Archive for the ‘Industry Coverage’ Category

MF Global Files for Bankruptcy and Plunges in First Day of OTC Trading

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

November 2, 2011 - MF Global (NYSE: MF) tumbled in its first day of over-the-counter trading after the futures brokerage filed for bankruptcy, prompting the New York Stock Exchange to delist the shares.  MF Global’s bankruptcy is the 8th largest bankruptcy of all time.

The stock, quoted under the symbol “MFGLQ,” declined 83 percent to 21 cents at 12:45 p.m. New York time on trading volume of 170.9 million shares. MF Global plunged 67 percent last week as the New York-based firm reported a record $191.6 million quarterly loss.

MF Global stock hasn’t changed hands during a regular trading session since Oct. 28. NYSE Euronext suspended the stock before the New York Stock Exchange opened on Oct. 31. MF Global filed the eighth-largest U.S. bankruptcy this week after failing to find a buyer over the weekend. The futures broker suffered a ratings downgrade and loss of customers after revealing it had investments related to $6.3 billion in European sovereign debt.

The night before MF posted its biggest quarterly loss, triggering a 48 percent stock plunge, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jon Corzine appeared at a steak dinner at New York’s Helmsley Park Lane Hotel for a speech to a group of bankers and traders.

“There was no sense at all that there was impending doom,” Kenneth Polcari, a managing director of ICAP Corporates, said of Corzine’s Oct. 24 address to the National Organization of Investment Professionals. “He gave a spectacular speech” about his decades at Goldman Sachs, life as a U.S. senator and New Jersey governor and his return to the private sector. “He’s had a full life, up until now.”

Corzine, 64, excused himself before the main course was served, saying he had to prepare for an earnings call the next day, said David Shields, vice chairman of New York-based brokerage Wellington Shields & Co. and a former chairman of the organization. The group seeks to foster “a favorable regulatory environment,” according to its website.

Timothy Mahoney, CEO of New York-based Bids Trading LP, said Corzine’s speech was “delightful.”

The next day, MF Global reported a $191.6 million net loss tied to its $6.3 billion wager on European sovereign debt. On Oct. 27, after the company’s bonds dropped to 63.75 cents on the dollar, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings cut the firm to below investment grade, or junk. Unable to find a buyer, the company filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 31, the first major U.S. casualty of the European debt crisis.

‘Serve the Public’

At least two dozen U.S. lawmakers and regulators, including Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York, and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt have addressed the group, according to its website.

“There are many people in the group that do lobby and talk to regulators,” Shields said. “You talk to regulators, you talk to lawmakers and you try to get the points forward, things that will help the marketplace, that will serve the public.”

The group’s board includes head traders at firms such as Waddell & Reed Financial Inc., whose futures trade triggered the flash crash of May 6, 2010, according to a study by the SEC and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Its members’ firms “trade approximately 70 percent of the institutional volume transacted daily in the New York and Nasdaq markets,” according to the website.

‘Difficult’ Day

The group’s current chairman, Dan Hannafin of Boston-based investment manager Wellington Management Co., declined to comment on the dinner. Corzine and Diana DeSocio, an MF Global spokeswoman, didn’t reply to an e-mailed request for comment.

Mahoney said he appreciated Corzine’s ability “to compartmentalize” and speak engagingly last week. Mahoney’s firm, Bids, runs a private trading venue known as a dark pool, and is a joint venture of banks including Goldman Sachs.

Before the speech, Moody’s cut MF Global’s credit ratings to the lowest investment grade. Polcari said there was one reference to Corzine’s “difficult” day.

While he was “cordial” and “positive,” the MF Global chief lacked his typical “sharp bounce,” Shields said. Corzine is “a member of the community,” and could be invited back after the bankruptcy, he said. “People go through bad times.”

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Baker at nbaker7@bloomberg.net

Glencore Considering $19.5 Billion Bid for ENRC…

Monday, June 13th, 2011

You thought you had heard the last of Swiss based Glencore, the famed diversified commodities trading firm, with the news of its multi-billion dollar IPO.  Now rumors of a nearly $20 billion takeover?  Looks like Glencore’s management team is taking advantage of its new currency.  According to ENRC’s 3 founders, Alexander Mashkevitch, Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov, who control 45% of the company, Glencore’s CEO recent discussed a possible merger.  ENRC, a Kazakhi miner, trades at a 15% discount to its peers, using a trailing P/E multiple, and is down almost 30% this year.

