August 21, 2015 Last Updated 9:13 am

McClatchy gets share price warning from NYSE; Chinese economic woes have stock markets falling worldwide

Morning Brief: Reports of blackmailers beginning to work their way through the leaked Ashley Madison data, sending out email threats to names appearing in the documents

The publisher of the Sacramento Bee and Miami Herald, McClatchy, was warned by the New York Stock Exchange that because their share price had fallen below $1 it may be delisted from the exchange, Dale Kasler of the Bee reported. The newspaper publisher recently announced a $15 million stock repurchase program in order to boost its share price.

MH-front-300-longMcClatchy stock fell below the $1 in trading on Wednesday, but rose to $0.97 a share in the past 24 hours. A year ago the company’s shares were trading around $4.50.

“At McClatchy we have strategies to move our company forward in this ever-changing media environment and have faith in our future as a leading local digital media company in 28 strong markets across the nation,” the publisher’s CEO Pat Talamantes said when announcing the stock program. “We are excited about our ability to purchase McClatchy shares at attractive prices and return value to existing shareholders.”

McClatchy once before was delisted, in 2009, but returned to the NYSE after only a few months. If they are delisted again, McClatchy stock would forced to be listed on another exchange.

Tribune Publishing, the newspaper division created from The Tribune Company spin-off, earlier this week announced its own $30 million stock repurchase program (see TNM post here). Tribune Publishing stock is trading above $11 and is in no danger of being delisted, however.

The stock market blew a tire yesterday, with the Dow Jones Industrials falling over 300 points. Stockmarket in Europe today are down, trading over 1 percent lower. Fears about the Chinese economy, Greece, and other factors seem at play.

Shanghai-tradersReuters reported today that one gage of Chinese manufacturing output, the Caixin/Markit China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, had fallen to its lowest level since March 2009. Chinese stock markets reacted negatively to the news, with the Shanghai index falling 4.3 percent and the Shenzhen index closing down 5.4 percent.

On the bright side, the purchasing managers’ index for the eurozone rose to 54.1 points in August from 53.9 in July (anything over 50 means economic expansion).

The bad economic news from China, though, probably overshadowed any news coming out of Greece. Yesterday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned, forcing early elections. Tsipras is calculating that calling elections, likely for September 20, would return Tsipras to office, but with many of the rebels in his own party forced out. The division in Syriza forced the prime minister to depend on votes from the opposition to pass the latest bailout agreement in parliament.

“Now it will be to the people to decide,” Tsipras said in his televised announcement. “I feel the deep moral, political obligation to submit to your judgment. Your vote will determine if we represented you courageously in talks with the creditors, if this agreement is enough for us to emerge from the crisis.”

The Ashley Madison hack is starting to have further repercussions as several media websites are starting to report of blackmail threats against the extramarital affair hook-up site members. CoinDesk, for instance, is reporting that it received an email from a blackmailer calling themselves “Team GrayFlay”.

“If you are already divorced then I suggest you think about how this information may impact any ongoing court proceedings,” the message said. “If you are no longer in a committed relationship then think about how this will affect your social standing amongst family and friends.”

The email then goes on to demand $450 in bitcoins.

Those whose names appear in the data may expect such emails, but I suspect those having nothing to do with Ashley Madison may as well. What is to stop a spammer from simply sending out millions of emails in hopes of trapping a small number of people into sending them money? The majority of the emails will be ignored, as spam usually is, but the one percent who respond may be enough incentive to make the blackmail effort.

(I have been getting the spam emails saying I must appear in court to pay a road toll fee, an email received my thousands of others. The email is going to the information email address here, a dead giveaway that it is spam, but the email contains a zip file with a virus which is no doubt being opened by more than a few unsuspecting victims.)

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