Netflix, a battle of bulls and bears!

Netflix lost more than $18 billion in market capitalization in 2 days

Disney loss having minimal impact on Netflix subscribers. See Stockwinners.com Market Radar to read more
Netflix subscribers grew less than expected. Stockwinners

On Wednesday, Netflix (NFLX) reported 2nd Quarter June 2019 earnings of $0.60 per share on revenue of $4.9 billion. The consensus earnings estimate was $0.56 per share on revenue of $4.9 billion. Revenue grew 26.0% on a year-over-year basis.

The company said in its shareholders letter it expects third quarter earnings of approximately $1.04 per share on revenue of approximately $5.25 billion. The current consensus earnings estimate is $1.04 per share on revenue of $5.25 billion for the quarter ending September 30, 2019.

Bears vs Bulls, Stockwinners

The company saw its first loss in US subscribers last quarter, and a 2.7 million paid customers added globally, nearly half of what was forecast.

Competition

At the same time, the company is facing a steeper path than ever in the United States. Netflix lost subscribers this quarter for the first time in years, a combination of the price hike and a content loss. As the US market becomes oversaturated with streaming services — with WarnerMedia, Disney, and Apple all launching streaming services — the only way to ensure growth is going outside the United States. Netflix currently has 60 million paying domestic subscribers, and company believes they can get to 90 million, but the risk of market saturation is real, and raises difficult questions for the company’s content strategy.

BMO Capital

BMO Capital analyst Daniel Salmon lowered his price target on Netflix (NFLX) to $440 after its reported shortfall on subscriber addition in Q2, which he expects to “fuel the debate” about the company’s pricing power and the role of new content. Given the sequential decline in its U.S. markets and the approaching launch of Disney+ (DIS), the analyst contends that this may be a “more than just the usual” earnings-miss driven debate. Longer term however, Salmon believes that the company’s revenue trend remains on track, keeping his Outperform rating on the stock and recommending Netflix, Amazon (AMZN), and Disney as a “collective investment” in the global streaming race.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse analyst Douglas Mitchelson lowered his price target for Netflix to $440 from $450 after the company posted its worst subscriber miss ever, short by 2.3M net adds, while revenue was in line and EBIT well ahead. The analyst reiterates an Outperform rating on the shares.

Disney to end Netflix distribution agreement in 2019. See Stockwinners.com Market Radar for details
Disney ended Netflix distribution agreement this year. See Stockwinners.com

Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank analyst Bryan Kraft views post-earnings selloff in shares of Netflix as a buying opportunity. The analyst keeps a Buy rating on the streaming service.

KeyBanc

KeyBanc analyst Andy Hargreaves says that despite soft Q2 results, he believes Netflix retains competitive advantages that should support excellent revenue and profit growth well into the future. The likely decline in the stock price improves the risk/reward, but increased confidence in the potential for upside to his estimates is likely needed for a more positive view of the shares, he contends. Hargreaves reiterates a Sector Weight rating on the shares.

WarnerMedia streaming service hurts Netflix, Stockwinners

JPMorgan

JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth to $425 from $450 while keeping an Overweight rating on the shares. The Q2 net adds miss was meaningful, but the company’s Q2 results are often volatile and this quarter contained a number of moving pieces, Anmuth tells investors in a research note. Netflix’s back half of the year content slate is strong and the company is seeing significantly better trends quarter-to-date, adds the analyst. History suggests that Q2 is a “difficult quarter from which to extrapolate NFLX’s trajectory,” says Anmuth.

Stifel

Stifel analyst Scott Devitt said Netflix shares may be range bound until the company reports Q3 earnings following its miss in Q2 on its domestic and international paid net sub add guidance. He believes management’s explanations for the current quarter miss “appear reasonable,” though Netflix “will have to prove, as it has done many times, that its value proposition remains one of the best,” Devitt tells investors in a post-earnings research note. Following last night’s report, Devitt lowered his price target on Netflix shares to $400 from $425 and keeps a Buy rating on the stock.

