Four takeaways from SPX Corp.'s 2014 earnings – Charlotte Business Journal (blog)

SPX building - Ballantyne

SPX building as seen from the top of the Harris Building.

Senior Staff Writer- Charlotte Business Journal

SPX Corp. reported 2014 earnings of $397.9 million, for adjusted earnings $9.25 per share, this week and investors reacted well.

The stock rose sharply Thursday, closing at $90.18 from a close of $88.81 Wednesday. A lot of the positive reaction came in response to the strong fourth quarter. SPX reported an operating profit of $177.3 million, for adjusted earnings of $2.36 per share, better than the consensus analysts’ estimates of $2.21 per share.

But what interests investors, and observers in Charlotte, is what it all means for the two companies to be created this summer by a division of the business.

Some key takeaways:

•There are a lot of moving parts in the numbers. SPX reported a net fourth quarter loss of $43.2 million, or 78 cents a share. There were $210 million in one-time charges, some related to getting the company in position to split in the third quarter.

•The oil price collapse and the strong dollar will hurt SPX — and its SPX Flow Inc. spinoff — in 2015. SPX’s Flow Technology division gets about 18 percent of its revenue from sales to the the oil & gas industry. Only the food and beverage industry, at 20%, is a larger market. SPX has seen reduced sales as the industry waits to see where oil prices land. Foreign exchange rates have been a further issue for the division, which gets 53 percent of its sales overseas.

•Recent financial moves will ease the transition as SPX spins out its separate companies. In the fourth quarter, SPX took an $86 million charge for pension expenses and redeemed $500 million worth of bonds early, moves CEO Chris Kearney says puts it “in a very good financial position to execute the tax-free spin of our Flow business.” The company also won consent from bondholders for SPX Flow to raise $600 million in debt after the the split. Analyst Nicholas Heymann of William Blair writes that represents “needed liquidity for SPX Flow” once it is independent.

•The biggest upside for investors would come if SPX Flow is bought. Kearney emphasizes both companies are set up to succeed. But Heymann writes that consolidations in the oil and gas industry leads him to think “best longer-term opportunities for potential upside to be unlocked from the separation … might occur if the flow segment were to be acquired after it has been spun out.” Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch downgraded SPX to “sell” earlier this week because he does not think such a sale is in the offing.

A sale could benefit shareholders. But Charlotte would lose a corporate headquarters for the fastest growing of the two companies made from the current SPX.

The remaining SPX Corp. will be focused largely on power and infrastructure markets, which fits well in the existing energy hub in Charlotte. But SPX Flow brings diversity with oil and gas and its strong presence in food and beverage.

Neither new company would have operations here beyond their headquarters. Kearney, who will head SPX Flow, has begun to be a more active executive in Charlotte affairs in recent years and a sale of the company could change that.

John Downey covers the energy industry and public companies for the Charlotte Business Journal.

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Forget about the speech, focus on Iran, AIPAC says – USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress on Tuesday has spawned a bitter debate on two continents, but there was no apparent dissent at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Sunday.

Whether House Speaker John Boehner should have invited Netanyahu to come right before his tough re-election— with no input from the Obama administration — is an unwelcome distraction from weightier issues, several attendees said.

“People need to be able to separate issues of protocol,” said Chicago investment banker Albert Grace Jr. “I don’t think support for Israel is wavering.”

The mission of the annual conference was clearly to unite the 16,000 attendees — up 2,000 from last year — to rally around a tougher nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu will speak here Monday before his Tuesday speech in the Capitol, and organizers are sending the crowd to amplify his message to Congress during lobbying visits Tuesday.

Obama asked Congress during his January State of the Union address not to pass new sanctions on Iran while negotiations over the nation’s nuclear program are ongoing, but Netanyahu has​ made it clear he believes the talks are a sham and Iran will never give up its nuclear ambitions.

Grace attributes the conference’s growth this year to the dispute over Netanyahu’s speech. That’s what drew first-time attendees Benjamin and Arden Fusman, doctors from West Orange, N.J.

“We’re a very Zionist family,” said Arden Fusman. “We wanted to show our support.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham told the conferees they were the most important voice in Washington this week. “You’re going to make more difference than any speech any politician could ever deliver,” Graham told the crowd.

Grace, who is African American and was featured in a video highlighting Israel’s diversity of support, says he feels connected to the Israeli cause “more on the humanistic side.” The trauma children face in Israel, where they have to scatter when there are warnings about incoming rockets, is similar to that faced by kids in the violence-strewn South Side of Chicago where he grew up, Grace said.

The conference was an intricately-staged production designed to dazzle. The family of a disabled boy showed how a device made by the Israeli Defense Forces to carry injured soldiers helped them take the boy hiking. Members of IDF’s “outstanding musicians program” performed. Mosab Hassan Yousef, a former member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas who became an Israeli spy, spoke about his work thwarting suicide attacks and assassinations targeting Jews.

Johns Hopkins University student Ari Palley, who attended with his brother and sister, agreed the conference did “a good job with The Green Prince,” a documentary film about Yousef’s life.

“He showed it’s not just about Israel, it’s a battle of values,” said Palley.

The conference is a foreign affairs pep rally, academic seminar and product showcase rolled into one. Dozens of sessions ranged from the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Israel’s craft beer industry.

