Category Archives: Stocks, Bonds, & Funds

Inspiration: Freakonomics The Movie

After Chad Troutwine read Freakonomics and its exploration of neoclassical microeconomic principles in rational utility maximization, he thought, “This should be a movie!” As an entrepreneur and filmmaker, he actually was able to pursue his crackpot fantasy with the zeal of a young Howard Hughes.

Hounding the authors’ talent agency for nearly a year, Troutwine eventually saw his perseverance win the day. He optioned the cinematic rights to Freakonomics and began assembling a team of directors to each tackle a different Freaky topic. He met Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) at the Sundance Film Festival and quickly enlisted him. Next, Troutwine recruited Academy Award-winner Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) who suggested adding the directorial team Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp). Spurlock recommended Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), and Troutwine invited Seth Gordon (The King of Kong) to share in the producing duties and to direct the film’s introduction and the connective interviews between the four primary segments. Freakonomics: The Movie was the Closing Night Gala film at the Tribeca Film Festival, premiering before a capacity crowd of more than 1,000 Festival attendees … and Robert DeNiro.

Staying true to the irreverent spirit of co-authors Levitt and Dubner, Troutwine pursued a risky and unprecedented theatrical distribution strategy. He and Magnolia Pictures released Freakonomics: The Movie in the Apple iTunes Store and on pay-per-view before exhibiting it in theaters. An instant success, the film jumped to the top of the Documentary film category in iTunes and spent months in the Top 30 ranking of all films (just above a little film called Avatar). Further challenging conventional wisdom, Freakonomics: The Movie premiered in 10 large U.S. cities with a catch: moviegoers could pay whatever amount they wanted for tickets. The “Pay What You Want” screenings and unorthodox release strategy have prompted several commentators to wonder if Freakonomics: The Movie has ushered in a new era for independent film distribution. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recently added Freakonomics: The Movie to its permanent collection at the Margaret Herrick Library. It is currently available for rent or purchase digitally and on Blu-ray and DVD.

The Capitalist Now on BizTV!

The CapitalistAt no other point in recent history has capitalism elicited such a pervasive response. The very word raises eyebrows…some curious, some critical, and some positivly exstatic. Now imagine pulling back the curtain, if you will, and taking a first hand look at what lies in the world of capitalism

Watch a day-in-the-life of a man who not only invests in some of these companies, but also gets behind the scenes with management of some of his investments. See how companies try to pitch their deals to Gregg and his team. He listens, he considers, he advises, and yes, he invests. Be there first hand as “The Capitalist” shows a real life view of how business is done is this complex and human side of business.

Mr. Gregg J. Sedun, LL.B. has been the President and Interim Chief Executive Officer of Goldgroup Mining Inc. since October 12, 2012. Mr. Sedun serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of Global Vision Capital Corp. Mr. Sedun has been the Chief Executive Officer and President of Uracan Resources, Ltd. since January 9, 2007. He served as the President of Oceanic Iron Ore Corp. He is an Independent Venture Capital Professional based in Vancouver, Canada with 27 years of mining & industry-related experience. He practiced corporate finance/securities & mining law in Vancouver until 1997. He was a Partner of a private venture capital firm for seven years and served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Fields International Ltd. from June 17, 2003 to December 1, 2005. He served as Corporate Secretary of Adastra Minerals Inc. since April 28, 1995. He serves as the Executive Chairman of Goldgroup Mining Inc. He has been the Chairman of the Board of Uracan Resources, Ltd. since July 27, 2006 and has been its Director since May 2, 2006. He has been a Director of Goldgroup Mining Inc. since April 2010. He has been Lead Director of Geovic Mining Corp. since February 14, 2012 and as its Director since September 29, 2006. Mr. Sedun serves as a Director at BCY Resources Inc. and Rodeo Capital II Corp. He has been a Director of Diamond Fields International Ltd. since November 21, 2002. He has been a Director of Oceanic Iron Ore Corp. since September 27, 2010. He has been involved as a director and/or founding shareholder in a number of successful companies including Diamond Fields Resources Inc., and Peru Copper Inc. He served as a Director of Adastra Minerals Inc. since April 28, 1995. Mr. Sedun served as a Director of Avala Resources Ltd. and ERA Carbon Offsets Ltd. He served as a Director of Open EC Technologies Inc. since February 1997. He served as Director of Luna Gold Corp. from June 23, 1997 to June 18, 2008 and its Member of Advisory Board from June 2008 to March 3, 2009. He served as a Director of ERA Ecosystem Restoration Associates Inc. Mr. Sedun served as a Director of Accend Capital Corporation from December 3, 2007 to November 26, 2009 and Shelby Ventures Inc. since February 27, 2007. He served as a Director of Fletcher Nickel Inc. from April 30, 2007 to March 2009. He served as a Director of Rodeo Capital Corp. since April 13, 2009. He served as a Director of Interim Capital Corp. since February 2006, Geologix Explorations Inc. from January 8, 1988 to May 10, 2005. Mr. Sedun graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1982 with a Bachelor of Law degree, and practiced Securities Law in Vancouver, British Columbia from 1983 to 1997.

