Erik Nikolai Stavseth from Norway’s Arctic Securities.

(Additional reporting by Liz Hampton and Marianna Parraga in HOUSTON, Catherine Ngai in NEW YORK, and Keith Wallis in SINGAPORE; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Lincoln Feast)

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Published at Wed, 07 Dec 2016 06:52:58 +0000

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Hidden credit card perks can save shoppers

by stevepb from Pixabay

 

Want to save a few quick bucks on your holiday shopping? Your credit card may offer some little-known perks that could save you money both upfront and after the purchase.

Of the 100 most popular credit cards, 81 offered some kind of extended warranty, according to a study released on Wednesday from Creditcards.com, a card rating website run by Bankrate.com (RATE.N).

Just over half had purchase security, useful if your item is lost or stolen and the retailer or shipping company does not make good on the loss. Forty-seven cards had price protection, meaning the credit card issuer will match the price if it drops within a certain amount of time, and 26 guaranteed returns even when the merchant does not.

Of the cards studied, 17 offered all four of these protections.

To take advantage, you first have to know what is available on your card. Then you have to jump through the many required hoops.

“These perks can really help in certain circumstances, but most people don’t know that they are there to be taken,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at creditcards.com. He added that the credit card issuers declined to provide usage numbers for his study.

One quick way to check if your card has hearty protections is to look at the bottom right-hand corner, said Sean McQuay, credit card expert at Nerdwallet.com. A Visa card with the “Signature” or “Infinite” tag will likely have the best protections. For MasterCard, look for “World Elite.”

American Express and Discover offer the same protections at all levels, McQuay said.

THE FINE PRINT

Extended warranty coverage, while the most common type of protection offered, is probably used sparingly by consumers because few know about it, said Schulz.

But this is the perk that could save consumers real money, because they can decline the extended warranty offered by retailers. It is akin to knowing that if your credit card offers insurance protection for rental cars, you can decline expensive add-on coverage.

AJ Saleem, who works for a tutoring company in Houston, did not find it too daunting to use his extended warranty coverage to get $60 to fix a broken iPhone speaker three months after the manufacturer’s one-year warranty ended. He sent his card company a copy of the warranty document, the repair quote and the original purchase statement and it sent him a check.

The other credit card protections require more documentation. Refunds for stolen items may require police reports, for instance, said McQuay.

“These perks are best applied to big-ticket items,” said Schulz. “They’ll be worth the time and effort to find the paperwork and make the phone calls, because the money you get back is real and impactful.”

Curtis Arnold, editor in chief of Cardratings.com, used one of his cards for reimbursement for a stolen lawn mower after his shed was burglarized. “It really soothed my despair,” he said.

Card issuers are moving to an easier system that will require less legwork, at least for price matching, said Schulz.

Citigroup Inc (C.N) already has its Citi Rewind feature, which enables users to register a purchase; the system will then check automatically for price drops. Citi keeps a running tally of savings on its promotional page, which claims that so far, more than 200,000 payments have been issued to the tune of almost $5.5 million.

Schulz said Capital One(COF.N) just acquired a company that could allow it to offer something similar, and he thinks more will follow.

For now, the savvy consumer has to learn a few tricks in order to save. Justin Chidester, a financial planner in Logan, Utah, did not have much luck at first with the price matching. When he tried to use it to get money back on some chairs he bought, the card company wanted not just the original receipt and proof of the new lower price offer, but also a screen shot of the original price he paid for the items. “I got tripped up,” said Chidester.

Wiser on his second attempt, he bought a new TV for $450 and saved a screen shot of the original offer. When the price dropped shortly afterward to $300, he was prepared and quickly got a $150 statement credit for his effort.

(Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Published at Wed, 07 Dec 2016 05:17:55 +0000

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Sears Loses 2 Top Executives; Is the End Near?

chicago-1039755_1280

by graec from Pixabay

Sears Loses 2 Top Executives; Is the End Near?

Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD) has been on a sad, protracted slide.

The company, which once dominated the American retail landscape, has become a flailing shell of its former self. It has been closing stores from both its eponymous chain and its Kmart subsidiary with little hope that those cuts will do anything more than postpone the inevitable.

