Today - Tuesday, April 21, 2015
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- Blizzard Entertainment (NASDAQ:ATVI) has set a June 2 release date for its Heroes of the Storm game -- a "multiplayer online battle arena" game that will combine characters from Blizzard classics and let players fight them against one another.
- The game follows in the footsteps of battle games like Marvel vs. Capcom or Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. in that it allows players to fight characters from divergent game universes -- but in its case, drawing from wildly popular game franchises including WarCraft, Starcraft and Diablo.
- MOBA games have seen massive market successes and Blizzard is joining in with what it calls a "team brawler" with an approachable sense of humor. The game will be free to play and focus on cooperative play but will feature a draft-style system for more experienced players.
- Blizzard's key franchises have collectively earned the company more than $4B over the past 20 years.
- Two oil-related dividend cuts provoked sharply different responses in today's trade: San Juan Basin Royalty Trust (NYSE:SJT) slumped 9% after announcing it would have no cash distribution for April, but Legacy Reserves (NASDAQ:LGCY) jumped 9% after finally caving in to pressure to cut its dividend.
- At SJT, a distribution normally would be made in April based principally upon production during February, but the Trust said no cash distributions would be distributed until future net proceeds are sufficient to pay then-current Trust liabilities and replenish cash reserves.
- In contrast, LGCY cut its Q1 dividend to $0.35 from $0.61 in Q4 but it also reaffirmed its $30M capital spending budget for the year and said it is realizing better than expected reductions in operating and capital costs - plus, a bit of straight talk from the CEO may have helped reassure investors.
- The possibility of a do-over came up at today's appeals court hearing that pitted Chevron (NYSE:CVX) against lawyer Steven Donziger, the attorney who won a $9.5B environmental damage award against the company in a legal battle that has dragged on for 22 years.
- U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Wesley asked lawyers on both sides whether they would support a retrial in the U.S. of the 2011 ruling by an Ecuadorean court, which found CVX was responsible for the pollution; CVX lawyers clearly did not like the idea after last year winning a ruling from a New York judge that Donziger’s victory had been obtained through bribery and fraud.
- The other two judges on the appeals panel did not offer a hint of interest in Wesley's notion, but enough was left unsaid to make it impossible to guess at this point what the appeals court could do - or to know if Wesley was serious with his idea or putting the attorneys through some kind of law school Socratic exercise.
- El Paso Pipeline Partners was found liable for $171M in damages in a Delaware court today for overpaying in a pipeline deal that the judge said was forced on it by its parent.
- The directors of the partnership, a unit of Kinder Morgan's (NYSE:KMI) El Paso Corp., agreed to buy El Paso's interests in gas pipelines at inflated prices "against their better judgment," the court found, to the detriment of investors.
- The pipeline partnership was brought into Kinder Morgan's umbrella as part of the company's $44B consolidation last summer.
- Chinese wireless firms jumped in U.S. trading today in reaction to new easing from China, where the central bank cut its reserve requirement ratio a percentage point to 18.5%
- China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) gained 5.4% today and is up another 3.2% after hours; China Telecom (NYSE:CHA) closed up 4.9%; and China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) closed up 5.3% (and is up now 0.2% after hours).
- China Unicom was among leaders among Hong Kong stocks today, trading 2.2% higher there, while China Telecom was up 2.8%.
- China Mobile provided unaudited key indicators from its Q1, noting that while operating revenue was up 3.9% Y/Y (to 160.9B yuan) and EBITDA up 2.8% (to 59.2B yuan), net profit slipped 5.6% Y/Y to 23.8B yuan.
- As the substitution impact of over-the-top business (including apps like Tencent's WeChat) on China Mobile's traditional business "continued to intensify, voice services and SMS and MMS services further declined," the company noted, with voice and SMS usage down 1.3% and 4.5% respectively.