An independent venture capital professional based in Vancouver, Gregg J. Sedun is “The Capitalist.” Don’t miss The Capitalist on BIZTV!

US sells Citi stake for profit

The last of the US Treasury’s shares of Citigroup Inc sold at $10.5 billion. This means taxpayers will reap a profit of $12 billion on their $45 billion cash investment in Citigroup. It also allows the bank to shake its reputation as a ward of the state.

James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University said: “It signals the company has been fully privatized and that their parole is over.”

Last year, the Treasury intended to sell off their 7.7 billion shares steadily over the course of six to 12 months, but had only sold 4.4 billion by October. The results of the November elections seemed to express discontent with government involvement in private business. As a result, the Treasury has increased its speed in selling off its 61% stake in General Motors.

The government still holds $3 billion in Citigroup stock.

Problem bank list grows

The government’s list of troubled banks hit its highest level since 1993 during the second quarter, although the pace of growth continued to slow. The number of banks at risk of failing rose by 53 to 829, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said. That increase marks the smallest rise since the first quarter of 2009.

While some choose to look at the optimistically, let’s look at it realistically. The number still increased. If we want to be optimistic, let’s wait until the number is not growing at all. After that, we can start hoping for a decline.

The number is almost twice the 415 banks on the FDIC’s watch list a year ago. On average, 13% of banks on the FDIC’s problem list have been seized and shuttered by regulators.

So far this year, 118 banks have failed, with 45 closings during the last quarter.

Banks and institutions insure by the FDIC earned approximately $21.6 billion during the quarter, the highest in three years.

Intel will buy Infineon wireless for $1.4 billion

Intel will buy German chipmaker Infineon’s wireless unit for $1.4 billion, enabling the U.S. chipmaker to boost its presence in the smartphone market The transaction should close in the first quarter of 2011. The mobile unit will remain as a standalone business.

This is the second major deal for Intel within two weeks after the company announced its $7.7 billion offer for McAfee Inc on Aug 19, its largest acquisition, bolstering the appeal of its chips as it tries to expand further into the mobile market.

Intel’s Atom mobile chips took the low-cost, no-frills netbook market by storm but are rarely found in smartphones where other chipmakers dominate.

“Infineon would make Intel an instant heavyweight (in the mobile space) and buy them three, four years in R&D,” IDC analyst Flint Pulskamp has said.

Analysts caution that while an acquisition such as Infineon’s mobile chip unit is a step in the right direction it will take time to produce results.

Rivals based on UK-listed ARM’s chip design continue to grab market share.

Infineon shares fell 1.4 percent to 4.54 euros in Frankfurt, widening losses they posted on Friday after Intel warned its third-quarter revenue would fall short of its own expectations due to weak consumer demand on personal computers.

Intel shares closed largely flat at Friday’s market close in New York at $18.37.

And, more good news: their logos look pretty similar, so no need to really change much.

Dipping into the 401(k)

Withdrawals from 401(k) retirement saving plans saw their biggest spike in at least five years, Fidelity Investments said on Friday, in the latest sign of hardship amid a dismal economy.

