Proxy adviser ISS opposes plan by Hudson’s Bay chairman to take firm private By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. flags fly outside of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York

By Bhargav Acharya

(Reuters) – Institutional Shareholder Services said on Friday it recommends shareholders vote against a plan by the chairman of Hudson’s Bay Co to take the Saks Fifth Avenue owner private after the bid was topped by an offer from Catalyst Capital Group Inc.

In October, Hudson’s Bay agreed to a C$1.9 billion ($1.4 billion) offer worth C$10.30 per share from shareholders led by Chairman Richard Baker.

The group, which collectively owns 57% of Hudson’s Bay, includes private equity firm Rhone Capital LLC and office-space sharing start-up WeWork’s property arm.

Private equity firm Catalyst Capital Group Inc, which owns 17.5% of Hudson’s Bay and was unhappy with the bid by the Baker-led consortium, offered C$11 per share in November.

Hudson’s Bay shares closed at C$9.13 on Friday, in a sign that investors do not expect either bid to succeed.

ISS, a shareholder advisory firm, said in a note there was “no legitimate rationale from a governance perspective for recommending shareholders accept a lower offer.”

Catalyst’s Managing Partner Gabriel de Alba welcomed ISS’s decision. He said Catalyst has been working to protect the interests of the minority shareholders, including offering all shareholders a superior proposal to the Baker group.

“We will continue to push the HBC independent directors to finally step up and do their duty to protect shareholders,” de Alba said in a statement on Saturday. [nPn8pJPXQa]

“We are concerned about existing questions that remain unanswered and what additional actions and agreements remain undisclosed,” de Alba added.

David Leith, chairman of Hudson’s Bay’s special board committee that negotiated the sale to Baker’s group, said this week that the Catalyst offer was not an option available to Hudson’s Bay shareholders.

They could either accept the Baker-led offer or Hudson’s Bay would continue as a public company, he said. [nL8N28E6CJ}

Catalyst has urged Hudson’s Bay shareholders to shoot down the deal with Baker in a vote scheduled for Dec. 17. Baker’s consortium will be excluded from the vote on the deal.

Hudson’s Bay did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Baker’s take-private offer comes seven years after he took Hudson’s Bay public, and values the company at just a third of its 2015 worth, reflecting the challenges brick-and-mortar retailers face as they compete with online shopping.

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HK air transport regulator refrains from suspending Hong Kong Airlines’ license By Reuters



(Reuters) – A Hong Kong air transport regulator said on Saturday that it has decided against suspending Hong Kong Airlines’ license, the city’s second largest airline.

The airline said on Wednesday it had drafted an “initial cash injection plan” that would allow it to make overdue salary payments on Thursday. It did not provide details of the source of the funding.

Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA) said in a statement on Saturday that the cash injection plans proved satisfactory, adding that it will continue to closely monitor the firm’s operations.

“ATLA has given careful consideration to factors including public interests and the policy direction of maintaining Hong Kong as an international aviation hub,” said a spokesperson at the authority.

The carrier, part-owned by cash-strapped Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, was told on Monday that it needed to shore up its financial position by Dec. 7 or risk the suspension or loss of its license.

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Musk’s defamation win may reset legal landscape for social media By Reuters


© Reuters. Automobile awards The golden steering wheel in Berlin

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – Elon Musk’s daring has left its mark on electric cars and rockets, and now experts say the entrepreneur may have reshaped U.S. defamation law with his willingness to defend at a high-stakes trial a lawsuit over an off-the-cuff tweet.

The victory by Tesla (NASDAQ:) Inc’s outspoken chief executive over a Twitter message describing a British cave explorer as “pedo guy” has raised the bar for what amounts to libel online, according to some legal experts.

Musk defended his comments as trivial taunts made on a social media platform that he argued everyone views as a world of unfiltered opinion, which is protected as free speech, rather than statements of fact.

“I think this verdict reflects that there is a feeling that internet tweets and chats are more like casual conversation whether you call it opinion or rhetoric or hyperbole and should not be punished in a lawsuit,” said Chip Babcock, a lawyer who defends against defamation lawsuits.