HISTORY OF GLENCORE

Glencore, headquartered in Baar, Switzerland, is the world’s largest commodities trading firm, which a 60% market share in the trading of zinc, and a 3% market share in the trading of crude oil.  The company is also the biggest shipper of coal in the world.  Glencore’s 485 traders own and run the company today.  It was formed by a management buyout of Marc Rich & Co AG in 1974.  Marc Rich, now a billionaire commodities trader at the time was charged with tax evasion and illegal business dealings, fleeing to Iran.  Years later, he was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

In 1994, after failing to corner the zinc market, the company lost $172 million and nearly went bankrupt, forcing Rich to sell his share in the company back to the firm, which was renamed Glencore.  It was run by Rich’s inner circle, including Willy Strothotte and Ivan Glasenberg.

Over the years, Glencore has also been accused of illegal dealings with rogue states, including the USSR, Iran, and Iraq (under Hussein).  It has a history of breaking UN embargoes to profit from corrupt regimes.

The company owns stakes in Rusal, Chemoil, Xstrata, Minara Resources, PASAR, Evergreen Aluminum, Katanga Mining, Windalco, OAO Russneft, and many other firms.

INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING

With its initial public offering weeks ago, Glencore was valued at about $60 billion, and raised about $10 billion.  Each of the 485 traders received average payouts of $100 million through the flotation.

I highly recommend reading, “Secret Lives of Marc Rich.”

Intralinks (IL) Falls 7.5%+ on No News, Possible Insider Trading Alert!

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

After trading flat for days, Intralinks just lost over 7.5% on no news.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, “IntraLinks, formerly TA Indigo Holding Corporation, is a global provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions for securely managing content, exchanging critical business information and collaborating within and among organizations.”  The company serves financial institutions host data rooms, etc.  Now the company performed well in 2010, missed guidance slightly this spring, and traded down 30%.  Over the past two weeks, it performed well enough to stay in a band around $20.00/share.

Through the last four down days, IL’s stock moved with the market, staying about $20, then gave up almost 10% of its value during the first half of the trading day.  The last time I saw a move like this on no relevant news was for Interoil Corp. in 2007, right before an insider trading investigation (which was eventually resolved, and the stock performed well):

InterOil has ‘undiscovered resources’ and calling a field ‘world class’ isn’t the same thing as actually knowing how much of a natural resource exists there. InterOil is capitalizing on the confusion between undiscovered resources (which are unknown quantities) and discovered resources. And the victims are the investors who falsely believe that InterOil has known quantities of natural gas, when in fact they do not.

Sam Antar, says InterOil’s stock is boosted by a manipulation scheme involving InterOil, John Thomas Financial, and Clarion Finanz AG:

I believe that InterOil with the assistance of Clarion Finanz concealed John Thomas Financial’s involvement in helping it raise $95 million through a private placement of convertible debt securities. Clarion Finanz acted as a buffer between InterOil and John Thomas Financial to help InterOil hide John Thomas Financial’s role in raising funds. Afterwards, InterOil filed false and misleading reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission in an effort to conceal John Thomas Financial’s role in helping the company raise $95 million in convertible debt.

Courtesy of Lawrence Delevigne

Bank Stocks Beware: Bernanke & Fed Support Increasing Capital Requirements

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

U.S. bank indices fell 2% yesterday after fears that capital requirements would increase as much as 7%.  Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), fell below $11.00, the lowest since last year.  The discussion came about after the Basel Committee on Banking revealed how levered large financial institutions still were, and tried to reconcile levels with future recession risks.  A 7% equity capital raise for most banks would be catastrophic and dilute equity by 50%+, but a 3% raise seems manageable in a functioning economy.  The problem is that the U.S. economy is on life support, and that life support is called Quantitative Easing 2.  Once this support fades on June 30th, how will U.S. banks (at their already low valuations due to real estate risk and put backs) raise new equity capital?  A replay of 2009?  You be the judge.