Esther Korn has come to the conference five times and has taken each of her three children. This year, it was daughter Talia’s turn. She found it both exciting and disheartening that the Washington disputes were getting so much attention.

“My feeling is leave all the politics behind,” says Korn. “Let’s talk about the issue; it’s about Iran getting nuclear weapons.”

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Crude Oil Eyeing 63.00 Figure, SPX 500 Digesting Drive to Record High – DailyFX

Talking Points:

  • US Dollar Threatening Familiar Range Top Yet Again
  • S&P 500 Continues to Consolidate Near Record High
  • Gold Trying to Break Down Trend, Crude Oil Eyes $63

Can’t access the Dow Jones FXCM US Dollar Index? Try the USD basket on Mirror Trader. **

US DOLLAR TECHNICAL ANALYSIS – Prices continue to tread water having topped as expected after putting in a bearish Evening Star candlestick pattern. A daily close below the 14.6% Fibonacci retracementat 11740 exposes the 23.6% level at 11653. Alternatively, a turn above the 11854-76 zone (14.6% Fib expansion, March 2009 high) clears the way for a test of the 23.6% expansion at 11963.

Crude Oil Eyeing 63.00 Figure, SPX 500 Digesting Drive to Record High

Daily Chart – Created Using FXCM Marketscope

** The Dow Jones FXCM US Dollar Index and the Mirror Trader USD basket are not the same product.

S&P 500 TECHNICAL ANALYSIS – Prices paused to digest gains after advancing to yet another record high. A daily close above the 14.6% Fibonacci expansion at 2121.80 exposes the 23.6% level at 2133.70. Near-term support is at 2102.60, the February 23 low, with a break below that targeting the 23.6% Fib retracement at 2086.40.

Crude Oil Eyeing 63.00 Figure, SPX 500 Digesting Drive to Record High

Daily Chart – Created Using FXCM Marketscope

GOLD TECHNICAL ANALYSIS – Prices are attempting to launch a recovery after dropping to the lowest level in two months. A daily close above the intersection of trend line support-turned-resistance and the 23.6% Fibonacci retracement at 1216.30 exposes the 38.2% level at 1233.73. Alternatively, a reversal below the 14.6% Fib at 1205.56 targets the February 23 low at 1188.13.

Crude Oil Eyeing 63.00 Figure, SPX 500 Digesting Drive to Record High

Daily Chart – Created Using FXCM Marketscope

CRUDE OIL TECHNICAL ANALYSIS – Prices launched a recovery as expected, with buyers now attempting to clear February’s swing high. A break above the 61.98-62.98 area (23.6% Fibonacci expansion, February 17 high) exposes the 38.2% level at 64.58. Alternatively, a reversal below the 14.6% Fib at 60.38 targets resistance-turned-support at 58.17.

Crude Oil Eyeing 63.00 Figure, SPX 500 Digesting Drive to Record High

Daily Chart – Created Using FXCM Marketscope

— Written by Ilya Spivak, Currency Strategist for DailyFX.com

To receive Ilya’s analysis directly via email, please SIGN UP HERE

Contact and follow Ilya on Twitter: @IlyaSpivak

DailyFX provides forex news and technical analysis on the trends that influence the global currency markets.
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Four takeaways from SPX Corp.'s 2014 earnings – Charlotte Business Journal (blog)

SPX building - Ballantyne

SPX building as seen from the top of the Harris Building.

Stone and Cedar European Masterpiece15 photos

Home of the Day

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Senior Staff Writer- Charlotte Business Journal

SPX Corp. reported 2014 earnings of $397.9 million, for adjusted earnings $9.25 per share, this week and investors reacted well.

The stock rose sharply Thursday, closing at $90.18 from a close of $88.81 Wednesday. A lot of the positive reaction came in response to the strong fourth quarter. SPX reported an operating profit of $177.3 million, for adjusted earnings of $2.36 per share, better than the consensus analysts’ estimates of $2.21 per share.

But what interests investors, and observers in Charlotte, is what it all means for the two companies to be created this summer by a division of the business.

Some key takeaways:

•There are a lot of moving parts in the numbers. SPX reported a net fourth quarter loss of $43.2 million, or 78 cents a share. There were $210 million in one-time charges, some related to getting the company in position to split in the third quarter.

•The oil price collapse and the strong dollar will hurt SPX — and its SPX Flow Inc. spinoff — in 2015. SPX’s Flow Technology division gets about 18 percent of its revenue from sales to the the oil & gas industry. Only the food and beverage industry, at 20%, is a larger market. SPX has seen reduced sales as the industry waits to see where oil prices land. Foreign exchange rates have been a further issue for the division, which gets 53 percent of its sales overseas.

•Recent financial moves will ease the transition as SPX spins out its separate companies. In the fourth quarter, SPX took an $86 million charge for pension expenses and redeemed $500 million worth of bonds early, moves CEO Chris Kearney says puts it “in a very good financial position to execute the tax-free spin of our Flow business.” The company also won consent from bondholders for SPX Flow to raise $600 million in debt after the the split. Analyst Nicholas Heymann of William Blair writes that represents “needed liquidity for SPX Flow” once it is independent.

