Activist row bigger than Keystone for TransCanada

November 19, 2014

A sparring match with a dissident investor may be more important than the fate of the $35 bln Canadian group’s tar sands pipeline. Bay Street has welcomed activists, and the regulatory environment is favorable. But for now, TransCanada appears to have shareholders on its side.

Uber is one startup that needs to grow up fast

November 19, 2014

The taxi app’s disregard for rules has spurred it toward a $30 bln valuation. But execs who threaten to “dig up dirt” on critics, employ unsavory tactics against rivals and post stats on clients’ one-night stands pose an existential risk. Such laddishness is bad for business.

Deutsche’s CoCo buyers are not totally irrational

November 19, 2014

Bank debt that turns into equity when shares are losing value hardly sounds appealing, but the German lender has sold a $1.5 bln tranche of it at a relatively low spread. Why? There’s a 7.5 pct yield, and ECB bond-buying creates scarcity while EU stress tests give comfort.

AstraZeneca struggles to advance value defence

November 18, 2014

The UK pharma group fought Pfizer’s $120 bln bid in May by promising growth. It’s now reiterating punchy sales targets and casting oncology as a new growth driver. In fact, the Astra story has only inched forward. Its defence has been aided most by U.S. curbs on tax-driven M&A.

Buffett’s $4.7 bln Duracell deal a double positive

November 13, 2014

Berkshire Hathaway is trading its Procter & Gamble stake for the consumer stalwart’s battery unit. Swapping a reliable staple for a declining business looks odd. But it’s tax-efficient and P&G’s injecting $1.8 bln of cash. Even with that, the seller’s getting a decent price.

SABMiller has fight to justify heady share price

November 13, 2014

The beer is getting weaker at the world’s No. 2 brewer. Volumes fell 1 pct in the first half. Australia, where SAB did its last big deal, is proving especially tricky. It is faring better in soft drinks. But the stock’s high rating has scant support without M&A upside.

Barclays’ forex delay looks like bad news

November 12, 2014

The UK bank says it is serving investors by deferring a settlement with the FCA and CFTC. Any gain from coordinating with other bodies needs to outweigh the loss of a quick-deal discount. Barclays knows from Libor that going solo is risky. Holding back suggests more is at stake.

FX fines are wake-up call on self-policing

November 12, 2014

The $3.4 bln settlement for five banks works out on average at 20 pct higher than Libor – because the firms failed to mend their ways. Regulators are seeking yet tougher internal controls. Banks have a last chance to show they can treat clients fairly.

Chinese flirt app seeks undiscerning IPO investors

November 12, 2014

Social network Momo adds a new twist to mobile chat by helping strangers connect. But swelling losses and peculiar governance, even by Chinese tech company standards, are troubling. Investors have accepted similar risks with companies like Alibaba and, but based on Momo’s early filing, its IPO will be a date to forget.

Steve Cohen’s loot could land in undeserving hands

November 11, 2014

A $600 mln insider trading settlement with his SAC hedge fund will probably go to investors on the other side of its dodgy deals. Better them than Uncle Sam. But the real victims were drug firms whose data SAC’s trader stole. U.S. watchdogs miss the mark in allotting fine proceeds.