According to Bloomberg, “The Fed supports a proposal at the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision that calls for a maximum capital surcharge of three percentage points on the largest global banks, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

International central bankers and supervisors meeting in Basel, Switzerland, have decided that banks need to hold more capital to avoid future taxpayer-funded bailouts. Financial stock indexes fell in Europe and the U.S. yesterday as traders interpreted June 3 remarks by Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo as leaving the door open to surcharges of as much as seven percentage points.

“A seven percentage-point surcharge for the largest banks would be a disaster,” said a senior analyst at Barclays Capital Inc. in NY. “It will certainly restrict lending and curb economic growth if true.”

Basel regulators agreed last year to raise the minimum common equity requirement for banks to 4.5 percent from 2 percent, with an added buffer of 2.5 percent for a total of 7 percent of assets weighted for risk.

Basel members are also proposing that so-called global systemically important financial institutions, or global SIFIs, hold an additional capital buffer equivalent to as much as three percentage points, a stance Fed officials haven’t opposed, the person said.

Bank Indexes Fall

The Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index fell 1.45 percent yesterday, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 1.1 percent. The KBW Bank Index, which tracks shares of Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo. and 21 other companies, fell 2.1 percent.

In a June 3 speech, Tarullo presented a theoretical calculation with the global SIFI buffer as high as seven percentage points.

“The enhanced capital requirement implied by this methodology can range between about 20% to more than 100% over the Basel III requirements, depending on choices made among plausible assumptions,” he said in the text of his remarks at the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

In a question-and-answer period with C. Fred Bergsten, the Peterson Institute’s director, Tarullo agreed that the capital requirement, with the global SIFI buffer, could be 8.5 percent to 14 percent under this scenario. A common equity requirement of 10 percent is closer to what investors are assuming.

‘Across the Board’

“I think 3 percent is where everyone expected it to come out,” Simon Gleeson a financial services lawyer at Clifford Chance LLP, said in a telephone interview. “If it is 3 percent across the board then it will be interesting to see what happens to the smallest SIFI and the largest non-SIFI” on a competitive basis, he said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner, in remarks yesterday before the International Monetary Conference in Atlanta, said there is a “strong case” for a surcharge on the largest banks. Fed Chairman Bernanke is scheduled to discuss the U.S. economic outlook at the conference today.

“In the US, we will require the largest U.S. firms to hold an additional surcharge of common equity,” Geithner said. “We believe that a simple common equity surcharge should be applied internationally.”

Distort Markets

Financial industry executives are concerned that rising capital requirements will hurt the economy, which is already struggling with an unemployment rate stuck at around 9 percent.

Higher capital charges “will have ramifications on what people pay for credit, what banks hold on balance sheets,” JPMorgan Chase & Co. chairman and chief executive officer Jamie Dimon told investors at a June 2 Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. conference in New York.

The Global Financial Markets Association, a trade group whose board includes executives from GS and Morgan Stanley, said the surcharge may apply to 15 to 26 global banks, according to a May 25 memo sent to board members by chief executive officer Tim Ryan.

Dino Kos, managing director at New York research firm Hamiltonian Associates, said the discussion about new capital requirements comes at a time when banks face stiff headwinds. Credit demand is weak, and non-interest income from fees and trading is also under pressure.

Best Result

U.S. banks reported net income of $29 billion in the first quarter, the best result since the second quarter of 2007, before subprime mortgage defaults began to spread through the global financial system, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s Quarterly Banking Profile.

Still, the higher profits resulted from lower loan-loss provisions, the FDIC said. Net operating revenue fell 3.2 percent from a year earlier, only the second time in 27 years of data the industry reported a year-over-year decline in quarterly net operating revenue, the FDIC said.

“You can see why banks are howling,” said Kos, former executive vice president at the New York Fed. Higher capital charges come on top of proposals to tighten liquidity rules and limit interchange fees, while the “Volcker Rule” restricts trading activities. Taken together these imply lower returns on equity, he said.

“How can you justify current compensation levels if returns on equity are much lower than in the past?” Kos said.