•The biggest upside for investors would come if SPX Flow is bought. Kearney emphasizes both companies are set up to succeed. But Heymann writes that consolidations in the oil and gas industry leads him to think “best longer-term opportunities for potential upside to be unlocked from the separation … might occur if the flow segment were to be acquired after it has been spun out.” Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch downgraded SPX to “sell” earlier this week because he does not think such a sale is in the offing.

A sale could benefit shareholders. But Charlotte would lose a corporate headquarters for the fastest growing of the two companies made from the current SPX.

The remaining SPX Corp. will be focused largely on power and infrastructure markets, which fits well in the existing energy hub in Charlotte. But SPX Flow brings diversity with oil and gas and its strong presence in food and beverage.

Neither new company would have operations here beyond their headquarters. Kearney, who will head SPX Flow, has begun to be a more active executive in Charlotte affairs in recent years and a sale of the company could change that.

John Downey covers the energy industry and public companies for the Charlotte Business Journal.

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Man dead after struggle with LA police – USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES — A man was shot dead while struggling with police officers on a sidewalk in the city’s Skid Row area Sunday, police said.

Los Angeles Police spokesman Sgt. Barry Montgomery said officers were responding to a robbery call when they struggled with the suspect. He said officers first used a stun gun before shooting him. The man, whose identity was not released, was declared dead at a hospital.

A bystander’s cellphone video was posted online to a Facebook account. It shows several officers attempting to take the man into custody shortly before noon, KNBC-TV reported on its website, NBCLosAngeles.com.

Los Angeles Times reported the man appeared to scuffle with four officers even after he was wrestled to the ground. It said one officer can be heard on the video saying, “Drop the gun. Drop the gun.” At least five gunshots could be heard.

The Times quoted several eyewitnesses including Dennis Horne, 29, who said the suspect had been fighting with someone in his tent along the sidewalk, and that when he refused to comply with a police order to come out of the tent, officers used a Taser stun gun and pulled him from the tent. He continued to fight while on the ground, Horne told the newspaper.

Another witness, Jose Gil, 38 , said he saw the man swinging at police and heard one of the officers say, “Gun, gun, he’s got my gun” before police fired multiple shots.

Homeless people are allowed to have tents on certain downtown streets during evening hours but are supposed to remove them during the day.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said the department, its independent inspector general and the district attorney’s office would investigate, the Times reported.

Contributing: Associated Press

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Speech by Netanyahu Opens Political Divisions in Israel, Too – New York Times

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli leader, prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Saturday, ahead of his United States visit.
By ISABEL KERSHNER
March 1, 2015

JERUSALEM — At Jerusalem’s bustling Mahane Yehuda market, a traditional bastion of support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party, Israeli divisions played out among the fruit and vegetable stalls on Sunday as Mr. Netanyahu departed for Washington with plans to deliver a contentious speech on the Iranian nuclear threat before a joint meeting of Congress.

“This is the best step he could take,” Avraham Levy, 63, a merchant, said of the speech in which Mr. Netanyahu is expected to deliver a strong warning against a possible deal being discussed to limit Iran’s nuclear activities. The address has set Mr. Netanyahu on a collision course with the Obama administration.

“When six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, nobody came and saved us,” Mr. Levy said as he sold bananas and avocados below a fading portrait of Menachem Begin, the Likud founder who became the first Likud prime minister. “We were slaughtered like sheep. We can only rely on ourselves,” he said. If Mr. Netanyahu could persuade a few Democrats to cross the aisle, Mr. Levy added, perhaps the whole Iran deal could be thwarted.

Rivka Alkalai, 84, a retired civil servant who defined herself as a centrist on the Israeli political map, shook her head and tut-tutted in disapproval.

“You don’t blatantly go and fly in the face of your good friends,” Ms. Alkalai said of Mr. Netanyahu and the Americans. “He will only do harm,” she said as she shopped for green beans and celery.

Mr. Netanyahu’s speech to the Republican-led Congress, set for Tuesday, is not only proving divisive in the United States, where he is being accused of interfering in American politics and damaging a decades-old alliance based on bipartisan support for Israel. It is also taking place in the highly charged period before Israel’s March 17 elections and has spawned an increasingly fraught debate in Israel about the potential benefits versus the risk of damaging to the crucial Israeli-American relationship.

More broadly, Israelis are now questioning whether Mr. Netanyahu, who is running for a third consecutive term, is Israel’s savior against the Iranian nuclear threat, which many here regard as existential, or whether his Iran policy has, instead, been an abject failure, with Iran apparently on a course to gain the potential to produce nuclear weapons regardless.

“I am leaving for Washington on a fateful, even historic, mission,” Mr. Netanyahu said before his departure on Sunday. “I feel that I am the emissary of all Israelis, even those who disagree with me, of the entire Jewish people.”

Adding gravitas to the occasion, Mr. Netanyahu was photographed offering a prayer the night before at the Western Wall, and at his desk handwriting the address in a bold script.

Still, many here remained unconvinced.

Adir Ben-Nahum, 28, a medical student who said he was generally liberal and left-leaning, described Mr. Netanyahu as “brilliant, but unfortunately only at politics.” The speech to Congress, he said, was “a dangerous political exercise” intended to bolster Mr. Netanyahu’s standing in the Israeli elections.

