Paying two bucks a share for Yahoo!. –

Sources tell Reuters the Internet giant’s board is expected to consider plan to sell most of its Asian assets. One investment manager tells Reuters the deal would put — two dollar share valuation on the rest of the company. In about it already has in cash on its books. Proposal calls for Yahoo! to effectively transfer most of its 40% last Alibaba. Back to the Chinese company and all of its stake in Yahoo! Japan sources that. NYSE Euronext and Deutsche reports officials will likely have to appealed directly to the European commission’s antitrust commissioner. To save their merger deal sources say that’s because they’re not making headway in convincing — EC’s antitrust case — If — nine billion dollar deal should go through that team had expressed concern that the combined exchange would monopolize European listed derivatives trading. The deal would create the world’s largest exchange the other option for the two exchanges is to — the so called college of 27 commissioners. The great lady is shelling — a lot of Green. Sources tell Reuters outgoing New York Times CEO Janet Robinson will receive an exit package worth more than fifteen million dollars. That package includes nearly eleven million dollars in pension benefits that — accrued over 28. Years of service. A regulatory filing indicated the times policy previously stipulated she is eligible for these benefits. Only if she had been with the company for thirty years. Shares of the New York Times are down 25% this year and about 80% over Robinson seven year tenure as CO. Thomson Reuters IFR markets these third quarter GDP coming down today. It looks for a final reading of one point 9%. Down from the previous 2% reading as it expects consumers spent less on services and previously thought that report comes out at 830. Other reports out today include weekly jobless claims and the Thomson Reuters University of Michigan final December consumer sentiment reading. I authorities lack of a deal on a payroll tax cut extension impacting sentiment which it thinks he’ll come in at 68. That’s roughly world was the last time that report comes out at 955. And that is your morning call this Thursday I’m Fred Katayama and this is Reuters Insider.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Groupon has been valued at $US16.7 billion after an initial public offering, Lefkofsky as executive chairman still calls many shots alongside Mason, who represents the company’s public face.

Lefkofsky’s outspoken manner has drawn regulatory scrutiny, and his mixed record at other startups may leave some investors reluctant to buy shares of Groupon as it faces rising competition from Amazon and Google, said Kris Tuttle, chief executive officer of Research 2.0.

“He’s a guy that makes a good entrepreneur, a startup guy,” said Tuttle, whose Boston-based firm researches technology investments. “To get to your first $US20 million, you can have all the colour you want, and he’s got that. But now, you’re talking about a public company that’s going to take direct competition from Amazon and Google.”

With Groupon’s stock rising 31 per cent on the November 4 debut, Lefkofsky, 42, must demonstrate that he can provide the oversight the company needs to fend off bigger rivals while chasing profitability. He would follow in the tradition of Google chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt, who helped guide founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin through the search engine’s 2004 IPO.

Management growth needed

Groupon owed almost twice as much to merchants at the end of September as it held in cash. Marketing costs rose 37 per cent in the latest quarter, four times as quickly as its cash pile. And rivals’ discounts are putting pressure on Groupon’s margins, according to researcher PrivCo.

“They have to prove that they’re a real company, that they can continue growing,” Jeff Clavier, founder of SoftTech VC in Palo Alto, California, and a Groupon shareholder, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “We’ll see whether the management team can grow into a public company management team.”

Culture of Debate

Lefkofsky, the largest shareholder with a 17 per cent stake, keeps an office on the seventh floor of Groupon headquarters in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, one level above where CEO Mason sits. While he oversees Lightbank LLC, a technology incubator that has invested in almost 20 companies, Groupon occupies a majority of his time, according to people close to the company.

Lefkofsky is frequently seen drinking coffee in the hallways and meeting rooms at Groupon. He attends the weekly “National Deals” meeting, where the company plans widespread discounts designed to raise its profile.

The gatherings act as a stage for what Mason, 31, has referred to internally as a “culture of debate”, where most proposals are met with objections from Lefkofsky or someone on the executive team, say people central to the company. In one meeting, chief financial officer Jason Child called Mason and Lefkofsky a “married couple” because of their tendency to bicker, according to a person familiar with the matter.

While no business section reports directly to Lefkofsky, the chairman moves between several functions in the company, including legal affairs, mergers and acquisitions, partnerships and fundraising, according to a person familiar with the processes.

Executive departures

Lefkofsky’s hands-on role alongside Mason – a college music major who dropped out of a master’s program in public policy to start websites – has lessened the need for a chief operating officer and contributed to the departure of two executives in that role in six months, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Rob Solomon, who joined in 2010 after stints at Yahoo! and Electronic Arts, left in March. Margo Georgiadis, who succeeded him in April, departed in September to return to Google, where she worked before Groupon.

Lefkofsky, whose stake was worth $US2.86 billion on November 4 and ranked number 293 on the Forbes 400 list of richest people in America this year, also caught the attention of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, whose rules limit what companies can say about future prospects to potential investors between the time they file for an IPO and when shares start trading.

‘Wildly profitable’

In remarks to Bloomberg News, Lefkofsky said he expected the money-losing company to become “wildly profitable”. The company later updated its IPO filing to tell investors to disregard the comments.