Wedbush

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter raised his price target for Netflix to $188 from $183, while reiterating an Underperform rating on the shares after the company reported quarterly results. The analyst expects content spending to trigger substantial cash burn for many years, and notwithstanding four Netflix price increases in the last five years, he notes that cash burn continues to grow. Content migration and price hikes could cause a deceleration in subscriber growth, and consistently negative free cash flow makes DCF valuation impossible, he adds.

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Barnes & Noble sold for $683M

Barnes & Noble to be acquired by Elliott for $6.50 per share in all cash deal

Barnes & Noble sold for $683M, Stockwinners

Barnes & Noble (BKS) announces that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by funds advised by Elliott Advisors for $6.50 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $683M, including the assumption of debt.

Barnes & Noble has faced continued pressure from Amazon and independent booksellers. Its shares had fallen roughly 25% year to date before the news leak. Within the past five years, Barnes & Noble has lost more than $1 billion in market value.

Elliott’s acquisition of Barnes & Noble, the largest retail bookseller in the United States, follows its June 2018 acquisition of Waterstones, the largest retail bookseller in the United Kingdom.

James Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, will assume also the role of CEO of Barnes & Noble following the completion of the transaction and will be based in New York.

The $6.50 per share purchase price represents a 43% premium to the 10-day volume weighted average closing share price of Barnes & Noble’s common stock ended June 5, the day before rumors of a potential transaction were reported in the media.

As a private company, Barnes & Noble will likely be more free to make the changes and investment that can be unwieldy under a public spotlight. Part of the bookseller’s turnaround plan has included closing some of its more than 600 stores across the U.S. and relocating to smaller spaces that receive a fresh and modern look. The company has said its prototype stores encourage shoppers to buy books online or from a tablet.

The retailer has shown small signs of upturn. In March, it reported that over the holidays, sales at locations open for at least a year during the quarter rose 1.1 percent — its best quarterly performance in three years. As of January, it had $15 million in cash and cash equivalents.

The announced transaction with Elliott is the culmination of an extensive Strategic Alternative Review conducted by the Special Committee of the Barnes & Noble board, which was announced on October 3, 2018.

The board of Barnes & Noble unanimously approved the transaction and recommend the transaction to Barnes & Noble shareholders.

Leonard #Riggio, the Founder and Chairman of Barnes & Noble, has also entered into a voting agreement in support of the transaction.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory and stockholder approval, and is expected to close in Q3.

The merger agreement provides for the acquisition to be consummated through a merger structure. However, the parties expect to amend the agreement to utilize a tender offer structure, which is expected to reduce the time to closing by a number of weeks.

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5G Service coming to Chicago and Minneapolis

Verizon discloses pricing for first 5G mobile service

Verizon brings 5G service to Chicago and Minneapolis, Stockwinners

Verizon (VZ) earlier said it will launch its 5G Ultra Wideband Network in Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11.

To coincide with this launch, Verizon is offering the new 5G moto mod, which is exclusive to Verizon. Beginning March 14, customers anywhere in the U.S. can pre-order the 5G moto mod.

Verizon said: “Select areas of Chicago and Minneapolis will be the first to experience Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband mobile service, and the company has plans to rapidly expand the coverage area.

Last month, Verizon announced that it intends to launch its 5G Ultra Wideband network in more than 30 U.S. cities in 2019.”

It added, “For a limited time, preorder the 5G moto mod for just $50 ($349.99 retail).

5G Antennas are the size of a large pizza, Stockwinners

Verizon postpaid customers with any Verizon unlimited plan, including Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited or Above Unlimited, get unlimited 5G data for $10 per month (with the first three months free).

To buy a 5G moto mod, customers must either have an active moto z3 on their account or purchase a moto z3 at the same time as the 5G moto mod.”

What is 5G?

Like the earlier generation 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile networks, 5G networks are digital cellular networks, in which the service area covered by providers is divided into a mosaic of small geographical areas called cells.

 Analog signals representing sounds and images are digitized in the phone, converted by an analog to digital converted transmitted as a stream of bits.

All the 5G wireless devices in a cell communicate by radio waves with a local antenna array and low power automated transceiver(transmitter and receiver) in the cell, over frequency channels assigned by the transceiver from a common pool of frequencies, which are reused in geographically separated cells.