- "The Group is at a critical stage of transformation of its development," writes Chairman Xi Guohua, noting that capex and cost input continue to remain high amid heavy demand for resources from 4G construction, business development and customer retention.
- Ahead of tomorrow's FQ4 report, CalAmp (NASDAQ:CAMP) announces it has bought Crashboxx, a startup working on "insurance telematics applications across the entire auto insurance lifecycle, from driver risk assessment through claims processing automation." The company is paying $1.5M in cash up-front + earn-outs based on post-acquisition sales targets.
- CalAmp: "[Crashboxx's] proprietary driver behavior, crash detection, crash notification and physical and bodily damage estimation technologies are extraordinarily unique within the emerging insurance telematics marketplace. Innovations including automated first notification of loss and near real time estimation of damages and bodily injury could drive significant business efficiencies and [ROI] for both insurance carriers and fleet managers."
- Though the Industries page on CalAmp's site currently lists 11 different verticals for which it provides telematics, fleet-tracking, and asset/device management solutions, insurance isn't one of them.
- The U.S. Navy has "created a sole source solicitation notice" for American Superconductor's (NASDAQ:AMSC) high-temperature superconductor (HTS) equipment. AMSC has also "established a relationship with the Navy to develop HTS power cable hardware for ship board power applications."
- AMSC notes it has collaborated with the Navy for several years on an HTS-based degaussing system, and that the system's core components are "transferable to other applications being targeted for ship implementation."
- The company notes its ship protection systems for the Navy reduce a ship's magnetic signature, which in turn interferes with the ability of an undersea mine to detect and damage a ship. It claims its products can cut degaussing system weight by 50%-70%. On its site, AMSC claims its Amperium HTS wire "conducts approximately 200 times the electrical current of copper wire of similar dimensions."
- Shares have risen to $8.41 AH, hitting their highest levels since a 1:10 reverse split took effect on March 25.
- CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL) has acquired database service provider Orchestrate, in order to add its capabilities into the CenturyLink Cloud platform.
- Orchestrate promises to save clients the hassle of running their own database instances by providing multiple varieties of database-as-a-service offerings.
- It's one of a few recent moves by CenturyLink to shore up data analytics, including the fall acquisitions of DataGardens and Cognilytics.
- Orchestrate's key leadership is joining CenturyLink, including co-founders Antony Falco (CEO) and Ian Plosker (CTO).
- The two firms are recent partners, as Orchestrate became available via CenturyLink Cloud early last month.
- The FDA approves the use of Syneron Medical's (NASDAQ:ELOS) PicoWay picosecond laser for the treatment of pigmented lesions, the second indication for the product. The agency approved it in November 2014 for the removal of tattoos.
- PicoWay generates an ultra-short pulse (one trillionth of a second) duration that optimizes the fracturing of tattoo ink or pigmentation.
- The company launched the system in the U.S. and international markets in Q4 2014. The launch in Canada will commence this quarter.
- Angie's List (NASDAQ:ANGI) is partnering with online small business lender OnDeck Capital (NYSE:ONDK) to offers loans up to $250K and lines of credit up to $20K to local service providers using its platform.
- The announcement comes ahead of Angie's Wednesday Q1 report. Shares rose 6.7% in regular trading amid a market rally, and are down 0.3% AH. OnDeck, which reports on May 4, was nearly flat today.
- Digital Realty Trust (NYSE:DLR) has brought in Michael Henry to be its first CIO, charged with identifying new opportunities (such as where to target new data centers or new clients) and increase customer engagement.
- It's part of a recent firming up of upper management. Henry will report to Bill Stein, who was named permanent CEO in November, and last week the company brought in Andrew Power as new CFO and Jarrett Appleby as its COO.
- Increasing data demands are leading to more server farms and smaller edge data centers, Stein told a Citi conference in March, and so Henry will be focusing on analytics to help the company get decision-making info faster. “IT is rapidly evolving from a cost center to a revenue-generator, and we view data as a strategic asset,” Henry said.
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