Several other attorneys who specialize in defamation cases privately expressed surprise at the outcome of what they viewed as a strong case for the cave explorer, Vernon Unsworth. They attributed it to Musk’s fame and the perceived youthfulness of the jury.

But they also agreed it would shift the legal landscape, undercutting the cases that would have seemed viable before the trial while defendants would use it to try to reduce possible settlement values.

Musk’s court papers cast his comments as part of the rough-and-tumble world of Twitter, which rewards and encourages emotional outbursts and sucks in readers worldwide but that no one takes seriously.

Mark Sableman, a lawyer who defends defamation cases, said the freewheeling nature of social media has inevitably changed the understanding of language and what amounts to defamatory factual statements, versus opinion.

“I think defendants in modern defamation cases are likely to point to the vitriolic no-holes-barred nature of modern social media, cable TV, and political discourse, in contending that many words and accusations formerly considered defamatory are now understood only as mere opinions, not factual assertions,” he said.

In general, to prove libel, the written form of defamation, someone must show the existence of a false statement, which defendants often try to present as opinion. The plaintiff also must show it was published to a third party, it was negligent and it caused harm.

“While there is more leeway and more hyperbole online and in social media in general, courts never really accepted that argument that social media is a libel free-zone,” said Lyrissa Lidsky, a professor who specializes in defamation at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Several attorneys said Unsworth appeared to have a strong case, and noted that Musk failed to convince the judge to dismiss it at an early stage. But they cautioned that anything can happen in a courtroom where factors such as the credibility of witnesses and likeability of parties can become important factors.

“Based on the court’s pre-trial rulings on motions, Mr. Unsworth’s case going in had the potential to underpin a substantial verdict in his favor,” said John Walsh, who represents people bringing defamation cases.

Unsworth helped rescue a boys soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand and during a TV interview criticized Musk’s “PR stunt” of showing up at site with a mini-submersible, which was never used. Musk responded with several tweets to his almost 30 million followers and a damaging email to a news outlet, and the lawsuit followed.

In recent years, judges have been wrestling with social media comments and whether to consider them factual statements or protected opinions.

U.S. President Donald Trump, singer and actress Courtney Love and actor James Woods have all been embroiled in multiple libel lawsuits over tweets, with mixed results.

Trump has had success casting Twitter as a place where combatants trade demeaning messages that users understand are not defamatory statements of fact.

Judge James Otero in Los Angeles dismissed a case against the president for a tweet blasting as a “total con job” a claim by adult film actress Stormy Daniels that she was threatened for speaking about an alleged affair with Trump. Otero described the message as “rhetorical hyperbole,” fired off with an incredulous tone that no reasonable person would take as factual statement about Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Unsworth’s attorney, Lin Wood, warned social media is “tearing at the fabric of society” and the Musk verdict would worsen that trend.

“It is now said by this jury that insults are completely open season,” he said. “Everyone should be concerned about their reputations.”



Ulta Beauty Turns Heads Amid Surge, But Wall St. Sees Trouble Ahead By Investing.com


© Reuters.

Investing.com – Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ:) was surging higher Friday after its third-quarter results were not as bad as feared. But some on Wall Street see potential headwinds on the horizon for the cosmetic retailer.

Late Thursday, Ulta Beauty of $2.23 a share, topping estimates of $2.13 a share and up from $2.18 in year ago quarter. But revenue of $1.68 billion fell just short of $1.69 billion, although up 7.7% from a year ago.

Ulta Beauty (NASDAQ:) rose 13% and was the day’s top performer in the and the indices. The shares are up 14% this month and 9% on the year.

Sales of higher-priced celebrity-led beauty brands boosted margins and underpinned profit growth.

Gross profit as a percentage of net sales increased 40 basis points to 37.1% compared to 36.7% in the third quarter of fiscal 2018.

But while some on Wall Street have increased their price target on Ulta, they also sounded a caution note on the backdrop for cosmetics.