That popular criticism has now been bolstered by prominent voices from Israel’s security establishment. A group of nearly 200 former military and intelligence officials called on Mr. Netanyahu to cancel the speech, an unusually public challenge. At a news conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday, several of the former officers and officials warned that Mr. Netanyahu’s policies were endangering the strategic alliance with the United States and were actually bringing Iran closer to a nuclear bomb.

“It is hard for me to come out against Bibi,” said Amiram Levine, a retired general, referring to Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname. Noting that he had recruited Mr. Netanyahu into the elite Sayeret Matkal unit and was his commander there, Mr. Levine said, “I taught Bibi navigation, how to get to the goal, and this time I regret that I have to say, ‘Bibi, you made a mistake in navigation, the goal is in Tehran, not in Washington.’ ”

Meir Dagan, the former chief of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, has described Mr. Netanyahu as “the person who has caused the greatest strategic damage to Israel on the Iranian issue.”

In an interview published in the Yediot Aharonot newspaper this weekend, Mr. Dagan, who has been critical of Israel’s leaders before, said Mr. Netanyahu’s conduct was likely to motivate the American administration to hurry to reach a deal with Iran. “How would Obama explain not reaching a deal?” Mr. Dagan said. “That Netanyahu persuaded him? Or the Republicans?”

On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry, seeking to soothe the bruised relations between Washington and Tel Aviv, said on ABC’s “This Week” that Mr. Netanyahu was welcome to speak in the United States. The two men spoke by telephone on Saturday.

Israel says that a proposal under consideration that would strictly limit, for at least 10 years, Iran’s ability to produce nuclear material in exchange for an easing of sanctions would allow thousands of Iranian centrifuges to continue spinning and enriching uranium — a far cry from Israel’s demand for zero enrichment and the complete dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and capabilities.

Top Israeli officials and experts say the concern expressed by Mr. Netanyahu is genuine and legitimate. But that has not stopped internal criticism about his approach from growing, and becoming louder.

Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, said Mr. Netanyahu had made a critical error in continuing to insist on an end to enrichment instead of, say, the transfer of low-enriched material to a third country, which might have been more palatable to the world powers negotiating with Iran.

“When you say all or nothing, you are left with nothing, and that is where we are,” Mr. Eiland said in a telephone interview. “Our official position was so far from the international consensus that no one thought we had to be considered,” he said.

But Israel, a party with a crucial stake in the nuclear talks even though it is not at the negotiating table, apparently decided to stick to a maximalist position for fear that any Israeli flexibility might be taken as a pass for even more concessions.

Isaac Herzog, the center-left Zionist Union candidate who is challenging Mr. Netanyahu for the premiership, has called the speech “a mistake” and argues that the way to deal with the strategic threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is through intimate relations with the United States.

Amos Yadlin, the former chief of Israel’s military intelligence and the Zionist Union’s candidate for the post of defense minister, told Israeli television that “speeches won’t stop Iran’s nuclear program” and that Iran was “on the threshold, a few months away from a nuclear bomb.” That, he added, had happened on Mr. Netanyahu’s watch.

And for many Israeli voters, there are more immediate concerns. As Mr. Netanyahu was preparing to leave for Washington, a few hundred chemical industry workers from the southern Negev region were demonstrating outside his residence to protest against recent mass layoffs. One placard read, “Bibi, unemployment in the Negev is the real threat,” and another, “Bibi, we will die of hunger before Iran.”

“The speech to Congress is important,” said Ilan Hajaj, 51, a father of four who had just lost his job. “But at the moment, the war for us is at home.”

Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting.

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Four takeaways from SPX Corp.'s 2014 earnings – Charlotte Business Journal (blog)

SPX building - Ballantyne

SPX building as seen from the top of the Harris Building.

Senior Staff Writer- Charlotte Business Journal

SPX Corp. reported 2014 earnings of $397.9 million, for adjusted earnings $9.25 per share, this week and investors reacted well.

The stock rose sharply Thursday, closing at $90.18 from a close of $88.81 Wednesday. A lot of the positive reaction came in response to the strong fourth quarter. SPX reported an operating profit of $177.3 million, for adjusted earnings of $2.36 per share, better than the consensus analysts’ estimates of $2.21 per share.

But what interests investors, and observers in Charlotte, is what it all means for the two companies to be created this summer by a division of the business.

Some key takeaways:

•There are a lot of moving parts in the numbers. SPX reported a net fourth quarter loss of $43.2 million, or 78 cents a share. There were $210 million in one-time charges, some related to getting the company in position to split in the third quarter.

•The oil price collapse and the strong dollar will hurt SPX — and its SPX Flow Inc. spinoff — in 2015. SPX’s Flow Technology division gets about 18 percent of its revenue from sales to the the oil & gas industry. Only the food and beverage industry, at 20%, is a larger market. SPX has seen reduced sales as the industry waits to see where oil prices land. Foreign exchange rates have been a further issue for the division, which gets 53 percent of its sales overseas.

