Monday, October 26, 2009

McDonalds Pulls Up Stakes in Iceland; Will Consumers Survive Big Mac Attacks?




Iceland says goodbye to McDonalds as Customers Wonder Where to Get Help for Their Next Big Mac Attack

McDonald's closes in Iceland as currency collapse takes a bite out of Big Mac profits

By Gudjon Helgason and Jane Wardell, Associated Press Writers
On 3:41 pm EDT, Monday October 26, 2009

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) -- The Big Mac, long a symbol of globalization, has become the latest victim of this tiny island nation's overexposure to the world financial crisis.

Iceland's three McDonald's restaurants -- all in the capital Reykjavik -- will close next weekend, as the franchise owner gives in to falling profits caused by the collapse in the Icelandic krona.

"The economic situation has just made it too expensive for us," Magnus Ogmundsson, the managing director of Lyst Hr., McDonald's franchise holder in Iceland, told The Associated Press by telephone on Monday.

Lyst was bound by McDonald's requirement that it import all the goods required for its restaurants -- from packaging to meat and cheeses -- from Germany.

Costs had doubled over the past year because of the fall in the krona currency and high import tariffs on imported goods, Ogmundsson said, making it impossible for the company to raise prices further and remain competitive with competitors that use locally sourced produce.

A Big Mac in Reykjavik already retails for 650 krona ($5.29). But the 20 percent increase needed to make a decent profit would have pushed that to 780 krona ($6.36), he said.

That would have made the Icelandic version of the burger the most expensive in the world, a title currently held jointly by Switzerland and Norway where it costs $5.75, according to The Economist magazine's 2009 Big Mac index.

The decision to shutter the Icelandic franchise was taken in agreement with McDonald's Inc., Ogmundsson said, after a review of several months.

"The unique operational complexity of doing business in Iceland combined with the very challenging economic climate in the country makes it financially prohibitive to continue the business," Theresa Riley, a spokeswoman at McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, said in a statement. "This complex set of challenges means we have no plans to seek a new partner in Iceland."

McDonald's, the world's largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, arrived in Reykjavik in 1993 when the country was on an upward trajectory of wealth and expansion.

The first person to take a bite out of a Big Mac on the island was then-Prime Minister David Oddsson. Oddsson went on to become governor of the country's central bank, Sedlabanki, a position that he was forced out of by lawmakers earlier this year after a public outcry about his inability to prevent Iceland's financial crisis.

Lyst plans to reopen the stores under a new brand name, Metro, using locally sourced materials and produce and retaining the franchise's current 90-strong staff.

Ogmundsson said it was unlikely that Lyst would ever seek to regain the McDonald's franchise with Iceland still struggling to get back on its feet after the credit crisis crippled its overweight banking system, damaging the rest of its economy, last October.

"I don't think anything will happen that will change the situation in any significant way in the next few years," Ogmundsson said.

It is not the first time that McDonald's, which currently operates in more than 119 countries on six continents, has exited a country. Its one and only restaurant in Barbados closed after just six months in 1996 because of slow sales. In 2002, the company pulled out of seven countries, including Bolivia, that had poor profit margins as part of an international cost-cutting exercise.

BLOGGERS NOTE: What the good folks at Big Mac Inc do not tell us is the fact that they are opening 33,000 new stores in China within the next 10 years....so, er, ah,..how bad can they really be hurting? Hummmmm. Anyways, makes sense to me that they would choose China to expand their operations as McDonald Corp has been buying all their beef from them for all their stores as they DO NOT trust USA beef, - although, it is roumored that they maintain a small supply of USDA Inspected beef and will soon offer a burger made from USA beef and will call it The McMadCow Burger, made specifically for their American tourists and others of the like who simply dont give a dam what they eat or feed their children.

AP Business Writer Jane Wardell reported from London. AP Retail Writer Ashley Heher


http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Iceland-says-goodbye-to-the-apf-2609404079.html?x=0&.v=6

Friday, October 16, 2009

Billionaire among 6 nabbed in inside trading case

Wall Street wake-up call: Hedge fund boss, 5 others charged in $25M-plus insider trading case

By Larry Neumeister and Candice Choi, Associated Press Writers
On 6:21 pm EDT, Friday October 16, 2009
Buzz up! 26
NEW YORK (AP) -- One of America's wealthiest men was among six hedge fund managers and corporate executives arrested Friday in a hedge fund insider trading case that authorities say generated more than $25 million in illegal profits and was a wake-up call for Wall Street.