Nomura raised its price target on Ulta (NASDAQ:) to $230 from $215, but maintained a reduce rating on the stock, on fears that sales of color cosmetics, a key driver of growth for the retailer will likely remain weak at least into mid-2020.

Weakness in Ulta’s color comestics may force the retailer to cut its earnings forecast in the future, the bank added.

Wells Fargo echoed fears of weaker cosmetic sales.

“Slowing cosmetic trends and shifting industry dynamics will meaningfully pressure the business, even as they generate robust comps for the broader retail space,” Wells Fargo said.

The worries about future earnings is not without merit as the cosmetic retailer trimmed its outlook on full-year earnings.

For fiscal 2019, earnings per share guidance was narrowed to a range of $11.93 to $12.03, compared with $11.86 to $12.06 previously. Ulta Beauty earned $10.94 in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

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Jurors expected to begin deliberating in Elon Musk defamation trial By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk walks with his face turned away from cameras as he arrives at court for trial in Los Angeles

By Nichola Groom and Rachel Parsons

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Jurors were expected to begin deliberating in Los Angeles on Friday in the lawsuit brought against Elon Musk by a British cave explorer who says the Tesla (O:) founder defamed him with tweets suggesting he is a pedophile.

The three-man, five-woman U.S. District Court jury will likely get the case before noon on Friday, after a federal judge instructs them on the law and attorneys for both men deliver closing statements.

The jurors will be asked to decide by unanimous vote if Musk, 48, defamed Vernon Unsworth with three July 15, 2018 tweets, and if so how much he must pay in damages.

Legal experts are closely watching the proceedings, which is believed to be the first major defamation lawsuit brought by a private individual to go to trial over a tweet.

Unsworth, 64, on Thursday declined to apologize for a July 13, 2018, CNN interview in which he said Musk’s offer of a mini-submarine to help rescue a boys’ soccer team from a flooded Thailand cave was a “PR stunt” and the wealthy entrepreneur could “stick his submarine where it hurts.”

Unsworth said his insult was “not to Mr Musk personally”.

“I’m not sure how I need to apologize. It was my opinion at the time and I stand by that opinion,” he said, when cross-examined by one of Musk’s lawyers.

It was that interview which Musk has said prompted his “off-the-cuff” tweets, in which he questioned Unsworth’s role in the cave rescue and called him a “pedo guy,” with no evidence.

Unsworth has testified the tweets harmed his reputation by branding him a pedophile and a liar, leaving him “humiliated, ashamed, dirtied.”

He seeks unspecified damages from Musk, who told the court this week his net worth is around $20 billion.

The trial has revived discussion of Musk’s erratic behavior during 2018, when he used Twitter to float a leveraged buyout proposal for Tesla that was scuttled, ultimately paying $20 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint.

For most of 2019, Musk, who has nearly 30 million Twitter followers, has largely kept his public comments focused on Tesla’s new models and improved profitability and on the technical progress of his aerospace company, SpaceX.

To win the case, Unsworth must prove Musk was negligent in publishing a falsehood that clearly identified him and caused him harm. He does not need to show Musk acted with “actual malice,” which is much tougher to prove.

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Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



JPMorgan banker says he spent a year meeting regulator in Australian cartel case By Reuters



By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A senior JPMorgan Chase & Co (N:) banker spent over a year in meetings with the Australian antitrust regulator before signing a statement that would be used to bring criminal cartel charges against two rival banks and their executives, a court heard on Friday.

The account from Mark Dewar, JPMorgan’s Australian head of trading, gives a sense of the level of cooperation between the bank and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) before the regulator ordered cartel charges over a A$2.5 billion ($1.70 billion) capital raising.

JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc (N:) and Deutsche Bank AG (DE:) all worked on the stock issue for Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (AX:) in August 2015.

All but JPMorgan were charged last year with withholding details of the sale process to investors with the aim of supporting the stock’s price. JPMorgan was given immunity on condition that it cooperate with the authorities.

