REFILE-UPDATE 4-Harrisburg bankruptcy sets up fight with state

* Chapter 9 prompted by crushing bills tied to incinerator* Move opposed by city mayor, state government* Harrisburg seeks to cut principal owed to bondholdersBy Dave Warner and Edith HonanHARRISBURG, Pa., Oct 12 (Reuters) - Pennsylvania’s capital, Harrisburg, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday in a desperate bid to resolve its debt crisis, setting up a showdown with the state over control of the city.Harrisburg becomes one of the most-high profile cities to opt for the little-used Chapter 9 of the U.S. bankruptcy code, most notably used nearly 20 years ago by Orange County, California.The Pennsylvania capital’s crisis has been a year in the making as the city of about 50,000 struggles to pay for critical services as well as roughly $300 million in debt incurred from an expensive revamp of its incinerator.While city services should continue uninterrupted, the move has caused confusion about how bills will be paid.“We’re getting calls from vendors, wondering if they are going to get paid,” said Brenda Alton, the director of city’s department of parks, recreation and enrichment. “I feel it is a bad decision."Municipal bankruptcies are rare. But if Harrisburg is successful in winning concessions with bondholders, pensioners and other stakeholders, it could lead other financially troubled cities to seek bankruptcy.Bankruptcy gives the city "bargaining power” with its creditors, municipal workers, retirees and the state, which is considering a takeover, said Mark Schwartz, an attorney for the council.Orange County, California, filed the largest Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 1994 after it suffered more than $1 billion in investment losses. Vallejo, California, with 120,000 residents, filed for Chapter 9 in 2008, and Central Falls, the smallest city in Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state, filed earlier this year.Harrisburg’s city council approved the bankruptcy filing in a 4-3 vote. It was opposed by Mayor Linda Thompson, who in a news conference on Wednesday challenged the legality of the city council’s vote.Under city law, the mayor and the city solicitor must sign off on all hiring of outside counsel and the city solicitor must approve all ordinances and resolutions considered by the council, and neither was done in this case, Thompson said.“They have been dishonest with the entire community for months,” Thompson said of the council. “I am ashamed of the behavior."The bankruptcy has the potential to stoke political passions as it will likely pit firefighters and police against municipal bond investors, who are often perceived to be wealthy retirees, said Peter Kaufman, president of Gordian Group and a financial restructuring specialist."It’s disgusting, it really is,” said Warren Jones, 68, a retired corporate manager. “I talk to people I know who are in business and they’re worried."Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has said the city would be better off if it agreed to a rescue plan under the state’s Act 47 program for distressed cities – which has seen Philadelphia and other cities through crises – and his office stressed its opposition to the bankruptcy.Pennsylvania’s state senate will vote on a bill next week that calls for an eventual takeover of Harrisburg and the forced implementation of a fiscal rescue plan. The state’s lower house has already passed the bill."Rather than wasting precious time on illegal filings and engaging expensive attorneys, the majority of City Council should be about working with the mayor and the commonwealth to resolve this crisis via the Act 47 process,” said state Senator Jeff Piccola, who helped write the bill.WALL STREET v. WALNUT STREETThe city council has rejected rescue plans, one backed by the state and one by the city’s mayor. Those plans called on Harrisburg to renegotiate labor deals and sell or lease its most valuable assets, the incinerator and parking garages.The city council said those plans demanded too much of Harrisburg residents and did not ask enough of the county, bondholders and the bond insurer, Assured Guaranty.City Councilman Brad Koplinski, who voted in favor of bankruptcy after opposing both of the rescue plans, said the council is looking for “a global solution with shared pain for all of the stake-holders."By selling its assets, and cutting off major revenue streams, the city could risk another fiscal crisis down the road, Koplinski said. If that happens, the city’s only options for addressing cash-flow problems would be to raise property taxes or further reduce benefits for public workers, he said.Koplinski said he would not support a solution where "Wall Street gets paid in full and the people of Walnut Street have to pay for it many times over."In a statement, Assured questioned the legality of the vote, saying that as a distressed city of the third class of Pennsylvania cities, Harrisburg is "specifically prohibited from filing for bankruptcy.”“Assured Guaranty realizes the complexity of the situation facing Harrisburg and continues to be eager to work with Harrisburg, Dauphin County and the Commonwealth in formulating solutions to address Harrisburg’s debt."The company "also strongly supports the efforts of the Governor and the Legislature to reach a prompt and fair resolution of Harrisburg’s debt obligations."However, City Controller Dan Miller said the filing was the right move for Harrisburg."I think it’s the only real option that we had,” said Miller, adding that the previous plans rejected by city council would have benefited creditors at the expense of the city.Harrisburg’s bankruptcy filing wants to go where prior municipal bankruptcies have not: toward cutting the principal owed to bondholders, Kaufman said.Daniel Berger, senior market strategist at Municipal Market Data, said there was very little trading in Harrisburg’s bonds on Wednesday. “Investors have written off these bonds for years as distressed credits,” he said.WAVE OF MUNICIPAL BANKRUPTCIES?Financial analyst Meredith Whitney, one of the few on Wall Street who foresaw the 2008 financial crisis, said last year she expected a wave of municipal bond defaults.Chapter 9 bankruptcies remain uncommon, however. The process is very expensive, and not all states allow local governments to file for bankruptcy. Governments also have a power ailing companies do not have: the ability to tax.Alabama’s Jefferson County last month settled with its creditors to avoid what would have been the biggest-ever municipal bankruptcy.Despite Harrisburg’s filing, municipal bankruptcies will likely remain rare, said Richard Ciccarone, chief research officer and municipal bond specialist with McDonnell Investment Management LLC.