Angry Bird Creator (Android) Raises $42mm in Seed Capital

Friday, March 11th, 2011

The latest phone app craze is the game “Angry Birds,” a popular pastime for android users across the globe.  It was developed by Finnish company, Rovio, and is played by over $40 million users per month. The game description on the Android app website reads: “Use the unique powers of the Angry Birds to destroy the greedy pigs’ fortresses! The survival of the Angry Birds is at stake. Dish out revenge on the greedy pigs who stole their eggs. Use the unique powers of each bird to destroy the pigs’ fortresses. Angry Birds features challenging physics-based game-play and hours of replay value. Each of the 225 levels requires logic, skill, and force to solve.”  Is this Company the next Zynga?  Who knows…I questioned Farmville when it came out as well.

Rovio, the tiny Finnish company behiind the iPhone, iPad and Android app Angry Birds, says it has raised $42 million from investors.

The game, consisting of angry birds shot at bewildered-looking pigs, is played by 40 million users every month, the Wall Street Journal said today. its fans, according to Daily Mail, include UK prime minister David Cameron, and Aussie leader Julia Gillard.

The funding round was co-led by venture capital firm Accel Partners, known for working with fast-growing companies such as Facebook. Also involved was the venture capital firm Atomico Ventures, created by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom.

It is part of an “aggressive expansion mode” that Rovio’s co-founder and chief executive Mikael Hed said will make the company an “important entertainment media company for the future”.

Although he would not say what projects the company was working on, or how big of a share of the company was sold, Mr Hed reportedly told TV-industry website C21media.net that Rovio was looking at plans to make a broadcast cartoon version of Angry Birds.

“We will strengthen the position of Rovio and continue building our franchises in gaming, merchandising and broadcast media. Our next big thing is to execute superbly well on our strategy,” Mr Hed said in the article today.

Rovio has all ready been building on Angry Birds’ success with franchise products such as soft toys, which have sold more than 2 milion units.

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HCA IPO Rises 4% on Day Dow Falls 228 Points

Friday, March 11th, 2011

HCA Holdings rose about 4.0% in its first day of trading.  This was very impressive, considering the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 228 points in the same day (3/10/11).  The Dow fell in response to increasing jobless claims, a larger U.S. trade deficit, a larger Chinese trade deficit, and a lower GDP revision in Japan on 3/9/11.  Luckily, HCA was unaffected, which reflects both the strength of the company and its balance sheet.  HCA represents such a large share of the U.S. hospital industry, that institutional money managers probably could not refuse to purchase the security for their portfolios.  HCA’s public competitors include CYH – Community Health Systems and THC – Tenet Healthcare Corp.

According to Bloomberg, “HCA Holdings Inc., the largest publicly traded hospital chain in the U.S., rose 3.9 percent on its first day of trading after completing a record $3.79 billion, private equity-backed initial public offering.

Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA increased $1.15 to $31.15 at 1:16 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, even as rising U.S. jobless claims drove the Dow Jones Industrial Index down 137 points. HCA’s offering sold more than 126 million shares at $30 each, the top of the proposed price range, the company said yesterday in a statement.

The IPO’s performance on a day when the market is falling reflects both the strength of HCA’s balance sheet and the momentum in favor of private equity-backed deals being brought to market, said Josef Schuster, founder of IPOX Schuster LLC in Chicago. There’s “plenty of liquidity available” for large U.S. deals like this one, he said.

“The deal underlines the level of confidence among large- cap managers about these type of private equity deals and the for-profit hospital space,” Schuster said in a telephone interview today. “Even with no dividend, investors like the level of cash with this company.”

For-profit hospitals will benefit as last year’s U.S. health overhaul forces consolidation and cost cutting that may leave non-profit competitors at a disadvantage, said Les Funtleyder, an analyst at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. Investors are also expecting HCA to be added to stock-trading indexes and buying ahead of that, he said.

Blue-Chip Name

“People look at HCA as a blue-chip name in a space they want to get involved in,” said Mark Bronzo, who helps manage $25 billion at Security Global Investors in Irvington, New York, in a telephone interview today. “There just aren’t a lot of names to choose from there.”

