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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zynga insiders cash out at the right time

My security detail and I are met by unfamiliar face and his own security detail. We stand in front of United Overseas Bank Plaza One. We quickly disappear inside the tower and head towards the elevators. Not a single word besides our greeting has been spoken. I can feel the tension and excitement mixed with opportunity and mystery in the air. This will be a good one, I think to myself.

As we enter the elevator unfamiliar face hits the button which takes us to the 60th floor, the Si Chuan Dou Hua restaurant. I decide to break the silence and ask what we are doing at the restaurant after hours. You will be presented with a deal by my employer is the response I get. A deal by the GNU I think. The elevator door shuts and we begin our fast ascend to the 60th floor of the building.

Did you hear about the Zynga insider cashout?

This was a rather unexpected question from unfamiliar face. I turn to my side and shake my head. This little event was not on my radar screen and I did not really care about the Zynga hype since its IPO and even before that. I do appreciate the small talk and ask him t give me the short version. He seems rather excited about the opportunity and as we head to the 60th floor he informs me that Zynga insiders have cashed out over $500 million during its secondary listing back in April.

Zynga insiders sold 43 million shares at a price of $12 per share during the offering in April and four months later the price dropped 75% to roughly $3 per share after a disastrous earnings report. Maybe insiders knew that the IPO was nothing more than a hype amidst desperation by investors. Whenever insiders sell you their shares at an IPO or secondary offering you need to understand that they do that for a reason.

The biggest winner of Aprils secondary offering seems to be Zynga's CEO who sold 16.5 million shares and pocketed a cool $200 million. He knew there were severe problems on the horizon and cashed out while the share price was flying high. Other members of senior management who sold shares to the idiots who thought they could outsmart insiders include Zynga's CFO and COO who sold 386K shares for $4.6 million and 322K shares for $3.9 million respectively. Zynga's General Counsel sold 315K shares for $3.8 million.

Venture Partners cashed out $70 million by selling 5.8 million shares and Union Square Ventures sold 5.2 million shares for $62 million. Other major sellers include Google and SilverLake Partners who unloaded 4 million shares each for $48 million while another big insider sold 688K shares for $8.2 million. 

I personally don't know how dumb you have to be to buy from insiders who are trying their best to get out of an over-hyped opportunity. Those guys only sell because they know something you do not. Yes, it is legal for them to unload during secondary offerings and this is not the first post IPO stock that has collapsed. Just because investors desperately want and need a certain IPO to perform well does not mean it will. As a general rule of thumb, do not buy when insiders are selling a lot of shares.

As we arrive at the Si Chuan Dou Hua restaurant I thank unfamiliar face for the update. The elevator stops and the doors open. We finally enter our final destination for the night where I may meet my new contractors for what I think may be a top secret contract surrounded by a lot of controversy. The elevator doors open and we step out one by one.

The picture in the top left corner was downloaded for free use at freedigitalphotos.net.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rosneft emerges as third bidder for BP-TKN

The young junior aid is in the car with a nervous look on her face. I tell her that we need to stop meeting like this and ask her if she is aware of the international rule which states after the third unexpected meeting a dinner date is mandatory. She responds that we are running out of time and that she has more information for me. She leans over and whispers that ZTE is only the tip of the iceberg. My driver starts the engine and we are headed back to the office in downtown Singapore.

I look at my watch and it is three minutes until midnight. I turn my attention back to the young aid as my phone rings. Unfamiliar face is on the other line, as he said he would be. He starts by congratulating us on the financing we accomplished for the X-Band radar station in Qatar. I tell him it is two minutes until midnight and that I will give him that much time to tell me what he was talking about after the black-out earlier.

He is glad to hear that I don't want to waste any time and asks me for an immediate meeting. I ask him where he suggests for us to meet. He informs me that the aid in my car will give me the location. They are connected and work for the same employer. It starts to make a little bit more sense. As I agree to the meeting and end the conversation the aid tells me the address. I nod to the guards and they inform the driver of our new destination.

