U.S stocks are lower on Friday morning, with the benchmark S&P 500 and the narrower Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) down 0.12% and 0.23%, respectively, at 10:15 a.m. EDT. If the S&P 500 can't pull itself back into the black for an 0.3% gain today, it will record its first losing week since ... the beginning of the month; and don't forget the index closed at an all-time high last Friday. Here are three stocks to watch this morning on company-specific news: Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , American Apparel (NYSEMKT: APP ) , and a(nother) new addition to the public markets, Michaels (NASDAQ: MIK).
Telecommunications carrier Verizon is the latest U.S. company to pay the price for the U.S. government's mass surveillance programs in the wake of revelations from rogue National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The German government announced Thursday it will wind down a contract with Verizon relating to its internal administrative network by 2015; the German Interior Ministry justified the decision on the basis of the "relationship between foreign intelligence agencies and companies." Verizon's loss is a win for legacy German carrier Deutsche Telekom, which will pick up the contract.
The value of the contract is not known, but the move underscores the way in which the NSA's expansive programs are now costing U.S. companies business abroad. The German Interior Ministry said on Friday it will now review its contracts with foreign information technology hardware suppliers.
The Financial Times reported that one of American Apparel's lenders has called in a $10 million loan, citing the "key man" clause that referenced Dov Charney, the former chairman and chief executive officer who was removed by the company's board last week.
Lion Capital's outstanding loan amount with American Apparel is $9.87 million at a punitive 20% interest rate. American Apparel's chairman said the company has "access to the capital we'll need to pay it off." Nevertheless, this development suggests that the highly public conflict between Charney and the company he founded (and of which he remains a 27% shareholder) is making some lenders nervous (we know that is already the case with shareholders -- the stock lost 21% on Tuesday). Unless you're a professional or quasi-professional investor, I would counsel you to avoid this situation, which is inherently speculative.
Finally, another situation that investors ought to avoid is Michaels, which begins trading today on the Nasdaq. The arts and crafts retailer was taken private in a $6 billion transaction by Blackstone and Bain Capital in 2006 -- a deal that I could not wrap my head around at the time. Why would private equity be interested in what seemed to me a mediocre business? Perhaps it was simply a sign of the times -- 2006 was the peak year in a credit-fueled LBO boom. Either way, investors should be skeptical of IPOs in general, and doubly so when the sellers are "smart money" like Blackstone and Bain.
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