For-profit hospital chains such as HCA depend more on commercial payers and less on government beneficiaries than do nonprofits, which have already seen their revenue reduced by government cutbacks, particularly in Medicaid.

HCA competitors among for-profit hospitals include Community Health Systems Inc. (CYH) in Franklin, Tennessee, and Tenet Healthcare Corp. (THC) in Dallas.

HCA’s offering exceeded the Feb. 10 initial stock sale by Houston-based energy-pipeline company Kinder Morgan Inc., which raised $3.3 billion. Private equity-backed IPOs in the U.S. have gotten a boost this year as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rallied to the highest level since June 2008, raising investors’ interest in companies acquired through debt-fueled takeovers.

‘Warmer Climate’

“We have a market that’s more willing to take on risk,” said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Capital Management in Richmond, Virginia, which oversees $52.5 billion. “This is a much better, much warmer climate for this type of offering.”

The underwriters may exercise an overallotment option to buy as many as 18.9 million additional shares within 30 days, the company said. HCA sold 87.7 million shares, while existing investors sold 38.5 million.

Companies owned by private equity investors have accounted for 80 percent of the funds raised in U.S. IPOs since the beginning of the year, and the shares have gained 10 percent on average through yesterday, compared with 4.8 percent for companies not owned by leveraged buyout firms, Bloomberg data show.

KKR and Bain

KKR & Co., Bain Capital LLC, Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and other owners invested about $5 billion in equity in the $33 billion takeover of HCA. Including debt, it was the largest leveraged buyout at the time.

In acquiring HCA, KKR and Bain chose a company with steady cash flow and a business that’s protected to a large extent from swings in the economy. Cash flow from operations was $3.16 billion in the year before the 2006 buyout, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. As of Dec. 31, 2010, that number was little changed at $3.09 billion.

The company offered as many as 124 million shares at $27 to $30 apiece, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America and Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. of New York led HCA’s sale. HCA said it will use the proceeds to repay debt.”

The following links will take you to previous articles we wrote on HCA:

http://leverageacademy.com/blog/2010/04/11/hca-could-have-3-billion-ipo-4-years-after-kkr-bain-buyout/

http://leverageacademy.com/blog/2011/03/04/2310/ – KKR & Bain to IPO HCA at $30/share

Check out our intensive investment banking, private equity, and sales & trading courses! The discount code Merger34299 will be activated until April 15, 2011. Questions? Feel free to e-mail thomas.r[at]leverageacademy.com with your inquiries or call our corporate line.


Saudi Day of Rage – Fri., March 11th

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

We have seen riots in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain…and now Saudi Arabia?  All of these countries have fallen victim to internal unrest because of both their lack of basic freedoms, and wealth disparity between the rich and the poor.  All of the countries above are known to be wealthy oil nations, but more than 20% of the youth in each are unemployed.  Grain prices in these areas have more than tripled, and food inflation is causing unrest.  Shiites in Saudi Arabia have also claimed discrimination, as almost all senior businessmen and officials are Sunni Muslims, despite qualifications and experience.  This has helped drive Brent crude prices to as high as $118, crippling both emerging and developing economies.  Some are calling for a “day of rage” on March 11th, while others claim it will be delayed…

According to CNN, protesters in Saudi Arabia called for a “day of rage” Friday, though longtime observers of the kingdom remained skeptical that it would make a major impact. ”I don’t think any protests that happen tomorrow will be destabilizing to the country,” said Christopher Boucek, a Saudi expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Prominent blogger Ahmed Al-Omran said the Saudi government remains unresponsive to the streets. ”I don’t think they’re really in touch with the people,” he said. Still, he said, Friday’s planned protests could set the tone in Saudi Arabia for the next few months.

The Saudi government prohibits all kinds of public demonstrations. But more than 100 Shiite demonstrators defied that ban and rallied Wednesday in the eastern city of Qatif, calling on authorities to release Shiite prisoners. A sprinkling of women were among the protesters, said Ibrahim Al-Mugaiteeb, president of the Human Rights First Society. Police kept a watchful eye but did not intervene, he said. Earlier, Saudi authorities had authorized its security forces to “take all measures against anyone who tries to break the law and cause disorder.”

