5. Apple's Old News
The ink-stained wretches at the major newspapers sure must be desperate for something to write about this summer. Seriously, why else would the NY Times (NYT) - Get Report and WSJ be trotting out warmed-over stories about Apple (AAPL) - Get Report making an investment in Twitter?
dutifully captured by
very own media maven Marek Fuchs, both papers convulsed this past weekend with reports that Apple had discussions with Twitter about investing in the San Francisco-based social network. The Times was the worse by far of the two worst offenders, deemed Fuchs, leading with the headline: "Apple Officials Said to Consider Stake in Twitter," thereby misleading readers into thinking that the talks were in fact ongoing.
"The headline is, after all, written in the present tense. But talks between Apple and Twitter are apparently dead as a dumpling," clarifies Fuchs.
Right on mark Marek! We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Although we could have said it better than the
, which lamely pointed out that the discussions took place "more than a year ago."
Everybody in Silicon Valley talks with everybody else, so why shouldn't Apple -- which is a builder, not a buyer anyway -- and Twitter -- which is surely suffering from post-
fatigue -- exchange a few pleasantries? What's the big deal if there is no deal? It's not an old story worth even 140 new characters.
Not even to mention the fact that, well, it just
doesn't make very much sense -- or seem to reflect Tim Cook's strategic thinking.
getting slaughtered in the market and reality returning to valuations in the social networking space, now there's a story worth having a conversation about.
4. GM Marketing Chief's Shocking Departure
, which is still a third owned by Uncle Sam mind you, kicked marketing honcho Joel Ewanick to the curb on Sunday. Ewanick joined the automaker a little more than two years ago after a successful stint at
. At the time, GM was gearing up to emerge from bankruptcy and the gearheads in Detroit specifically brought in Ewanick to jump-start the world's largest failed carmaker.
And shock he did. Not only did Ewanick yank GM's paid advertising from media darling
prior to its punk IPO -- the
should be reporting on this next week in case you missed it -- but he maddened Madison Avenue by pulling the automaker's ads from next year's Super Bowl. And you can also be sure that Ewanick's money-saving decision to consolidate GM's global advertising spending -- estimated at $4.5 billion annually -- went over "like a rock" with all those Don Draper wannabes intent on pitching Chevrolet like they always have.
Unfortunately, Ewanick must have crossed the wrong cables in his attempt to add voltage to GM's moribund marketing department. From all indications, his undoing occurred after he punted on the biggest football game in America and went rogue in his ultimately successful play to grab the sponsorship of the biggest football (as in soccer) team in the world, Manchester United. The seven-year, multi-million dollar transaction was announced almost immediately after Ewanick's departure, allegedly with some of the deal's details altered after he was kicked in the ass by his former employer. Not that GM is offering any clues about why it gave Ewanick the boot.
"He failed to meet the expectations that the company has for its employees," said GM spokesman Greg Martin, without offering any further color.
What that means, honestly, we have no idea and we aren't sure if we will ever find out. For his part, Ewanick has remained mum on the details of his so-called resignation, tweeting that he wishes "everyone at GM all the best."
Who knows, considering Ewanick was GM's fourth U.S. marketing chief in a year, maybe he was reluctant to comment because he wasn't expecting to stay that long anyway. Seriously, that kind of turnover is generally reserved for Knick point guards and the CEO spot at Yahoo!
One thing that is clear and may have clinched Ewanick's overthrowing, however, is the fact that America's largest carmaker saw its market share shrink to 18.1% in the first half, down from 19.9% a year earlier. Much of that loss is due to a resurgent
, a collapsing Europe and an electrical vehicle known as the Volt that gets lots of press but has sales that are still sort of lifeless and that even Ewanick's best efforts could not recharge.
Nevertheless, for a company that has historically paid more attention to share than profits, that slippage was enough to remove any remaining doubts about Ewanick's future at the company.
