Top 10 News Items for 12/24 - 12/28: Obama Stalls on Cliff; Marvell Loses Big Suit; Holiday Sales Cause Concern

December 28, 2012 4:23 PM EST
1. Discussions will continue on Capital Hill over the impending fiscal cliff. President Obama met with Congressional leaders today to hammer out a new deal and a special session is expected to take place on Sunday night, one day before expiration of current tax laws and spending plans.

The meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, both Republicans, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Obama offered no new plan to the leaders today, causing a late sell off in markets.

2. Chip maker Marvell (Nasdaq: MRVL) saw an unexpected selloff this week following an adverse verdict behind a patent dispute with Carnegie Mellon University. According to the company, it will pay out about $1.169 billion in damages tied to the suit. Given that Marvell's market cap was just north of $4.4 billion prior to the decision, shares took a significant hit.

For more on the litigation, click here.

3. Holiday blues come to retailers. According to data from MasterCard's (NYSE: MA) SpendingPulse unit, retail sales rose just 0.7 percent from last year for the eight weeks ended December 24th. That was the slowest growth since a 5.5 percent dip in 2008 sales.

Numbers include MasterCard sales and estimates for cash payments. Excluded are auto purchases, groceries, and gasoline. For more on the data, click here.

4. Herbalife (NYSE: HLF). The name alone evokes images of clean air, mountain climbing, relaxing spas, and a great opportunity for those who work hard. Pershing Square's Bill Ackman has recently come down on the company, saying the whole setup is a sham. He even disclosed being over 20 million shares short, saying he'd give profits to charity.

With a price target of zero, who could blame him?

Shares have been up and down all week as traders and investors debate whether Herbalife is true blooded, or a multi-level marketing scam. Click here for more recent headlines.

5. On Wednesday, Toyota (NYSE: TM) entered a settlement agreement over unintended acceleration claims for some 16 million participants in a class action lawsuit. Under the settlement, Toyota will take a write-down of $1.1billion to cover costs of reimbursement, equipment installation, legal fees, and more. For more, click here.

6. Friday, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) disclosed that Autonomy was being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department over alleged accounting fraud. The move is in connection with the $10.3 billion takeover of Autonomy by H-P last May.

According to the company's 10-K filing: "As a result of the findings of an ongoing investigation, HP has provided information to the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC related to the accounting improprieties, disclosure failures and misrepresentations at Autonomy that occurred prior to and in connection with HP's acquisition of Autonomy. On November 21, 2012, representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice advised HP that they had opened an investigation relating to Autonomy. HP is cooperating with the three investigating agencies."

7. Lightower Fiber Networks and Sidera Networks signed a definitive agreement for a transaction valued at over $2 billion led by Berkshire Partners, a Boston-based investment firm, and management, to acquire and merge both companies.

M/C Partners and Pamlico Capital acquired Lightower from National Grid plc in August 2007. Pamlico Capital, a significant Lightower investor, and ABRY Partners, a significant Sidera investor, will remain as investors in the new company.

The combined company will retain the Lightower name and operate a 20,000-mile network connecting 6,000 locations in the Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic U.S.

8. A big fluff was made over the compensation of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook in Apple's fiscal year ended September 2012. Cook took a salary of $1.358 million and $2.8 million in compensation for a total of just over $4 million. Really, its a raised over the prior year, but Cook was issued 1 million in restricted stock units (RSUs) making it seem like he came away with $376 million. Those RSUs vest over a five and 10 year period.

For more, click here.

9. The home sector got another boost this week. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index rose a better-than-expected 4.3 percent for the three-months ended in October. The Street was looking for a 3.9 percent rise while prices rose 3 percent in September. Today, pending home sales rose 1.7 percent in November, versus expectations of just a 1 percent gain.

10. Blackstone (NYSE: BX)-sponsored SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS)(Nasdaq: SEAS) filed a registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an Initial Public Offering of its Common Stock. The proposed maximum offering price is $100 million. SeaWorld has not applied to a specific exchange, but plans to list under the ticker, "SEAS."

Blackstone acquired SeaWorld in 2009 for about $2.7 billion. The park wasn't profitable at the time, losing $58 million in December 2009. But, Blackstone turned around the company, netting a profit of $19 million in 2011 and $86 million through the first three quarters of 2012.

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William Ackman, Pershing Square Capital, Pending Home Sales, Standard & Poor's, S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Top 10 News Items for the Week, Barack Obama

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