In pre-trial hearings in Sydney on Friday, lawyers for the defendants have been questioning the prosecution witnesses to establish how they came to give evidence to the ACCC and who else was involved.

Dewar, who still holds his position at JPMorgan, told the court he first met the ACCC with his lawyers in March 2015, during which they discussed the ANZ capital raising.

“I recall signing a document. It was a confidentiality undertaking. After that, a question and answer session ensued,” Dewar told the court.

In June that year, he said he received a “letter of comfort” from the regulator, assuring him he would be granted immunity from any prosecution.

In September, he returned to the ACCC for another question and answer session about his involvement with the raising, he said.

He said he returned for a three-day session in October during which he was shown his draft statement on a screen “so everybody could see”. He said he gave notes verbally while an ACCC staffer wrote them down.

“It felt like a long time, certainly several days, possibly more,” Dewar told the court.

He returned to the ACCC in February 2017, twice in March, and once more in April to sign the statement, he said.

“I probably needed a holiday after that,” he said.

The ACCC ultimately brought the charges against Citi, Deutsche and ANZ, and their former executives, in June 2018.

All the banks have said they will defend the charges and declined to comment further on the case outside court.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Saudi Aramco prices shares at top of range in world’s biggest IPO By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Sign of Saudi Aramco’s IPO is seen during a news conference by the state oil company in Dhahran

By Hadeel Al Sayegh, Marwa Rashad and Rania El Gamal

DUBAI/RIYADH Reuters) – State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering (IPO) will be the biggest in history, but will still fall significantly short of the towering $2 trillion valuation long sought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Aramco priced its IPO at 32 riyals ($8.53) per share, the top of its indicative range, the company said in a statement, raising $25.6 billion and beating Alibaba’s (N:) record $25 billion listing in 2014. At that level, Aramco has a market valuation of $1.7 trillion, comfortably overtaking Apple (O:) as the world’s most valuable listed firm. But the listing, expected later this month on the Riyadh stock exchange, is a far cry from the blockbuster debut originally envisaged by the Crown Prince.

Saudi Arabia relied on domestic and regional investors to sell a 1.5% stake after lukewarm interest from abroad, even at the reduced valuation of $1.7 trillion.

Sources told Reuters earlier that Aramco may also exercise a 15% “greenshoe” option, allowing it to increase the size of the deal to a maximum of $29.4 billion.

The pricing comes as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is gearing up to deepen oil supply cuts to support prices, provided it can strike a deal later this week with allies such as Russia.

For a timeline on the IPO’s progress please click on:

Climate change concerns, political risk and a lack of corporate transparency put foreign investors off the offering, forcing the kingdom to ditch ambitions to raise as much as $100 billion via an international and domestic listing of a 5% stake.

Even at a $1.7 trillion valuation, international institutions baulked, prompting Aramco to scrap roadshows in New York and London and focus instead on marketing a 1.5% stake to Saudi investors and wealthy Gulf Arab allies. Saudi banks offered citizens cheap credit to bid for shares.

Riyadh has gone quiet on when or where Aramco could list abroad.

DIVERSIFY FROM OIL

The IPO is the culmination of a years-long effort to sell a portion of the world’s most profitable company and raise funds to help diversify the kingdom away from oil and create jobs for a growing population.

“The amount raised by the IPO itself is relatively contained given the size of the economy and medium-term funding requirement of the transformation plan,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

“Nevertheless, combined with other areas of funding, we believe that there is meaningful capital in place to progress with the investment plans aimed at diversifying the economy.”

The government promoted the investment as a patriotic duty, particularly after Aramco’s oil facilities were attacked in September, temporarily halving the kingdom’s oil output.

Despite the official push and offer of loans to fund share purchases, interest was relatively muted compared with other emerging market IPOs, including the listing of a top Saudi bank in 2014 which was oversubscribed many times over.

Alibaba’s listing in Hong Kong this month had bids for 40 times the number of shares on offer.

Sources have said the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), sovereign wealth funds of two of Saudi Arabia’s Gulf allies, planned to invest in the deal. ADIA declined to comment, while KIA did not respond to requests for comment.

