Wall Street Breakfast: Must-Know News

by: Rachael Granby
Rachael Granby
Seeking Alpha's flagship daily business news summary, gives you a rapid overview of the day's key financial news. It is published before 7:00 AM ET every market day and delivered to over 900,000 email subscribers.

  • Genzyme seals pact with activist investor. Genzyme (GENZ) signed a deal that could put activist investor Relational Investors LLC on its board of directors later this year. Relational is a $6B investment fund that holds a 4% stake in Genzyme. The deal comes as the biotech firm tries to recover from several production setbacks, and seeks to fend off a possible proxy battle by Carl Icahn, who bought 1.5M Genzyme shares in Q3 and who is expected to increase his stake.
  • Japan finmin backpedals on yen. Japan's new finance minister, Naoto Kan, clarified earlier comments on the yen, saying that while he has the ability to intervene in extreme circumstances, "currencies of course should be determined by markets." Kan had previously said he'd like to see the yen weaken a bit more, drawing criticism from government members who felt officials shouldn't comment on currencies.
  • Goldman sued over bonus plan. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) is being sued by an Illinois pension fund trying to recover billions of dollars being paid out as bonuses and compensation in 2009. According to the pension fund's filing, Goldman had set aside nearly $17B for compensation as of the end of September, and may pay out as much as $22B for the past year. The suit claims this "highlights the complete breakdown" of corporate oversight and that Goldman's revenue for the year was artificially inflated by government bailouts.
  • Google feels the energy. Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) energy subsidiary has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to become an electricity marketer, allowing the division to buy and sell bulk power at market prices the way large utilities do. Google says the application, which is unusual for a tech company, will help it better manage its own operations, but FERC approval could potentially allow Google to play a larger role in energy markets and even become a wholesaler of electricity to other big buyers. Separately, Google increased the price of its merger agreement with On2 Technologies (ONT) by $0.15/share in cash to account for share price fluctuations.
  • RBS sells assets. The Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS) reached a deal to sell nearly half its asset management business to Aberdeen Asset Management for £84.7M ($135M). The divestiture is part of RBS' efforts to restructure around its core consumer franchises.
  • Chinalco holds on to Rio. A senior executive at Chinalco flatly denied rumors that the company is considering selling its stake in Rio Tinto (RTP) to sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp.
  • Intel edges AMD with new chips. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) unveiled its latest generation of semiconductor chips, more than a year ahead of rival AMD's (NYSE:AMD) planned release. In a break from earlier releases, the chips, which are meant to improve laptop graphics and enable additional features on ATMs and other business, are targeted at the higher-volume but lower-priced segment of the market.
  • F1 CEO bids for Saab. Saab's closure may not be a done deal yet. Formula One CEO Bernard Ecclestone and Luxembourg partner Genii Capital have made a last ditch bid for Saab to both edge out a rival offer from Spyker Cars and to keep General Motors from winding down the Saab brand. Ecclestone, who called Saab "a good brand that has probably been neglected by the current owners," declined to disclose financing details of the bid.
  • Reliance sweetens Lyondell offer. Reliance Industries reportedly sweetened its offer to take a controlling stake in Dutch-based U.S. petrochemical giant LyondellBasell when it exits bankruptcy. Sources say the latest offer is worth around $13.5B, up from an initial $12B offer, but Lyondell appears unlikely to accept the new terms and instead will move forward with a deal to hand the company to senior creditors.
  • Retail sales show strong improvements. December's same-store sales looked decidedly healthy, with 21 out of 27 stores reporting better than expected numbers. Overall, sales rose 2.9% compared to the previous year, marking the fourth consecutive month of year-on-year gains and the best monthly showing since April 2008. Stores that beat expectations by more than five percentage points included Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO), Cato Corp. (NYSE:CATO), Children's Place (NASDAQ:PLCE), Saks (NYSE:SKS), TJX (NYSE:TJX), and Zumiez (NASDAQ:ZUMZ). (Here's the full breakdown)
  • Jobless claims inch up. Initial jobless claims rose 1K to 434K vs. 440K consensus. Continuing claims fell 179K to 4,802,000, the lowest level in around a year.

Earnings: Thursday After Close

  • Apollo Group (NASDAQ:APOL): FQ1 EPS of $1.47 beats by $0.01. Revenue of $1.3B (+31%) vs. $1.2B. (PR)
  • Lawson Software (NASDAQ:LWSN): FQ2 EPS of $0.09 in-line. Revenue of $184M (-11%) vs. $176M. Sees FQ3 EPS of $0.07-0.09 vs. $0.10. (PR)

Today's Markets

Overseas markets posted mostly modest gains Friday. Futures are slightly higher on light volume.

  • Asia: Nikkei +1.1% to 10798. Hang Seng +0.1% to 22297. BSE -0.4% to 17540. Shanghai was closed.
  • Europe at midday: FTSE flat at 5527. CAC +0.6% to 4048. DAX +0.3% to 6037.
  • Futures at 7:00: Dow +0.1%. S&P +0.1%. Nasdaq +0.1%.
    30-year Tsy -0.16%. 10-year -0.15%. 5-year -0.15%. 2-year -0.08%.
    Euro -0.1% vs. dolllar. Yen +0.1%. Pound +0.5%.
    Crude -0.15% to $82.50. Gold -0.8% to $1,125.

Friday's Economic Calendar

Seeking Alpha editors Eli Hoffmann and Jason Aycock contributed to this post.

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