I look at the young aid and try to be unimpressed by her beauty. I asked her about the additional information she claimed she has. One of the security guards signals me that the background check on her is complete. Our sources have confirmed that she is GRU. I begin to understand what is unfolding here and the most recent events make more sense now and seem to be connected. She looks deep into my eyes before she leans back in her seat. The nervousness seems to be gone after I agreed to the meeting with unfamiliar face and his employer, her employer.

She says that this includes Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil giant, and the proposed deal Rosneft offered to BP's Russian joint venture, BP-TKN. BP, the British oil giant, claimed that it was approached by a yet unidentified source for its stake in the joint venture. After the bid was announced Rosneft showed interest in acquiring the stake which is estimated to be worth around $30 billion.

BP and its Russian partners have enjoyed frequent clashes over how to expand the venture and how to unlock value for shareholders. BP-TKN has been a cash-cow for BP, but the cash came with several lawsuits and problems along the way. BP's partners are well known oligarchs and Rosneft offered the venture a drilling contract in the Arctic Ocean which BP had to reject due to disputes with its partners.

Thanks to the dispute a potential bidding was has emerged and Rosneft now became the third player on the field. A deal with Rosneft sounds like the best option for all parties involved. President Putin, potentially one of the best politicians in modern history, runs a tight show and is very business intelligent. Foreign companies are allowed access to natural resources in partnership with state-owned companies.

Russia, under the reign of Putin, has moved in the right direction rather fast and continues to do so. Rosneft will end up with BP's share of BP-TKN and develop its assets at the same time it will unlock shareholder value. The Kremlin is very interested in this deal.

I look at the aid and ask her why I am a person of interest in this matter. She responds that I am smart enough to figure it out and that a business proposal will be made to me during the meeting. She also adds that it would be a pleasure for her to work together with me should I agree to the deal. She said her agency has only heard about me, the firm and what we are able to do and thought it was a myth until she ran into me earlier that night.

We approach the site of the meeting and the car stops. My guards are on alert and so am I. This could either be the start of an interesting business relationship or an international incident. My driver opens the door, my guards exit first followed by the aid and I am the last person out of the car. 

Photo Credit: The picture in the top left corner was downloaded for free use at freedigitalphotos.net.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Suicide attack kills Syrian Minister of Defense in Damascus

I can hear people scramble and minor spots of dim light start to flicker around the room as people turn on the lights on their mobile devices in order to ensure everyone is alright. The huge double doors open as guards rush in as they follow security procedures. The back-up generators have not yet kicked in and as the room is further illuminated by the flashlights from the guards everyone starts to wonder what caused this power outage especially given the location of the meeting.

I decide to take this opportunity and question my contractor about his knowledge of the attack earlier, my tail and his apparent dissatisfaction over my appearance at the meeting. Two of the guards approach me and I give them a nod. They are headed at the direction where my contractor was seated. I feel someone tap me on my shoulder as a voice asks me for a private conversation in the midst of this confusion.

I turn around and look at an unfamiliar face as the guards return to me to inform me that my contractor is gone. I hear another voice swearing as he claims his laptop is missing. The back-up generators finally turn on the power is back. As soon as the missing laptop has been reported the guards initiate a full lock-down of the building. This has been the second attack in as many hours on a location where I was present.

I turn my attention to the unfamiliar face and inform him he has ten seconds to convince me. He introduces himself as a representative of a private brokerage house with focus on the foreign exchange market and that he just received information about the Syrian situation and was asked by his superiors to relay that information to me. I keep listening to what he has to say. Just like the two attacks in two hours I have had two unknown people approach me with two pieces of information about an active case which is no coincidence.

He tells me that Syria's Minister of Defense was killed together with his Brother in Law in a suicide attack in Damascus. The war has taken an unexpected turn as President Assad is loosing key figures in his military operations. A top general has switched sides and supports the rebel movement in order to oust Assad, the Ambassador to Iraq resigned and switched sides as well while an Air Force Colonel took his fighter jet across the border to Jordan and asked for asylum. Tensions between Jordan and Syria have increased drastically after Jordan granted asylum. Syria accuses Jordan of providing weapons to rebels.

Jordan has yet to make a decision if they will return the MiG to Syria as they have granted the defected officer asylum who would face execution otherwise.Syria has roughly 150 MiG's in its fleet. Earlier this week a ship which carried three Russian attack helicopters was forced to return to port as a British insures withdrew coverage for the transport and the helicopters had to be reloaded to another ship which ahs been dispatched in order for the helicopters to be delivered to Syrian's Air Force.

