Seeking Alpha
  • Today - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

  • 1:56 PM
    • Sony (SNE -0.1%) plans to launch a real estate business in August, according to Nikkei.
    • The company plans to leverage its information technology know-how to offer smart real estate guidance to clients.
    • The initiative falls under a broad plan by Sony to find new growth channels.
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  • 1:50 PM
    • Janney Capital Markets delivers some common sense commentary on McDonald's (MCD -0.2%) and its recent stumble in the U.S.
    • Analyst Mark Kalinowski notes the company's vast number of menu items slows down service times and can lead to kitchen confusion and order mishaps.
    • At one time restaurant analysts chided Chipotle (CMG -1.9%) for its single pipeline approach to customer queues and simple menu, but the chain has bested most rivals in improving comparable-store sales over the last year.
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  • 1:43 PM
    • Google (GOOG -1%), which already offers app promotion/install ads for its AdWords search ad platform and AdMob mobile display ad network, has updated its offerings to allow marketers to target users based on app usage, as well as offer ads urging users to open apps they've already installed (but might be ignoring).
    • Much like Twitter's newly-launched app install ads, Google's revamped offering is aimed at Facebook (FB -2.4%), which drove 245M downloads last year via ads allowing developers struggling to get noticed within app stores to promote themselves on news feeds.
    • Google is also rolling out new reporting, automated bidding, and bulk-action tools for AdWords clients - the company calls them "enterprise-class" - and has confirmed it's testing the use of offline data to measure search ad effectiveness (previous).
    • Meanwhile, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum says his company has reached 500M MAUs - up from 450M in mid-February, when the Facebook deal was announced. Koum notes India (48M MAUs), Brazil (45M), Mexico, and Russia are WhatsApp's biggest growth drivers, and promises to keep its apps simple and uncluttered; some rivals have a different strategy.
    • Facebook is lower ahead of today's Q1 report. Pre-earnings commentary has been mixed.
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  • 1:39 PM
    • General Motors (GM +0.9%) could show a slight loss in Q1 as it takes on a massive hit from costs tied to the ignition switch recall.
    • The consensus estimate of analysts is for adjusted EPS of $0.06 vs. $0.54 pre-recall and $0.67 a year ago, but a few firms such as Barclays have GM in the red for the period.
    • The automaker's Q1 EPS could also feel a drag from foreign currencies and extra costs from a broad roll-out of new trucks, while solid pricing trends in North America are working in its favor.
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  • 1:23 PM
    • Aspen Insurance Holdings Limited (AHL) declares $0.20/share quarterly dividend, 11.1% increase from prior dividend of $0.18.
    • Forward yield 1.78%
    • Payable May 28; for shareholders of record May 9; ex-div May 7.
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  • 1:22 PM
    • Netflix (NFLX -5%) announces it will launch an original Spanish-language series for the first time in 2015
    • The company ordered 13 episodes of a comedy about feuding soccer team heirs called Nosotros los Nobles.
    • What to watch: During the firm's earnings call (transcript) earlier this week, CEO Reed Hasting said the company is "very confident" that it will see success in Latin America. Despite the optimism, analysts forecasting international subscriber growth for Netflix have had a tough time getting a handle on where the ceiling is for the Latin American nations.
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  • 1:21 PM
    • Cardinal Financial Corporation (CFNL) declares $0.08/share quarterly dividend, in line with previous.
    • Forward yield 1.80%
    • Payable May 23; for shareholders of record May 8; ex-div May 6.
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  • 1:16 PM
    • Strong loan growth, lower for longer credit losses, resilient NIM, and higher capital returns expected for Discover have analyst Betsey Graseck reiterating her Overweight rating and $66 price target.
    • Discover is taking market share, says Graseck, noting 4.2% Y/Y loan growth at the company while industry loan growth was flat. Net interest margin grew six basis points Q/Q, and lower funding costs, stronger loan growth, and lower charge-offs should keep close to that level for the next couple of years.
    • Previously: Discover Q1 earnings
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  • 1:15 PM
    • Through a partnership with OFI Global Asset Management, Barclays is hoping to roll out its Barclays OFI SteelPath MLP ETN (OSMS) on April 24th.
    • The fund will offer investors exposure to a basket of MLPs and limited liability companies that are involved in the steel industry; the only other ETF offering a niche play on steel is the Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX).
    • Said Ian Merrill, Head of ETNs, Americas, at Barclays in a press release: "The MLP asset class continues to offer investors the potential for income producing investment opportunities, and this ETN provides investors strategy based exposure to midstream MLPs in an exchange-traded format."
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  • 1:09 PM
    • Mega Brands says its shareholders have approved the sale of the company to Mattel (MAT -0.6%).
    • The acquisition comes at a key time for Mattel after rival Hasbro showed some stronger growth trends in the last quarter.
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  • 1:05 PM
    • The Verge reports the Start menu, beloved by many Windows 7 fans unhappy with Windows 8's big UI changes, will likely be added to Windows 8.1 courtesy of an August update.
    • Microsoft (MSFT -1%) announced on April 2 (at its BUILD conference) the Start menu will return, but didn't provide an ETA; past reports suggested it wouldn't come back until the launch of Windows 9 (expected in spring 2015).