Raj Rajaratnam, a portfolio manager for Galleon Group, a hedge fund with up to $7 billion in assets under management, was accused of conspiring with others to use insider information to trade securities in several publicly traded companies, including Google Inc.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas F. Eaton set bail at $100 million to be secured by $20 million in collateral despite a request by prosecutors to deny bail. He also ordered Rajaratnam, who has both U.S. and Sri Lankan citizenship, to stay within 110 miles of New York City. The judge gave prosecutors until shortly after 6 p.m. to consider appealing his bail ruling.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told a news conference it was the largest hedge fund case ever prosecuted and marked the first use of court-authorized wiretaps to capture conversations by suspects in an insider trading case.

He said the case should cause financial professionals considering insider trades in the future to wonder whether law enforcement is listening.

"Greed is not good," Bharara said. "This case should be a wake-up call for Wall Street."

Joseph Demarest Jr., the head of the New York FBI office, said it was clear that "the 20 million dollars in illicit profits come at the expense of the average public investor."

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought separate civil charges, said the scheme generated more than $25 million in illegal profits.

Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC, said the charges show Rajaratnam's "secret of success was not genius trading strategies."

"He is not the master of the universe. He is a master of the Rolodex," Khuzami said.

Galleon Group LLP said in a statement it was shocked to learn of Rajaratnam's arrest at his apartment. "We had no knowledge of the investigation before it was made public and we intend to cooperate fully with the relevant authorities," the statement said.

The firm added that Galleon "continues to operate and is highly liquid."

Rajaratnam, 52, was ranked No. 559 by Forbes magazine this year among the world's wealthiest billionaires, with a $1.3 billion net worth.

According to the Federal Election Commission, he is a generous contributor to Democratic candidates and causes. The FEC said he made over $87,000 in contributions to President Barack Obama's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and various campaigns on behalf of Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and New Jersey U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in the past five years. The Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, said he has given a total of $118,000 since 2004 -- all but one contribution, for $5,000, to Democrats.

The Associated Press has learned that even before his arrest, Rajaratnam was under scrutiny for helping bankroll Sri Lankan militants notorious for suicide bombings.

Papers filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn allege that Rajaratnam worked closely with a phony charity that channeled funds to the Tamil Tiger terrorist organization. Those papers refer to him only as "Individual B." But U.S. law enforcement and government officials familiar with the case have confirmed that the individual is Rajaratnam.

At an initial court appearance in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Klein sought detention for Rajaratnam, saying there was "a grave concern about flight risk" given Rajaratnam's wealth and his frequent travels around the world.

His lawyer, Jim Walden, called his client a "citizen of the world," who has made more than $20 million in charitable donations in the last five years and had risen from humble beginnings in the finance profession to oversee hedge funds responsible for nearly $8 billion.

Walden promised "there's a lot more to this case" and his client was ready to prepare for it from home. Rajaratnam lives in a $10 million condominium with his wife of 20 years, their three children and two elderly parents. Walden noted that many of his employees were in court ready to sign a bail package on his behalf.

Rajaratnam -- born in Sri Lanka and a graduate of University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business -- has been described as a savvy manager of billions of dollars in technology and health care hedge funds at Galleon, which he started in 1996. The firm is based in New York City with offices in California, China, Taiwan and India. He lives in New York.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Rajaratnam obtained insider information and then caused the Galleon Technology Funds to execute trades that earned a profit of more than $12.7 million between January 2006 and July 2007. Other schemes garnered millions more and continued into this year, authorities said.

Bharara said the defendants benefited from tips about the earnings, earnings guidance and acquisition plans of various companies. Sometimes, those who provided tips received financial benefits and sometimes they just traded tips for more inside information, he added.

The timing of the arrests might be explained by a footnote in the complaint against Rajaratnam. In it, an FBI agent said he had learned that Rajaratnam had been warned to be careful and that Rajaratnam, in response, had said that a former employee of the Galleon Group was likely to be wearing a "wire."

The agent said he learned from federal authorities that Rajaratnam had a ticket to fly from Kennedy International Airport to London on Friday and to return to New York from Geneva, Switzerland next Thursday.

Also charged in the scheme are Rajiv Goel, 51, of Los Altos, Calif., a director of strategic investments at Intel Capital, the investment arm of Intel Corp., Anil Kumar, 51, of Santa Clara, Calif., a director at McKinsey & Co. Inc., a global management consulting firm, and Robert Moffat, 53, of Ridgefield, Conn., senior vice president and group executive at International Business Machines Corp.'s Systems and Technology Group.