The local antennas are connected with the telephone network and the Internet by a high bandwidth optical fiber or wireless backhaul connection. Like existing cellphones, when a user crosses from one cell to another, their mobile device is automatically “handed off” seamlessly to the antenna in the new cell.

Their major advantage is that 5G networks achieve much higher data rates than previous cellular networks, up to 10 Gbit/s; which is faster than current cable internet, and 100 times faster than the previous cellular technology, 4G LTE.

 Another advantage is lower network latency (faster response time), below 1 ms (millisecond), compared with 30 – 70 ms for 4G.[ Because of the higher data rates, 5G networks will serve not just cellphones but are also envisioned as a general home and office networking provider, competing with wired internet providers like cable. Previous cellular networks provided low data rate internet access suitable for cellphones, but a cell tower could not economically provide enough bandwidth to serve as a general internet provider for home computers.

5G networks achieve these higher data rates by using higher frequency radio waves, in or near the millimeter wave band from 30 to 300 GHz, whereas previous cellular networks used frequencies in the microwave band between 700 MHz and 3 GHz.

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Multi-Color sold for $2.5 billion

Multi-Color to be acquired by Platinum Equity affiliate for $50 per share in cash

Multi-Color to be acquired by Platinum Equity affiliate for $50 per share in cash, Stockwinners
Multi-Color to be acquired by Platinum Equity affiliate for $50 per share in cash, Stockwinners

Multi-Color Corporation (LABL) announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of Platinum Equity LLC.

Under the terms of the agreement, which has been unanimously approved by Multi-Color Corporation’s Board of Directors, Multi-Color Corporation shareholders will receive $50.00 in cash for each share of common stock they own, in a transaction valued at $2.5B including the assumption of $1.5B of debt.

The cash purchase price represents a premium of approximately 32 percent over Multi-Color Corporation’s 30-day volume weighted average share price prior to January 22, 2019, the last trading day prior to media speculation regarding a potential transaction involving Multi-Color Corporation.

The transaction will be financed through a combination of committed equity financing provided by Platinum Capital Partners IV, L.P., as well as debt financing that has been committed to by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank AG New York Branch, Deutsche Bank AG Cayman Islands Branch and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

The transaction is expected to be completed by Q3 FY 2019 and is subject to Multi-Color Corporation shareholder approval, regulatory clearances and other customary closing conditions.

Upon the completion of the transaction, Multi-Color Corporation will become a privately held company and shares of Multi-Color Corporation common stock will no longer be listed on any public market.

Constantia Flexibles Holding GmbH and affiliates of Diamond Castle Partners, who together currently own 5,889,093 shares of Multi-Color Corporation common stock, representing approximately 28.7 percent of Multi-Color Corporation’s outstanding shares, have each separately entered into a voting and support agreement to vote its shares in favor of the transaction as provided in each agreement.

The Multi-Color Corporation Board has unanimously recommended that all of Multi-Color Corporation’s shareholders vote to approve and adopt the merger agreement at an upcoming special meeting of Multi-Color Corporation’s shareholders.

LABL closed at $48.55.


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WalMart Earnings Outlook

Walmart (WMT) is scheduled to report results of its fourth quarter before the market open on Tuesday, February 19, with a conference call scheduled for 8:00 am EDT.

Wal-Mart reports next week. See Stockwinners.com for the report

What to watch for:

1. OUTLOOK: Walmart previously raised its fiscal 2019 EPS view to $4.90-$5.05 and narrowed its net sales view to up about 2%, but cut its EPS outlook at its investor meeting in October to $4.65-$4.80.

In its November earnings report, Walmart again raised its FY19 EPS outlook to $4.75-$4.85. The current Street forecast for FY19 EPS stands at $4.84 on revenue of $514.33B.

The company previously said it was moving to an annual guidance framework with its quarterly updates, and that while there may be fluctuations within the quarters, “we believe EPS growth will be relatively consistent across the year.”

Baird analyst Peter Benedict said he expects Walmart’s Q4 earnings to be solid, and expects guidance to remain intact, although he recognizes the uncertainty with Flipkart as the result of new regulations in India.