Fears have risen that President Assad's regime is on the verge of collapse and about the consequences of it. Libya is still a mess after Colonel Gadaffi was murdered by rebels. Syria is the biggest ally of Iran who closely monitors the situation. Concern in the global intelligence community is that Iran will speed up its nuclear ambitions should Assad be ousted or murdered.Israel is the only major player who does not share this concern as they seem to have information that Iran already proceeds as fast as possible and while Assad's fall will add fuel to the fire they will not be able to work faster on their nuclear warhead then they already do.

Should Iran test a nuclear device, regardless of size, oil prices will sky-rocket to new all-time highs. I begin to understand why this brokerage house representative is sharing this information with me. I thank him for the intel as I receive a text message about the sale of Rocketdyne by United Technologies to GenCorp. As I turn my attention to the somewhat messy situation in the conference room the two guards approach me and tell me that we have to move as the location is no longer safe.

As we head towards the exit I hear the unfamiliar face behind me whispering that his employer has a proposal for me, but that we need to act fast as the situation heats up rather fast and that he will get in contact with me before the night is over. I look at my watch, it is 2348 hours as we hurry down the hallway where more heavily armed security guards meet us in order to provide an escort to our transportation.

My driver opens the door and two guards and I disappear into the car where I am greeted by another unexpected surprise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pentagon steps up defensive measures in the Middle East

I push open both doors and make my entry into the conference room. The conversations stop and everyone immediately looks at me as I walk to the only empty seat at the roundtable, my seat. I have not spoken a word yet and everyone patiently waits for my opening statement, the one they have been waiting for and the one that was delayed due to recent events which they were informed of by their senior staff members.

The room is filled with representatives from various government agencies and as I approach my designated seat I notice the surprise on the face of one person. He seemed surprise to see me at the meeting. Given the attack less than an hour ago I wonder why he is surprised to see me where I was supposed to be. What alerts me even more is that he is my contractor and represents the agency at this meeting.

Without further delay and as we are all accounted for the meeting can finally start. I take it that everyone waits for my remarks as I take my seat. Gentlemen, seven U.K. banks are under LIBOR investigation after Barclays admitted to the fixing scandal and paid a fine with another dozen international banks on the radar for investigation while Iran continues its nuclear agenda. Syria steps up anti-rebel sweeps and Turkey has send an undisclosed number of troops to the Turkish-Syrian border and increased security check-points.

I look around as people scramble through their notes and have their aids on mobile devices to relay information. The Pentagon has given the green light for a new missile-defense radar system at an undisclosed location in Qatar and initiated the biggest water mine clearing drill in the Persian Gulf up-to-date as tensions between Israel and Iran grow at an accelerated pace.Iran's Revolutionary Guard claimed 35 U.S. military bases are in range for its new ballistic missiles which it recently tested.

The radar system as well as the naval exercise are defensive moves but Tehran will view both as offensive measures and claim it is being provoked by western nations. Several months of negotiations have been nothing more then a waste of time and only accomplished the satisfaction of diplomats who try to avoid the unavoidable outcome of a military conflict with Iran. Israel, who already carried out military drills in the Mediterranean to prepare for a strike against Iran, has been in an extended period of military preparations to carry out airstrikes on Iran's nuclear facilites.

Such strikes are a bit too late as Iran moved the military arm of its nuclear operations out of reach for even the most advanced missiles and  leaves only one solution on the table in order to destroy the entire Iranian nuclear program which is a ground attack. The two most pressing threats out of Tehran are its growing ballistic arsenal which many ignore as the only focus on the non-completed nuclear program and the capability of the Revolutionary guard to block the Strait of Hormuz and one-third of global oil traffic with it.

The Pentagon has also dispatched a second aircraft carrier to ensure the presence of two carriers at all times in the region which further indicates combined military action against a growing threat. The U.S. Navy had to engage into a scrimmage of the coast of the UAE and fired on a small boat which resulted in the death of one fisherman. Tensions in the Persian Gulf continue to grow at a fast pace with plenty of troubles ahead.