Last week, about 24 protesters were detained in Qatif as they denounced “the prolonged detention” of nine Shiite prisoners held without trial for more than 14 years, Amnesty International said. Police kicked and used batons to beat three protesters in what was an apparent peaceful demonstration, Amnesty said in a statement. ”The Saudi Arabian authorities have a duty to ensure freedom of assembly and are obliged under international law to allow peaceful protests to take place,” said Philip Luther, deputy director of the human rights group’s Middle East and North Africa program. ”They must act immediately to end this outrageous restriction on the right to legitimate protest.” There was no immediate reaction from the Saudi government to the Amnesty statement.

The protests in the majority Sunni kingdom have followed similar demands across the Arab world for more freedom and democracy. Rights activists have been advocating the right to protest for months in the kingdom but they have been denied permission to assemble. Lately, grass-roots ferment mirroring the unrest across the Middle East and North Africa has emerged, with a Facebook group calling for days of rage and Shiites taking to the streets. Activists have been calling for reform and the release of people jailed without charge or trial.

Amnesty said the recent detentions came a week after a prominent Shiite cleric, Sheikh Tawfiq Jaber Ibrahim al-’Amr was arrested after a sermon calling for reforms in Saudi Arabia. He was released without charge Sunday. Most of the protesters are believed to be held in a police station in Dhahran, an eastern city. Among them are activists who have protested arrests and discrimination against the minority Shiites.

“The Saudi authorities must investigate reports of beatings of protesters by security forces. They should also ensure that those detained are either charged with recognizable offences and tried fairly or released,” Luther said. ”While in detention they must be protected from torture and other ill-treatment and given regular access to their family, lawyers and medical staff.”

The Shiite activists in “prolonged detention” have been held in connection with the deadly 1996 bombing of a U.S. military complex in Khobar in which 20 people were killed and hundreds injured. ”According to reports, they were interrogated, tortured and denied access to lawyers together with the opportunity to challenge the legality of their detention,” Amnesty said.

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Facebook Valuation Jumps to $65 Billion – General Atlantic Purchases Shares from Former Employees

Friday, March 4th, 2011

And you thought that Facebook was overpriced at $50 billion! It seems that investors will go to all lengths to purchase shares in the company. General Atlantic has a track record of making investments in successful growth equity stories.

“The valuation of Facebook is taking another leap, according to a report Thursday by CNBC.

General Atlantic, a $17 billion investment firm, agreed to buy one-tenth of 1% of Facebook in a deal that values the social-networking website at $65 billion, CNBC’s David Faber said, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the transaction.

General Atlantic is buying about 2.5 million shares of stock from former employees of Facebook. The deal needs to be approved by Facebook so it hasn’t closed yet, Faber noted.

Earlier this year, a fund organized by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS 164.49, +2.80, +1.73%) invested more than $1 billion in Facebook at a $50 billion valuation.

That means the value of Facebook has jumped 30% in about six weeks, CNBC’s Faber noted.

General Atlantic, founded in 1980, makes equity investments in six high-growth sectors, including Internet and media.

The firm’s current investments include: Gilt Groupe, which sells luxury goods and services online; Privalia, an online retailer; SouFun, an online Chinese real-estate portal; and Kaspersky Lab, a security software company.

General Atlantic also made early-stage investments in E-Trade Financial (ETFC 15.93, +0.35, +2.25%) , Priceline.com (PCLN 464.79, +15.61, +3.48%) and Lenovo (HK:992 4.71, +0.01, +0.21%).”

Chavez is the New Mother Theresa?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011


Since when can Chavez promise world peace?  The dictator in Venezuela has confiscated billions worth of private interests, has nationalized industries, and has ruled with an iron fist over his country for years, exploiting its oil wealth.  He has done so poorly, that he has had to de-value his currency multiple times, despite the oil revenue Venezuela generates.  In an interesting turn of events, Chavez made a call to another dictator, Qaddafi, calling for an end to the riots in Libya.  ”We want world peace!” he said.