2. HOLIDAY SEASON:

Jet.com’s holiday weekend was “truly horrible,” with sales down 6% on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and a 39% plunge on Cyber Monday vs. last year, BuzzFeed News reported, citing data from market research firm Edison Trends.

According to the data, Target.com (TGT) sales increased 48% on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and 19% on Cyber Monday, Amazon (AMZN) increased by 25% on Black Friday and Thanksgiving and 17% on Cyber Monday, and Jet.com parent Walmart.com increased sales revenue by 23% on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and 32% on Cyber Monday.

In late December, Amazon said that it had a “record-breaking” holiday season with more items ordered worldwide than ever before. Amazon customers shopped at record levels from a wide selection of products across every department, it said.

3. COMPETITION:

Retailers like Walmart have been hurt by an increase in online shopping on sites like Amazon rather than at brick-and-mortar stores. Walmart is seeking to create a big ad business to rival that of Amazon, Bloomberg reported, adding that it has hired executives from NBC (CMCSA) and CBS (CBS) to help bolster its advertising business.

Walmart has also launched a private-label furniture brand, called MoDRN, which is “a direct hit to big furniture retailers” such as Wayfair (W) and Ikea and a challenge to rival Amazon, Erica Pandey wrote for Axios.

4. FLIPKART:

Bernstein analyst Brandon Fletcher said that India has been bandying about restrictive e-commerce regulations this past year, and finally pulled the trigger despite protestations from both Walmart and Amazon.

Walmart to pay about $16B for initial stake of about 77% in India's Flipkart, Stockwinners
Walmart to pay about $16B for initial stake of about 77% in India’s Flipkart, Stockwinners

The new rules put a damper on 1P selling models, pricing discounts, supplier exclusives, and supplier shares of sales above 25%, all of which are important to both companies’ planned models.

While not significant to Walmart’s total revenues, the analyst believes it does put a damper on its long-term growth potential in the market through Flipkart and raises the question of where Walmart will make up that growth.

Morgan Stanley analyst Simeon Gutman said Flipkart’s losses will likely rise due to new e-commerce regulations in India and Walmart investors “can’t ignore Flipkart” as it once again becomes a bigger part of the retailer’s investment narrative.

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Levi’s coming to NYSE

Levi Strauss & Co. said in a regulatory filing that it intends to seek listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LEVI” via an initial public offering.

Levis coming to NYSE – Stockwinners.com

“Today we design, market and sell products that include jeans, casual and dress pants, tops, shorts, skirts, jackets, footwear and related accessories for men, women and children around the world under our Levi’s, Dockers, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. and Denizen brands.

With $5.6 billion in net revenues and sales in more than 110 countries in fiscal year 2018, we are one of the world’s leading apparel companies, with the Levi’s brand having the highest brand awareness in the denim bottoms category globally,” the company disclosed.

The underwriters on the deal include Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Evercore, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Guggenheim, HSBC, Drexel Hamilton, Telsey Advisory and The Williams Capital Group.


Levi Strauss was founded in May 1853  when German immigrant Levi Strauss came from Bavaria, to San Francisco, California to open a west coast branch of his brothers’ New York dry goods business. 

Levi Strauss & Co. introduces its first bicycle pants in 1895. It took another 116 years for the company to come out with Levi’s® Commuter, a multi-functional performance product designed for the modern cyclist. When Levi Strauss passes away in September, his four nephews take over the business and carry out his numerous bequests to Bay Area charities serving children and the poor. On April 18, The San Francisco earthquake and fire destroy the headquarters and two factories of Levi Strauss & Co.

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Cinedigm to acquire ComicBlitz 

Cinedigm to acquire ComicBlitz 

 

Cinedigm to acquire ComicBlitz , Stockwinners
Cinedigm to acquire ComicBlitz , Stockwinners

Cinedigm (CIDM) announced an agreement to acquire the digital comic book service ComicBlitz, which will provide access to approximately 10,000 digital comic books, with more than 175,000 pages of content from a growing network of 30 or more publishers.

#ComicBlitz content will be distributed globally as a licensed offering for mobile carriers, OTT providers and other media companies.