Sears entered the 2016 holiday season with questions as to whether it would survive. There were numerous reports of vendors cutting shipments to the chain over fears they would not get paid in the event of a bankruptcy. And now, in the middle of the holiday season, a key executive has quietly exited the company.

What happened at Sears?

The company reported in a SEC document that Executive Vice President Jeffrey Balagna left the company on Nov. 30, “in order to focus on his other business interests and pursue other career opportunities.” That move follows the departure of Sears President and Chief Member Officer Joelle Maher, who also left in late November.

These are major executives leaving during a critical time of the year. It’s fair to say that a bad performance this holiday season could be enough to push the company into bankruptcy. Losing two top members of its management team will certainly do little to give confidence to the company’s lenders and vendors.

What’s next?

While the sales picture is bleak and Sears could run out of cash, the company still has moves to make. It has been shopping its popular house brands: Craftsman, Kenmore, and Diehard. Those are assets which could bring a sizable return that could keep the company afloat for a while longer.

The problem, and it’s a significant one, is that while cash would give the company time, nothing CEO Edward Lampert has done suggests that a turnaround is coming. This is not a healthy company that just needs money to complete its transformation. It’s a dying retailer that has not shown it has a plan to move forward in a way that will reverse its fortunes.

The departures of Maher and Balagna may one day turn out to have been minor hiccups on the way to a triumphant return for Sears. So far, however, there’s no reason to believe that. This seems more a case of two people getting out while they still could.

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Caesars unit’s bank lenders threaten to end bankruptcy deal

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by fielperson from Pixabay

Caesars unit’s bank lenders threaten to end bankruptcy deal

By Tracy Rucinski
| CHICAGO

Dec 6 The bank lenders of Caesars Entertainment Corp’s operating unit said they might walk
away from a plan to bring the casino unit out of its $18 billion bankruptcy, potentially sending a high-stakes reorganization plan into disarray.

 

The committee of bank lenders, which includes Blackstone Group LP’s GSO Capital Partners, has yet to resolve a dispute over the terms of their recovery, their lawyer Kristopher Hansen said at a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago on Tuesday.

Hansen said the lenders would inform the court on the status of a deal by Dec. 14, a month before a scheduled confirmation trial in Caesars Entertainment Operating Co Inc’s long-running
bankruptcy case.

Without a deal, Hansen said the committee would terminate a restructuring support agreement, forcing the confirmation trial to be postponed from Jan. 17.

 

Bank lenders, which had been among the first to back the unit’s reorganization plan, say their support depends on documentation that ensures the market value of the non-cash consideration they are set to receive under the plan.

Without the documentation, committee members said they would change their votes on the plan.

“Simply put, without the consent of the bank lenders, the plan completely unravels,” they said in a Nov. 21 court filing.

 

Caesars did not immediately comment.

The unit filed for bankruptcy in January 2015 amid creditors’ allegations that its parent had looted it of choice assets such as the Linq Hotel & Casino complex in Las Vegas.  Caesars Entertainment has denied the allegations.

 

After more than a year of intense negotiations, the vast majority of creditors have agreed to support a reorganization plan that includes a $5 billion contribution from Caesars to settle their claims.

Under the plan, the unit will split into a real estate investment trust controlled by lenders and a separate operating company that will form part of a new restructured Caesars controlled by creditors.

Aside from bank lenders, the only other major objector to the reorganization plan is the U.S. Trustee, a bankruptcy watchdog that opposes legal releases that the plan would grant to Caesars and its private equity sponsors, Apollo Global Management LLC and TPG Capital Management LP.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Benjamin Goldgar questioned the U.S. Trustee in court on Tuesday, saying he did not understand why it objects to a plan that has won the support of the parties that stand to lose or gain any money.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Edited by Noeleen Walder)

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Published at Tue, 06 Dec 2016 18:39:53 +0000

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Royal Caribbean Customers are Mostly Happy (RCL, NCLH)

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Royal Caribbean Customers are Mostly Happy

By Dan Moskowitz | December 6, 2016 — 1:35 PM EST

Along with the other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) has seen its stock slide over the past 12 months. For RCL, that slide amounts to 13.45%. There is a 2.41% dividend yield, but this is still frustrating for investors since the S&P 500 has gained 6.05% over the same time frame – while offering a 2.00% dividend yield. As always, investors want to know what the future holds. For any company based in the travel industry, the biggest factor will be broader economic conditions, which will have a heavy influence on discretionary spending. Next in line—and a better indication of long-term potential—is customer reviews.