The new radar site in Qatar, home to the U.S. biggest air base in the Middle East, will complete an arc of three X-Band radar systems which will detect missile launches from three-fourths of Iran. The other two X-band radar systems are located in Turkey and Israel. Eastern Iran will remain the only uncovered region by this three-radar system. The X-band radar system allows missiles to be tracked inflight and is linked to missile interceptor batteries as well as ships who carry high-altitude interceptor missiles.

In addition to the X-band system, Central Command has plans to deploy THAAD, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, which comes with its own radar system and is the U.S. Army's anti-missile defense system. Patriot batteries are already in place and focus on lower altitude missile attacks. Patriot batteries as well as THAAD will offer more defensive measures as well as protection from potential ballistic missile attacks from Iran which may have a ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. within the next 36 months. The listed cost for the X-band radar base in Qatar is $12.2 million. The Naval exercise will start on September 16th and end September 27th. 20 nations are expected to participate which indicates that an Iranian military strike will be carried out by the international community.

$12.2 million is where we come in, somebody needs to finance those operations especially with budget cuts in defense spending. We are on track for the funding of the radar base, initially we were handed $5 million with a time-frame of fifteen months to come up with the additional $7.2 million required. I am proud to inform members present at the meeting that we accomplished the task six weeks ahead of schedule.

This was the first ever approach to financing a defense project the intelligent way and therefore isolates vital defense projects from budget cuts and red tape. I feel we just rang in a new era and are on the eve of a new world order which will develop over the next few years. Everyone stares at me as I finish my remarks, the rank and file proud to have us contracted which will ensure the continuation of military operations. Everyone seems pleased except one person.

I am ready for the Q&A session, but take a moment to text my security detail and inform them to intercept the agency contact after the meeting so we may get to the bottom of his dissatisfaction with my presence at the conference. Him and the junior aid weer unexpected as well as unplanned developments which need to be contained before the the night ends.

We will enjoy a minor recess before we continue with the conference as the power cuts out and we are left in a dark conference room.

Friday, July 13, 2012

ZTE under investigation by the FBI for sales to Iran

We arrive at our destination with the security detail. I did not receive the data necessary so it will be time to improvise as best as possible. My driver stops the car, gets out and opens the door for me. I get out, give him a nod of approval which he reciprocates and four guards are standing at attention as I approach them. Security is tight the last few months due to our near completion of a big project. The highest ranked guard salutes me and the security detail is ready to escort me to the conference room.

A junior aid intercepts me and the guards block her immediately. I feel like a quarterback and my offensive line makes sure I am safe in the pocket so I can execute our attack. She pleads for me to listen to her for 30 seconds as she claims to have urgent information on the upcoming meeting. The guards hold her and await my orders. I am not sure why I allowed her the 30 seconds, whether it was her courage to run into my offensive line or her looks.We all walk into an adjacent hallway as the guards secure the perimeter and I give her the 30 seconds she requested.

She has information about the Iranian situation. The FBI launched a probe into the sale of band US computer equipment to Iran by ZTE, a Chinese telecoms gear maker, and their attempted cover-up as the Department of Commerce launched a probe into this matter. Apparently Iran obtained a powerful surveillance system which allows Iran to monitor landline, mobile and online communications. The $120 million contract also allowed Iran to gain access to hardware components manufactured by Microsoft, HP, Oracle, Cisco and Dell.  

ZTE operates a Texas based subsidiary where apparently documents were shredded, the packing list for the contract altered and false information given to the Department of Commerce as the results of their probe into this deal. The probe was launched after a Reuters reported obtained the original packing list from an unknown source.

Another inside job? Does this have anything to do with the attack on our and myself earlier this afternoon?

ZTE operates several subsidiaries which it uses to purchase equipment ready to be sold to countries the US has embargoes on, such as Iran which is under multiple embargoes from the US as well as the EU. The FBI obtained their information from Ashley Yablon, general counsel for ZTE's Texas subsidiary. The spokesman  for ZTE, David Shu, had no comment and Mr. Yablon went off the grid or can't be reached. The Justice Department as well as the FBI joined Mr. Shu in their no comment approach which means this issue is bigger than anticipated and more delicate then thought.