It will also be integrated with Cinedigm’s existing and planned OTT services, including the fandom lifestyle network CONtv.

Cinedigm expects that the acquisition will close before the end of the year. Cinedigm plans on rapidly enhancing ComicBlitz’s content and services offering by leveraging Cinedigm’s forthcoming, next-generation technology platform and expects to service global distribution of the ComicBlitz content and platform offerings alongside Cinedigm’s existing footprint of nine OTT channel offerings.

From a business perspective, the transaction is expected to generate revenues through content licensing, subscription and advertising revenues, new distribution platform partnerships and by accelerating global expansion of Cinedigm’s OTT business.

Cinedigm expects the acquisition will be accretive within the first quarter following closing, pending certain license deals currently in negotiation. The deal could be expected to generate more than $5M in incremental annual digital revenues within 18-24 months after closing, if new platform and licensing agreements related to this acquisition are consummated.

This deal will support Cinedigm’s strategy to provide high quality turn-key offerings to third party platforms on a global scale through acquisition and partnerships.

It will also provide a deep portfolio of quality comic book offerings that significantly broadens the company’s content portfolio for highly sought after fandom audiences worldwide.

The worldwide digital comic book and graphic novel market is estimated at over $1B in annual sales. Launched in 2015, ComicBlitz has a distribution footprint of over 133 countries, with key penetration in North America and major territories including the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Mexico, Brazil and Germany.


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Pareteum to acquire iPass

Pareteum to acquire iPass in all-stock transaction

Pareteum to acquire iPass, Stockwinners.com
Pareteum to acquire iPass, Stockwinners.com

Pareteum (TEUM) and iPass (IPAS) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Pareteum will acquire iPass in an all-stock transaction whereby iPass shareholders will receive 1.17 shares of Pareteum common stock in an exchange offer.

With this accretive acquisition, Pareteum expects to gain a strategic position with new marquee brands and new markets including the enterprise, airline, hospitality, retail and internet of things sectors.

Pareteum expects to strengthen its established intellectual property portfolio with the addition of over 40 U.S. and international patents.

With more than 500 expected new customers and a global network of over 68M Wi-Fi hot spots, coupled with proven connection management technology, location services and Wi-Fi performance data, Pareteum is now poised to take its global communications software solutions to every market vertical.

The transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to Pareteum’s non-GAAP EPS and free cash ow after anticipated synergies.

Pareteum anticipates achieving more than $15 million in annual cost synergies with greater than $12 million of those expected to be realized in the rst full quarter of combined operations. Pareteum currently estimates approximately $2.0 million of GAAP earnings accretion and $5.5 million of non-GAAP earnings accretion in the rst full year after closing the transaction.

In addition, the acquisition will add new offices and talent in Silicon Valley, California and Bangalore, India, expanding Pareteum’s presence globally.

Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pareteum will commence an exchange offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of iPass common stock, offering 1.17 shares of Pareteum common stock in exchange for each share of iPass common stock tendered.

Upon satisfaction of the conditions to the exchange offer, and after the shares tendered in the exchange oer are accepted for payment, the agreement provides for the parties to effect, as promptly as practicable, a merger, which would not require a vote by iPass stockholders, and which would result in each share of iPass common stock not tendered in the exchange offer being converted into the right to receive 1.17 shares of Pareteum common stock.

The exchange offer is subject to customary conditions, including the tender of at least a majority of the outstanding shares of iPass common stock and certain regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the rst quarter of calendar year 2019.

No approval of the stockholders of Pareteum is required in connection with the proposed transaction.

Terms of the agreement were approved by the board of directors for both Pareteum and iPass.


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Apptio sold for $1.94 billion

Apptio to be acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $38 per share 

Apptio sold for $1.94 billion, Stockwinners
Apptio sold for $1.94 billion, Stockwinners

Apptio (APTI) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of Vista Equity Partners.

Apptio, Inc. provides cloud-based technology business management (TBM) solutions to enterprises. Its cloud-based platform and SaaS applications enable IT leaders to analyze, optimize, and plan technology investments, as well as to benchmark financial and operational performance against peers.

