Merck & Co Inc said it has entered into a $5 billion share repurchase agreement with Goldman Sachs Group Inc, as the drug giant looks to prop up shareholder value in face of stiff competition from makers of less-costly generics.
Under the accelerated share repurchase agreement (ASR), Merck has agreed to repurchase about 99.5 million shares from Goldman Sachs based on current market prices.
“We don’t have consensus share count post-Q1 earnings to quantify the impact of the accelerated repurchase, but we believe this is a positive sign of Merck attempting to create shareholder value,” ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum said in a note to clients.
Merck’s board had authorized additional purchases of up to $15 billion of its common stock and said that it would buy back about $7.5 billion over the next 12 months.
Sales of Merck’s asthma drug Singulair plunged 75 percent to $337 million in the first quarter. The pill was Merck’s biggest product, with annual sales of $6 billion, before cheaper generics flooded the U.S. market last August.
More pain from generics is in store. Merck’s Maxalt migraine drug recently lost patent protection and its Temodar brain cancer medicine will soon face cheaper copycats.
UBS AG lost a bid Tuesday to dismiss a whistle-blower lawsuit by a former commercial mortgage-backed securities strategist who said he was fired for refusing to publish misleading research reports.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan found that Trevor Murray, who was fired in February 2012, could move forward with his case. Murray alleges that after he complained to superiors, the Swiss bank retaliated against him in violation of the Dodd-Frank Act.
The ruling was one of a handful to date to address the scope of the whistleblower provisions of Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law enacted in response to the U.S. financial crisis.
UBS argued the Dodd-Frank whistleblower provisions did not apply to Murray as he only complained to people at UBS and not the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
But Furman cited rules adopted by the SEC in 2011 interpreting the Dodd-Frank law as extending the law’s anti-retaliation provisions to protect individuals whose disclosures were made under the earlier Sarbanes-Oxley Act, regardless of if the person complained to the SEC itself.
“Applying this analysis here, the Court concludes that deference to the SEC’s rule is warranted,” Furman said.
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Managing and processing chargebacks or any type of reversal can be expensive and time consuming. Often fees are also imposed for non-sufficient funds or invalid transactions and with a chargeback the merchant may have to post funds equal to the transaction amount until the disputed transaction has been resolved, often after a lengthy investigation. Unfortunately, more than often the client is king and the merchant loses out.
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Could new drink-driving laws destroy the restaurant industry?
Under new proposals outlined by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, drivers returning from wining and dining could be pulled over. The board wants to impose harsher restrictions for anyone consuming alcohol and then driving, and so have suggested that blood alcohol content above 0.05 when driving becomes illegal.
Currently, the limit is 0.08. In drinking terms, this could mean that for some people, having a single glass of wine will set you over the limit — something that is beginning to panic restaurateurs.
Sarah Longwell, the managing director of the American Beverage Institute, said that the new legislation would have a “devastating impact” on the industry, and would take away “some of the magic, the ambiance of a night out.” Out of fear of being pulled over, it’s likely that social drinkers will forego the drink with dinner — not only impacting businesses and sales, but removing part of the fun of going out.
Restaurants, servers, suppliers and bartenders may take the hit — but as citizens look to enjoy a drink with their meal, it could mean that retail sales will go up as people stay at home and cook.
The new proposal is based on research which shows driving impairment begins with one drink, and after consuming any alcohol, the risk of being involved in a crash is “significantly greater.” However, when you take into account that 70 percent of drunk-driver incidents are caused by those with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher — according to the American Beverage Institute — this blanket ban may not be the answer to lowering the annual 10,000 fatality rate caused by drink drivers.
A federal judge has revived a closely watched lawsuit accusing JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) of misleading Belgian-French bank Dexia SA (DEXI.BR) into buying more than $1.6 billion of troubled mortgage debt.
Citing a recent federal appeals court decision involving American International Group Inc (AIG.N) and Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said he had lacked jurisdiction when he decided on April 2 to throw out much of Dexia’s lawsuit against JPMorgan.
That ruling had dismissed claims for all but $5.7 million, or less than 1 percent, of the roughly $774 million of damages that Dexia had sought from the largest U.S. bank.
In finding on Friday that he had no jurisdiction under an obscure 1919 federal law known as the Edge Act, Rakoff reinstated the dismissed claims and sent the case back to the New York state court where it began in January 2012.
“Those who don’t believe in ghosts have never been in court, where legal claims are regularly seen rising from the grave,” Rakoff wrote on Friday. “This is a case in point.”
JPMorgan spokesman Justin Perras declined to comment. Timothy DeLange, a partner at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann representing Dexia, also declined.
The lawsuit is one of many accusing banks of trying to boost profit by packaging low-quality mortgages into seemingly safe securities, while fraudulently hiding the risks or failing to ensure the loans were underwritten properly.
Dexia alleged it was misled about the quality of 65 residential mortgage-backed securities certificates it bought from 51 offerings between 2005 and 2007 by JPMorgan, Bear Stearns Cos and Washington Mutual Inc.
- Us dept of commerce building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ground-breaking for new U.S. homes plummeted more than expected in April from an almost five-year high, but applications to build new homes shows the housing sector could still contribute to the strengthening economic recovery.
The Commerce Department said on Thursday that starts at building sites for homes fell 16.5 percent last month to a 853,000-unit annual rate. That was below analysts’ expectations of a 945,000-unit rate.