Will ZTE join Nokia Siemens Networks, Ericsson as well as Huawei and slowly reduce business with Iran due to international pressures?

On top of the FBI probe, ZTE is also under investigation by the US House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee in order to determine if ZTE is a threat to national security. Should ZTE be found guilty it may be forced out of the US and hurt its expansion plans. Currently ZTE is China's second largest telecom equipment manufacturer as well as the world's number four. ZTE is publicly traded but majority owned by a Chinese state owned company. This probe adds to disputes between ZTE and the EU.

I thank the aid for this new and vital information, but wonder why she decided to give it to me and how she knew who I was. Questions which need to be wait before they can be answered as I am running late for my meeting. As I watch the aid head back to her office I command two guards to follow her and bring her in for questioning after my meeting.

I turn around and face the two huge doors which lead into the conference room where my contractor together with about a dozen officials await my arrival so the meeting can commence.

Photo Credit: The picture in the top left corner was downloaded for free use at freedigitalphotos.net.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

John Paulson reports further losses

My driver maintains his speed as we approach a traffic light, then slows down until the light switches from green to orange and eventually to red. We are headed south and as traffic starts to move east and west he accelerates. I look out of my window and see a truck slamming his breaks, but as I look behind me through the tainted back window I see our tail decided not to engage into this crazy maneuver and stopped at the red light.

My driver continues to speed through traffic as I tell him job well done. I call my contractor and inform them of recent events. They dispatch a security team which will escort me to the high level meeting. My phone rings and I receive the most recent update on the testimony of former Barclay's Chairman Marcus Agius as well as the potential involvement of Bank of England's number two Paul Tucker. Diamond voluntarily waived his GBP 20 million deferred bonuses. I thank my informant for the update, which is secondary at the moment. We will deal with this scandal later I am afraid.

The more pressing issue is this meeting about Iran, Turkey and Syria and the absence of my flash drive has me scrambling for data necessary. It will be at the corporate vault until after the investigation which will be too late for the current purpose. The security detail arrives and escorts us to the south of Singapore. My phone rings again and I am being told about a potential gold and silver fixing scandal related to the LIBOR scandal. The situation heats up, but there is no time for this now.

We need to determine the Turkish troop buildup at the Syrian border. The only thing that is certain is that army vehicles and anti-aircraft guns were sent as Syrian forces came within 500 meters of the boarder. Plenty of checkpoints have been set up by secret police forces and army units which may impact container traffic. I am waiting for the exact numbers, waiting for the phone call with that intel.

My phone rings a third time and I hope to get the data I was waiting for so I can head into the meeting with breaking news. Paulson dropped 5.7% in June and 12% in 2012 in his Advantage Fund. More and more start to wonder if John Paulson was a one hit wonder. He made a fortune betting against the U.S. subprime mortgage market, but has struggled ever since then. His Advantage Plus Fund dropped 7.9% and is down 16% so far this year. His Gold Fund has not performed any better with losses of 0.7% and 23% respectively. This time his losses were in connection to the Eurozone debt contagion.

Time will tell how his investors will react to continued losses, but Paulson has struggled for a while there is only so much investors are willing to take. Paulson tries to recover from a terrible 2011 where some of his funds were slashed in half.

Photo Credit: The picture in the top left corner was downloaded for free use at freedigitalphotos.net.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Iran spins its propaganda mill once again

I am being woken up by an EMT worker who still runs standard checks to make sure I am not suffering from anything more serious than a blow to my head. I am lying on the floor, security guards around me who are being questioned as to whether they know what happened. At this point the security team has to go through the security footage in an attempt to find an answer to what went down or more important how it was possible.

An inside job is the first and only thing that comes to my mind. One of us betrayed the entire firm and orchestrated this assault, but why?

Sure, there has been an immense security breach, but no files are missing. The attacker or attacker did not obtain any information or maybe they would have if my unexpected presence would have not disturbed their plans, but what exactly where they after?