REFILE-UPDATE 1-Fitch downgrades UBS, puts other banks on review

* Fitch downgrades UBS rating to A from A+* Seven other U.S. and European banks under review* Economic, market, regulatory challenges citedBy Lauren Tara LaCapraOct 13 (Reuters) - Fitch Ratings downgraded UBS AG on Thursday and placed seven other U.S. and European banks on credit watch negative, citing challenges in the economy and financial markets, as well as the impact of new regulations.The ratings agency lowered UBS’s long-term issuer default rating to A from A+.Fitch is also reviewing ratings for Barclays Bank Plc , BNP Paribas , Credit Suisse Group AG , Deutsche Bank AG , Societe Generale , Bank of America Corp , Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc for further possible downgrades.The cuts would in most cases be one notch and in some cases two notches, Fitch said. A lower bond rating can make debt more expensive to issue and lead to higher collateral requirements.Earlier on Thursday, Fitch also lowered its ratings on Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group two notches to A from AA-.Exposure to the European debt crisis and concern about the business model of pure-play investment banks were catalysts for most of the ratings actions, Joo-Yung Lee, a managing director in Fitch’s financial institutions group, told Reuters.“Some of these banks have greater reliance on wholesale funding and greater reliance on what we view as volatile trading earnings,” Lee said. “That’s particularly true of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley in the U.S. They are less diverse than their global universal bank peers."In the case of Bank of America, its exposure to mortagage-related litigation was a driver for Fitch’s review. Competitors like Wells Fargo & Co and JPMorgan Chase & Co were not targeted because they have diverse business models, steady funding streams and no company-specific issues that put them at serious risk, Lee said.Fitch does not have a specific deadline to finish its review, but Lee said it hopes to resolve the matter quickly to reduce market uncertainty.

REFILE-UPDATE 2-Wall St protesters target homes of executives

* Over 1,400 cities involved in Occupy Wall St movement* College students plan solidarity protests on ThursdayBy Michelle NicholsNEW YORK, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters marched on the New York homes of wealthy executives on Tuesday, triggering one of their targets, billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson, to defend his wealth.Around 500 people marched through Manhattan’s Upper East Side, passing the high-rise buildings where many of the executives live. Among them are Paulson, global media mogul Rupert Murdoch, JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon and David Koch, co-founder of energy firm Koch Industries.The protesters chanted “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” and “Hey you billionaires, pay your fair share” and carried signs that read “Stop robbing from the middle class to pay the rich” and “We are the 99 percent,” a reference to the idea that the top 1 percent of Americans have too much.Mustafa Ibrahim, 23, an engineer marched on the “Billionaire’s Tour” during a visit to New York from Cairo, where he said he was arrested during a popular uprising this year which toppled Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak.“It’s pretty much the same thing as Egypt,” Ibrahim said. “The problem is the rich keep getting richer and the poor are getting poorer."Since Sept. 17 protesters have been camped out in a park in Lower Manhattan near Wall Street, rallying against bailouts for banks during the recession, which allowed them to earn huge profits while average Americans suffer high unemployment and job insecurity with little help.As protesters took their grievances to the homes of the rich, the Paulson & Co hedge fund defended its status.Paulson took home $5 billion in 2010, the hedge fund industry’s biggest ever paycheck, but this year one of his main funds has fallen 47 percent after he mistimed a call that the economy would recover strongly."The top 1 percent of New Yorkers pay over 40 percent of all income taxes, providing huge benefits to everyone in our city and state,” Paulson & Co said in a statement, adding that New York has the highest income taxes of any U.S. states.“Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City and continue to grow,” it said.The Occupy Wall Street movement is burgeoning ahead of planned global protests on Saturday. On Wednesday, the Service Employees International Union will march on New York City’s financial district for good jobs, while U.S. college students plan solidarity protests on Thursday on at least 56 campuses.According to Occupy Together, which has become an online hub for protest activity, the Occupy Wall Street movement has sparked rallies in more than 1,400 cities throughout the United States and around the world.ARRESTS IN BOSTON, WASHINGTON D.C.Goldman Sachs boss Lloyd Blankfein canceled a talk at New York’s Barnard College, and though the company – which received and repaid a big federal bailout during the financial crisis – said a scheduling conflict would keep him away, students from nearby Columbia University were planning to protest his appearance.“Don’t look at the Arab spring, look here because things are going to boil over,” said protester Charles Evans, 62, as he marched on the “Billionaire’s Tour."Fifth Avenue resident Lorna Goldberg, 57, said she was surprised to see the protesters near her home. "But I guess they’re getting their point across by coming here,” she added.Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, last week likened the growth of the protest movement to the grass-roots Tea Party, but the conservative group on Tuesday sought to distance itself from the protesters.The Tea Party Patriots said in a statement that its supporters were “not lawbreakers, they don’t hate the police, they don’t even litter.”

