Best financial sourse

October 28, 2010

AIG chief executive diagnosed with cancer

Filed under: money — Tags: , , — Snowman @ 4:45 pm

Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of AIG, has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing "aggressive" treatment, the insurance giant disclosed Monday.

AIG, which received billions of dollars in federal bailout money during the financial crisis, did not specify the type of cancer, but Benmosche said in a statement that he continues to work according to his normal schedule.

"The good news is that I feel fine," he said, adding that more information regarding his long-term condition will become clear "over the next couple of months."

AIG became one of the largest recipients of taxpayer assistance under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that Congress passed during the height of the financial crisis in October 2008. The company was brought to the brink of failure by losses tied to insurance policies it sold on mortgage backed securities.

Benmosche, former chief executive of MetLife, was hired last year to manage the company’s efforts to repay its government loans, which totaled upwards of $180 billion at one time.

AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), once the world’s largest insurance company, has been in the process of selling off assets to repay its government loans. Benmosche signaled that the company will continue its restructuring "so that it emerges as a smaller, more focused enterprise worthy of investor confidence."

In his statement, Benmosche also noted that AIG announced last month a "roadmap" to repay its debts, including the repayment of $20 billion in senior secured debt owed to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s credit facility.

Robert "Steve" Miller, AIG’s chairman, praised Benmosche’s performance over the last year and said the board is confident that the company will continue to work "smoothly" towards its repayment goals. However, he said the company is preparing contingency plans "to ensure management continuity." 

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October 22, 2010

Booze, coming to a Starbucks near you

Filed under: online — Tags: , , — Snowman @ 5:30 am

If you thought the coffee at Starbucks was addictive, wait until you try the beer and wine.

Starbucks is experimenting with adult beverages at one of its "learning lab" locations in Seattle. The coffee chain said Monday that it has reopened its Olive Way store in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood after an extensive redesign.

In a brief statement announcing the reopening of the store, Starbucks said it is offering wine and beer, as well as an "expanded food menu," at the location. The statement didn’t provide any details on the new alcoholic options, and calls for comment were not immediately returned.

The statement did say that the move "is in response to our customers telling us that they want more options for relaxing in our stores in the afternoon and evenings." Starbucks does most of its business in the mornings.

Starbucks, which opened in 1971, operates over 16,000 stores in more than 50 countries. It grew rapidly during the last decade, becoming one of the largest coffee chains in the world.

But the company has struggled recently to maintain that robust growth as the economy soured and coffee consumers gravitated towards low-cost rivals such as Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s (MCD, Fortune 500).

Meanwhile, Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) stressed that the remake of the Olive Way store reflects its approach to store design "and our commitment to reducing our environmental impact."

The store design features "reclaimed and local materials," the company said, and is one of 20 other Starbucks locations that meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, requirements. 

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October 16, 2010

Fox clashes with Cablevision

Filed under: marketing — Tags: , — Snowman @ 9:15 am

Fox Networks is entangled in another financial dispute over programming, this time with Cablevision, and customers in New York and Philadelphia could lose out as a result.

Cablevision (CVC, Fortune 500) says that Fox, which is owned by News Corp., (NWS, Fortune 500) is demanding too much money — and is threatening to cut them off if they don’t get it.

"In a difficult economy, it is unfair and wrong for News Corp. to demand a huge fee increase from Cablevision customers for Fox’s Channel 5 and My9 — and then threaten to pull the plug if they don’t get want they want," said Cablevision, in a prepared statement.

But Fox says it’s just trying to get the money it deserves for quality programming.

"Our position in these negotiations is entirely reasonable — we are simply asking for fair compensation for the value Fox5 and My9 programming offers," said Fox, in a prepared statement.

Cablevision says it is already paying more than $70 million annually for Fox programming, and says Fox wants to bump it up to $150 million. Fox would not confirm or deny details of the finances.

What happens next: This will all come down to the wire at midnight on Friday EST — the payment deadline for WNYW-Fox5 and My9, both in New York; and another disputed channel, WTXF-Fox29 out of Philadelphia.