Iran claimed earlier today that they have the capabilities to strike 35 U.S. bases as far as 2,000 kilometers away, should an attack be carried out. They entered the third day of their military exercise in the Persian Gulf carried out by the Revolutionary Guard. One key aspect is the tests of their Great Prophet 7 ballistic missile. The EU has just decided this past Sunday on a full embargo which will ban EU member states to purchase oil from the 5th biggest oil exporter.

Iran has also threatened multiple times that they would block the Strait of Hormuz which would keep one-third of global oil supplies at bay. Commanders of the Revolutionary Guard claim they would police and protect all oil tankers and view the presence of the 5th Pacific Fleet as a threat, especially Task Force 57 as well as Task Force 58.

My meeting has been delayed. I have to get going and tell the EMT that I am fine. The vault has been locked down until a full investigation has been launched. My flash drive will not be accessible to me or anyone else despite my security clearance.

I rush out the building after I agreed to come in tomorrow morning for routine questioning, standard procedure in a security related issue at the firm. The meeting about the Syrian situation has to be done without the research and intel on the flash drive. Syria did down a Turkish aircraft in international space after the Turkish aircraft briefly violated sovereign Syrian airspace.

President Assad apologized for the incident, but Turkey remains firm in their position and has increased their troop level and movement along the Turkish-Syrian border while suspending military contact with Syria. This is a concern and opportunity for the firm and this meeting is key in a series of upcoming high-level meetings.
As I get to the street the driver pulls around and I get into the car and we drive off.

How close does Iran and Syria operate at the moment? What is Iraq’s involvement? Will we finance the next step through the help of global financial markets?

Questions we try to answer, starting with tonight’s delayed meeting. We have a tail is what my driver informs me off.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Diamond steps down as CEO of Barclays

The news broke that Barclays CEO Robert Diamond, the great engineer of the banks investment banking operation, will step down with immediate effect as pressure from the political arena mounted in the middle of a LIBOR fixing scandal as I walked back to my office in downtown Singapore to grab a secure flash drive from the corporate safe for a late meeting that was scheduled as I walked to my car. Last week Barclays was ordered to pay a 290 million pound fine.

My girlfriend will not be happy as I have to reschedule our Skype date yet again due to business reasons, but I rush pass the heavy security in the lobby, greet the guards and speed through the security process. When I joined the firm I did not expect the heavy security measures, but then again I did not expect to work in global finance at the level I am right now.

As I passed the biometric security system I call my girlfriend to break the bad news, I was looking forward to relax from a long day on the trading floor. As I wait for her answer her phone I am thinking about the circumstances that lead to the departure of the 60 year old Diamond who does have a rather interesting name to be employed in the great world of international finance. He joined the bank in 1996 and now the board decided to drop him, offer him as the scape goat and engage into damage control.

Could that happened to me? Could I ever be made the scapegoat if something goes wrong?

My girlfriend picked up after only three rings, expecting bad news she told me not to worry about it. I knew she said that because she did not want me to feel bad, but I did. I was extremely happy to hear her voice. She relaxes me. She is my safe harbor in rough see and I am deeply in love with her. In a few weeks she will come and visit me. She would have been here sooner, but her agency called her for a model shoot in Colombia. As we end our quick phone conversation I walk down the wide corridor on the 58th floor to my office.

Diamond stepped on many toes and after he lost a takeover battle for ABN Amro, he steered the bank to buy assets of bankrupt Lehman Brothers. RBS snatched up ABN and was forced into bailouts. At least Diamond managed to keep Barclays away from begging to survive. He fought regulators and government officials as best as he could and I respect him for that.

I enter my office and walk towards my desk. I look outside into the beautiful skyline of Singapore in the early evening. I place my hand on the scanner and a small box opens with an electronic key-card for the corporate safe. I grab my access card and head towards the vault. As my office door looks automatically behind me and I walk towards the vault I hear a noise in the kitchen area. Nobody is supposed to be here and who would want to be at the office one day before Independence Day anyways?

Maybe I just imagined it. I keep walking towards the heavily guarded vault. One more corner and I will be greeted by four security guards and more security measures before I can get the flash drive I need for my meeting. Top Security I say to myself and laugh as I suddenly feel a sharp pain in the back of my head and collapse. 

Photo Credit: The picture in the top left corner was downloaded for free use at freedigitalphotos.net.