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March 30, 2013 at 2:37 PM   |   Comments

Haircuts in Cyprus could top 60 percent

NICOSIA, Cyprus, March 30 (UPI) -- Losses imposed on larger banks deposits in Cyprus to secure an $18 billion bailout, could exceed 60 percent, various bankers said.

Cyprus must raise $7.5 billion in revenue to secure an international loan of $13 billion under terms set by the so-called troika -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. That would bring tot total bailout to $18 billion.

No previous bailouts have included direct losses imposed on bank deposits, and the current deal concentrates all of those losses on deposits larger than $130,000.

The New York Times reported Saturday bankers close to the negotiations have said the losses imposed on larger deposits could go as high as 77.5 percent.

Many details are still unknown, but the terms under discussion include turning savings from large accounts into a combination of direct equity and securities that could be converted to equity at a later date, the Times said.

Government officials have been publicly kicking around the figure of 40 percent losses, but sources say that is shy of what the actual haircut -- slang for losses -- will be.

To recover the losses imposed on the accounts, depositors will have to wait for the bank's shares to rise in value, but some analysts say that may never happen.

The $18 billion bailout is expected to slow Cyprus' economic growth by 3 percent to 5 percent. By some estimates, the island nation's gross domestic product will drop 10 percent before it turns around - which could eliminate its viability as an international financial center, the Times said.


Judge drops antitrust claims in Libor suit

NEW YORK, March 30 (UPI) -- A federal judge in New York has ruled that banks manipulating the Libor benchmark lending rate could not have breached antitrust business laws.

Antitrust laws are designed to ensure companies compete with each other and do not collude to fix prices or manipulate markets. Setting the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, was not a competitive process to begin with, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald has ruled.

The Libor rate is an average rate banks charge each other for loans and it is used as a benchmark to set the rate on trillions of dollars of private and business loans.

Buchwald ruled setting the Libor was a "cooperative endeavor" that was "never intended to be competitive."

The ruling has pulled the rug out from under class-action lawsuits filed against several big banks on behalf of consumers, as penalties imposed on the banks could triple if their behavior was also ruled to breach antitrust provisions, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Several large banks have agreed to huge settlements with regulators to have Libor manipulation claims against them dropped.

The civil lawsuits filed against the banks can proceed, the judge ruled. However, dismissal of the antitrust portion of the complaints is a setback that could discourage others from joining in the lawsuits, the Journal said.

Plaintiffs can still pursue claims of "misrepresentation," the judge wrote, but "not from harm to competition."


To go private, Dell Inc. denigrates Dell

ROUND ROCK, Texas, March 30 (UPI) -- U.S. computer giant Dell Inc. is basing its argument for going private on falling revenue and a need to reinvent itself, a regulatory filing says.

The company's founder, Michael Dell, and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners have offered $24.4 billion to take the company private.

The deal, which represents a 25 percent premium on current share prices, was quickly criticized by shareholder group Southeastern Asset Management Inc., as underestimating the value of the company.

The offer, as a 274-page regulatory filing shows, puts the founder in an unusual position of having to justify his bid by explaining his company's fortunes are bleak, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The filing says Dell needs to reinvent itself, as the computer industry is quickly evolving from one focused on sales of personal computers, which accounts for about half of Dell's revenue, to one centered on sales of smart phones, digital tablet readers and other mobile devises.

The filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission argues that Dell's revenues have not met the company's expectations in seven consecutive quarters.

Reinventing itself will be costly and likely unprofitable, the filing says. Michael Dell expects shareholders would grow impatient with a lengthy and expensive process.

The filing said activist investor Carl Icahn and equity firm Blackstone Group had signaled they were working on rival bids for the company. Those bids have yet to be formally submitted, the Journal said.


Police warn of PC ransomware virus

LOS ANGELES, March 30 (UPI) -- Police in Southern California said there has been an increase in complaints about a computer virus that tries to extort money from users.

The so-called Reveton ransomware virus can attack a computer immediately when a user clicks on a contaminated Web site, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. The virus then holds the computer for ransom, keeping operations locked up while flashing messages that say the owner of the computer has broken the law and charges will be filed if the user does not forward money through a money card system.

Some of the messages fraudulently claim they are from a law enforcement agency, such as the Department of Justice or the FBI. Some of the messages claim the computer's Internet address can be tracked from Web sites that broadcast child pornography.

Authorities said affected computers should be checked out by a professional who can remove the virus.

Even if a user can figure out how to unlock a computer, the system could still be infected with the virus, officials said.

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