Opening Bell: 02.14.13

Opening Bell: 02.14.13

Berkshire, 3G to Buy Heinz for $ 23 Billion (WSJ)
Under the terms of the deal, which has been unanimously approved by Heinz’s board, shareholders will receive $ 72.50 in cash for each share, a 20% premium to Wednesday’s close. Shares of Heinz, which has been trading at all-time highs, were up 20% at $ 72.82 premarket, topping the offer price and suggesting investors might be looking for a higher bid. Including debt assumption, the deal is worth $ 28 billion.

American and US Airways Announce Deal for $ 11 Billion Merger (DealBook)
Under the terms of the deal, US Airways shareholders would own 28 percent of the combined airline, while American Airlines shareholders, creditors, labor unions and employees would own 72 percent. The merger would create a company with the size and breadth to compete against United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which have grown through mergers of their own in recent years and are currently the biggest domestic carriers. The combined airline will have more than 100 million frequent fliers.

Weekly Claims Slide as Jobs Picture Strengthens (Reuters)
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, pointing to a continued steady improvement in labor market conditions. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week’s claims figure was revised to show 2,000 more applications received than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 360,000.

Fat-Cat Pay Makes Swiss So Mad Wages Face National Vote (Bloomberg)
With more than 100,000 Swiss citizens having signed a petition to limit “fat-cat” pay, voters will decide at a March 3 referendum whether top executives should have their compensation set by shareholders. While a poll shows a majority may vote yes, the industry’s lobby group warns that it will drive out tax-paying companies and is campaigning for a softer counter proposal.

Valentine Heartbreak for Bankers No One Wants to Date [EFC]
Bankers aren’t actually seen as desirable dates. A 2012 survey of 5,000 Britons by dating website Match.com found that bankers don’t feature in either sex’s definition of their preferred partners. Most of all, women want to date firemen, teachers and musicians. Men are keenest on nurses, scientists and accountants. … “The City is such a competitive place that the big swingers wouldn’t be seen dead with a ropey bird,” Geraint Anderson, the ex-equity researcher turned author told us. “There’s an expectation that as a banker you’ll have a hot woman because you’re rich.”

Strip Clubs to Bars Feel the Pain of London Banking Cuts (CNBC)
“They tell me inside on the floor that business is going down,the customers are spending less money, there’s a smaller amount of people coming in now,” a source at a prominent central London strip club told CNBC.

Eurozone economy shrinks 0.6% (FT)
Europe’s brittle economies shrank at their fastest rate since the collapse of Lehman Brothers four years ago, official data for the fourth quarter of 2012 showed on Thursday, with both strong and weak countries falling short of expectations. News of the eurozone’s 0.6 per cent quarter-on-quarter drop, deepening the bloc’s recession, and the woeful country-specific performances hit the euro, which fell 1 per cent against the dollar. The single currency’s recent strong appreciation has fuelled fears that a nascent recovery for the bloc may be dead in the water. Consensus forecasts had expected a 0.4 per cent contraction in gross domestic product for the eurozone in the final quarter of 2012.

SAC Capital Manager Awaits Word on Charges (DealBook)
Federal prosecutors are nearing a decision whether to bring criminal charges against Michael Steinberg, a longtime portfolio manager at SAC Capital Advisors, the giant hedge fund owned by the billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen. In recent months, a former SAC analyst who worked directly for Mr. Steinberg has met with authorities and provided them with information about his former boss, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation. The analyst, Jon Horvath, has been cooperating with the government since pleading guilty in September to insider trading charges.

Banks Warned Not to Leave Libor (WSJ)
The Financial Services Authority recently sent letters to a handful of major banks — including France’s BNP Paribas SA and the Netherlands’ Rabobank Group — warning them not to pull out of the panel that sets the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, these people said. The letters came after executives at those banks privately informed the British Bankers’ Association, the trade organization that oversees Libor, that they planned to exit the rate-setting panel.

In High-Tech Japan, the Fax Machines Roll On (NYT)
“The fax was such a success here that it has proven hard to replace,” said Kenichi Shibata, a manager at NTT Communications, which led development of the technology in the 1970s. “It has grown unusually deep roots into Japanese society.” The Japanese government’s Cabinet Office said that almost 100 percent of business offices and 45 percent of private homes had a fax machine as of 2011.

French driver trapped for an hour in speeding 125mph car with no brakes (Guardian)
When Frank Lecerf drove off to do his weekly supermarket shop in northern France, he was not expecting to embark on a high-speed car chase that would force him over the Belgian border and on to the national news bulletins. Lecerf has filed a legal complaint after his Renault Laguna, which is adapted for disabled drivers, jammed at 200km/h (125mph) and the brakes failed, forcing him to continue careering along a vast stretch of French motorway and into Belgium. Police gave chase until he ran out of petrol and crashed into a ditch.

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