Wall Street Breakfast: eBay Payments Unit Mulls Accepting Bitcoin

by: Wall Street Breakfast
Wall Street Breakfast
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The U.S. Energy Department has finalized its plan to revamp the process for approving LNG exports, largely codifying a process first proposed in May. Beginning immediately, the DOE will only issue final rulings on whether exports are in the public interest after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has completed an environmental review of the project. The biggest winners under the new approach are Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT:LNG) and Exxon's (NYSE:XOM) Golden Pass project.

Junk bonds have rebounded after shattering records last week with a $7.1B net outflow, as investors added $680M back into high-yield mutual funds and ETFs in the latest week, according to Lipper data. Many investors this year have expressed concerns that a pullback in junk bond prices could signal that market participants are rethinking their willingness to take risk, but the latest inflows could ease some of those concerns.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced late on Thursday he would step down after eight years in office, opening a new political chapter that U.S. officials hope will decrease Iraq's sectarian divisions. Thanks to its vast oil reserves, Iraq’s GDP increased under Maliki's tenure, but so has corruption, waste and terrorism. New PM Haider al-Abadi is faced with the daunting task of moving the country toward a united front and fighting Islamic State.

eBay, which has been contemplating bitcoin transactions since last year, may now start to accept the virtual currency at its Braintree payments subsidiary, part of its PayPal unit. Braintree processes more than $12B in annual payments, including many online and mobile companies like Uber and Airbnb. eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and PayPal wouldn't initially accept bitcoin (COIN, OTCQB:BTCS), but that could change over time.

Berkshire Hathaway has disclosed a $366M stake in cable TV operator Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) in the second quarter, according to a new regulatory filing. Shares of Charter are now +2.3% premarket. The filing also details other new investments including a 1.3% raised stake in Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), and other increased holdings including IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU). However, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), (BRK.A) reduced its stake in several companies, among them DirecTV (DTV).

Bill Ackman's Pershing Square has sued the U.S. government, claiming that its stripping of Fannie Mae's (OTCQB:FNMA) and Freddie Mac's (OTCQB:FMCC) profit illegally short changes investors in the mortgage companies' common stock. Hedge funds have previously sued the government over the two, although most of those lawsuits focused on the companies' preferred stock. Pershing is accusing the government of funneling virtually all profit from Fannie and Freddie since 2012 to the U.S. Treasury Department.

Coca-Cola is acquiring a 16.7% stake in Monster Beverage as part of a strategic alliance. Coke (NYSE:KO) will make a $2.15B net cash payment to Monster (NASDAQ:MNST) at the time of the deal's closing, which is expected in late 2014 or early 2015. As part of the deal, Monster will transfer its non-energy businesses to Coke, and "enter into expanded distribution agreements." In return, Coke will "transfer ownership of its worldwide energy business" to Monster.

Samsung has reached a deal to acquire SmartThings, a startup which focuses on products that can be augmented with computing and communications capability, including doorlocks, smoke alarms, wearable devices and new-wave security cameras. The move displays the increase of big companies staking out positions in the "Internet of Things" (embedded products). Samsung (OTC:SSNLF, OTC:SSNGY) did not disclose a price, but TechCrunch in July estimated SmartThings' price at $200M.

Supervalu is investigating a potential data breach that may have affected more than 1,000 of its stores. The attack seems to have occurred in late June or early July, and may have resulted in the theft of account numbers and other numerical information from payment cards used at the company's point-of-sale network. Supervalu (NYSE:SVU) hasn't informed customers about the incident. Merchants often don't warn customers about attacks until they know the scope of the breach.

With a T-Mobile deal off the table, new Sprint (NYSE:S) CEO Marcelo Claure has told employees the carrier will introduce "very disruptive" prices next week. Claure is promising to use Sprint's huge spectrum assets (skewed towards higher frequency bands) to improve network quality, and to have the industry's lowest cost structure. The ex-Brightstar CEO admits the latter will result in new job cuts, but says he isn't sure of their scope.

Boeing has been awarded an initial $296M contract to buy parts needed for 12 more P-8A spy planes, including eight for the U.S. Navy and four for the government of Australia. The aircraft will replace the U.S. Navy's P-3 spy planes, which have been in service for more than 40 years. Boeing (NYSE:BA) previously won a $2.1B contract in February from the Navy to build the first batch of 16 P-8A Poseidon spy planes.

Having made the decision that Cutrale and Safra Groups' $13 per share cash offer is not in the best interests of Chiquita (NYSE:CQB) shareholders, the board has decided not to furnish information or engage in talks with the two. The company still remains committed to complete its merger with Fyffes (OTCPK:FYFFF) and reaffirmed its recommendation that Chiquita shareholders should vote to approve the definitive merger agreement.

SeaWorld is planning on upgrading the killer whale tanks at three of its theme parks, in response to the bad publicity the company has received from animal-rights activist groups. Shares of the company fell by one-third this past Wednesday and are off nearly 50% over the past 12 months. SeaWorld's (NYSE:SEAS) blacklisting is likely to have also led to Southwest Airlines terminating their 26-year-old marketing relationship with the company which was announced earlier this month.

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Today's Markets:
In Asia, Japan flat at 15318. Hong Kong +0.6% to 24955. China +0.9% to 2227. India closed.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.6%. Paris +0.7%. Frankfurt +0.9%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.3%. S&P +0.3%. Nasdaq +0.3%. Crude -0.1% to $95.48. Gold -0.1% to $1315.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.4%

Today's economic calendar:
8:30 Producer Price Index-FD
8:30 Empire State Mfg Survey
9:00 Treasury International Capital
9:15 Industrial Production
9:55 Reuters/UofM Consumer Sentiment
10:00 E-Commerce Retail Sales

Notable earnings before today's open: EL, JD

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