Under the terms of the agreement, Vista will acquire all outstanding shares of Apptio common stock for a total value of approximately $1.94B.

Apptio shareholders will receive $38.00 in cash per share, representing a 53% premium to the unaffected closing price as of November 9, 2018.

Apptio’s board unanimously approved the deal and recommended that stockholders vote their shares in favor of the transaction.

Apptio’s headquarters will remain in Bellevue, with regional offices across the U.S., EMEA and APAC.

Closing of the deal is subject to customary closing conditions, including the approval of Apptio shareholders and antitrust approval in the United States.

The transaction is expected to close in Q1 2019 and is not subject to a financing condition.

The merger agreement includes a 30 day “go-shop” period, which permits Apptio’s Board and advisors to actively initiate, solicit, encourage, and potentially enter negotiations with parties that make alternative acquisition proposals.

Apptio will have the right to terminate the merger agreement to enter into a superior proposal subject to the terms and conditions of the merger agreement.

There can be no assurance that this 30 day “go-shop” will result in a superior proposal, and Apptio does not intend to disclose developments with respect to the solicitation process unless and until the Board makes a determination requiring further disclosure.


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Red Hat sold for $34 billion

 IBM to acquire Red Hat for $190 per share

Red Hat sold for $34 billion, Stockwinners
Red Hat sold for $34 billion, Stockwinners

IBM (IBM) and Red Hat (RHT) announced that the companies have reached a definitive agreement under which IBM will acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Red Hat for $190 per share in cash, representing a total enterprise value of approximately $34B.

With this acquisition, IBM will remain committed to Red Hat’s open governance, open source contributions, participation in the open source community and development model, and fostering its widespread developer ecosystem.

In addition, IBM and Red Hat will remain committed to the continued freedom of open source, via such efforts as Patent Promise, GPL Cooperation Commitment, the Open Invention Network and the LOT Network. IBM and Red Hat also will continue to build and enhance Red Hat partnerships, including those with major cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT) Azure, Google (GOOG; GOOGL) Cloud, Alibaba (BABA) and more, in addition to the IBM Cloud.

At the same time, Red Hat will benefit from IBM’s hybrid cloud and enterprise IT scale in helping expand their open source technology portfolio to businesses globally.

Upon closing of the acquisition, Red Hat will join IBM’s Hybrid Cloud team as a distinct unit, preserving the independence and neutrality of Red Hat’s open source development heritage and commitment, current product portfolio and go-to-market strategy, and unique development culture.

Red Hat will continue to be led by Jim Whitehurst and Red Hat’s current management team.

Jim #Whitehurst also will join IBM’s senior management team and report to Ginni #Rometty.

IBM intends to maintain Red Hat’s headquarters, facilities, brands and practices.

The acquisition will accelerate IBM’s revenue growth, gross margin and free cash flow within 12 months of closing.

It also will support a solid and growing dividend. The company will continue with a disciplined financial policy and is committed to maintaining strong investment grade credit ratings.

The company will target a leverage profile consistent with a mid to high single A credit rating. The company intends to suspend its share repurchase program in 2020 and 2021.

The company intends to close the transaction through a combination of cash and debt. The acquisition has been approved by the boards of directors of both IBM and Red Hat.

It is subject to Red Hat shareholder approval. It also is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close in the latter half of 2019.


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Canary in the mine, Homebuilders

Homebuilders continue tumble as Credit Suisse downgrades several in space

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Homebuilder shares tumble; Stockwinners

Many believe that housing market is the engine of the economy. If that is the case, we should expect a slow down in the economy. Housing prices have always been one of the first indicators of a slowdown or a coming out of a recession for the economy. We should brace ourselves for lower home prices!

Shares of homebuilders continued their decline after an analyst at Credit Suisse downgraded several companies in the space, saying that she expects more tempered demand and rising affordability concerns to weigh on homebuilding sentiment and broader group valuation, offsetting any near-term earnings beats.

A different analyst at the firm downgraded home improvement retailers Home Depot (HD) and Lowe’s (LOW) this morning, due to his concern that their recent results and stock prices have disconnected from housing.

