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Sony is in talks to buy out Ericsson’s stake in their mobile phone joint venture, a source said, in a bid to catch up with rivals. Belgium’s federal government and its regions clashed over the fate of the Belgian banking activities of stricken Dexia, delaying a joint Franco-Belgian rescue of the group. Bloomberg digs into the changing value of the Deutsche Boerse-NYSE merger and the potential return for investors. “French and Belgian bank stocks have crashed and the bond yields of Greece, Italy and Portugal may be peaking. Now hedge funds and bond vigilantes have begun to zero in on Hungary as the fashionable European country to bet against,” reports the NYT.
Whats Sergey Brin been up to since his pal Larry Page took the reins as CEO of Google, the Internet search company that the pair co-founded 13 years ago? Brin, who spoke at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, discussed his new role at Google, which he said is focused on advanced research projects like GoogleÂs famous self-driving cars, as well as some ÂinfrastructureÂ projects. Brin said he was optimistic that GoogleÂs so-called Âautonomous carsÂ would eventually make it to market Â though he noted that the vehicles still required a good deal of research and development before being ready for prime time. The cars have successfully completed a 1,000-mile challenge, covering tricky terrain such as San FranciscoÂs steep and wind-y Lombard Street without human intervention, Brin told a small group of reporters during a media briefing that followed his on-stage appearance. But, he said, Âwe need to move on to doing a million miles. And the level of reliability that we need for a real consumer product is high. And weÂre getting there.Â Brin told reporters that Google remains committed to the spirit of open innovation within the company, including the famous 20 percent time that allows Google engineers to devote time to side-projects. But he said that GoogleÂs Âlet a thousand flowers bloomÂ approach to product development created a glut of products that were not always up to Google standards. ÂWhen we started the company we didnÂt have much of a brand, and if anything got some traction in the market it was a pretty good signal that people really cared about it,Â Brin said. ÂNow with the Google brand behind itÂ weÂve launched weaker services, quite honestly, and theyÂve got a lot of traction just because itÂs called ÂGoogle Blah.Â And we donÂt want to be left with a complicated array of perhaps good-not-great services,Â he said. Speaking of products, Brin also hinted at other Âstealth projectsÂ under his stewardship Â at least one of which could see the light of day in the next few months. ÂThereÂs something IÂm hoping to ship within an existing Google product before the end of the year. Stay tuned,Â he said.
By Dave ClarkeWASHINGTON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said on Thursday that it will make oversight of the mortgage servicing industry a top priority as it ramps up its oversight of banks.Numerous state and government agencies are examining bank foreclosure practices and whether the proper legal steps are being taken by servicers, who collect and manage loan payments, when a borrower becomes delinquent on a loan.”The mortgage servicing market has been bogged down by widespread reports of pervasive and profound consumer protection problems,” Raj Date, the Treasury official leading the bureau, said in a statement. “We are going to take a close and measured look at whether servicers are following the law.”The bureau made the announcement as it released a broader guide on Thursday detailing how it will supervise banks and the financial products they provide, such as credit cards and mortgages.The bureau was created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law and it officially opened its doors for business on July 21.With regard to mortgage servicing, the agency said that it will first focus on home loans in default to make sure the proper information about loan modification programs and the foreclosure process is being provided to borrowers.Among the areas it will scrutinize is whether a borrower being moved through the foreclosure process is being charged duplicative or illegal fees.Federal regulators and state attorneys general have been investigating bank mortgage practices that came to light last year, including the use of “robo-signers” to sign hundreds of unread foreclosure documents a day.States and the Justice Department are currently trying to negotiate a settlement with Bank of America , JPMorgan Chase , Citigroup , Wells Fargo and Ally Financial.