•Recent financial moves will ease the transition as SPX spins out its separate companies. In the fourth quarter, SPX took an $86 million charge for pension expenses and redeemed $500 million worth of bonds early, moves CEO Chris Kearney says puts it “in a very good financial position to execute the tax-free spin of our Flow business.” The company also won consent from bondholders for SPX Flow to raise $600 million in debt after the the split. Analyst Nicholas Heymann of William Blair writes that represents “needed liquidity for SPX Flow” once it is independent.

•The biggest upside for investors would come if SPX Flow is bought. Kearney emphasizes both companies are set up to succeed. But Heymann writes that consolidations in the oil and gas industry leads him to think “best longer-term opportunities for potential upside to be unlocked from the separation … might occur if the flow segment were to be acquired after it has been spun out.” Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch downgraded SPX to “sell” earlier this week because he does not think such a sale is in the offing.

A sale could benefit shareholders. But Charlotte would lose a corporate headquarters for the fastest growing of the two companies made from the current SPX.

The remaining SPX Corp. will be focused largely on power and infrastructure markets, which fits well in the existing energy hub in Charlotte. But SPX Flow brings diversity with oil and gas and its strong presence in food and beverage.

Neither new company would have operations here beyond their headquarters. Kearney, who will head SPX Flow, has begun to be a more active executive in Charlotte affairs in recent years and a sale of the company could change that.

John Downey covers the energy industry and public companies for the Charlotte Business Journal.

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Russians march in memory of murdered Putin critic – Reuters

People hold flags and posters during a march to commemorate Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead on Friday night, near St. Basil's Cathedral in central Moscow March 1, 2015.   REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin


(Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Russians marched through central Moscow on Sunday, carrying banners declaring “I am not afraid” and chanting “Russia without Putin” in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.

Families, the old and young walked slowly, with many holding portraits of the opposition politician and former deputy prime minister who was shot dead while walking home from a nearby restaurant on Friday night.

The authorities have suggested the opposition itself may have been behind his shooting in an attempt to create a martyr and unite the fractured movement.

His supporters have blamed the authorities.

“If we can stop the campaign of hate that’s being directed at the opposition, then we have a chance to change Russia. If not, then we face the prospect of mass civil conflict,” Gennady Gudkov, an opposition leader, told Reuters.

“The authorities are corrupt and don’t allow any threats to them to emerge. Boris was uncomfortable for them.”

His murder has divided opinion in a country where for years after the Soviet Union collapsed many yearned for the stability later brought by former KGB agent Vladimir Putin.

A small but active opposition now says Putin’s rule has become an autocracy that flaunts international norms after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula last year, fanned nationalism over the separatist war in eastern Ukraine and clamped down on dissent.

“(Nemtsov) was harmful to the authorities, but the authorities themselves are criminal. The authorities have trampled on all international rights, seized Crimea, started war with Ukraine,” said Yuri Voinov, an elderly physicist.

Police said 21,000 people attended the march. The organizers put the numbers at tens of thousands, but attendance appeared smaller than the 50,000 people the opposition had hoped for.

Reuters reporters at the march estimated the numbers in the tens of thousands.

People walked in the rain within view of the Kremlin’s red walls and past the spot, now covered in flowers, where Nemtsov was shot dead.

Some carried large banners carrying Nemtsov’s face reading “Heroes Never Die”, the same slogan used in Ukraine to celebrate more than 100 people killed in protests that overthrew Moscow-leaning President Viktor Yanukovich a year ago.

One elderly woman, her hair tucked into a woolen cap, held up a hand-written sign to cover her face: “It’s a geopolitical catastrophe when a KGB officer declares himself president for life. Putin resign!”

PUTIN REMAINS DOMINANT

Putin has vowed to pursue those who killed Nemtsov, calling the murder a “provocation”.

National investigators who answer to the Russian leader offered a 3-million-rouble reward, around $50,000, for information on Nemtsov’s death. They say they are pursuing several lines of inquiry, including the possibility that Nemtsov, a Jew, was killed by radical Islamists or that the opposition killed him to blacken Putin’s name.

Nemtsov’s funeral is due to be held on Tuesday in Moscow.

Putin’s opponents say such suggestions, repeated over pro-Kremlin media, show the cynicism of Russia’s leaders as they whip up nationalism, hatred and anti-Western hysteria to rally support for his policies on Ukraine and deflect blame for an economic crisis.

“We are told on TV that a conspiracy by the West and those among us who have sold out to them are behind our poverty. People should throw away the TV set and go to protest,” said Olga, 42, who declined to give her last name.

Some Muscovites have accepted the official line and appear to agree that the opposition, struggling to make an impact after a clampdown on dissent in Putin’s third spell as president, might have killed one of their own.

“The authorities definitely do not benefit from this. Everybody had long forgotten about this man, Nemtsov … It is definitely a ‘provocation’,” said one Moscow resident, who gave his name only as Denis.

Some young people walking in central Moscow asked: “Who is Nemtsov anyway?”

FRACTURED OPPOSITION

Nemtsov, who was 55, was one of the leading lights of a divided opposition struggling to revive its fortunes, three years after mass rallies against Putin failed to prevent him returning to the presidency after four years as prime minister.

With an athletic build and characteristic mop of curly hair, Nemtsov had been a face of the opposition for years, along with anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny and former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, though no one figure has succeeded in uniting the ranks of opposition-minded Muscovites.