The others charged in the case were identified as Danielle Chiesi, 43, of New York City, and Mark Kurland, 60, also of New York City.

Bail for Kurland was set at $3 million while bail for Moffat and Chiesi was set at $2 million each. Lawyers for Moffat and Chiesi said their clients will plead not guilty.

According to court papers, Chiesi worked for New Castle, the equity hedge fund group of Bear Stearns Asset Management Inc. that had assets worth about $1 billion under management. Kurland is a top executive at New Castle.

Kumar's lawyer, Isabelle Kirshner, said of her client: "He's distraught." He was freed on $5 million bail, secured in part by his $2.5 million California home.

Kerry Lawrence, an attorney representing Moffat, said: "He's shocked by the charges."

It was not immediately clear who would represent the others in their initial court appearances.

A criminal complaint filed in the case shows that an unidentified person involved in the insider trading scheme began cooperating and authorities obtained wiretaps of conversations between the defendants.

In one conversation about a pending deal that was described in a criminal complaint, Chiesi is quoted as saying: "I'm dead if this leaks. I really am. ... and my career is over. I'll be like Martha (expletive) Stewart."

Stewart, the homemaking maven, was convicted in 2004 of lying to the government about the sale of her shares in a friend's company whose stock plummeted after a negative public announcement. She served five months in prison and five months of home confinement.

Prosecutors charged those arrested Friday with conspiracy and securities fraud.

A separate criminal complaint in the case said Chiesi and Moffat conspired to engage in insider trading in the securities of International Business Machines Corp.

According to another criminal complaint in the case, Chiesi and Rajaratnam were heard on a government wiretap of a Sept. 26, 2008, phone conversation discussing whether Chiesi's friend Moffat should move from IBM to a different technology company to aid the scheme.

"Put him in some company where we can trade well," Rajaratnam was quoted in the court papers as saying.

The complaint said Chiesi replied: "I know, I know. I'm thinking that too. Or just keep him at IBM, you know, because this guy is giving me more information. ... I'd like to keep him at IBM right now because that's a very powerful place for him. For us, too."

According to the court papers, Rajaratnam replied: "Only if he becomes CEO." And Chiesi was quoted as replying: "Well, not really. I mean, come on. ... you know, we nailed it."

The criminal complaints in the case also captured what authorities said were efforts by the defendants to hide their conversations from authorities.

In one conversation, Chiesi was heard telling Rajaratnam that she was "glad that we talk on a secure line, I appreciate that," to which Rajaratnam replied: "I never call you on my cell phone," the complaint said. It added that Chiesi said she was "nervous" about being investigated.

Associated Press Writers Tom Hays in Riverside, Calif., and Beth Fouhy in New York contributed to this story.


http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Billionaire-among-6-nabbed-in-apf-2808194948.html?x=0

Ding-Dong the Dollar is Dead

From freedoms Phoenix; Posted: 15 Oct 2009 04:51 PM PDT

Oh dude. The dollar is fucked! I sincerely hope you've long since diversified away from greenbacks and if you haven't, please don't come near me as I don't want to catch whatever brain-eating disease it is you've got that would compel you to stick with the funniest of the funny money.

WC Varones has some sound advice on investments and was kind enough to extend his expertise to my good friend Exuberant Accountant. See? Isn't it great when we can all play nice together?

Anyway. Pay attention, this stuff is important. Put down the remote and grab the scissors, we're debt-free from here on out.

Bloomberg:


The dollar may drop to 50 yen next year and eventually lose its role as the global reserve currency, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.’s chief strategist said, citing trading patterns and a likely double dip in the U.S. economy.

“The U.S. economy will deteriorate into 2011 as the effects of excess consumption and the financial bubble linger,” said Daisuke Uno at Sumitomo Mitsui, a unit of Japan’s third- biggest bank. “The dollar’s fall won’t stop until there’s a change to the global currency system.”

The dollar last week dropped to the lowest in almost a year against the yen as record U.S. government borrowings and interest rates near zero sapped demand for the U.S. currency. The Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against the currencies of six major U.S. trading partners, has fallen 15 percent from its peak this year to as low as 75.211 today, the lowest since August 2008.

The gauge is about five points away from its record low in March 2008, and the dollar is 2.5 percent away from a 14-year low against the yen.