HOMEBUILDERS DOWNGRADED

Credit Suisse analyst Susan Maklari told investors in a research note this morning that although she believes housing and macro fundamentals remain “intact,” including high consumer confidence and sustained low unemployment, unit gains are likely to moderate.

She sees any near-term earnings beats to be offset by even more tempered demand and rising affordability concerns. She sees average order growth for 2019 of 8%, compared to 11% in 2018 and 12% in 2017, and sees “relative” outperformance from builders who are able to capture above-trend gains due to product mix, like D.R. Horton (DHI), and geographic positioning, like PulteGroup (PHM). Maklari downgraded Lennar (LEN) and Meritage Homes (MTH) to Neutral from Outperform and lowered her respective price targets for the shares to $45 from $55 and to $36 from $50.

The analyst sees more limited upside to Lennar looking ahead as its strategic initiatives, as well as geographic exposure, are reflected in its current valuation.

While Meritage has benefited from efforts to drive improvements in operations in its East region as well as the rollout of its entry level targeted homes, Maklari believes much of the initial gains have been captured and she expects limited upside to the current valuation as comparisons become more difficult.

The analyst also downgraded KB Home (KBH) to Underperform from Neutral and lowered her price target to $18 from $27, saying that over the last several months her channel checks and Realtor Survey have pointed to slowing demand in higher cost MSAs, including California, which accounted for about 50% of the company’s 2017 revenues.

HOME DEPOT, LOWE’S ALSO DOWNGRADED

Another analyst at Credit Suisse, Seth Sigman, this morning downgraded Home Depot and Lowe’s, both to Neutral from Outperform, citing his concern that their recent results and stock prices have disconnected from housing. In a research note of his own, Sigman said his key concern is that home prices will continue to moderate, at least temporarily, as higher rates weigh on affordability.

Overall, Sigman still sees EPS growing, but sees less upside over the next 12 months relative to current estimates.

The analyst continues to view Home Depot as best-in-class in retail, but struggles to find multiple upside from its current premium level as housing sentiment shifts and some uncertainty arises. While he continues to expect meaningful improvement in sales and operating profit at Lowe’s under new CEO Marvin Ellison, Sigman thinks consensus estimates are baking that in. The analyst cut his price target on Home Depot to $204 from $222 and on Lowe’s to $111 from $115.

PRICE ACTION

Shares of Lennar dropped 3%, while Meritage Homes dropped 6.6% and KB Home declined 4.4%. Other homebuilders were dragged lower, including D.R. Horton, PulteGroup and Toll Brothers (TOL), which are all down over 3%.

Additionally, Home Depot and Lowe’s both declined over 4%. Further, XHB, the homebuilding ETF, is down nearly 3% today and about 10% month-to-date.


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J.C. Penney names new CEO, Shares rise

J.C. Penney spikes after naming former Joann Stores chief as new CEO

Retail selloff continues with J.C. Penney report. See Stockwinners.com for details.
J.C. Penney names new CEO, Shares rise

Shares of J.C. Penney (JCP) surged in Wednesday’s pre-market trading after the company named Jill Soltau as its new chief executive officer.

The CEO role has been vacant since the resignation of Marvin Ellison earlier this year to become the CEO of Lowe’s (LOW).

J.C. PENNEY GETS ITS CEO

On Tuesday after the market close, J.C. Penney said that Jill Soltau, the former president and CEO of fabric and crafts retailer Joann Stores, will become its next CEO.

Her appointment is effective on October 15.

In a statement, J.C. Penney director and chairman of the search committee Paul Brown said “Jill stood out from the start among an incredibly strong slate of candidates,” adding that “As we looked for the right person to lead this iconic company, we wanted someone with rich apparel and merchandising experience and found Jill to be an ideal fit.”

Former CEO Marvin Ellison left the company in May to become CEO of Lowe’s, and the CEO role at J.C. Penney has been vacant ever since.

Additionally, last week, J.C. Penney announced the resignation of CFO Jeffrey Davis to pursue another opportunity. His departure was effective October 1.

As J.C. Penney looks for Davis’ replacement, the company said Jerry Murray, senior VP of finance, will serve as interim CFO.

The retailer said it will consider both internal and external candidates to replace Davis, who has been CFO since July 24, 2017.