The opposition has little support outside big cities and Putin has now been Russia’s dominant leader since 2000, when ailing President Boris Yeltsin chose him as his successor, a role Nemtsov had once been destined to play.

Even many of Putin’s opponents have little doubt that he will win another six years in power at the next election, due in 2018, despite a financial crisis aggravated by Western economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and a fall in oil prices.

Many opposition leaders have been jailed on what they say are trumped-up charges, or have fled the country.

Nemtsov, a fighter against corruption who said he feared Putin may want him dead, had hoped to start the opposition’s revival with a march he had been planning for Sunday against Putin’s economic policies and Russia’s role in east Ukraine.

The Kremlin denies sending arms or troops to Ukraine.

In a change of plan, the opposition said Moscow city authorities had allowed a march of up to 50,000 people alongside the River Moskva to commemorate Nemtsov’s death.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Nemtsov had told him about two weeks ago that he planned to publish evidence of Russian involvement in Ukraine’s separatist conflict.

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Alexander Winning and Katya Golubkova, Writing by Timothy Heritage, Elizabeth Piper and Thomas Grove,; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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Four takeaways from SPX Corp.'s 2014 earnings – Charlotte Business Journal (blog)

SPX building - Ballantyne

SPX building as seen from the top of the Harris Building.

Senior Staff Writer- Charlotte Business Journal

SPX Corp. reported 2014 earnings of $397.9 million, for adjusted earnings $9.25 per share, this week and investors reacted well.

The stock rose sharply Thursday, closing at $90.18 from a close of $88.81 Wednesday. A lot of the positive reaction came in response to the strong fourth quarter. SPX reported an operating profit of $177.3 million, for adjusted earnings of $2.36 per share, better than the consensus analysts’ estimates of $2.21 per share.

But what interests investors, and observers in Charlotte, is what it all means for the two companies to be created this summer by a division of the business.

Some key takeaways:

•There are a lot of moving parts in the numbers. SPX reported a net fourth quarter loss of $43.2 million, or 78 cents a share. There were $210 million in one-time charges, some related to getting the company in position to split in the third quarter.

•The oil price collapse and the strong dollar will hurt SPX — and its SPX Flow Inc. spinoff — in 2015. SPX’s Flow Technology division gets about 18 percent of its revenue from sales to the the oil & gas industry. Only the food and beverage industry, at 20%, is a larger market. SPX has seen reduced sales as the industry waits to see where oil prices land. Foreign exchange rates have been a further issue for the division, which gets 53 percent of its sales overseas.

•Recent financial moves will ease the transition as SPX spins out its separate companies. In the fourth quarter, SPX took an $86 million charge for pension expenses and redeemed $500 million worth of bonds early, moves CEO Chris Kearney says puts it “in a very good financial position to execute the tax-free spin of our Flow business.” The company also won consent from bondholders for SPX Flow to raise $600 million in debt after the the split. Analyst Nicholas Heymann of William Blair writes that represents “needed liquidity for SPX Flow” once it is independent.

•The biggest upside for investors would come if SPX Flow is bought. Kearney emphasizes both companies are set up to succeed. But Heymann writes that consolidations in the oil and gas industry leads him to think “best longer-term opportunities for potential upside to be unlocked from the separation … might occur if the flow segment were to be acquired after it has been spun out.” Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch downgraded SPX to “sell” earlier this week because he does not think such a sale is in the offing.

A sale could benefit shareholders. But Charlotte would lose a corporate headquarters for the fastest growing of the two companies made from the current SPX.

The remaining SPX Corp. will be focused largely on power and infrastructure markets, which fits well in the existing energy hub in Charlotte. But SPX Flow brings diversity with oil and gas and its strong presence in food and beverage.

Neither new company would have operations here beyond their headquarters. Kearney, who will head SPX Flow, has begun to be a more active executive in Charlotte affairs in recent years and a sale of the company could change that.

John Downey covers the energy industry and public companies for the Charlotte Business Journal.

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Boris Nemtsov's Career Traces Arc of Russia's Dimmed Hopes for Democracy – Wall Street Journal

Highlights of Boris Nemtsov’s Career

Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov served as deputy prime minister to then-President Boris Yeltsin but fell out of favor under the leadership of Vladimir Putin


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Russian riot police detain the leader of the Solidarity opposition group, Boris Nemtsov, during an opposition rally in central Moscow on Aug. 31, 2010.

Russian riot police detain the leader of the Solidarity opposition group, Boris Nemtsov, during an opposition rally in central Moscow on Aug. 31, 2010.
European Pressphoto Agency

Then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, left, and his first Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov during a visit to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, on Nov. 1, 1997.

Then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, left, and his first Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov during a visit to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, on Nov. 1, 1997.
European Pressphoto Agency

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shaking hands with then-Leader of the State Duma's Right-Wing Union faction Boris Nemtsov during a meeting at the Kremlin on July 4, 2000.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shaking hands with then-Leader of the State Duma’s Right-Wing Union faction Boris Nemtsov during a meeting at the Kremlin on July 4, 2000.
European Pressphoto Agency

Boris Nemtsov addresses demonstrators during a massive rally to oppose President Vladimir Putin's policies in Ukraine, on March 15, 2014, in Moscow.