"While negotiations are ongoing, we have a responsibility to prepare our viewers for the very likely possibility that as of Friday at midnight — Cablevision may no longer carry Fox5 and My9, and Fox29 programming," said Fox.

Their way of preparing viewers — Cablevision has been running ads in an attempt to appeal to subscribers caught in the middle. One of the ads depicts a woman saying, "Hey News Corp, don’t make me part of your latest drama."

Outside of this dispute, Fox is still caught up in its pay dispute with another network. Fox blocked 19 regional sports networks in a rate increase dispute with Dish Network (DISH, Fortune 500) at midnight on Sept. 30. 

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October 15, 2010

Investor safe haven or bubble about to burst?

Filed under: finance — Tags: , , — Snowman @ 2:24 am

Corporate bonds have been on a tear since the market collapse of 2008, as investors sought refuge from a tumultuous stock market.

The corporate bond market occupies that nice comfortable middle ground between the still volatile stock market and government debt offerings that offer ultra-low yields.

In recent years, investors have withdrawn billions of dollars from equities markets in search of a safe haven, only to find themselves stuck with the declining yields offered by Treasurys. Prices and yields move in opposite direction.

U.S. Treasurys currently have yields ranging from less than half a percent for two-year notes to just over 3% for 30-year longbonds. Compare that with corporate bonds, which offer yields average around 4% for investment grade debt, and 8% for riskier high yield bonds.

"With the improved environment we’ve seen issuances almost explode," said Kim Rupert, the managing director if fixed income at Action Economics. "Both supply and demand [for corporate bonds] have picked up over the last year."

And boy have they performed.

Both financial grade and high yield bonds have produced gangbuster returns for investors over the last year, according to data from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The total return on investment grade corporate bonds has increased more that 6% in the last year, while riskier and more volatile high yield corporate bonds have shown gains of 15% in total return over the past year.

The index used by Finra to gauge returns in the corporate bond market measures the total amount earned by owning a security, as well as accrued interest, coupons paid out on the bond, and the rise and fall of the bond’s price.

Institutional investors led the rush, snapping up the debt offerings of companies deemed too big to fail.

But analysts say corporate bonds are now overbought, and Johnny-come-lately investors looking for a low risk investment with a modest return may have missed the party.

"I’m looking at the market today and I’m saying this is really expensive, and historically that’s when you lose money," said William Larkin, fixed income portfolio manager at Cabot Money Management.

The next few months, chock-full of earnings report and economic data, will play a key role, Larkin said.

"The existing trend is we are going to be getting better economic indicators, and as we start to make this turn, we are in front of this huge deluge of information and the market is nervous," he said.

A jump in stock prices and an accompanying rise in interest rates would mean bad news for investors heavily vested in bonds, as those forces could severely cut into or entirely wipe out bond profits.

The risk of rising inflation also makes long-term corporate bonds a risky proposition. The longer a bond’s term, the greater the chance that the payout won’t keep pace with inflation.

Still, since most corporate bonds come with a fixed rate through maturity, the risk of declining payouts remains less than the type of heavy losses sustained by stock market investors in 2008.

"The reality is retail investors get burned because they are late to the party," said Tom Graff, an analyst at Brown Advisory. "But now they are not chasing returns. They are chasing ‘I don’t want to lose anything.’ So we have to redefine getting burned … [investors] are going to be disappointed, but not lose much money." 

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October 10, 2010

AG Terry Goddard pushes for foreclosure reviews

Filed under: technology — Tags: , , — Snowman @ 10:12 pm

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is joining AGs in other states questioning mortgage lenders and banks about their reviews of foreclosure documents.

Goddard has written 61 mortgage lenders asking them for information on so-called "robosigners" and their review processes for foreclosure documents.

Bank of America has frozen all its pending foreclosures. http://phoenix.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2010/10/04/daily70.html?surround=lfn and JP Morgan Chase & Co. and GMAC Mortgage Corp. have done the same in 23 states after reports that bankers were not reviewing foreclosure documents.