While Lefkofsky sways debate, his view doesn’t always prevail. Early on, he repeatedly rejected Mason’s idea to increase spending on marketing to bring in more customers. Lefkofsky shot Mason down because he wasn’t convinced that customers acquired through marketing would be valuable over the long haul. Mason created a mathematical model to prove his point, and eventually won the day, people familiar with the matter said.

Lefkofsky encouraged deliberation when Groupon received two buyout offers in 2010. In the fall of that year, after Yahoo offered $US3.5 billion to buy the company, Mason wanted to immediately reject the offer on the grounds that he didn’t want to work for Yahoo or its then-CEO, Carol Bartz. Lefkofsky insisted that the board take time to discuss the offer, which they did for about three weeks before deciding to turn it down.

Rebuffing Google

Google’s offer for $US6 billion, made in November 2010, also prompted a drawn-out debate by the board. Kevin Efrusy, a Groupon director and partner at Accel Partners, wanted to turn down the offer. Lefkofsky wavered on the matter for about a month, before he and Mason finally decided that the deal would take too long to pass clearance with regulators, according to people close to the company.

As Groupon’s IPO filing brought questions about its accounting practices and rising marketing costs, Lefkofsky’s leadership has helped give the company credibility, said Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago securities lawyer.

“Eric has always been viewed as the most experienced hand on deck,” Stoltmann said in an interview. “He’s the adult in the room, the babysitter, the supervisor – a lot of people have a lot of confidence in him and that he’s on board.”

Other technology startups that have turned to seasoned executives to provide oversight include Facebook, which brought in former Google executive Sheryl Sandberg as chief operating officer to work beside founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Past ventures

Not all of Lefkofsky’s background instills confidence for investors. His investment in Groupon follows a series of past ventures, some of which floundered. In the 1990s, Lefkofsky and his business partner, Brad Keywell, bought children’s apparel company Brandon Apparel Group. It later faltered after accruing debt and when fashion trends shifted, Lefkofsky explained in his blog.

Lefkofsky also co-founded, an online promotional-merchandise seller, in 1999 and then sold to Ha-Lo Industries for $US240 million. Ha-Lo filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in July 2001 after writing down the acquisition.

In 2001, he founded printing-service provider InnerWorkings, which went public in 2006. He also helped found Echo Global Logistics, a shipping-technology company, in 2005. That company held its IPO in 2009.

 Selling early

“Mr. Lefkofsky is proud of his track record as a founder of successful and innovative technology companies, including InnerWorkings, Echo, MediaBank, and Groupon,” Charles Sipkins, a spokesman for Lefkofsky, said in an email. “His career has not been without numerous learning experiences that have shaped him as entrepreneur and investor.”

Lefkofsky also raised eyebrows with his sale of shares in Groupon. In late 2010, he brought together a pool of investors that included large institutional backers like Fidelity Investments and T. Rowe Price Group to raise $US950 million in equity.

Lefkofsky sold $US257.5 million of his Groupon shares to investors during that round of funding, in addition to the $US57.1 million he had already sold in a previous round, transactions that are unconventional for a closely held company, said Mark Cannice, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of San Francisco School of Management.

Daily involvement

“You wonder if that makes the most sense for the long-term value of the company,” Cannice said. “Early investors have already achieved large liquidity events well before the public gets involved.”

Lefkofsky gradually lessened his involvement in InnerWorkings and Echo Global after their IPOs, according to people close to the companies. He also spends less time focused on Groupon than he did at its founding, the people said.

Whatever his daily involvement, Lefkofsky still holds a disproportionately large share of voting power. In recent months, Groupon approved a dual-class stock structure that grants shares owned by Lefkofsky, Mason and Keywell 150 times the voting power of all other shares.

“He’s really the puppet master behind the scenes,” Sam Hamadeh, CEO of New York researcher PrivCo, said on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t think he wants to let go of this company, and he’ll be pulling the strings behind the scenes for a long time to come.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Tower insurance shares soar 42%

on directors’ Dai-ichi nod

December 29, 2010

Australia Tower Group shares surged 42 per cent to a record high as investors supported an all-cash takeover offer from the company’s Japanese cornerstone investor Dai-ichi Life Insurance.

Tower said today its directors recommended shareholders accepted Dai-ichi’s $4 per share, or $1.2 billion, offer to buy all shares it does not already own in the specialist life insurer.

The stock touched $3.88 – Tower’s highest-ever share price since splitting from New Zealand-based Tower in December 2006 – before closing up $1.14, or 41.8 per cent, at $3.87.

Over 20 million shares were traded during the day, Tower’s best daily turnover since October 2008.

IG Markets strategist Ben Potter said the hefty 46.5 per centage  premium to the Christmas Eve closing share price of $2.73 would have ruled out a competing offer.

‘‘I’d be expecting no other bidders around that price,’’ Mr Potter said.‘‘I don’t think people wouls have to think too long and hard about selling their shares at $4.’’