Boris Nemtsov addresses demonstrators during a massive rally to oppose President Vladimir Putin’s policies in Ukraine, on March 15, 2014, in Moscow.
Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

Boris Nemtsov listens to Petro Poroshenko while Yulia Tymoshenko, left, watches during a street protest in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, on Nov. 22, 2004.

Boris Nemtsov listens to Petro Poroshenko while Yulia Tymoshenko, left, watches during a street protest in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, on Nov. 22, 2004.
Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

Boris Nemtsov uses a loud speaker during an opposition rally in downtown Moscow on May 6, 2012.

Boris Nemtsov uses a loud speaker during an opposition rally in downtown Moscow on May 6, 2012.
Misha Japaridze/Associated Press

People light candles in memory of Boris Nemtsov, seen behind, at the monument of political prisoners 'Solovetsky Stone' in central St.Petersburg, Russia, on Saturday. Nemtsov was gunned down on Friday near the Kremlin, a day before a planned protest against the government.

People light candles in memory of Boris Nemtsov, seen behind, at the monument of political prisoners ‘Solovetsky Stone’ in central St.Petersburg, Russia, on Saturday. Nemtsov was gunned down on Friday near the Kremlin, a day before a planned protest against the government.
Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press


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By

Gregory L. White

Updated Feb. 28, 2015 7:09 p.m. ET

MOSCOW—Just days after Boris Nemtsov’s release from a jail stint for conducting anti-Kremlin protests last year, the veteran opposition leader was asked why he hadn’t given up the lonely and increasingly dangerous pursuit of publicly challenging Russian President


Vladimir Putin
.

“I don’t really have a choice,” he told the Dozhd TV channel. “I’m in this track that it’s already impossible to get out of.”

For Mr. Nemtsov, that path ended just before midnight Friday, when four bullets from an assassin’s gun took his life as he walked across a bridge just steps from the Kremlin wall and Red Square. He was 55 years old.

The killing—the highest-profile political assassination of the Putin era—appeared a throwback to the violent shootouts of the 1990s, when Mr. Nemtsov neared the pinnacle of power. But it also reflected the new reality of Putin’s Russia, where state media brand adversaries like Mr. Nemtsov as traitors for their criticism of the war in Ukraine, pillorying them as a “fifth column” bent on destroying the motherland.

Even Kremlin loyalists expressed shock at the brazen shooting in one of the highest-security locations in the capital.

“Nemtsov’s murder is not just a crime. It’s a tragedy. A challenge to all of us,” Maria Zakharova, the foreign ministry spokeswoman known for her attack-dog defense of the Kremlin line, wrote on Facebook early Saturday. “I never understood him: not when he was in government and not when he went into opposition. But today, I am Nemtsov.”

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Boris Nemtsov, an antigovernment protestor and critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, was shot and killed near the Kremlin late Friday, in what authorities said appeared to be a contract killing.

Like few others, Mr. Nemtsov’s nearly three-decade career as a liberal activist traced the arc of Russia’s now-dimmed and tarnished hopes for democracy and reform after the Soviet Union’s collapse. From early campaign victories and top-level appointments in the 1990s, he wound up regularly getting arrested at small opposition protests in the last few years.

“I naively thought that there were a lot of these passionate people in the country,” he told the Dozhd interviewer last year. “That’s absolute nonsense. The number of people who are ready to risk their freedom and prosperity in Russia is infinitesimally small.” For this “genetic fear of the authorities,” he blamed the brutal legacy of the Soviet Union’s Gulag, a system of forced labor camps.

Mr. Nemtsov got his political start in a Soviet provincial city then called Gorky and known for housing dissident scientist Andrei Sakharov when the government exiled him from the capital. A physicist himself, Mr. Nemtsov got involved with protesting plans to build a nuclear plant nearby. Like many intellectuals of the time, he won a seat in parliament in 1988, when the Soviet Union began experimenting with freer elections.

He drew the notice of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in August 1991, when he joined protesters facing down the coup by communist hard-liners. Mr. Yeltsin soon named him governor of his region, which reverted to its pre-Soviet name of Nizhny Novgorod.

Then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, left, and his first Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov during a visit to Krasnoyarsk, Russia on Nov. 1, 1997.
ENLARGE

Then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, left, and his first Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov during a visit to Krasnoyarsk, Russia on Nov. 1, 1997.


Photo:

European Pressphoto Agency

Young – 31 when he started as governor – tall and handsome, Mr. Nemtsov embodied the new wave of novice politicians who promised quick transition to democracy and free markets. Mr. Nemtsov’s Nizhny for a few years became a model for reform, attracting foreign investors and pioneering privatization. But unlike his often bookish reformist colleagues, Mr. Nemtsov had a charismatic populist touch, reveling in the glad-handing that was then still a new phenomenon for Russia. He won re-election as governor in 1996 and challenged the Kremlin with a petition opposing the war against separatists in Chechnya.

Despite that opposition, Mr. Yeltsin brought the young governor to Moscow in 1997, naming him first deputy prime minister in charge of the lucrative but corrupt energy sector. For a time, Mr. Nemtsov was the aging president’s golden boy. Mr. Yeltsin at one point introduced him to U.S. President

Bill Clinton

as his chosen successor, according a former Yeltsin aide.