Saudi citizens were offered 0.5% of the company or about a third of the offering, an unprecedented retail offering compared with previous Saudi IPOs.

Aramco has planned a dividend of $75 billion for 2020, more than five times larger than Apple’s payout, which is already among the biggest of any company.

But investing in Aramco is also a bet on the price of oil and growth in global demand for crude, which is expected to slow from 2025 as steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions are rolled out and the use of electric vehicles increases.

The IPO also carries political risk as the Saudi government, which relies on Aramco for the bulk of revenues, controls the company.

Saudi Arabia has faced international criticism after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and for its role in a war in Yemen.

Attacks on Aramco’s oil plants in September also exposed their vulnerability. Riyadh and Washington blamed Iran for the attacks, although Tehran has denied the charge.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has a long-running feud with Shi’ite Muslim Iran, which lies across the Gulf.



Italy’s transport minister says government should intervene over UniCredit job cuts By Reuters


© Reuters. Italy’s transport minister says government should intervene over UniCredit job cuts

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s transport minister said on Thursday that planned job cuts at UniCredit (MI:) were unacceptable, adding the government must intervene in the matter.

As part of its new business plan, announced on Tuesday, UniCredit said it would make a further 8,000 job cuts and close 500 branches, triggering the ire of unions in Italy, where 5,500 layoffs and up to 450 branch closures are expected.

“We cannot accept that companies which make profits in Italy announce redundancies without proposing any alternatives”, Paola De Micheli told local radio Radio24.

“The government must summon UniCredit. We have the means to intervene”, she added.

(reporting by Gianluca Semeraro, editing by Silvia Aloisi)

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Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Asian stocks up as trade pendulum swings to optimism  By Investing.com


© Reuters.

Investing.com – Asia stocks opened on an upbeat tone after more positive tones on the possibility of a trade deal between the US and China, after days of contradictory developments.

Most markets in Asia gained during morning trading on Thursday but the gains were modest compared to several days of losses. The risk-on mood was fueled by news, first reported by Bloomberg, that negotiators may be closers to an agreement on tariff relief measures that would be part of a phase one deal between the US and China and that such a deal could even happen before additional US tariffs on Chinese goods kick in on Dec. 15.

On Wednesday, a day after saying he has no deadline for a deal and would not be opposed to waiting until after the elections in November 2020, US President Donald Trump said discussions are going very well.

The ended the Wednesday session in the US up 0.53% and the S&P 500 gained 0.63% while the Nasdaq climbed 0.54%.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s opened up and gained 0.53% to 26,169 by 8:50 PM ET (01:50 GMT) making back some ground after days of heavy losses.

China’s  was up 0.40% to 2,889 while the was up 0.29% at 9714. US-China trade talks remained a focus for traders after Trump said on Monday that the signing of two pieces of legislation that support protesters in Hong Kong would not make negotiations easier. However, he said China still wants a deal.

Japan’s  was up 0.57% to 23,266.

South Korea’s  was basically flat, down 0.05% to 2,067.

Down under, Australia’s was up 0.87% to 6,664.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Peloton Sinks Again as It Stands up for Controversial Ad By Investing.com


© Reuters.

Investing.com – Peloton (NASDAQ:) Interactive erased its gains in afternoon trading Wednesday as the company pushed back against severe criticism of its holiday ad.

  • Peloton (NASDAQ:) shares were down nearly 6.5% after starting the day higher. The stock fell 9.1% on Tuesday over the ad that some viewers claim is sexist. Critics have asked that the ad, which depicts a woman recording a video diary of an exercise bike her partner gave her, be taken down.
  • “We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a company spokesperson told CNBC by email. “Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey. While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.
  • Peloton (NASDAQ:) went public on Sept. 26 at $29 and struggled below that level through October. The shares rose 47.6% in November. They are still up 8% from the IPO price.

NewsBreak: Peloton Sinks Again as It Stands up for Controversial Ad

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.