Wall Street Breakfast: Reynolds Lawsuit, Russian Ultimatum, Philips Earnings Decline

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by: Wall Street Breakfast
Wall Street Breakfast
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.

Economy
Western leaders from Britain, France and Germany have staunchly warned Vladimir Putin of increased sanctions by Tuesday if air accident investigators do not have full access to the crash site in eastern Ukraine. Kerry has also pointed a finger at Putin after new evidence suggested that the plane was shot down by separatists using an SA-11 surface-to-air missile "transferred from Russia". Russia and Ukraine still accuse each other of being behind the downed MH17.

Stocks
R.J. Reynolds is readying its legal division after a lawsuit slammed the company with $23.6B in punitive damages to be paid to the widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer. It is probable that the Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI) subsidiary will get the payment reduced or be rejected on appeal, as the payment likely falls outside the U.S. Supreme Court's boundaries for punitive damages.

Philips reports that Q2 net profit fell 23% due to unfavorable exchange rates and the suspension of its health care plant in Cleveland, but countered that earnings should increase in the second half of the year compared with the same period last year. Philips (NYSE:PHG) net profit fell to €242M vs. €317 a year earlier. Sales dropped 6% Y/Y to €5.29B and EBITA plunged to €415M, down from €601M Y/Y.

Due to slowing growth for its FiOS TV and broadband service, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is looking to regain its market share with a new offering - faster upload speed. In Q1, Verizon's broadband customer additions slowed to 98k from 188k the year earlier, after facing strong competition from the cable industry. FiOS now says it will provide customers with the same upload speeds as download speeds for no additional charge.

A new report shows that trading firms and employees raised concerns about high-speed traders at Barclays' (NYSE:BCS) dark pool months before the NY attorney general's accusation of favoring high frequency traders. The activity under investigation dates back to 2010, when Barclays executives developed a plan to boost trading in the bank's dark pool known as Barclays LX. Barclays is expected to reply to the attorney general's civil complaint this week.

AIG has recouped more than $2B in settlements with banks over the shoddy mortgage bonds that almost led to the insurer's collapse during the financial crisis. Most of the settlements were completed though private deals with banks such as Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) and BofA (NYSE:BAC). The out-of-court settlements means that AIG (NYSE:AIG) is unlikely to pursue further legal action against big banks.

Amplats is planning to sell its Union mine, Rustenburg operations and a joint venture in South Africa. The move will reduce the miner's staff count by 20k, and follows a continuous five-month strike against the Anglo American (OTCPK:AAUKY) subsidiary by the AMCU union. The mine is expected to be sold to Sibanye Gold (NYSE:SBGL), whose CEO Neal Froneman announced a wish for a platinum deal before the end of the year.

After reporting its sharpest drop of quarterly sales in decades, Tesco (OTCPK:TSCDF, OTCPK:TSCDY) announced that Philip Clarke will step down as CEO to be replaced by Dave Lewis, president of the personal-care division at Unilever (NYSE:UL). Tesco, Britain's largest retailer, has been suffering due to competition from discount chains. Clarke introduced store refits, product ranges, online services and cut prices but all attempts have failed to increase sales.

Wal-Mart invested $103M into its Indian wholesale business in June, and plans to open 50 more stores in India over the next 4-5 years. The retailer already operates 20 stores in the country. Earlier this month, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) launched its e-commerce platform to sell to small businesses in Indian cities Lucknow and Hyderabad.

ABB and Volvo are teaming up to revolutionize urban e-mobility by co-developing and commercializing electric and hybrid buses with fast charging systems. The first project will combine Volvo's (OTCPK:VOLVY) electric hybrid buses and ABB's (NYSE:ABB) automatic e-bus chargers in the Luxembourg public transport system. Twelve Volvo Electric Hybrid buses are expected to be running on existing lines by 2015.

GM has told its dealers to stop selling some Cadillac models because a fix is not yet in place for its defective ignition switch. The GM (NYSE:GM) recall was issued on July 2 and updated July 8 after it was discovered that the vehicle's engine can shut off if the driver's knee bumps the ignition key. Total Cadillacs in the U.S. being taken back for the fix is estimated at ~554k.

Severstal has announced that it will sell two of its North American steel plants to Steel Dynamics (NASDAQ:STLD) and AK Steel (NYSE:AKS) for $2.3B, in an effort to cut costs by shedding its international assets. The company has been looking to sell the two plants since last year, and the sale is not tied in any way to the Ukrainian crisis. Severstal reported EBITDA of $2B in 2013 - a 4% drop from 2012.


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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan -1% to 15216. Hong Kong -0.3% to 23387. China -0.2% to 2054. India +0.2% to 25683.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.3%. Paris -0.3%. Frankfurt -0.7%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow -0.1%. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq flat. Crude flat at $103.12. Gold +0.3% to $1315.40.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.49%

Today's economic calendar:
8:30 Chicago Fed National Activity Index

Notable earnings before today's open: AGN, BBT, GPC, HAL, HAS, LII, MAN, NVR, PETS, PHG, SIX, STI, XRS

Notable earnings after today's close: BRO, BXS, CCK, CDNS, CMG, CNI, CROX, CYS, ELS, GLF, HLX, HSTM, HXL, NFLX, PKG, POL, RCII, RMBS, SANM, STLD, TXN, UCTT, WCN, WWD, ZION

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