Did Chavez win here, where Obama, the UN, and the  entire developed world failed?  Did WTI crude oil fall from $103 to $101 on Chavez’s remarks?  Of course not, it was temporarily overbought.  Let’s wait until the Rage Riots in Saudi Arabia on March 11th to see oil’s true color.  (Beware the ides of March? Unfortunately, doesn’t fall on the same date)  Here is a response from the Arab league:

“A proposal by Venezuela’s president to solve the current crisis in Libya does not include a clear plan, Hisham Youssef, assistant Arab League secretary, said on Thursday.

On 17 February, a popular uprising erupted In Libya against the regime of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, who has been in power for 42 years. Thousands of protesters have been reported dead during the clashes with pro-Qhadafi forces.

President Hugo Chavez had suggested an international mediation delegation of representatives from Latin America, Europe and the Middle East be sent to Libya in a bid  to hash out a peaceful resolution through negotiations between protesters and Qadhafi’s regime.

Youssef said Venezuela’s foreign minister phoned Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa to introduce Chavez’s proposal and that Moussa described the ideas as vague.

“There were no definite ideas, we need to know the basis for the suggested negotiations and where to start them”, Youssef told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Youssef said the Arab League’s stance on the Libyan crisis was expressed on Wednesday during a meeting of Arab foreign ministers. “This crisis should be handled in  a way that responds to the aspirations of the Libyan people, and not only from a security perspective,” he said.”

So, Chavez certainly our new Mother Teresa.  In honor of this public servant, here is a short biography below:

Mother Teresa (26 August 1910 – 5 September 1997), was a Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India in 1950. For over 45 years she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries. Following her death she was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

P.S. WTI crude is back at $102.50 at 10:25 PM EST, March 3, 2011.

KKR Tries to Fool Investors with Toys R’ Us IPO

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Toys R Us was an Opco-Propco deal done by KKR, Bain, and Vornado in 2005 for $6.5+ billion.  The company was one of the largest owners of real estate in the United States, other than McDonalds.  Since the toy business was not performing well and Babies R Us could not yet produce enough EBITDA to drive the company’s public valuation, these three players found an opportunity to take advantage of its real estate holdings (good call, right?).  Unfortunately, the company now has $5.5 billion in debt on its balance sheet and only has 2.3% growth in sales, a $35mm loss in earnings, down from $95mm in profit last year, and a 25% increase in expenses year over year (SA).  Cash used in operations also increased from $800mm to $1.2 billion over that time period.  Sounds like a great time to IPO, right?  Well, the sponsors in this deal seem to think so.  With equity markets topping, they are trying their hardest to take advantage of foolish retail investors.  Invest at your own risk:

“(Reuters) – Toys R Us Inc TOY.UL is looking to raise around $800 million in an initial public offering in April, though a final decision has not been reached, the New York Post said on Saturday.

The New Jersey-based retailer, which operates stores under its namesake brand and the Babies R Us and FAO Schwarz labels, had put off plans for an IPO in 2010.

“Toys R Us took more market share from competitors last year than they have in the past 20 years,” said one source the Post described as close to the company. “But I don’t think they were satisfied with how they did on the profit level.”

Toys R Us spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said the company could not comment on the matter.

For December 2010, Toys R Us reported a 5.4 percent total sales rise at its U.S. unit as it lured holiday shoppers away from No. 1 toy retailer Wal-Mart with more temporary stores and exclusive toys. But same-store sales fell 5 percent at its international segment.

Overall, a tough 2010 holiday season had margins hit across the toy industry by bargain-seeking, recession-hit consumers.

So the economic environment has stoked continued debate between management and owners at Toys R Us about whether this is the best time to re-launch an IPO, according to a source briefed on the situation, the Post reported.

Toys R Us was taken private in 2005 by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts KKR.AS, Bain Capital and Vornado Realty Trust in a $6.6 billion deal.

In May 2010, the company filed to raise as much as $800 million in an IPO. But that was not launched.

Toys R Us’s net loss widened to $93 million in the third quarter ended on October 30, 2010, from $67 million a year earlier. While sales were up 1.9 percent in the period, total operating expenses rose about 9.4 percent.

Last fall, the retailer opened 600 smaller “pop-up” stores that added to the more than 850 larger year-round stores it operates in the United States, the Post said.”