According to Cruise Critic, 71% of Royal Caribbean guests love the cruise line, which is based on 25,376 reviews. According to Yelp, Royal Caribbean sports a 3.0 of 5.0 average rating, which is based on 192 reviews. These numbers are slightly higher than Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) – 69% and 2.5 of 5.0, respectively. For Royal Caribbean, happy cruisers consistently point to quality itineraries, food, entertainment options, and a family-friendly environment. The highest rated categories are Public Rooms, Service, and Cabin.

On the negative side, the biggest complaint, as well as a consistent complaint, was Royal Caribbean cancelling cruises on short notice and not offering a full refund. Other common complaints were large crowds and burnt-out employees. (See also, Royal Caribbean Targets New York Sports Fans)

The positives outweigh the negatives, and the biggest risk seems to be booking airline flights to reach the departure destination. If plans change, you could end up stuck, which leads to a poor customer experience and little chance for repeat business. On the positive side, this doesn’t happen often, the majority of guests enjoying the food is a big positive, and guests are pleased with on-board entertainment options.

Some people love to cruise and others are more hesitant due to all-too-common at-sea mishaps throughout the industry. While Royal Caribbean isn’t perfect, it seems to avoid negative news headlines related to at-sea mishaps and is known for offering good value. If Royal Caribbean guest reviews edge out Norwegian Cruise Line, then, at least at this point in time, Royal Caribbean should have more long-term potential than Norwegian Cruise Line. For a consumer-based travel business, everything begins with customer experience. We’ll take a look at Carnival next.

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Published at Tue, 06 Dec 2016 18:35:00 +0000

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Viacom CEO: We’re Not Interested In Owning Vice

skyscrapers-1805220_1280

by geralt from Pixabay

Viacom CEO: We’re Not Interested In Owning Vice

Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA) (NASDAQ: VIAB) has been involved in some fairly heavy drama for the last few months.

The company saw the departure of longtime CEO Philippe Dauman after a protracted battle with the Redstone family, which owns 80% of the company’s stock through its privately held National Amusements theater chain. Viacom was also rocked by the rapid departure of Dauman’s replacement, Thomas Dooley, a well-liked figure within the company.

Now, the company has a new CEO in Bob Bakish, who is operating the media giant while speculation runs wild that it will merge with CBS (NYSE: CBS). That’s what the Redstone family wants, and given that they own about 80% of CBS’s voting stock, too, that’s what’s likely to happen.

It’s a situation which has led to instability, rumors, and a clear lack of direction. Bakish got the job partly to quell those problems, and one of his first actions has been to quash a rumor about a potential acquisition.

What is Viacom not doing?

During a speech at the annual UBS Global Media conference earlier this week, the freshly minted CEO stated very clearly that his company had no interest in buying digital media company Vice, Broadcasting & Cable reported. A growing operation, Vice has been the subject of acquisition rumors linked to a number of companies. In theory, a Viacom deal would make sense because its MTV network is in some ways Vice’s spiritual predecessor, and paved the way for the risk-taking company.

What is next for Viacom?

Bakish wants to stabilize Viacom while preparing for the possibility that the CBS merger happens, but also for a future in which it does not. It’s a difficult position to be in, but the executive has been resolute in his internal and external messaging.

“My own view is, whether or not it happens, we need to insure that Viacom is as strong as it can be and that’s what I’m focused on,” he said.”…Whether or not it happens, we need to ensure that Viacom is as strong as it can be, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

That’s a smart, no-more-drama approach, and it’s exactly what Viacom needs right now. The company must focus on improving its own operations, because it does not control what will happen regarding any possible CBS merger — that’s largely in the hands of the Redstones.