But Mr. Nemtsov clashed with the powerful oligarchs whose business interests he sometimes challenged and was swept out of office in the financial collapse of 1998.

Though the reformers were reviled by many Russians for that crisis, Mr. Nemtsov stayed in politics, helping found a pro-reform party and winning a seat in parliament in the elections in December 1999.

He endorsed Mr. Yeltsin’s choice at the end of that year of Vladimir Putin as his successor. “Russia could do considerably worse than have a leader with an unwavering commitment to the national interest. And it is difficult to see how to do better,” Mr. Nemtsov and political scientist

Ian Bremmer

wrote in the New York Times in 2000. Hours after Mr. Nemtsov’s murder, Mr. Bremmer tweeted, “We were wrong. R.I.P., Boris.”

The political chill came slowly, but Mr. Putin cracked down on independent media, politically ambitious oligarchs and other political rivals steadily.

In a radio interview just hours before he died, Mr. Nemtsov said he sensed the new president’s turn against the democratic ideals of the 1990s started in late 2000, when Putin proposed that the music of the old Soviet anthem be used for Russia’s anthem but with different lyrics. “Because our country is a very mystical one, as you know, that’s where it all started,” said Mr. Nemtsov, noting that he was one of the few legislators to vote against the plan.

Mr. Nemtsov lost his seat in parliament after pro-Kremlin parties won a landslide in 2003. He moved into more open opposition, joining vociferous regime critics like chess champion Garry Kasparov to found an umbrella group for opposition parties aimed at challenging Mr. Putin when his presidential term would next end in 2008.

They got little traction in a country where surging prices for oil, Russia’s main export, were fueling a jump in living standards not seen for decades before. Tied by his years in government to the economic collapse of the late 1990s, Mr. Nemtsov found his background a political liability with many Russians. Some liberal activists were put off by his reputation as a playboy and bon vivant.

After an abortive presidential run in 2008 against Mr. Putin’s chosen successor,


Dmitry Medvedev
,

Mr. Nemtsov renamed his opposition group Solidarity, digging in for a long battle against the Kremlin as the Polish activists who challenged the communist government there did in the 1980s under a movement of the same name.

The daily reality of political opposition to the Kremlin had moved decisively from campaigns and debate to street protests and arrests. Pro-Kremlin activists followed Mr. Nemtsov and other leaders around, belittling them whenever they appeared publicly. State media attacked them as disloyal.

Still, Mr. Nemtsov tried his hand at electoral politics, running in 2009 for mayor of Sochi, the Black Sea resort that was his birthplace. He walked door-to-door as he had in the 1990s, chatting up voters and trying to build support. Opponents hounded him, at one point splashing his face with medical chemicals. Mr. Nemtsov got 14% of the vote, losing to the Kremlin’s candidate.

He became a regular figure at protests against the Kremlin’s increasingly tight restrictions on public demonstrations. But while other leaders escaped before police could arrest them, Mr. Nemtsov joined the dozens who were jailed for days or weeks.

In that period, he recalled later, he was in prison so often he came to recognize the cells and, when released, regaled visitors with tales of his cellmates. One cell where he was held particularly often was ultimately renovated after he filed suit to challenge the inhumane conditions, he said.

Russian riot police detain Boris Nemtsov during an opposition rally in central Moscow on Aug. 31, 2010.
ENLARGE

Russian riot police detain Boris Nemtsov during an opposition rally in central Moscow on Aug. 31, 2010.


Photo:

European Pressphoto Agency

For a brief period at the end of 2011 and early 2012, mass protests against alleged vote fraud in the December 2011 parliamentary vote energized Mr. Nemtsov and his colleagues. But the Kremlin moved fast to neutralize their opponents, marshaling thousands of state workers and other supporters for counter-demonstrations. State television relentlessly tarred Mr. Nemtsov and his allies as subversives paid by the U.S. Kremlin supporters in the Russian heartland offered to come to Moscow and disperse the opponents.

Mr. Putin, running in 2012 to return to the presidency for a third term, picked up the brutal tone politics had taken on. Just days before the election, he warned in a televised meeting with supporters that unnamed opponents “who sit abroad” were “looking for a sacrificial victim from among prominent people.”

“They would rub him out and then blame it on the authorities. I know about this, I’m not exaggerating,” Mr. Putin said.

Mr. Putin was re-elected in a landslide and the protest movement faded. Mr. Nemtsov headed for the provinces and won a seat in a regional legislature north of Moscow.

The chill deepened further last year, when Mr. Nemtsov was one of the few politicians to openly criticize Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea, cast by the Kremlin as a foreign-policy triumph that drove Mr. Putin’s popularity to record highs.

“Now the opposition occupies the niche that the dissidents occupied in the Soviet era,” Mr. Nemtsov said in a radio interview last April. “It’s extremely difficult I want to tell you to be part of the minority when the majority is aggressive, when they are zombified and drunken on the victory.”

He told associates this fall that he had been advised to leave the country for his own safety, but decided not to.

On Saturday, investigators said a possible motive for his murder was to create a “sacrificial victim” to discredit the Kremlin.

Write to Gregory L. White at greg.white@wsj.com

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