    • The company showed off a revamped Start menu at BUILD that included live tiles, and also demoed a feature that allows (touch-optimized) Metro-style apps to appear within distinct windows in desktop mode. The Verge's sources state Microsoft is trying to get the latter feature ready in time for the August update.
    • Though PC sales are showing signs of stabilizing, Microsoft's efforts to gain tablet share via dual-UI Windows 8 systems haven't gone according to plan. Gartner estimates Windows 8/RT had a 2.1% 2013 tablet share, up from 1% in 2012.
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  • 1:00 PM
    • Dow -0.05%.
    • 10-yr +0.24%.
    • Euro +0.09% vs. dollar.
    • Crude +0.22% to $101.97.
    • Gold +0.17% to $1283.3.
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  • 12:59 PM
    • Northeast Indiana Bancorp, Inc. (NIDB) declares $0.195/share quarterly dividend, in line with previous.
    • Forward yield 3.65%
    • Payable May 20; for shareholders of record May 6; ex-div May 2.
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  • 12:57 PM
    • North Dakota's industrial commission is considering a proposal that would cut back on the state’s booming oil production as a means of controlling the amount of natural gas that’s being burned off at well sites.
    • North Dakota drillers currently flare more than a third of the gas because development of pipelines and processing facilities to capture it hasn’t kept pace with oil drilling.
    • "If production curtailment is the chosen regulatory path, then wells will be shut in or not even drilled,” says Roger Kelley, director of regulatory affairs for Continental Resources (CLR), one of the biggest players in the state.
    • Other top North Dakota producers include EOG, WLL, HES, KOG, OAS, NOG, EOX, MRO.
  • 12:52 PM
    • In what may or may not end up being a bell-ringer of a deal, French cable company Numericable finalizes its record €7.9B junk bond offering, reportedly pricing the yield even lower than the initial whisper numbers. The size blows past the previous record - Sprint's $6.5B issuance last year.
    • This deal is spread over €2.25B of euro-denominated paper, $7.75B of dollar-denominated, and across three tranches of varying maturities.
    • RBS's Albert Gallo: “The new deal highlights strong growth in the European high-yield bond market, which has grown fivefold over the past five years to nearly €300B . . . Despite the strong supply, we expect European high-yield spreads to continue to tighten over the year, on recovering growth, easy ECB policy, stable fundamentals and low default rates.”
    • The proceeds are to be used to fund Altice's (Numericable's parent) purchase of Vivendi's telecoms business.
    • Previously: Largest junk-bond deal ever on tap
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  • 12:51 PM
    • The iShares Yield Optimized Bond ETF (BYLD) will give investors to a broad array of fixed income securities listed in the U.S.
    • Unlike its wildly popular Core Total U.S. Bond Market ETF (AGG), according to the recently updated SEC filing BLYD will offer exposure to both investment grade and non-investment grade securities.
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  • 12:46 PM
    • Though investors aren't thrilled with AT&T's (T -3.3%) Q1 wireless numbers, Wells Fargo (Outperform) calls them "big time solid." The firm notes net adds and churn were better-than-expected, and thinks Q1 results suggest the telco's 2014 guidance is "quite achievable."
    • Morgan Stanley (Equal-Weight) is less charitable: It estimates 500K of AT&T's 625K postpaid net adds came from tablets, and notes cheaper Mobile Share plans - launched following intense price competition and promotional efforts from T-Mobile (TMUS -3%) - led wireless service revenue growth to fall.
    • Canaccord observes strong uptake for Next upgrade plans boosted subscriber adds, but expects the trend to moderate. The firm has cut its 2014 EPS estimate to $2.69 from $2.78 (consensus is at $2.71).
    • On the CC (transcript), management talked up the ability of Next adoption to lower subsidy expenses, and mentioned U-verse revenue is now on a ~$14B/year run rate.
    • Strong U-verse growth has narrowed AT&T's wireline revenue declines, albeit while pressuring margins. The company promises wireline margins (-110 bps in Q1 to 10%) will improve in 2016.
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  • 12:45 PM
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  • 12:42 PM
    • “The more banks that exit commodities trading, the less competitive it becomes for the banks which stick with it,” says Sandler O'Neill's Jeffery Harte. "[Goldman Sachs has] the bigger franchise to be a winner. It now has a much bigger piece of a much smaller pie.”
    • While Barclays has its commodities business on the block, and JPMorgan have already agreed to unload at least parts of their operations, Goldman - whose three top execs got their start at the bank's commodity unit - is holding firm and stands to gain market share.
    • “Right now it feels like we’re starting to maybe see the beginnings of some marginal benefit of competitors exiting parts of our business that otherwise, quite frankly, they had charged in with excess," said GS CFO Harvey Schwartz following earnings results last week, proudly noting Goldman has been in the game since 1981.
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  • 12:41 PM
    • Gulfmark Offshore (GLF +1.6%) is upgraded to Buy from Neutral with a $49 price target, up from $44, at Global Hunter, which believes GLF is positioned to deliver more earnings growth than current consensus expectations through 2015.
    • Although market softness is expected to continue in the Gulf of Mexico in 2Q14, the scheduled ramp in the floating rig count and GLF's imminent capacity additions should significantly improve its prospects there by H2 2014, the firm says.
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