No Greece drama rama. Don’t expect anything dramatic from tonight’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Riga. Yes, Greece is struggling to put forward sensible reform proposals. Yes, the Germans are not happy, and Greece is rapidly running out of money. Yes, the International Monetary Fund is owed nearly a billion euros early next month and the Greeks have to find 1.6 billion euros to pay state workers and pensions next week.
But markets closed steady overnight after euro and US bonds sold off suddenly on Wednesday night. Those nerves disappeared yesterday and if there was anything negative expected from tonight’s meeting — such as a big split between Greece and the rest of the eurozone — then you would have expected the sell-off in bonds to have intensified. European sharemarkets weakened on a lower than expected reading on the health of the manufacturing sector, but US markets hit new highs. Global oil prices also hit new highs, and iron ore prices jumped to take the rebound so far in the past 10 days to 15% (Fortescue saved!).
For Greece, the best bet is that a fudge will be found to help the country through its financial strains. But it is increasingly clear that the country’s 179 billion euros of debt will have to be written down heavily, or off completely for this running sore to go away. — Glenn Dyer
Best of bonds. Here’s a tale of two bond issues. On the one hand, impecunious Fortescue Metals finally got a US$2.3 billion ($2.9 billion) bond refinancing away on Wednesday night — but not before it was forced to pay through the nose. The bond will cost Fortescue a crippling 10.25%. The seven-year non-callable (meaning the buyers can’t ask for early repayment) bond was issued at a yield of 9.75%, but was discounted (to get buyers interested) to produce a yield of 10.25%.
That’s junk territory, and it sounds like Fortescue got its money from the corporate equivalent of payday lenders in the US credit markets. Contrast that to BHP Billiton, which also went to the credit markets on Wednesday night (in Europe) looking for US$2 billion under its Euro Medium Term Note Program. It was knocked down in the rush and raised 600 million euro in Floating Rate Notes due 2020 paying interest at the three-month Euribor plus 35 basis points, 650 million euro bonds due 2022 at 0.750% over Euribor, and 750 million euro of 2030 bonds at 1.500% over Euribor.
It pays to have an A in your credit rating, not a series of Bs like Fortescue. It also pays to have no doubt about your ability to survive and repay the debt, which there is about Fortescue. — Glenn Dyer
Amazon’s ahead in cloud. There is money to be made in the cloud, according to the latest quarterly report from Amazon overnight. Amazon’s quarterly results were among the most eagerly awaited of all the tech giants reporting this week (which have included IBM, Facebook, Microsoft) because the company had promised to break out revenue figures for its cloud-computing business.
This was reputed to be growing quickly and had become the market leading operator in the now sexy area of cloud computing. Revenue jumped more than 10% to US$22.7 billion from US$19.74 billion. And of that, the cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services (AWS) recorded a revenue surge of 49% to US$1.57 billion.
And there was a further surprise, AWS reported operating income of US$265 million for the first quarter, contrary to analysts’ belief that the business was losing money as it engages in a bitter price war with the likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple and IBM. — Glenn Dyer
eBay no pay day. Remember when eBay was hot and trading on the global marketplace was the coolest thing to do, something you could do from home and augment your income or feed a hobby or passion? And can you remember the surprise at how eBay bought PayPal as a way of exchanging value for the traded products, purchases and how easy it was to pay for things online?
How times change. Overnight, eBay’s March quarter report showed a company that is now an ageing tech giant. For the first time in five years, the marketplace business (the company’s heartland) shrank, and for the first time ever revenue from PayPal exceeded that from the basic eBay trading operations.
Management at eBaymust be ruing the decision to split the company into two separate companies as a way of making silly shareholder greenmailers go away last year. Marketplace revenue — which besides eBay.com includes sales from sites such as online ticket reseller StubHub — dropped 4% to $2.07 billion, while PayPal’s revenue grew 14% to $2.11 billion. — Glenn Dyer
Top of the Fox. Change is in the air at the top of the Murdoch clan’s main company, 21st Century. Earlier this week Reuters ran an exclusive story quoting Fox shareholder, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal supporting James Murdoch for the chief operating officer’s role and praising Murdoch’s ability to grasp the digital world and understand the changing media.
The interview came from out of the blue and revealed for the first time that Chase Carey, the experienced media executive and co-chief operating officer (with James Murdoch) was thinking of leaving. Then in the Financial Times overnight, an un-sourced story suggested the same.
Carey has not revealed his hand, but some analysts say his lack of interest in clarifying whether he was thinking of extending his stay at Fox is a telling sign of his desire to leave.
So watch this space and watch the share price of Fox — Rupert and son Lachlan Murdoch will be co-chairmen and James will be the sole chief operating officer — with no one to control them and their unerring ability to make stupid deals and lose money. Witness Rupert’s tilt at Time Warner last year, which enraged non-family shareholders and forced the company to backtrack. — Glenn Dyer