Fidelity reported that 62,000 people made hardship withdrawals from their 401(k) workplace plans during the second quarter. That’s up from 45,000 participants during the prior quarter, a 37% increase. That means that 2.2% of Fidelity participants took a hardship withdrawal in the second quarter, compared to 2% in the same period last year.

That means that 2.2% of Fidelity customers took a hardship withdrawal in the second quarter, compared to 2% in the same period last year.

Fidelity also said that 11% of participants took out loans from their 401(k) over the past 12 months, an increase of two percentage points from the prior year. The average loan amount was $8,650 at the end of the second quarter.

Fidelity said the top reasons people took loans and made withdrawals were to prevent foreclosure or eviction, pay for college, or purchase a home.

“The current economy has forced some workers to borrow from their 401(k) accounts in order to pay for critical living expenses, ultimately jeopardizing their future retirement,” said James MacDonald, president of workplace investing for Fidelity Investments.

GM to list on NYSE, TSX

Now that GM is turning a profit, it plans a triumphant return to the New York Stock Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange after its initial public offering.

The IPO, intended to repay a portion of the automaker’s government bailout, has been dubbed “Project Dawn,” said the source, who declined to be named because preparations for the IPO remain private.

Before its 2009 bankruptcy, GM shares traded on the New York Stock exchange, and its return had been widely expected as the automaker begins to distance itself from its government-led restructuring and attracts private investors. Adding a stock listing in Toronto would underscore the role that the governments of Canada and Ontario played as junior partners to the U.S. Treasury in keeping GM from liquidation in bankruptcy.

The number of shares to be sold by the U.S. government, the governments of Canada and Ontario, the United Auto Workers union healthcare trust and other shareholders has not been determined. GM is not expected to issue new common stock in the IPO but plans to sell about $3 billion in mandatory convertible securities that convert into shares in the future

Dollar waves at 15-year low, but departs quickly

The dollar neared a 15-year low against the yen on Wednesday on fears the Federal Reserve could embrace more monetary easing to jolt a faltering recovery but it recouped its losses on better-than-expected U.S. jobs data.

Data showing U.S. private employers added more jobs than expected in July helped the dollar recover lost ground against the yen and also slowed recent gains in the euro, which hit a three-month high on Tuesday.

Private employers added 42,000 jobs in July, compared with a revised gain of 19,000 in June, the report by a payrolls processor ADP Employer Services showed on Wednesday.

The rise in hiring was slightly higher than an estimate from economists surveyed by Reuters for a gain of 40,000 private-sector jobs. The June ADP figure originally was reported as a gain of 13,000 jobs.

While above market expectations the gains still show the economy has not gained the job-creating momentum to pull the unemployment rate down from above nine percent.

Employment levels are considered key to a pickup in consumer spending and to boosting overall U.S. economic growth which has shown signs of weakness in recent months. Data last Friday showed U.S. economic growth slowed in the second quarter of this year.

Economists sometimes use the ADP report to narrow down their estimates for the U.S. Labor Department’s payrolls numbers due Friday, but it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.

Exxon profits higher than expected

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest public energy company reported net income of $7.56 billion, or $1.60 a share, in the second quarter, up 91% from $3.95 billion, or 81 cents a share, in the same period in 2009.

Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.46 a share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

The results are linked to improved refining margins, an increase in output, and strong performance in the company’s chemicals business according to Exxon’s CEO.

The ongoing rebound in oil prices helped boost profits in Exxon’s oil production and exploration unit, where earnings rose $1.5 billion to $5.34 billion in the quarter. Oil prices averaged $78 a barrel in the quarter, up from $60 a barrel in the same period last year.

The results included a slight impact from Exxon’s recent purchase of XTO Energy, a natural gas company. The $36 billion deal closed on June 25.

Finance Reform 2010

The other day, I searched the Internet for a PDF file of the Finance Reform Bill that passed just this week. Thinking I would find a moderately sized document, I would print out a few pages and highlight some key concepts that people would be interested in.

The document was 1,336 pages long.

I will do my best to slog through it over the next week or two, so stay tuned to the Biz Blog to get your finance reform highlights.

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