We just wish they would remove the doubts about what happened while he was still there. We'll keep checking Ewanick's Facebook page for a status update.
3. Dendreon's Demise
What a long strange trip it's been for our buddies at Dendreon (DNDN) . And a round trip at that.
Shares of the volatile biotech outfit sank 22% to $4.80 Tuesday -- a level not seen since early 2009 -- after it announced that revenue for its prostate cancer drug Provenge tumbled in the second quarter. The company said Provenge sales fell more than 2% sequentially to $80 million, thereby raising a legitimate question about slowing demand for the company's franchise immunotherapy in the face of new competition.
And that's not the only question raised about Dendreon in the wake of its latest train wreck (Ah, who can forget last summer's destruction which sent the stock from $35 to $10? Talk about falling off a fiscal cliff!) TheStreet's biotech ax Adam Feuerstein came up with a fistful of problems facing the company.
"Dendreon insists that
Johnson & Johnson's
competitive drug Zytiga is not having an impact on Provenge but
common sense argues otherwise. It seems pretty clear that Provenge has a demand problem and it's not going to get any better with Zytiga on a path towards approval in the pre-chemo setting and
MDV3100 moving fast behind it," says Feuerstein, who adds that the deep cost-cutting announced by Dendreon Monday is the right strategic move but won't be sufficient given Provenge's problems.
Furthermore, the eagle-eyed Feuerstein points out that oncologists flat-out detest Provenge.
"They're not prescribing the drug to their prostate cancer patients so why does Dendreon insist on wasting money and resources trying to convince them otherwise? The company would be more effective if they focused solely on marketing Provenge to urologists."
Speaking of urination, Feuerstein reports that there has been a steady stream of Dendreon sales reps leaving the company, possibly to rival J&J. So clearly Dendreon's investors are not the only ones getting the piss scared out of them.
And rightfully so.
2. Suntech's Bond Villain
Bond. German Bond. That's why traders are using their Series 7 Licenses to kill Suntech Power (STP) .
The once high-flying Chinese solar panel provider -- one of the largest solar companies in the world -- plummeted into penny stock territory this week after the company said it might be the victim of a $679 million fraud.
Suntech revealed on Monday that an affiliate in a solar development fund possibly swindled it with a phony collateral pledge of hundreds of millions of euros of German bonds. The announcement caused Wall Street analysts to question Suntech's viability -- admittedly already a big question given the implosion of the Chinese solar sector -- and send its shares below a dollar, down from over $7 at this time last year.
"We now suspect that the German government bonds may not have existed and Suntech may have been a victim of fraud," said Suntech CEO Zhengrong Shi said on a conference call.
Wait, we thought the Chinese companies traded in the U.S. were the ones
Anyway, it certainly is a mystery Zhengrong. But then again, it's not a total surprise since the solar development company linked to the bond deal, Global Solar Fund, has always been something of a black box for Suntech - and hesitation point for analysts -- with many questions raised over the years about accounting between Suntech and GSF.
As to the validity of this whole German bond scam, well, that's too farfetched even for us to comment on. It would take James Bond himself to untangle this one and unfortunately he's too busy jumping out of helicopters with Queen Elizabeth.
Solving the mystery probably doesn't matter anyway. Maxim Group analyst Aaron Chew lowered his 12-month price target for Suntech to zero from 50 cents, doubting the company's capacity to cover a $541 million convertible bond that comes due in 2013 (the analyst seems to think that bond does, in fact, exist).
"While the fraud concerns the collateral backing the project debt and not the project itself, where there is smoke, there is usually fire," writes Chew, who adds that the Chinese government will most likely step in to save Suntech -- wiping out equity shareholders in the process -- since traders would reject any attempt to sell additional shares of the company.
Yes, it sure can be deadly when Mr. Market turns into Dr. No. Enough to scare the living daylights out of you. Those Suntech equity shares may soon be as imaginary as the German bonds that got it into the solar sector's latest mess.
