Morgan Stanley To Get Ratings Cut, BNP Paribas Profit Rises, Goldman Readies New Platform: Wall Street News, 5/4/12

Joseph Quigley, a 32-year-old insurance sales manager, would like to buy Facebook shares.Small Investors May Get to Own a Bit of Facebook [NYTimes] Facebook, which plans to make a market debut this month that could value it at $86 billion, is the stock that everyone seems to want. If you are a small investor, lots of luck. Typically, shares of the hottest initial public offerings go almost entirely to the biggest clients of the Wall Street banks that oversee the stock sale. And no I.P.O. is as big or as eagerly awaited this year as Facebook’s.

Goldman Readies Low-Cost Bond Platform [WSJ] Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is preparing to roll out a bond-trading platform on which it will charge lower fees than on typical bond trades, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could help retain customers tempted by rival trading venues being set up by BlackRock Inc. and others. The New York securities firm has been developing an electronic platform called GSessions over the past year, according to a person familiar with its plans.

The Royal Bank of Scotland's building in London.Royal Bank of Scotland Records Strong First-Quarter Results [DealBookRoyal Bank of Scotland, whose principal owner is the British government after a bailout, said on Friday that earnings in the first three months of this year improved and that it was close to repaying all its government-backed emergency loans. Operating profit rose 4 percent to £1.18 billion, or $1.9 billion, in the first quarter of this year from £1.13 billion in the same period last year, as losses from bad loans fell. The bank said it planned to resume paying dividends for preference shares, a step it hoped would restore confidence among potential investors and help the government sell its stake.

A BNP Paribas branch in Paris.BNP Paribas Profit Rises 10% in First Quarter [DealBook] BNP Paribas, the biggest French bank, reported on Friday that its first-quarter net income rose nearly 10 percent, helped by the sale of a real estate business, and said it was on track to reach its capital strength targets. The bank, based in Paris, posted net income of 2.9 billion euros, or $3.8 billion, up 9.6 percent from the same period a year earlier. That was better than the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Reuters, who had expected a profit of around 2.3 billion euros.

ART MARKETTheodore Forstmann at Sotheby’s: A Financier’s Legacy [WSJ] Edvard Munch’s record-setting “The Scream” dominated Sotheby’s Wednesday sale of Impressionist and modern art, but market watchers were also paying close attention to a group of works being sold by the estate of financier Theodore Forstmann, who died last fall. The results were mixed, reflecting collectors’ current willingness to splurge on pieces they deem the best but sniff at the rest. Six of the 19 works from Mr. Forstmann’s estate sold for below their low asking prices.

Morgan Stanley Two-Level Cut Seen as Most Likely by Sterne Agee [BusinessWeek] Morgan Stanley (MS) is likely to face a two-level downgrade of its credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service in the next two months, said Donald Jones, a Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. credit analyst. The chance of a two-grade cut is 75 percent, which may cause the firm’s credit spreads to tighten slightly, Jones wrote in a note to clients today.

RBS Claims ‘Pleasing Progress’ Though Loss Triples [Google] State-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland on Friday announced a first quarter net loss of £1.52 bn, almost three times the amount posted a year earlier. RBS, 82-percent owned by the British government after a massive bailout in the global the financial crisis, posted a 2011 first quarter net loss of £528 million. The lender said losses soared owing to an increase in the value of its outstanding debt to £2.46 billion.

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