Oil drops to around $83 on expectations Iran will maintain some exports

Oil prices fell on Monday, pressured by expectations that some Iranian oil exports will keep flowing despite U.S. sanctions, easing a strain on supplies.

Two companies in India, a big buyer of Iranian oil, have ordered barrels in November, India’s oil minister said on Monday. The Trump administration is considering waivers on sanctions, a U.S. government official said on Friday.

“One way or another, it looks as though India is going to take some Iranian crude,” said Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix, adding that the development was helping oil to “retrace some of the price surge we saw last week.”

Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down $1.12, or 1.3 percent, to $83.04 per barrel at 8:59 a.m. ET (1259 GMT). It hit a four-year high of $86.74 last week.

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Offshore driller Ensco to buy Rowan in $2.38 billion deal

(Reuters) – Deep-sea oil driller Ensco Plc (ESV.N) said on Monday it would buy smaller rival Rowan Cos Plc (RDC.N) in an all-stock deal valued at $2.38 billion (1.82 billion pounds), as it looks to increase its rig count and benefit from Rowan’s joint venture with Saudi Aramco.

The deal adds to a wave of consolidation by drillers over the past year as oil prices rise and operators seek to buy and put to work new higher-spec rigs now that the prices they can charge seem to have bottomed out.

Ensco said it expected to benefit from Rowan’s 50 percent share in the ARO Drilling partnership with Aramco in Saudi Arabia as well as gain a presence in Norway and in harsh environment markets.

The Rowan deal is Ensco’s second since OPEC-led efforts boosted oil prices in the second half of 2016. Ensco bought rival Atwood Oceanics last year.

“ESV will now gain exposure to the ultra-harsh jackup market, which is a market that is quickly beginning to tighten, and double-down on its already robust market share position with Saudi Aramco via addition of RDC’s ARO Drilling JV,” Tudor Pickering Holt & Co analysts said.

The combined entity will have an enterprise value of about $12 billion and will own a fleet of 28 floating rigs and 54 jack-ups, with drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and West Africa, among others.

Offshore drillers, worst hit during the 2014 slide in oil prices, have largely trailed their peers in the U.S. shale industry.

However, they are now using deal making to increase their bargaining power in the face of persistently low day rates and over capacity.

Transocean Ltd (RIG.N), one of the world’s largest offshore drilling contractors, recently agreed to buy deep water expert Ocean Rig UAW ORIG.O for $2.7 billion.

Rowan shareholders will receive 2.215 Ensco shares for each share. That translates to $18.78 per share and does not offer any premium to Rowan’s Friday close. Rowan’s shares were up 2.8 percent premarket.

Ensco shareholders will own 60.5 percent of the combined company, with Rowan shareholder’s owning the rest. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2019.

Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Anil D’Silva

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GE Offloads Portfolio of Energy Investments to Apollo Global

General Electric Co. said Monday it is offloading a portfolio of energy investments to Apollo Global Management LLC, as the troubled conglomerate continues to sell off pieces of its business it now views as ancillary.

A unit of GE Capital and private-equity firm Apollo didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal, other than to say the approximately $1 billion portfolio includes equity investments in renewable energy, natural-gas fired power and midstream energy infrastructure assets, mostly in the U.S.

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Game planning the toy holiday season

The Toys “R” US bankruptcy has left toy manufacturers and retailers scrambling to get just the right of mix inventory out ahead of the holiday season.

“This year more than ever, getting the right toys in the right stores at the right quantities at the right time is going to be the game,” notes Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT) Chief Commercial Officer Steve Totzke.

Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) are setting aside more floor space for toys this holiday season, while Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) plans to distribute toy catalogs out of Whole Foods stores in an effort to reach consumers. Chains such as Kohl’s (NYSE:KSS), J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), Toy City and Party City (NYSE:PRTY) are also looking to fill the toy void strategically.

The risk for large retail chains in scrapping for toy sales is overshooting with inventory and being forced to sell after the holidays at lower prices.

While the retail attention to toys is a positive for Mattel and Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS), uncertainty over if toys will be pulled into the tariff battle with China still hangs over the toy companies.

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Apple tells Congress it found no signs of malicious chips

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SAN FRANCISCO — Apple’s top security officer told Congress on Sunday that it had found no sign of suspicious transmissions or other evidence that it had been penetrated in a sophisticated attack on its supply chain.

Apple Vice President for Information Security George Stathakopoulos wrote in a letter to the Senate and House commerce committees that the company had repeatedly investigated and found no evidence for the main points in a Bloomberg Businessweek article published on Thursday, including that chips inside servers sold to Apple by Super Micro Computer Inc allowed for backdoor transmissions to China.