1 (tie). UBS Loses Face, Again
Shares of the Zurich-based bank got zinged Tuesday, tumbling as much as 6% in the wake of its worse-than-expected 58% fall in second-quarter profits. UBS brass blamed the drop in profits to 425 million francs ($434.16 million) from 1.02 billion Swiss francs ($1.2 billion) on losses from the
IPO and a severe slowdown in its investment banking business.
Fine. We'll grant our Swiss friends that the I-banking business is currently in the crapper. When
is down 25% in the past year while the
is up 7.5%, you know the well is dry across Wall Street, not for one firm in particular.
Then again, UBS is down over 35% over the same period, once again proving its ability to outpace its competitors in all the wrong categories.
And for more on that subject, just check out UBS' relative losses on Facebook as a result of
massive mishandling of the offering.
(which had a few little trading troubles this week, but more on that later) say they lost around $35 million apiece.
reportedly lost around $20 million on the deal. All are painful amounts indeed, but they still pale when compared to the $356 million loss announced by UBS Tuesday.
Yeah sure, we are well aware of what happened that fateful May morning when Nasdaq wasn't confirming Facebook buy orders while investment bank computers kept placing them. (Or, to explain it another way with the help of the classic film
, "Joshua was still playing the game" even when brokers were in the dark and Nasdaq CEO Bob Greifeld was AWOL.) We understand it was a systemic issue and will now be a legal issue since Nasdaq certainly does not plan to settle.
Nevertheless, why was the damage at UBS ten times worse than everybody else? Size does matter, but stupidity always seems to matter a whole lot more when UBS is involved.
And we can only imagine what's going to happen when the authorities come around to UBS' role in the LIBOR scandal. If
was forced to pony up $450 million for rigging the benchmark rate, who knows how hard UBS is going to fall?
"We're waiting to see the results of the investigation. But there is no evidence at this stage that we have a particular position in that matter," said CEO Sergio P. Ermotti on the subject. Ermotti, if you remember, took the reins from Oswald Gruebel last November following the firm's embarrassing $2.3 billion loss at the hands of a rogue trader.
We say watch out. If history is a guide, then UBS shareholders could be in for a metaphorical game of "Global Thermonuclear War." (Another
reference.) And if Ermotti's not careful, he could very well be the first casualty.
Take us to DEFCON 4. Or 1 (nuclear incident imminent).
1 (tie). Knight Capital Goes Dark
Speaking of a market apocalypse, Knight Capital (KCG) better find its white knight in a hurry, otherwise it could go dark for good.
Knight, one of the largest U.S. market makers, said losses from Wednesday's trading breakdown total $440 million, and as a result the company is "actively pursuing its strategic and financing alternatives to strengthen its capital base." Knight's massive loss chews right through its net income of $3.3 million in the second quarter on revenue of $289.3 million. Shares of the computerized trading company lost almost two thirds of its value this week, falling from more than $10 a share on Tuesday to less than $4.
As we wait to see who responds to Knight's SOS signal, we just have one small question: What the heck happened here? Did they hire UBS traders to run the show or Suntech's euro bond analysis team?
Prices in 140
-listed stocks were flying all over the place for more than 45 minutes. Clueless traders were running around screaming at each other.
Bob Pisani was scrambling for coverage.
That was no mere "technology issue" as Knight is calling it. That was the freaking Tet Offensive at Broad and Wall.
Seriously, after last year's flash crash and the Facebook IPO fiasco, we thought the brainiacs running Wall Street's back offices would have a better handle on things. Or at least they would know how to shut down the machines should they run amok.
But that wasn't the case at all Wednesday morning. Knight couldn't pull the plug on its new software in time and is now in danger of having its plug pulled.
And for those still wondering why worn-out investors are waving goodbye to Wall Street, well, the knuckleheads at Knight provided yet another answer.
--By Gregg Greenberg in New York
and become a fan on
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.