Railroad Traffic Points to Growing Economy

North American rail traffic rose 10.6% in week ended June 19, AAR says

The Association of American Railroads, AAR, reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending June 19.

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 514,112 carloads and intermodal units, up 12.5% compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending June 19 were 232,144 carloads, up 15.1% compared with the same week in 2020, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 281,968 containers and trailers, up 10.4% compared to 2020.

For some rail traffic categories, percentage changes for the current week compared with the same week in 2020 are inflated because of the widespread shutdowns – and subsequent large reduction in rail volumes – that impacted many economic sectors last year at this time.

North American rail volume for the week ending June 19, on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 329,907 carloads, up 11.3% compared with the same week last year, and 369,258 intermodal units, up 10% compared with last year.

Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 699,165 carloads and intermodal units, up 10.6%.

North American rail volume for the first 24 weeks of 2021 was 16,805,420 carloads and intermodal units, up 12.1% compared with 2020.

Publicly traded companies in the space include CSX (CSX), Canadian National (CNI), Canadian Pacific (CP), Genesee & Wyoming (GWR), Kansas City Southern (KSU), Norfolk Southern (NSC) and Union Pacific (UNP).

Dow Jones Transport Index is up 19 points to 14,959.

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Merger in Senior Housing Industry!

Welltower to acquire Holiday Retirement’s Seniors Housing Portfolio for $1.58B

Welltower (WELL) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a portfolio of 86 seniors housing properties, including 80 nearly identical independent living and six combination independent living/assisted living properties, currently owned by Holiday Retirement.

Additionally, as announced on June 21, upon the closing date of this transaction, which is expected to be in the third quarter, Atria Senior Living will assume operations of the properties and retain Holiday’s in-place senior management and staff.

Through this landmark transaction, the 86-property portfolio will be acquired by Welltower for $1.58B, or $152,000 per unit, representing a discount to estimated replacement cost in excess of 30%.

The transaction is expected to be approximately 10c per diluted share accretive to Welltower’s normalized funds from operations during the first twelve months post-closing.

The portfolio is expected to deliver substantial net operating income growth in future quarters and in coming years as occupancy growth accelerates from near-trough levels of 76.3% as of June 20.

Portfolio occupancy has already increased over 2.7% since bottoming in March.

Additionally, the anticipated recovery in occupancy and Atria’s operational and technological expertise is expected to maximize community level performance and to generate meaningful expansion in operating margins going forward.

Welltower and Atria have agreed to a highly incentivized and strongly aligned enhanced RIDEA 3.0 management contract based on both top and bottom-line financial metrics. The contract will also include substantial promote opportunities to Atria upon achievement of certain long-term financial metrics.

The achievement of such hurdles would imply significant growth in underlying property level performance, resulting in a nominal yield in excess of 9% to Welltower and a net economic yield in excess of 8% to Welltower after capital expenditures and payment of the promote.

Welltower CEO

Atria expects to integrate Holiday’s corporate staff and retain its experienced and reputed management team, thereby de-risking the overall transaction.

Atria has significant experience with Holiday properties, having successfully assumed operations in recent years of two portfolios previously managed by Holiday: a 29-property portfolio across Canada in 2014 and, in April 2021, a 21-property portfolio owned by New Senior Investment Group Inc.

The portfolio is expected to benefit from Atria’s operating model and technology platform, which includes its proprietary Glennis software for staffing optimization, digital marketing, and CRM.

Atria’s digital marketing capabilities and front of house technology suite are also expected to reduce dependency on referral sources and increase organic lead generation.

Holiday’s management team expects that this significant investment in its platform and technology infrastructure will significantly enhance their ability to serve residents going forward.

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RAPT Therapeutics shares soar on data

RAPT Therapeutics, Inc. (RAPT) announced positive topline results from its randomized placebo-controlled Phase 1b clinical trial of RPT193 as monotherapy in 31 patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (AD).

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. It’s common in children but can occur at any age. Atopic dermatitis is long lasting (chronic) and tends to flare periodically. It may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever.

After four weeks of treatment, patients with moderate-to-severe AD who received RPT193 showed a 36.3% improvement from baseline in the Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) score, a standard measure of disease severity, compared to 17.0% in the placebo group.

Notably, in the two-week period following the end of treatment, the RPT193 group showed continued improvement and further separation from placebo with a 53.2% improvement in EASI at the six-week time point compared to 9.6% in the placebo group. This continued improvement may be related to RPT193’s mechanism of action, which is upstream of other agents targeting cytokines or signaling pathways.

Emma Guttman-Yassky, M.D., Ph.D., the Waldman Professor of Dermatology and System Chair Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and member of RAPT’s Scientific Advisory Board, added, “I am very excited about these results as they not only demonstrate clinically meaningful improvement after just four weeks of treatment, but also further improvement for two weeks after completion of treatment. This may suggest that this novel mechanism of action targeting CCR4 on Th2 cells could have prolonged, disease-modifying effects, which could differentiate it from other agents. Along with being an oral drug that seems to have promising clinical activity and a well-tolerated safety profile, RPT193 could fill a high unmet medical need for AD patients.”

Cantor Fitzgerald

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young raised the firm’s price target on Rapt Therapeutics to $71 from $51 and reiterates an Overweight rating on the shares. The stock in midday trading is up 110%, or $19.60, to $38.17. This morning’s RPT193 data update “was robust with clear clinical benefit compared to placebo on all exploratory endpoints,” Young tells investors in a research note.

The analyst took the drug’s probability of success in atopic dermatitis to 50% from 25% previously, and increased her peak sales estimates. Young sees a “large unmet need” for a safe and effective oral treatment which is separate from the injectable market, and models peak sales of $4B in atopic dermatitis by 2035. She views Rapt’s risk/benefit profile as potentially best-in-class for an oral treatment.

RAPT is up 107% to $37.70.

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FDA Approves Biogen’s Alzheimer’s Drug

FDA approves Biogen Alzheimer’s drug, says benefits outweigh risks

The FDA approved Biogen’s (BIIB) Aduhelm to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

“This approval is significant in many ways. Aduhelm is the first novel therapy approved for Alzheimer’s disease since 2003.

Perhaps more significantly, Aduhelm is the first treatment directed at the underlying pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, the presence of amyloid beta plaques in the brain.

The clinical trials for Aduhelm were the first to show that a reduction in these plaques – a hallmark finding in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s – is expected to lead to a reduction in the clinical decline of this devastating form of dementia,” the FDA said in a statement.

Eli Lilly announces Alimta label expanded by FDA, Stockwinners
Eli Lilly is a partner with Biogen

It added, “We ultimately decided to use the Accelerated Approval pathway – a pathway intended to provide earlier access to potentially valuable therapies for patients with serious diseases where there is an unmet need, and where there is an expectation of clinical benefit despite some residual uncertainty regarding that benefit.

Brain of an Alzheimer patient

In determining that the application met the requirements for Accelerated Approval, the Agency concluded that the benefits of Aduhelm for patients with Alzheimer’s disease outweighed the risks of the therapy.”

The FDA said in its approval statement: “Additionally, FDA is requiring Biogen to conduct a post-approval clinical trial to verify the drug’s clinical benefit. If the drug does not work as intended, we can take steps to remove it from the market. But hopefully, we will see further evidence of benefit in the clinical trial and as greater numbers of people receive Aduhelm. As an agency, we will also continue to work to foster drug development for this catastrophic disease.”

STIFEL

Stifel analyst Paul Matteis reiterates his Buy rating on Biogen shares following the FDA granting accelerated approval of aducanumab, now to be called “Aduhelm,” for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Approval based on amyloid plaque as a “surrogate” is “definitely unexpected” and appears to be a way for FDA to work around the contentious advisory committee meeting, argues Matteis, who adds that the approval “is a big win.” How investors will risk-adjust revenues that are modeled after completion of a Phase 4 trial and how insurers will treat access for a drug approved based on a biomarker are “highly interesting” questions that will now “be debated at a materially higher stock valuation,” added Matteis. Biogen shares remain halted for trading at midday following news of the FDA approval.

JEFFRIES

Jefferies analyst Andrew Tsai said news of Biogen (BIIB) being granted FDA approval for aducanumab is likely to spark investor enthusiasm across all Alzheimer’s names and he believes the longer-term setup for Athira Pharma (ATHA) looks more attractive now. Given what he views as “the FDA tailwind,” he would buy on strength as he believes the FDA’s aducanumab decision “clearly has a positive readthrough” to Athira, whose Phase I data suggests ATHA-1017 could produce “a profound cognitive benefit” in Phase 2/3 studies expected to read out in 2022, Tsai tells investors.

In that context, he thinks a 25%-50% short-term move for Athira shares “seems reasonable” relative to the company’s current market cap.

Shares of Biogen (BIIB) remain halted while Eli Lilly (LLY), who has an Alzheimer’s disease drug in its pipeline, is up 4% to $210.78 following the news.

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U.S. Concrete sold for $1.29B

Vulcan Materials to acquire U.S. Concrete for $74 per share in cash

Vulcan Materials (VMC) and U.S. Concrete (USCR) announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, Vulcan will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of U.S. Concrete common stock for a purchase price of $74.00 per share in cash, which represents a total equity value of $1.294B.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is expected to close in the second half of 2021, subject to U.S. Concrete shareholder approval, regulatory clearance, and other customary closing conditions.

Tom Hill, Chairman and CEO of Vulcan Materials Company, said, “U.S. Concrete is an important Vulcan customer in a number of key areas, and this transaction is a logical and exciting step in our growth strategy as we further bolster our geographic footprint.

Ronnie Pruitt and his team have done an excellent job growing and operating its business, and we look forward to welcoming the U.S. Concrete employees to the Vulcan family.

This is a merger of two corporate cultures that value people, technology, operating disciplines, customer service and the entrepreneurial spirit, and it positions Vulcan to further drive sustainable, long-term shareholder value.”

U.S. Concrete, Inc. produces and sells ready-mixed concrete, aggregates, and concrete-related products and services to the construction industry in the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Canada. It operates through two segments, Ready-Mixed Concrete and Aggregate Products. 

Vulcan Materials Company produces and supplies construction aggregate primarily in the United States. It operates through four segments: Aggregates, Asphalt, Concrete, and Calcium. 

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Rig Counts Continue to Rise!

Baker Hughes reports U.S. rig count up 2 to 457 rigs

Baker Hughes (BKR) reports that the U.S. rig count is up 2 from last week to 457 with oil rigs up 3 to 359, gas rigs down 1 to 98, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at 0.

U.S. Rig Count is up 156 rigs from last year’s count of 301, with oil rigs up 137 gas rigs up 21 and miscellaneous rigs down 2.

The U.S. Offshore Rig Count is unchanged at 14, up 2 year-over-year.

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The Canada Rig Count is up 4 from last week to 62, with oil rigs up 3 to 28, gas rigs up 1 to 34.

The Canada Rig Count is up 42 rigs from last year’s count of 20, with oil rigs up 21, gas rigs up 21.

The Baker Hughes rig counts are counts of the number of drilling rigs actively exploring for or developing oil or natural gas in the U.S., Canada and international markets.

The Company has issued the rig counts as a service to the petroleum industry since 1944, when Hughes Tool Company began weekly counts of the U.S. and Canadian drilling activity. The monthly international rig count was initiated in 1975.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is up a penny to $66.86 per barrel. Brent crude is up $0.14 to $69.34 per barrel. Gasoline last traded at $2.17 per gallon up a penny.

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Canadian Pacific approaches Kansas City Southern again

Canadian Pacific says prepared to re-engage with Kansas City Southern

Canadian Pacific (CP) sent the following letter to the Surface Transportation Board in response to the Kansas City Southern (KSU) Board of Directors’ decision to terminate the Merger Agreement with CP:

Canadian Pacific wants to merge with Kansas City Southern

“I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Applicants in this proceeding to advise the Board and Interested Parties of the CP Applicants’ intentions in light of Kansas City Southern’s decision to terminate the merger agreement between CP and Kansas City Southern and to enter a merger agreement with Canadian National Railway.

For the reasons explained below, CP intends to proceed to prepare and file its Application in this docket seeking Board authority to control KCS and its U.S. rail carrier subsidiaries.

The decision of KCS’s board of directors to designate CN’s offer a “superior proposal” reflects the extreme price CN has offered KCS in order to extinguish CP’s proposed transaction,2 coupled with CN’s undertaking to attempt to absolve KCS and its shareholders of the regulatory risks associated with CN’s proposed acquisition through the use of a voting trust. In order to neutralize the regulatory risks posed by CN’s proposed transaction from the perspective of KCS’s shareholders,

CN’s agreement to acquire KCS is conditioned on CN’s ability to acquire KCS shares in advance of receiving Board approval to control KCS via the use of a voting trust.

On May 17, the Board ruled in Finance Docket No. 36514 that CN’s proposed acquisition of KCS is subject to the 2001 Major Merger rules, and, accordingly, that CN’s proposed use of a voting trust requires formal STB approval under 49 U.S.C. Section1180.4(b)(4)(iv).

The Combined network covers Gulf of Mexico to Pacific Ocean

The Board explained that it would “take a more cautious approach to a voting trust” in the CN proceeding and that its “consideration of whether the proposed use of a voting trust in a potential CN-KCS transaction is ‘consistent with the public interest’ would be informed by argument on both the potential benefits and costs of such use.”

CP believes that CN cannot demonstrate that its proposed use of a voting trust would be “consistent with the public interest” for reasons CP has already summarized and will address further in its comments on CN’s proposal in Finance Docket No. 36514, once CN refiles its motion seeking Board approval and the Board establishes a comment period.

Because STB Voting Trust Approval is a condition to closing, were CN unable to use a voting trust, CN’s proposed acquisition of KCS could not be consummated. KCS would then face the choice of whether to renegotiate the CN-KCS merger agreement in order to proceed with CN without the use of a voting trust.

Were KCS presented with the question of how to proceed following a decision by the Board not to approve CN’s proposed use of a voting trust, CP anticipates being available to engage with KCS to enter into another agreement to acquire KCS.

CP expects that such an agreement would be in substantially the form of the merger agreement previously entered into by CP and KCS, which was previously noticed in this docket and reviewed by the Board in connection with its approval of CP’s proposed voting trust agreement.

Accordingly, CP intends to proceed forward with the preparation of its Application in this docket seeking Board authority to acquire control of KCS.

CP believes that pursuing its Application is in the best interests of both KCS and the public so that the pro-competitive CP/KCS transaction can proceed to be reviewed by the Board and – in the event KCS’s agreement with CN is terminated or CN is otherwise unable to acquire control of KCS – a potential acquisition of KCS by CP could be implemented without undue delay, all in accord with the rulings and processes already established by the Board in this docket.

CP looks forward to establishing that its acquisition of control of KCS would be consistent with the public interest.”

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Consolidation in the media space!

AT&T, Discovery to create global DTC business through Reverse Morris Trust

AT&T (T) and Discovery (DISCA) announced a definitive agreement to combine WarnerMedia’s premium entertainment, sports and news assets with Discovery’s nonfiction and international entertainment and sports businesses to create a standalone global entertainment company.

ATT to merge it’s media assets with Discovery

Under the terms of the agreement, which is structured as an all-stock, Reverse Morris Trust transaction, AT&T would receive $43B in a combination of cash, debt securities, and WarnerMedia’s retention of certain debt, and AT&T’s shareholders would receive stock representing 71% of the new company; Discovery shareholders would own 29% of the new company.

The boards of both AT&T and Discovery have approved the transaction.

Discovery to merge with ATT media

Bringing together the leadership teams, content creators, and series and film libraries.

The new company is projected for 2023 revenue of approximately $52B, adjusted EBITDA of approximately $14B, and free cash flow conversion rate of approximately 60%.

The transaction is expected to create at least $3B in expected cost synergies annually for the new company.

The new company will compete globally in the direct-to-consumer business bringing content to DTC subscribers across its portfolio, including HBO Max and the recently launched discovery+.

The transaction will combine WarnerMedia’s content library of IP with Discovery’s global footprint, local-language content and regional expertise across more than 200 countries and territories.

The companies announced that Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav will lead the proposed new company with a management team and operational and creative leadership from both companies.

Discovery’s current multiple classes of shares will be consolidated to a single class with one vote per share.

The new company’s board will consist of 13 members, seven initially appointed by AT&T, including the chairperson of the board; Discovery will initially appoint six members, including CEO David Zaslav.

The combination will be executed through a Reverse Morris Trust, under which WarnerMedia will be spun or split off to AT&T’s shareholders via dividend or through an exchange offer or a combination of both and simultaneously combined with Discovery.

The transaction is expected to be tax-free to AT&T and AT&T’s shareholders. In connection with the spin-off or split-off of WarnerMedia, AT&T will receive $43B in a combination of cash, debt securities and WarnerMedia’s retention of certain debt.

David Zaslav to head the new company

The new company expects to maintain investment grade rating and utilize the significant cash flow of the combined company to rapidly de-lever to approximately 3.0x within 24 months, and to target a new, longer term gross leverage target of 2.5x-3.0x.

WarnerMedia has secured fully committed financing for the purposes of funding the distribution.

The transaction is anticipated to close in mid-2022, subject to approval by Discovery shareholders and customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals.

No vote is required by AT&T shareholders. Agreements are in place with John Malone and Advance to vote in favor of the transaction.

Elliott Management

Elliott Investment Management released a statement on behalf of Managing Partner Jesse Cohn and Portfolio Manager Marc Steinberg regarding AT&T’s plan to merge media assets with Discovery:

Elliott is a major shareholder in ATT

“It has been a transformational year at AT&T year since John Stankey took over as CEO, and today’s announcement represents another impressive step in the Company’s recent evolution.

AT&T has now executed on its promise to streamline operations and re-focus on its core businesses, all while improving operational execution, enhancing its financial position and advancing its corporate governance. As investors, Elliott supports AT&T in its efforts to best position the company for future success.”

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Rig counts rise!

Baker Hughes reports U.S. rig count up 5 to 453 rigs

Baker Hughes (BKR) reports that the U.S. rig count is up 5 from last week to 453 with oil rigs up 8 to 352, gas rigs down 3 to 100, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at 1.

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The U.S. Rig Count is up 114 rigs from last year’s count of 339, with oil rigs up 94 gas rigs up 21 and miscellaneous rigs down 1 to 1.

The U.S. Offshore Rig Count is up 2 to 15, up 3 year-over-year.

Ocean Rig sold for $2.7B, Stockwinners

The Canada Rig Count is up 4 from last week to 59, with oil rigs up 3 to 25, gas rigs up 1 to 34.

The Canada Rig Count is up 36 rigs from last year’s count of 23, with oil rigs up 18, gas rigs up 18.

The Baker Hughes rig counts are counts of the number of drilling rigs actively exploring for or developing oil or natural gas in the U.S., Canada and international markets.

The Company has issued the rig counts as a service to the petroleum industry since 1944, when Hughes Tool Company began weekly counts of the U.S. and Canadian drilling activity. The monthly international rig count was initiated in 1975.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is up $1.45 to $65.26 per barrel. Brent crude is up $1.54 to $68.60 per barrel. Gasoline last traded at $2.12 per gallon up 3 cents.

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Merger in the REIT space

Equity Commonwealth to acquire Monmouth Real Estate for $3.4B

Equity Commonwealth (EQC) and Monmouth Real Estate (MNR) announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement by which Equity Commonwealth will acquire Monmouth in an all-stock transaction, valued at approximately $3.4B, including the assumption of debt.

The combined company is expected to have a pro forma equity market capitalization of approximately $5.5B.

Under the terms of the agreement, Monmouth shareholders will receive 0.67 shares of Equity Commonwealth stock for every share of Monmouth stock they own.

Based on the closing price for Equity Commonwealth on May 4, this represents approximately $19.40 per Monmouth share.

The merger agreement provides for Monmouth to declare and pay one additional regular quarterly common stock dividend of 18c per share without Equity Commonwealth paying a corresponding common dividend to its shareholders.

Accordingly, the total consideration to be received by the Monmouth shareholders in the transaction is $19.58 per Monmouth share.

Equity Commonwealth and Monmouth shareholders are expected to own approximately 65% and 35%, respectively, of the pro forma company following the close of the transaction.

Monmouth’s portfolio is comprised of 120 properties totaling 24.5M square feet. In addition, Monmouth has six properties totaling 1.8M square feet under contract and leased to investment grade tenants.

Closings for these acquisitions are expected in 2021 and 2022.

The company will continue to be led by president and CEO David Helfand and the existing senior management team.

Upon closing, the number of trustees on Equity Commonwealth’s board will be expanded to 10, with two individuals designated by Monmouth’s board.

Sam Zell will remain the chairman of the board of trustees.

The transaction is expected to close during the second half of 2021, subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the common shareholders of both Equity Commonwealth and Monmouth.

Sam Zell to become Chairman of the new company

The board of trustees of Equity Commonwealth and the board of directors of Monmouth Real Estate have each unanimously approved the transaction.

Equity Commonwealth ( EQC) is a Chicago based, internally managed and self-advised real estate investment trust (REIT) with commercial office properties in the United States. EQC’s same property portfolio is comprised of 4 properties and 1.5 million square feet.

Monmouth Real Estate Investment specializes in single tenant, net-leased industrial properties, subject to long-term leases, primarily to investment-grade tenants. Monmouth Real Estate is a fully integrated and self-managed real estate company, whose property portfolio consists of 121 properties, containing a total of approximately 24.5 million rentable square feet, geographically diversified across 31 states. 

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Rig Counts Decline!

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Baker Hughes reports U.S. rig count down 1 to 438 rigs

Baker Hughes (BKR) reports that the U.S. rig count is down 1 from last week at 438 with oil rigs down 1 to 343, gas rigs unchanged at 94, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at 1.

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The U.S. Rig Count is down 27 rigs from last year’s count of 465, with oil rigs down 35, gas rigs up 9 and miscellaneous rigs down 1.

The U.S. Offshore Rig Count is down 1 to 11, down 6 year-over-year.

The international offshore rig count for April 2018 was 194. Stockwinners
The U.S. Offshore Rig Count is down 1 to 11, down 6 year-over-year.

The Canada Rig Count is down 1 from last week to 55, with oil rigs unchanged at 17, gas rigs down 1 to 38.

The Canada Rig Count is up 29 rigs from last year’s count of 26, with oil rigs up 9, gas rigs up 20.

The Baker Hughes rig counts are counts of the number of drilling rigs actively exploring for or developing oil or natural gas in the U.S., Canada and international markets.

The Company has issued the rig counts as a service to the petroleum industry since 1944, when Hughes Tool Company began weekly counts of the U.S. and Canadian drilling activity. The monthly international rig count was initiated in 1975.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is up $0.45 to $61.88 per barrel. Brent crude is up $0.44 to $65.850 per barrel. Gasoline last traded at $1.99 per gallon.

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Welbilt sold for $4.3B

Middleby to acquire Welbilt in an all-stock transaction

The Middleby Corporation (MIDD) and Welbilt (WBT) have entered into a definitive agreement under which Middleby will acquire Welbilt in an all-stock transaction, enhancing the Middleby Commercial Foodservice platform with an attractive portfolio of products, brands and technologies.

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This transaction will bring together two complementary businesses, accelerate the Middleby growth strategy into key markets globally and increase core capabilities in highly attractive segments.

The combined company will have approximately $3.7B in combined 2020 sales, 73% of which will come from the Commercial Foodservice segment.

Under the terms of the agreement, Welbilt shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 0.1240x shares of Middleby common stock for each share of Welbilt common stock in an all-stock transaction, with an implied enterprise value of $4.3B.

Based on Middleby’s volume-weighted average price during the 30 consecutive trading days ending April 20, the offer price represents a 28% premium to Welbilt’s 30-day VWAP.

Upon closing, Middleby shareholders will own approximately 76% and Welbilt shareholders will own approximately 24% of the combined company on a fully diluted basis.

The Boards of both companies have unanimously approved the transaction. In addition, Carl C. Icahn, Welbilt’s largest shareholder with an 8.4% ownership position, has entered into a support agreement in favor of the transaction.

Following closing, Timothy FitzGerald will continue as CEO and as a member of the Middleby Board of Directors. Bryan Mittelman will continue to serve as Middleby’s CFO.

Middleby will expand its Board to include two new directors from the Welbilt board, Chairperson Cynthia Egnotovich and William Johnson. Middleby intends to refinance Welbilt’s existing debt through its committed Senior Secured Facility.

Based on the expected pro forma leverage ratio at closing, the interest on the incremental financing would be approximately L + 162.5 bps.

The transaction is expected to close in late 2021, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory and Middleby and Welbilt shareholder approvals.

The Middleby Corporation designs, manufactures, markets, distributes, and services a range of foodservice, food processing, and residential kitchen equipment.

Welbilt, Inc., designs, manufactures, and supplies foodservice equipment for commercial foodservice market worldwide. The company offers commercial upright and undercounter refrigerators and freezers, blast freezers and chillers, and cook-chill systems under the Delfield brand; and walk-in refrigerators, coolers and freezers, and prefabricated cooler and freezer panels under the Kolpak brand. 

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Microsoft buys Nuance

Microsoft to acquire Nuance for $56.00 per share in cash, or $19.7B

Microsoft (MSFT) and Nuance Communications (NUAN) announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Nuance for $56.00 per share, implying a 23% premium to the closing price of Nuance on Friday, April 9, in an all-cash transaction valued at $19.7B, inclusive of Nuance’s net debt.

Nuance sold for $19.7B

Nuance is a trusted cloud and AI software leader representing decades of accumulated healthcare and enterprise AI experience.

Mark Benjamin will remain CEO of Nuance, reporting to Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Cloud & AI at Microsoft.

The transaction is intended to close this calendar year.

Upon closing, Microsoft expects Nuance’s financials to be reported as part of Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud segment.

Microsoft expects the acquisition to be minimally dilutive (less than 1%) in fiscal year 2022 and to be accretive in fiscal year 2023 to non-GAAP earnings per share, based on the expected close timeframe.

Non-GAAP excludes expected impact of purchase accounting adjustments, as well as integration and transaction-related expenses.

The acquisition will not impact the completion of its existing share repurchase authorization.

Nuance Communications, Inc. provides conversational and cognitive artificial intelligence (AI) innovations that bring intelligence to everyday work and life. The company delivers solutions that understand, analyze, and respond to people – amplifying human intelligence to increase productivity and security.

B. Riley analyst Zach Cummins reiterates a Buy rating on LivePerson (LPSN) with a $77 price target after Microsoft (MSFT) acquired Nuance Communications (NUAN), a provider of conversational commerce solutions, with expertise geared toward the healthcare vertical.

The potential deal acquisition provides a “positive valuation data point” for LivePerson, a leading provider of conversational commerce solutions across the telecom, financial services, retail, and consumer verticals, Cummins tells investors in a research note.

LivePerson currently trades at an enterprise value to sales multiple of 6.5 times, below the comp group median of 9.5 times and Nuance’s implied takeout multiple of 12.5 times, says the analyst.

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Fly Leasing sold for $2.36B

Carlyle Aviation to acquire Fly Leasing for $17.05 per share

Fly Leasing (FLY) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of Carlyle Aviation Partners, the commercial aviation investment and servicing arm within The Carlyle Group’s (CG) $56B Global Credit platform.

Fly Leasing sold for $2.36B

Under the terms of the Merger Agreement, FLY shareholders will receive $17.05 per share in cash, representing a total equity valuation of approximately $520M.

The total enterprise value of the transaction is approximately $2.36B.

FLY’s portfolio of 84 aircraft and seven engines is on lease to 37 airlines in 22 countries.

The per share cash consideration represents a premium of approximately 29% to FLY’s closing price on March 26, 2021 and a 43% premium to the volume-weighted average share price during the last 30 trading days.

The Board of Directors of FLY has approved the Merger Agreement, acting upon the recommendation of a special committee appointed by the Board of Directors and consisting solely of independent and disinterested directors, and has recommended that FLY shareholders vote in favor of the transaction.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021 and is subject to customary closing conditions, including applicable regulatory clearance and the approval of FLY’s shareholders.

Given the pending transaction, FLY will not host a first quarter earnings call.

FLY closed at $13.25.

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Merger in the railroad space!

Canadian Pacific to buy Kansas City Southern in $29B deal

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and Kansas City Southern (KSU) announced they have entered into a merger agreement, under which CP has agreed to acquire KCS in a stock and cash transaction representing an enterprise value of approximately $29B, which includes the assumption of $3.8B of outstanding KCS debt.

The transaction, which has the unanimous support of both boards of directors, values KCS at $275 per share, representing a 23% premium, based on the CP and KCS closing prices on March 19, 2021.

Following the closing into a voting trust, common shareholders of KCS will receive 0.489 of a CP share and $90 in cash for each KCS common share held.

Following final approval from the Surface Transportation Board, the transaction will combine the two railroads to create the first rail network connecting the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Canadian Pacific Rails

Joining seamlessly in Kansas City, Mo., in America’s heartland, CP and KCS together will connect customers via single-network transportation offerings between points on CP’s system throughout Canada, the U.S. Midwest, and the U.S. Northeast and points on KCS’ system throughout Mexico and the South Central U.S.

While remaining the smallest of six U.S. Class 1 railroads by revenue, the combined company will be a much larger and more competitive network, operating approximately 20,000 miles of rail, employing close to 20,000 people and generating total revenues of approximately $8.7 billion based on 2020 actual revenues.

Combined Companies Rails

The combination is expected to be accretive to CP’s adjusted diluted EPS in the first full year following CP’s acquisition of control of KCS, and is expected to generate double-digit accretion upon the full realization of synergies thereafter.

To fund the stock consideration of the merger, CP will issue 44.5 million new shares.

The cash portion will be funded through a combination of cash-on-hand and raising approximately $8.6B in debt, for which financing has been committed.

As part of the merger, CP will assume approximately $3.8B of KCS’ outstanding debt.

Following the closing into trust, CP expects that its outstanding debt will be approximately $20.2B. Pro forma for the transaction, CP estimates its leverage ratio against 2021E street consensus EBITDA to be approximately 4.0-times with the assumption of KCS debt and issuance of new acquisition-related debt.

In order to manage this leverage effectively, CP will be temporarily suspending its normal course issuer bid program, and expects to produce approximately $7B of levered free cash flow over the next three years.

CP estimates its long-term leverage target of approximately 2.5x to be achieved within 36 months after closing into trust.

The combined company will remain committed to maintaining strong investment grade credit ratings while continuing to return capital for the benefit of shareholders.

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