Goddard spokesman Steve Wilson said the list includes major banks such as BofA, Chase and others with mortgage business in Arizona.

Arizona is not in the list of Chase and GMAC freezes because the state does not require foreclosures to always go through the judicial process, the attorney general’s office said.

A number of states are pressing banks for information on their foreclosure reviews and whether they are breaking any laws. Goddard joined that group today.

“Several servicing companies have admitted that rubberstamping foreclosure documents was common in other states. If it took place in Arizona, I want it stopped,” Goddard said.

“I’m asking each company to describe its signing practices in detail. If any foreclosures were processed with ‘robo-signers’ in violation of the law, they will have to be made right legally. I’m very concerned that some of the same mortgage companies that deceptively put people in unfair loans now may be fraudulently throwing them out of their homes,” he said.

Arizona has one of the country’s highest foreclosure rates and banks have been faulted for not modifying distressed mortgages.

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October 5, 2010

Omnicell buys Pandora Data Systems

Filed under: finance — Tags: , , — Snowman @ 11:42 pm

Omnicell Inc. said Tuesday it acquired Pandora Data Systems Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

Mountain View-based Omnicell (NASDAQ:OMCL) focuses on systems to handle medication management for acute health-care facilities.

Scotts Valley-based Pandora provides analytical software for medication diversion detection and regulatory compliance.

"We believe the two companies' complementary, best-in-class products and technologies will be of great value to all of our customers," said Jim Felich, CEO of Pandora Data Systems. "Our partnership with the Omnicell team will allow us to continue our commitment to patient safety and help hospital systems meet the increasingly stringent requirements of the DEA and The Joint Commission payday loans."

The Pandora Data Systems solution will continue to operate as a stand-alone product, producing reports for CareFusion, McKesson, Cerner and other medication management systems, and providing regular updates and releases for its customer base.

Click here to read the press release.

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San Antonio stocks post mixed results on Friday

Filed under: term — Tags: , , — Snowman @ 3:06 am

San Antonio stocks were almost evenly split among gainers and losers.

Slightly more than half of the city’s stocks were up, while the balance of the stocks were either down or unchanged.

Harte-Hanks Inc. is Friday’s stock market leader. The direct marketing company’s stock closed at $11.40, up 2.31 percent from the previous trading day on Sept. 30.

A total of nine local stocks rose in value on Friday, while six stocks declined in value. One local stock did not register any changes.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 42 points, or 0.39 percent, to close at 10,830.

Friday’s closing tally:

Abraxas Petroleum Corp.’s (NASDAQ: AXAS) — $2.87, up 1.06 percent.

Alamo Group Inc.’s (NYSE: ALG) — $22.68, up 1.57 percent.

CC Media Holdings’ (Pink Sheets: CCMO) — $6.75, unchanged.

Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc.’s (NYSE: CFR) — $53.80, down 0.13 percent.

GlobalSCAPE Inc.’s (AMEX: GSB) — $2.63, up 0.38 percent.

• Harte-Hanks Inc.’s (NYSE: HHS) — $11.40, down 2.31 percent.

Kinetic Concepts Inc.’s (NYSE: KCI) — $37.39, up 2.21 percent.

• NuStar Energy LP’s (NYSE: NS) — $62.25, up 0.84 percent.

NuStar GP Holdings LLC’s (NYSE: NSH) — $34.26, up 1 percent.

Pioneer Drilling Co.’s (AMEX: PDC) — $6.27, down 1.72 percent.

• Rackspace Hosting’s (NYSE: RAX) — $25.77, down 0.81 percent.

Rush Enterprises’ (NASDAQ: RUSHA) — Class A stock closed at $14.89, down 2.93 percent.

• Rush Enterprises’ (NASDAQ: RUSHB) — Class B stock closed at $13.45, down 2.18 percent.

Tesoro Corp.’s (NYSE: TSO) — $13.41, up 0.37 percent.

U.S. Global Investors’ (NASDAQ: GROW) — $6.41, up 1.42 percent.

Valero Energy Corp.’s (NYSE: VLO) — $17.65, up 0.80 percent.

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