Monday's Early Headlines
- CONSOL Energy Buying Dominion Appalachian E&P for $3.5 Billion -- CONSOL Energy (CNX) said it will buy Dominion's (D) Appalachian exploration and production business for $3.48 billion in cash. CONSOL Energy said it plans to raise about $4 billion through a mix of equity and debt to fund the acquisition. The deal is expected to close by April 30, the companies said.
- -- Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) will unveil a draft bill for financial reform, which will reportedly focus on the consolidation banking regulators and the creation of consumer watchdog agency within the Federal Reserve, after having given up on trying to craft a financial reform bill that would win any Republican support. Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), who had worked with Dodd on a bipartisan solution to financial reform before talks fell apart, told CNBC that he expects Dodd will "introduce a bill that will be to the left of where we were -- close, but left." Corker called the new draft a "much better bill," but added that it "will be a bill I cannot support."
- Empire State Manufacturing Index Slides; New Orders Up -- The New York Federal Reserve said its Empire State manufacturing index fell to a reading of 22.86 in March, down from 24.91 in February. Economists had predicted a larger decrease to 22. The new orders index shot up 17 points to 25.4, indicating that the pace at which orders were being placed had quickened significantly over the month, the report said. The index for number of employees advanced 7 points to 12.4, its highest level in more than two years.
- Triple-A Rated Governments Safe but Risks Grow: Moody's -- Reuters reports that Moody's Investors Service said the credit ratings of the world's four largest triple-A sovereign debt issuers as well as Spain are safe but risks to their blue-chip status have grown. For several countries, including the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, and Spain, the quarterly Aaa Sovereign Monitor report concluded that government ability to manage the debt was the deciding factor in keeping their Aaa status, the report said. The report highlighted that Spain's long-term rating had deteriorated "significantly and is expected to deteriorate further, taking it close to the Aaa/Aa demarcation line, which would prompt us to reassess its rating," Reuters reported. Moody's also voiced concerns about how governments will handle improved economic conditions and the unwinding of expansionary fiscal and monetary policies.
- Google China Exit Seen Within Weeks -- Google (GOOG) will shut its Chinese-language search engine within weeks, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Google and Chinese authorities have been at loggerheads over Google following government censorship requirements on its Chinese site, Google.cn. Those talks increasingly appear deadlocked, and Google's hopes for being able to operate Google.cn without filtering results have but all disappeared, the paper reported. Shares of Google's Chinese rival Baidu (BIDU) were trading higher on the report.
- AIG Holding Back $21M in Bonuses: Report -- American International Group (AIG) is looking to hold back $21 million in bonus payments to former employees, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The amount would exceed the $5 million AIG needs to reach $45 million which it has been trying to recoup in order to satisfy pay czar Kenneth Feinberg's demand, the paper reported. So far, AIG employees, mostly current and some former, have agreed to return $40 million, in part by accepting lower 2010 payouts.
- Phillips Van-Heusen to Buy Hilfiger for $3 Billion -- Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH) signed a deal to acquire clothing company Tommy Hilfiger for roughly 2.2 billion euros ($3 billion), plus certain liabilities, from private-equity firm Apax Partners. Phillips-Van Heusen will pay 1.924 billion euros in cash and 276 million euros in stock. The transaction is expected to close during Phillips-Van Heusen's second quarter, and Phillips Van-Heusen expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to earnings before one-time costs and accounting charges.
- PepsiCo to Buy Back $15 Billion of Stock -- PepsiCo's (PEP) board approved an annual dividend increase of 7% and the repurchase of up to $15 billion of common stock through June 2013. The annual dividend will be raised to $1.92 a shaere from $1.80, its 38th consecutive increase. PepsiCo said its moves reflect continued confidence in the growth of its business.