The housing recovery, driven by growing demand and record-low mortgage rates, has started to boost other sectors of the economy in the first part of the year.
Builders appear to be ramping up for more construction projects. Newly issued building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose 14.3 percent from a month earlier to an annual rate of 1.017 million, the highest level since June 2008.
Permits for single-family homes, which comprise about two thirds of the total, rose 3 percent to a 617,000-unit rate, the highest since May 2008.
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When Brazil was selected to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, many Brazilians hoped the event would jump-start many needed infrastructure improvements – especially things like airport capacity and traffic congestion. While in most cases any upgrades in those areas have fallen short of expectations, the World Cup may still provide at least one tangible improvement to residents of São Paulo, the country’s biggest city.
With next year’s World Cup in mind, the city mayor’s office published a list this week of 120 public spaces, including parks, squares, and public transit stations, where it plans to install free WiFi access.
According to Prodam, the IT and telecoms company run by the city of São Paulo, the hotspots would cover 6.7 million square meters (more than 4,000 square miles) and would allow 24,200 simultaneous users. The WiFi will have to be available 24 hours a day, with a minimum speed of 512 kbps per user for downloads and uploads. Moreover, the connection must be sufficient to ensure access to streaming video and VoIP telephone services. Companies will now have to bid for the contracts to implement the service.
If things proceed according to schedule, the city government hopes to conclude bidding for the project by July, and intends to start the WiFi installation by October. The mayor’s office plans to spend R$45 million ($22 million) over the initial 36-month contract.
4 Things Parents Should Know
Before Paying for College
Financial Specialist Shares Ways to Help Your Child
While Protecting Your Retirement
From $20,000 to $65,000 a year – that’s the tuition cost for one year of college, says John McDonough, a money expert who helps retirees and parents plan for their families’ futures.
“For the 2012–2013 academic year, the average cost for an in-state public college is $22,261. A moderate budget for a private college averaged $43,289,” says McDonough, CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions, www.studemontgroup.com. “But for elite schools, we’re talking about three times the cost of your local state school. Either way, your kid’s higher education can easily shoot into six figures after four years.”
Along with worrying about rising tuition prices, parents also fear for their own futures if their retirement savings are drained by children’s college costs, McDonough says. Only 14 percent, for example, are very confident they’ll have the money to live comfortably in retirement, he says, citing a 2012 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
“Families feel they’re faced with conflicting goals, but there are numerous ways to pay for college while investing in your future retirement,” says McDonough, who offers insights for parents to keep in mind while planning for their child’s education:
• The ROI of a college education: At a time when so many American families are financially strapped, college is an especially stressful topic because parents know higher learning will help their kids succeed. College graduates earn 84 percent than those with only a high school diploma, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Here is how earning breaks down over one’s life time, based on education: a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime; $2.3 million is estimated for a college graduate; those with only a high school diploma can expect $1.3 million.
• Move retirement assets to qualify for grants: Most parents know about the 529 savings account, but that’s not necessarily the best or only option. Reallocating your retirement assets, such as 401(k)s, can better position a child to qualify for grants and scholarships. This legal and ethical maneuvering may be the single most important factor when considering how to pay for college.
• Know your student’s strengths and weaknesses: Consider independent and objective analysis of your future college student. Assessment might include a personality profile and a detailed search for a future career. Also think about a more nuts-and-bolts approach, including scholarship eligibility, SAT and ACT prep courses, review of admissions essays and an in-depth analysis of chances for enrollment in a student’s top four choices of colleges.
• Make a checklist of financial aid forms: In order to maximize a fair price of higher education, remember there is plenty of data to review. McDonough recommends a checklist with a timeline and notable deadlines. Be ready to troubleshoot the “alphabet soup” of data forms: FAFSA – Free Application For Federal Student Aid; CSS profile – College Scholarship Service; SAR – Student Aid Report; and more. Think about this process as a second job, or find professional help you can trust.
About John McDonough
John McDonough is the managing member at Studemont Group, which is primarily focused on helping retirees gain peace of mind with unique market rescue and recovery programs. He is also founder, president and CEO of Studemont Group College Funding Solutions. His experience in the financial services industry includes managing partner at Granite Harbor Advisors in Houston and divisional vice president of AXA Equitable/AXA Advisors, the third largest insurance company in the world. McDonough is a member of the prestigious Forum 400, a qualifier at the Court of the Table qualifier for Million Dollar Round Table, an active member in National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and Society of Financial Service Professionals, as well as American Association of Life Underwriters. He has completed the course work to sit for the Certified Financial Planner® professional designation exam from Rice University.
Google shut down its SMS Search service late last week, leaving users of other Google SMS services wondering about the fates of those tools.
Google SMS Search, which allowed mobile phone users to access information through brief text messages rather than having to use a mobile Web browser and data plan, has been shut down by the search giant with nary a word.
The end of the service apparently occurred on May 10, just before dozens of users of SMS Search began posting on a Google Product Forum Webpage that they received messages describing the shutdown when they tried to use the service on their phones.
“I use google SMS search (466453) all the time and today, google response to any search query is: ‘SMS search has been shut down. You can continue to search the web atgoogle.com on any device,’” wrote user Mathieu Gouin on the site. “Am I the only one? Google, please don’t kill this great service.”
Another user, Greg Meboe, concurred. “Some users only have voice +SMS enabled (no data plan),” wrote Meboe. “Google SMS search was my link to information on the go. Please consider restoring this service.”