“Apple’s proprietary security tools are continuously scanning for precisely this kind of outbound traffic, as it indicates the existence of malware or other malicious activity. Nothing was ever found,” he wrote in the letter provided to Reuters.

Stathakopoulos repeated Apple’s statements to the press that it never found malicious chips or vulnerabilities purposely planted in any server or been contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about such concerns. He said he would be available to brief Congressional staff on the issue this week.

The letter follows statements on Friday by Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre and on Saturday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that those agencies have no reason to doubt denials from Apple and Amazon that they had discovered backdoored chips.

Bloomberg said on Friday it stood by its story, which was based on 17 anonymous sources. Some allegations were based on fewer accounts or even a single unnamed source, Apple noted in its letter.

A Bloomberg spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions sent on Sunday.

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The most popular Halloween candy in NJ, and in all 50 states

It’s October, which means it’s time to celebrate the most important part of the season — Halloween candy.

Although trick-or-treating has only been part of American Halloween celebrations since the 1940s, candy is now the main focus of the holiday, and this year the National Retail Federation is estimating that shoppers across the country will spend $2.6 billion on Halloween candy.

With so many options, it can be hard to choose a favorite. But, according to Candystore.com, a bulk candy supplier, every state has its own favorite Halloween treats.

The retailer has created a list of its top candy sales in each state, after analyzing 11 years of sales, breaking it down to each state’s top three most popular candy purchases.

In Jersey, our tastes stayed pretty consistent with last year’s rankings. But there were some surprises (see all of the number one spots below occupied by candy corn).

Americans are expected to spend about $27 per person on Halloween candy this year. No, we won’t judge you if you go over budget, or wait until the day after Halloween to load up on discounted candy. Either way, the list below can help you see how your Halloween tastes match up.

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UPDATE 1-Walmart partners with MGM to boost video-on-demand service Vudu

(Adds details on licensing agreement and date of release)

NEW YORK, Oct 8 (Reuters) – Walmart Inc said on Monday it will partner with U.S. movie studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer to create content for its Vudu video-on-demand service, which the retailer bought eight years ago.

Walmart has been trying to prop up Vudu’s monthly viewership that remains well below that of competitors like Netflix Inc and Hulu LLC, which is controlled by Walt Disney Co , Comcast Corp and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc .

Media outlets have reported that Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart was looking to launch a subscription streaming video service to rival Netflix and make a foray into producing television shows to attract customers.

But company sources have told Reuters that Walmart is not planning such a move and the company does not intend to spend billions of dollars on producing or acquiring exclusive content as of now. The retailer continues, however, to look at options to boost its video-on-demand business and offer programs that target customers who live outside of big cities.

Walmart and MGM will make the announcement at the NewFronts conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday and unveil the name of the first production under the partnership, which Walmart will license from MGM.

“Under this partnership, MGM will create exclusive content based on their extensive library of iconic IP (intellectual property), and that content will premiere exclusively on the Vudu platform,” Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing told Reuters.

The focus will be on family-friendly content that Walmart customers prefer, Rushing said.

These shows will be exclusively licensed for a period of time to Vudu for North America, and available on Vudu’s free, ad-supported service Movies On Us. Vudu will also commission and license original shows from other sources.

The first MGM-produced short-form original series for Vudu is likely to debut in the first quarter of 2019 on Movies On Us.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Licensing content is a cost-effective strategy at a time when producing original content has become costly. As of July, Netflix said it was spending $8 billion a year on original and acquired content. Amazon.com Inc’s programming budget for Prime Video was more than $4 billion, while U.S. broadcaster HBO, owned by AT&T Inc, said it will spend $2.7 billion this year.

Walmart also plans to roll out a new video ad format for Movies On Us, which will allow viewers to make purchases from Walmart.com.

Walmart acquired Vudu in 2010 to safeguard against declining in-store sales of DVDs. Walmart bet customers would continue to buy and rent movies and move their titles to a digital library, which Vudu would create and maintain for viewers.

But the video site has not posed a significant challenge to rivals that dominate the segment even though it is preloaded or can be downloaded to millions of smart televisions and video-game consoles.

Vudu offers 150,000 titles to buy or rent, while its free, ad-supported streaming service, called Movies On Us, includes 5,000 movies and TV shows.

There are currently more than 200 video services that bypass cable providers and stream content directly to a TV, laptop, phone or game console. That is up from 68 services five years ago, according to market researcher Parks Associates. (Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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