* BritNed discussing whether to hold second auctionBy Karolin SchapsLONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Power traders refused to settle an auction price for reserving east-flow capacity on the British-Dutch interconnector for next year on Wednesday, saying the minimum price for securing up to 150 megawatts (MW) on the cable was too high.The BritNed cable, which started operating in April, held its first annual capacity auction on Tuesday and Wednesday, but failed to settle any contracts in the UK to the Netherlands direction despite attracting 65 bids.Power interconnectors can send electricity in either direction between two borders, usually transporting power from the cheaper to the more expensive market to balance prices and allowing traders to make a profit.The BritNed company, jointly owned by UK network operator National Grid and Dutch counterpart Tennet, has set a minimum bid price — or reserve price — of 2-3 euros per megawatt-hour, which traders said was too high.”They should put (the reserve price) at 0.25 euro or something, but they put both directions at the same level,” said one power trader who participated in the auction.”You can never ask the same amount for both directions because your ‘loss’ on one side will be offset by the ‘profit’ on the other direction.”Dutch power prices for delivery in 2012 were trading at a roughly 8-pound premium over UK equivalents on Thursday, meaning traders would make a loss sending electricity from Britain to the Netherlands next year.BritNed said it was discussing whether to hold a second auction, but could not say if lowering the reserve price was an option.Eleven trading parties made bids to snatch up some of the UK-Netherlands capacity auctioned off, overshooting the available 150 MW more than five times.Interest in securing capacity to send power in the other direction — from the Netherlands to Britain — was even higher, with 86 bids submitted requesting as much as 1,169 MW of capacity and settling at a price of 4.86 euros per megawatt-hour.Five trading participants successfully locked in some of the capacity, but BritNed refused to disclose their names.Barclays Bank , Statkraft , Gazprom Marketing & Trading and Vattenfall were some of the parties represented in the auction, the BritNed website showed, but did not specify whether they were successful bidders.
* Chapter 9 prompted by crushing bills tied to incinerator* Move opposed by city mayor, state government* Harrisburg seeks to cut principal owed to bondholdersBy Dave Warner and Edith HonanHARRISBURG, Pa., Oct 12 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday in a desperate bid to resolve its debt crisis, setting up a showdown with the state over control of the city.Harrisburg becomes one of the most-high profile cities to opt for the little-used Chapter 9 of the U.S. bankruptcy code, most notably used nearly 20 years ago by Orange County, California.The Pennsylvania capital’s crisis has been a year in the making as the city of about 50,000 struggles to pay for critical services as well as roughly $300 million in debt incurred from an expensive revamp of its incinerator.While city services should continue uninterrupted, the move has caused confusion about how bills will be paid.”We’re getting calls from vendors, wondering if they are going to get paid,” said Brenda Alton, the director of city’s department of parks, recreation and enrichment. “I feel it is a bad decision.”Municipal bankruptcies are rare. But if Harrisburg is successful in winning concessions with bondholders, pensioners and other stakeholders, it could lead other financially troubled cities to seek bankruptcy.Bankruptcy gives the city “bargaining power” with its creditors, municipal workers, retirees and the state, which is considering a takeover, said Mark Schwartz, an attorney for the council.Orange County, California, filed the largest Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 1994 after it suffered more than $1 billion in investment losses. Vallejo, California, with 120,000 residents, filed for Chapter 9 in 2008, and Central Falls, the smallest city in Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, filed earlier this year.Harrisburg’s city council approved the bankruptcy filing in a 4-3 vote. It was opposed by Mayor Linda Thompson, who in a news conference on Wednesday challenged the legality of the city council’s vote.Under city law, the mayor and the city solicitor must sign off on all hiring of outside counsel and the city solicitor must approve all ordinances and resolutions considered by the council, and neither was done in this case, Thompson said.”They have been dishonest with the entire community for months,” Thompson said of the council. “I am ashamed of the behavior.”The bankruptcy has the potential to stoke political passions as it will likely pit firefighters and police against municipal bond investors, who are often perceived to be wealthy retirees, said Peter Kaufman, president of Gordian Group and a financial restructuring specialist.”It’s disgusting, it really is,” said Warren Jones, 68, a retired corporate manager. “I talk to people I know who are in business and they’re worried.”Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has said the city would be better off if it agreed to a rescue plan under the state’s Act 47 program for distressed cities — which has seen Philadelphia and other cities through crises — and his office stressed its opposition to the bankruptcy.Pennsylvania’s state senate will vote on a bill next week that calls for an eventual takeover of Harrisburg and the forced implementation of a fiscal rescue plan. The state’s lower house has already passed the bill.”Rather than wasting precious time on illegal filings and engaging expensive attorneys, the majority of City Council should be about working with the mayor and the commonwealth to resolve this crisis via the Act 47 process,” said state Senator Jeff Piccola, who helped write the bill.WALL STREET v. WALNUT STREETThe city council has rejected rescue plans, one backed by the state and one by the city’s mayor. Those plans called on Harrisburg to renegotiate labor deals and sell or lease its most valuable assets, the incinerator and parking garages.The city council said those plans demanded too much of Harrisburg residents and did not ask enough of the county, bondholders and the bond insurer, Assured Guaranty.City Councilman Brad Koplinski, who voted in favor of bankruptcy after opposing both of the rescue plans, said the council is looking for “a global solution with shared pain for all of the stake-holders.”By selling its assets, and cutting off major revenue streams, the city could risk another fiscal crisis down the road, Koplinski said. If that happens, the city’s only options for addressing cash-flow problems would be to raise property taxes or further reduce benefits for public workers, he said.Koplinski said he would not support a solution where “Wall Street gets paid in full and the people of Walnut Street have to pay for it many times over.”In a statement, Assured questioned the legality of the vote, saying that as a distressed city of the third class of Pennsylvania cities, Harrisburg is “specifically prohibited from filing for bankruptcy.”“Assured Guaranty realizes the complexity of the situation facing Harrisburg and continues to be eager to work with Harrisburg, Dauphin County and the Commonwealth in formulating solutions to address Harrisburg’s debt.”The company “also strongly supports the efforts of the Governor and the Legislature to reach a prompt and fair resolution of Harrisburg’s debt obligations.”However, City Controller Dan Miller said the filing was the right move for Harrisburg.”I think it’s the only real option that we had,” said Miller, adding that the previous plans rejected by city council would have benefited creditors at the expense of the city.Harrisburg’s bankruptcy filing wants to go where prior municipal bankruptcies have not: toward cutting the principal owed to bondholders, Kaufman said.Daniel Berger, senior market strategist at Municipal Market Data, said there was very little trading in Harrisburg’s bonds on Wednesday. “Investors have written off these bonds for years as distressed credits,” he said.WAVE OF MUNICIPAL BANKRUPTCIES?Financial analyst Meredith Whitney, one of the few on Wall Street who foresaw the 2008 financial crisis, said last year she expected a wave of municipal bond defaults.Chapter 9 bankruptcies remain uncommon, however. The process is very expensive, and not all states allow local governments to file for bankruptcy. Governments also have a power ailing companies do not have: the ability to tax.Alabama’s Jefferson County last month settled with its creditors to avoid what would have been the biggest-ever municipal bankruptcy.Despite Harrisburg’s filing, municipal bankruptcies will likely remain rare, said Richard Ciccarone, chief research officer and municipal bond specialist with McDonnell Investment Management LLC.
Spain main eventsEuropean corporate eventsDate GMT Company Name RIC Event————————————————————————21/10 Bankinter Q325/10 Enagas Q325/10 Enagas CONFCALL26/10 BBVA Q326/10 BBVA CONFCALL26/10 Ebro Foods Q326/10 Mapfre Q326/10 Mapfre CONFCALL27/10 Abertis Q327/10 Abertis CONFCALL27/10 Acerinox Q327/10 Banco Sabadell Q327/10 Banco Santander Q327/10 Banco Santander CONFCALL27/10 Ferrovial Q327/10 Iberdrola Q328/10 Banco Popular Q304/11 IAG Q304/11 IAG TRAFFIC08/11 Gas Natural Q310/11 Gamesa Q310/11 Indra Q310/11 Repsol Q310/11 Telefonica Q3————————————————————————Event types:Full Year = Full year resultsQ1, Q2, Q3, Q4 = Quarterly resultsANALYSTS = Analysts’ meetingsAVCG = Asset value and capital gain figuresNEWSCONF = News conferenceSHAREHOLDER = Shareholder meetingCONFCALL = Conference callTRAFFIC = Traffic figuresBOARD = Board meeting