REFILE-UPDATE 1-Cascades to close Quebec plant

The Canadian packaging and paper products maker said 50 employees will be affected by the closing that is slated to be completed by the end of the year. The Le Gardeur plant has annual revenue of $8 million.“Demand in the Canadian corrugated industry has been affected by unfavorable economic conditions for the past few years. It is imperative that we make adjustments to take into account this new reality,” Norampac Chief Executive Marc-André Dépin said in a statement.Last month, Cascades said its Norampac division will sell an underperforming containerboard mill in Burnaby, British Colombia to counter rising labor and fibre costs.The company’s shares were trading up 3 percent C$4.29 on Wednesday on Toronto Stock Exchange.

REFILE-UPDATE 1-China's Sinohydro rises 10 pct in Shanghai debut

* Sinohydro $2.1 bln IPO is biggest in mainland so far in 2011* Bodes well for upcoming major IPOsBy Soo Ai Peng and Samuel ShenSHANGHAI, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Shares of Chinese dam builder Sinohydro Group rose as much as 10 percent on their Shanghai debut on Tuesday, after it raised $2.1 billion in the mainland’s biggest IPO so far this year, boding well for future mega-IPOs.Shares in the builder of the Three Gorges Dam opened at 4.78 yuan and extended gains to as high as 4.95 yuan, compared with its IPO price of 4.50 yuan. Many analysts had expected the shares to hover around the IPO price on their first day of trading.“It shows that the market can still digest big IPOs and it’s a good sign for other mega IPOs in the pipeline,” said Chen Yi, an investment adviser with the sales department of Xiangcai Securities in Shanghai.The firm performance of Sinohydro shares also points to a slightly firmer outlook for the Shanghai stock market’s benchmark index . Beijing announced measures last week to bolster banking stocks and support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), helping trigger a rebound from two-and-half-year lows.China’s stock market, which has fallen 13 percent so far this year due to fears of an economic slowdown and the euro zone debt crisis, has forced many Chinese companies to postpone or downsize their IPOs. Weakness in the Hong Kong stock market has also pushed back some firms’ fundraising plans.In one of the most high-profile cases, Sany Heavy Industry Co last month postponed its plan to raise as much as $3.3 billion via a Hong Kong listing.Sinohydro braved the weaker market, but slashed the size of its IPO by a fifth in response to weak investor demand, pricing the offer at the bottom of an indicative range and raising 13.5 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) last month, compared with an original target of up to 17.3 billion yuan.Sinohydro’s encouraging debut performance bodes well for upcoming major IPOs, including those from China Communications Construction Co , Shaanxi Coal Industry and New China Life.China Communications Construction, the country’s biggest port builder, plans to raise 20 billion yuan in a Shanghai IPO, while coal miner Shaanxi Coal also plans to raise about 17.3 billion.Sinohydro, the builder of the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower project, has said it plans to use the IPO proceeds to upgrade its machinery, invest in some green energy projects and supplement working capital.China Securities Co and Bank of China International were lead underwriters for the offer. ($1 = 6.371 Chinese Yuan)