Dai-ichi’s offer to buy the remaining 71.04 per cent of Tower, made yesterday, valued all of Tower at $1.76 billion.

Dai-ichi general manager of international business management department, Takayuki Kotani, said the deal allowed Japan’s number two life insurer to increase its geographic diversification in the Asia Pacific region.

Mr Kotani described Tower as a profitable, growing company with good management and he flagged having a greater presence in Australia in the time ahead.

‘‘Beginning with this investment, Dai-ichi will strengthen its commitment to Australian marketplace over a period of time,’’ Mr Kotani said in a statement.

Dai-ichi, which bought its stake in Tower in August 2008 for $376.3 million and also holds insurance interests in Vietnam, Thailand and India, indicated it wished to keep the Australian insurer’s current management and independent directors in place.

Tower chairman Rob Thomas said the independent directors believed that the offer represented a ‘‘compelling premium and a highly attractive outcome’’ for shareholders.

Managing director Jim Minto said having Dai-ichi as a cornerstone shareholder for the past two years had been of great benefit to Tower’s business partners and customers.

‘‘Dai-ichi is a major life company and there is a strong natural fit that will allow continued benefits to flow for Tower’s customers, staff and business partners,’’ Mr Minto said in his statement.

Dai-ichi listed on the Tokyo stock exchange in April this year, after an initial public offering that raised $US11 billion ($10.92 billion).

Tower’s yearly results, released last month, showed the specialist life insurer’s net profit rose 88 per cent to $87.4 million in fiscal 2010 and a return on capital of 10.3 per cent.

The company did not release earnings guidlines, but said at the time it was targeting an 11 per cent return on capital in fiscal 2011 and a 13 per cent return in three years.

The directors’ recommendation of the Dai-ichi bid, which would be via a scheme of arrangement, is subject to the absence of a superior proposal and the outcome of an independent expert’s report.

It also requires court approval, the go-ahead of Tower shareholders, as well as the go ahead from Australian and Japanese authorities.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Groupon entering Australia

& daily deals sites ignite

Julian Lee

December 29, 2010

THE world’s largest daily deals website, Groupon, which Google tried to buy this month for $US6 billion, has confirmed it is entering the Australian market.

The company is recruiting people to sign up to its email database before a launch next month into a market that is becoming crowded. The No. 2 player, Living Social, abandoned plans to start from scratch in Australia, opting instead for a joint venture with an existing company, Jumponit. 

But because an existing Australian deals company has had its application to use the Groupon name in Australia approved, the Chicago company has been forced to use the domain name of Stardeals in Australia.

Groupon has engaged the lawyers Clayton Utz to take action against Scoopon, a Victorian company that has been offering online deals on products and services in Australian cities for more than four years.

Groupon lodged an intellectual property action in the Federal Court in Victoria in August and is due to go for mediation on January 21 or, failing that, to the courts on February 4.

Groupon is also taking Scoopon to court in its home state of Illinois, claiming federal trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices, even though Scoopon’s business is limited to Australian shores.

Do a deal a day websites offer discounts from local retailers, merchants and leisure operators, thereby restricting their operations to local businesses and consumers.

A Groupon spokeswoman, Julie Mossler, said: “The [Stardeals] site is live to accept subscribers but we are not yet offering deals currently. We hope to do so in the next month.”

An intellectual property lawyer, Trevor Choy, said Groupon was paying the price for failing to register its trademark or name as it expanded globally. The US case was doomed to fail, he said. “Groupon’s lawyers should have known that US trademarks can’t be enforced outside of the US against a company not doing business there.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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Newspaper in Norway says

it has all WikiLeaks data

December 24, 2010

A Norwegian newspaper says it has obtained the entire trove of 250,000 uncensored US diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks has been distributing.

The announcement appears to make Aftenposten the first media organisation outside WikiLeaks’ five partners to obtain the material – a development sure to heighten US government fears that the public release of some uncensored diplomatic cables could endanger informants’ lives. 

So far WikiLeaks has released about 1,900 of the more than 250,000 State Department documents it claims to possess, many of them containing critical or embarrassing US assessments of foreign nations and their leaders. The documents are also being published by The New York Times, France’s Le Monde, Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Managing editor Ole Erik Almlid said Aftenposten has no restrictions on how to use the material, and will be publishing articles about the US documents that it finds relevant in its online and paper editions.

Aftenposten will also post parts of some of the original documents on its website, redacting sensitive information such as names if needed, Almlid told The Associated Press.

“We have received these documents … without restrictions and without paying anything for it,” Almlid said, declining to say exactly how the paper obtained the material. “We never reveal our sources.”

Earlier this year, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of classified US military documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has not been charged in connection with leaked documents but was jailed in England this month after two women in Sweden accused him of sex crimes, including rape. He was freed on bail last week and is confined to a supporter’s country estate in Britain while he fights extradition to Sweden, where authorities want to question him in the sex crimes inquiry.

It is not known who sent the US documents to WikiLeaks.

A US solider, Pfc. Bradley Manning, was charged in July with leaking classified material, including video posted by WikiLeaks of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. Manning is now in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha