Levine on Wall Street: Selling Aluminum, and the Mail

Apparently energy traders are leaving the business to do things like kite-surfing and "driving around France pursuing his passion for the world’s most expensive wines."

Goldman is selling its metals warehouses.

I was at a wedding this weekend where I found someone to explain the baffling Goldman aluminum controversy to me, so that's what I'm like at parties. I'm getting closer to understanding it, and at this rate I'll probably end up writing a post about it in like 2017. It'll use the word "contango" a lot. But by that time it will be too late, since Goldman seems to be getting out of the aluminum-controversy business, and it's just not the same sort of scandal if someone else is warehousing metals to profit from a steep contango.

How to do an IPO.

As a former capital markets banker I am fascinated and horrified by the postmortem analyses of the initial public offering of the UK's Royal Mail, in which Parliament and others are working to understand exactly what happened to drive the 38 percent first-day pop. You're not supposed to do that! Just be happy that there was a successful offering! Don't go around questioning things and placing blame. Here is a thorough series of posts from Sujeet Indap at FT Alphaville about what drove the pricing, what the initial investors did (lotta flipping), and what issuers can do next time to get better results. If you're a company considering an IPO, maybe don't read it and continue to blindly trust your bankers.

BNP Paribas is in trouble.

I've whined about the stupid theater of seeking consequence-free criminal guilty pleas from banks, so I guess I should endorse this:

Benjamin Lawsky, New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services, has also floated the idea of temporarily banning BNP from transferring money into and out of the U.S. ... Lawsky is considering a deal that would terminate some bank employees and claw back pay in addition to the wire-transfer ban, all intended to punish the BNP Paribas unit seen as responsible for the violations, according to the person familiar with his strategy.

Also there is supposedly a $5 billion fine or, as it's called in the criminal justice world, two Credit Suisses.

The search for yield never ends.

The Fed and the OCC last year told banks not to finance leveraged buyouts at more than six times EBITDA, but 40 percent of LBOs this year have been above that level of leverage, because regulators are not the boss of banks I guess. Elsewhere, investors are psyched to buy a $1.6 billion Fannie Mae risk-sharing deal "at yields nearing those of securities fully backed by Fannie Mae and carrying an implied government guarantee." And junk bonds are doing great. Over in Europe, "Buyers that shunned asset-backed debt during the credit crisis are now seeking out the notes as yields on corporate bonds dropped to a record 1.62 percent last week." So probably you should be borrowing money is the point here.

Bill Gross is bullish on closed-end funds.

My naive model of closed-end funds is that you sponsor one, get really comfortable with the asset value, sell more shares whenever it trades at a premium, and buy back shares whenever it trades at a discount. News that Bill Gross is buying shares of a discounted Pimco closed-end debt fund doesn't really change my model.

Energy trader does new thing.

It's kite-surfing. Of course it is. "'I don’t wear a suit and tie anymore and I only need to wear shoes twice a month,' Van der Laan said by phone from Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, with as background the sound of parrots squawking in the trees." I bet he's stopped wearing a watch, too. Apparently lots of energy traders are leaving to do stereotypical things; a former carbon trader at Tullett Prebon "now spends most of his time driving around France pursuing his passion for the world’s most expensive wines."

Some stores smell good.

The best business journalist in the world, Sarah Nassauer at the Wall Street Journal, has an article about stores, like Cinnabon, that use smell as a marketing tool. It contains sentences like these:

Stores with their own scents sometimes have "aroma restrictions" in their mall lease agreements ...

Cinnabon executives instruct franchisees to buy "the weakest hood possible" within local laws for their ovens, says Ms. Cole, Cinnabon president. ...

Two years ago, during tests of the "Pizzabon," Cinnabon experienced "the most dramatic, worst-case scenario" of what happens when scents compete, says Jennifer Holwill, director of research and development for the company.

Things happen.

Grentry. What can you buy for a penny? Jamie Dimon remains charming. "Have you ever received an email from an important man over the age of forty?" Sheila Bair on Tim Geithner. "Mice Run for Fun, Not Just Work." Deleuze & Guattari & Buzzfeed. Watch out for fake dots!

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

    To contact the author on this story:
    Matthew S Levine at mlevine51@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor on this story:
    Toby Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net

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