“We can no longer stop the big wave of dollar weakness,” said Uno, who correctly predicted the dollar would fall under 100 yen and the Dow Jones Industrial Average would sink below 7,000 after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. last year. If the U.S. currency breaks through record levels, “there will be no downside limit, and even coordinated intervention won’t work,” he said.

China, India, Brazil and Russia this year called for a replacement to the dollar as the main reserve currency. Hossein Ghazavi, Iran’s deputy central bank chief, said on Sept. 13 the euro has overtaken the dollar as the main currency of Iran’s foreign reserves.

This is, in essence, a big bitchslap for our buddy Zimbabwe Ben who is probably stunned by this news. What do you mean dollar fears?! Huh?!

Check it out, ZB, I'm a fucking genius too you know. Like could have kicked your ass on the SATs if I hadn't have been hungover when I took mine (and still came pretty damn close). And I can speak from experience when I say that some of the most brilliant people I know are total idiots. Personally, I am often confused by broken escalators. I know, stupid, right?! So, Dr Bernanke, I've got your damn card. I know how it is, you're probably sitting there scratching your bald little head going "well wait, why do these people not buy Geithner's line about a strong dollar policy?!"

Well allow me to answer that question for you, my dear money-printing maniac, it's because actions speak louder than words and your actions say "Holy fuck I'm out of my God-forsaken mind and will be over here imploding the dollar if anyone needs me, thanks!!"

You're welcome. Bitch.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

JP Morgan Reports $3.6 Billion Profits in 3Q - What Were Your Profits so Far this Year?




It pays to be President Obama's favorite banker. Both Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual were gifted to JPMorgan by the United States government, and the results are showing.

Net income for the third quarter climbed to $3.6bn, or 82 cents a share, from $527m, or 9 cents, in the same period a year ago.

JPMorgan, itself, said it had continued to benefit from its acquisition of Washington Mutual and that it had seen fewer markdowns on legacy leveraged lending and mortgage positions.

Investment banking was also strong. No doubt helped by the fact that, as NyPo reported, JPM is scoring lead mandates to help both troubled auto companies restructure as well as handling the planned merger of Chrysler's finance arm with GMAC, resulting in lucrative fees for the bank... END

Comment mine (Lori Smith) readers prepared to be shocked take a look at the MIND BOGGLING amount of the Derivatives held by JP Morgan here...

http://www.zerohedge.com/article/independent-look-jp-morgan

For a more detailed look at the connection of JPM obamas favorite banker with a video that really helps to explain the ties here...

http://bluelori.blogspot.com/2009/08/in-case-you-missed-connection-between.html

And this is a MUST READ

http://market-ticker.denninger.net/archives/1510-Waterboard-JP-Morgan-and-The-Mortgage-Bankers-Assn.html

Read Full Story

Reported by Lori Smith


Click on title above to read full story;
http://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2009/10/jpmorgan-reports-36-billion-3q-profit.html

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why Did Goldman Get A $3 Million Gov't Gift For "National Security"

Lawrence Delevingne|Oct. 7, 2009, 3:17 PM | 902 |5

GS Oct 7 2009, 06:40 PM EDT

WIth all the company's riches, why is a Goldman Sachs (GS) subsidiary getting a $3 million earmark from Washington?

Politico: A mining company owned by Goldman Sachs and two private equity funds is in line to get a $3 million earmark for work at a rare earth elements mine in Mountain Pass, Calif. — raising questions as to why Congress would take on some of the risk for a bailed-out investment giant that’s already making a profit.

As the article notes, Molycorp's mine is a rich source of elements used to produce powerful magnets for precision-guided weapons, hand-held communication devices, wind turbines and hybrid cars.

California Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis inserted the earmark for the mine into the House Defense appropriations bill, reasoning that it's a national security concern. The other major source for the minerals, China, could cut exports.

This concern is fair, though probably overblown. There's a lot of hype about China limiting exports of so-called rare earth metals, but that's far from clear -- plus, how does the taxpayer subsidizing Goldman Sachs change anything?

Of course, the chance to line up at the government trough is a big reason why companies get into areas relating to green or weaponry.

Goldman and Molycorp didn't immediately respond to our requests for comment.




http://www.businessinsider.com/why-is-goldman-sachs-getting-congressional-earmarks-2009-10?utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Clusterstock%20Chart%20of%20the%20Day%2C%20Wednesday%2C%2010%2F7%2F09