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How Uber Is Betting on AI

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How Uber Is Betting on AI

By Charles Bovaird | December 5, 2016 — 8:20 PM EST

Uber Technologies Inc. recently bet on artificial intelligence (AI) by purchasing AI startup Geometric Intelligence so the transportation company can develop an in-house AI research lab. Uber is not the only large technology company that has been venturing into the AI space, as social media giant Facebook Inc. (FB), chip maker Intel Corporation (INTC) search engine operator Google, which is owned by Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL), according to the New York Times.

Self-Driving Cars

Uber, whose new research arm will be called Uber’s AI Labs, hopes that a team led by co-directors Gary Marcus and Zoubin Ghahramani will be able to leverage the transportation company’s vast data in order to make progress toward vehicles that will be able to drive themselves. Geometric Intelligence’s data scientists have harnessed several different techniques to conduct AI research, including the “evolutionary” and Bayesian methods. (For more, see also: How Intel Is Betting on Artificial Intelligence.)

This represents a different approach from the path that many Silicon Valley giants have taken, as these larger companies have so far relied on a method called deep learning. This particular approach involves developing algorithms primarily based on how the human mind works. Since these technology companies hold significant data, these algorithms can leverage the information in order to conduct simple tasks such as identifying patterns or faces.

Sustained Investment

Uber’s purchase of Geometric Intelligence only represents one investment the transportation company has made into developing self-driving cars, according to Bloomberg. Earlier in 2016, Uber acquired self-driving trucking company Otto Trucking Inc. in an all-stock deal valued at up to $680 million. The transportation company has also created a significant research hub in Pittsburg called Uber Advanced Technologies Center. (For more, see also: An Uber IPO May Happen Sooner Rather Than Later.)

In addition to working toward creating self-driving cars, Uber hopes to use its new in-house AI research lab to improve its algorithms that pair riders up with drivers, according to Bloomberg. Uber’s UberPOOL service, for example, may sometimes need to perform particularly sophisticated calculations in order to pair drivers up with multiple riders going to varying locations.

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Adidas CEO Has “Words” for Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 (NKE, ADDYY)

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Adidas CEO Has “Words” for Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 (NKE, ADDYY)

By Dan Moskowitz | December 5, 2016 — 9:02 PM EST

If you have ever run in a race, caught ground on the person leading that race, and then fell back into the pack again, then you know how frustrating this experience can be. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, catching that superior competitor is just not possible. Based on what Adidas AG (ADDYY) Chief Executive Officer Kasper Rorsted recently told The Wall Street Journal, this is how he must feel. Referring to NIKE, Inc.’s (NKE) new HyperAdapt 1.0, Rorsted stated, “I don’t know if that’s a save-the-world product.”

Prior to the $720 self-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0, Adidas had stolen Nike’s thunder thanks to its classic Stan Smith shoes becoming popular again. Consumers are currently finding style in simplicity. These same consumers aren’t likely to go out and buy the $720 HyperAdapt 1.0, which are obviously expensive as well as difficult to purchase. Rorsted’s comment didn’t indicate fear about the current version of the HyperAdapt, but the future versions of that shoe, which are highly likely to be more affordable in order to target the masses. Since Nike has been working on the technology for more than a decade, it would be nearly impossible for Adidas to catch up if self-lacing sneakers became a trend. (See also, Adidas Takes on Nike & Under Armour in U.S.)

Rorsted is also likely frustrated because Adidas is focused on sustainability. According to Business Insider, Adidas is making sneakers from ocean plastic and biodegradable silk. Sustainability will play a role in future consumer decisions, but it unfortunately will not be as impactful as a new technology like self-lacing shoes. Once a few young consumers sport the cheaper version of these shoes in the future, everyone else is going to want them. That’s not going to happen with shoes that are made from ocean plastic. If self-lacing shoes resonate with consumers over the next several years, then Nike will once again run far ahead of the competition.

NKE has depreciated 23.31% over the past 12 months and currently offers a dividend yield of 1.43%.

ADDYY has appreciated 46.98% over the past 12 months and currently offers a dividend yield of 1.23%.

My Trading Journal: 30 Day Trading Journal

My Trading Journal: 30 Day Trading Journal

Published at Tue, 06 Dec 2016 02:02:00 +0000

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