This summer, Chief Customer Officer Joe McFarland quit after less than a year to become executive vice president, stores, at Lowe’s.

Following Ellison’s departure, J.C. Penney created an “Office of the CEO,” comprised of Davis, McFarland, Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Officer Therace Risch and EVP of Supply Chain Mike Robbins. Just two of those executives are still working at J.C. Penney.

WHAT’S NOTABLE

Mall-based retailers, including J.C. Penney, have been hurt by the increasing popularity of fast-fashion retailers like Zara, Forever 21 and H&M, as well as an increasing shift by shoppers to purchase online on sites like Amazon (AMZN).

J.C. Penney has struggled more than some of its peers, including Nordstrom (JWN) and Macy’s (M), and in August, cut its outlook for fiscal 2018 as it continued to deal with too much inventory.

ANALYST COMMENTARY

In a research note to investors, Piper Jaffray analyst Erinn Murphy said Soltau has “direct insights” on J.C. Penney’s core consumer given the overlap of the consumer base in her prior roles as Joann Stores CEO, but remains sidelined on shares due to her longer-term view on department store retailing and her belief that J.C. Penney is still in the process of “right-sizing” its inventory.

Murphy has a Neutral rating and $1.50 price target on the shares.

PRICE ACTION

In pre-market trading, shares of J.C. Penney are up nearly 13% to $1.76.


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Online retailers fall on Amazon concerns

Online retailers slide as Amazon reportedly testing recommendation service

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Online retailers fall on Amazon concerns

 

Shares of several retailers and online personal shopping services are slipping in afternoon trading after CNBC reported that Amazon (AMZN) is testing a new on-site recommendation service known as Scout.


WHAT’S NEW:

 

CNBC reported that Amazon is testing a new service called Scout, a shopping site for consumers who don’t know specifically what they want to buy but are willing to take some automated recommendations.

 

Scout asks shoppers to like or dislike a product and responds by showing other products based on user responses, according to CNBC.

 

Scout is currently available for home furniture, kitchen and dining products, women’s shoes, home decor, patio furniture, lighting and bedding, with more categories coming soon.
“This is a new way to shop, allowing customers to browse millions of items and quickly refine the selection based solely on visual attributes,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “
Amazon uses imagery from across its robust selection to extract thousands of visual attributes for showing customers a variety of items so they can select their preferences as they go.”

WHAT’S NOTABLE

The CNBC report noted that Amazon is utilizing machine learning technology to address one of the major criticisms of its service, namely that it’s a great place to buy things but not a great place to browse.
While Amazon is easily the biggest U.S. e-commerce company, e-retailers such as Stitch Fix (SFIX) and Walmart’s (WMT) Bonobos provide a more personalized experience and have given social media services such as Instagram (FB) and Pinterest more room to use their large collections of data in turning their networks into fledgling commerce sites, CNBC said.

PRICE ACTION

Following the news, Wayfair (W) slipped 4.3%, Williams-Sonoma (WSM) fell 1.9%, Stitch Fix dropped nearly 9%, and Steven Madden (SHOO) slid 1.3%. Meanwhile, Amazon (AMZN) shares are 1.5% lower in Wednesday afternoon trading.


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 EU ruling against Google seen as win for Amazon, Apple

EU antitrust ruling against Google seen as win for Amazon, Apple

 

 EU ruling against Google seen as win for Amazon, Apple, Stockwinners
EU ruling against Google seen as win for Amazon, Apple, Stockwinners

The EU has hit Alphabet-owned Google (GOOG; GOOGL) with a record antitrust fine for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system.

Commenting on the decision, Baird analyst Colin Sebastian said he believes it to be a “pro-Amazon” (AMZN) ruling, benefiting the e-commerce giant and potentially Apple (AAPL) as well.

ANTITRUST FINE

The European Commission has fined Google EUR4.34B for breaching EU antitrust rules.

“Since 2011, Google has imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators to cement its dominant position in general internet search. Google must now bring the conduct effectively to an end within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company,” the Commission stated.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai, in response to the European Commission competition decision, stated that “rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition and Android has enabled all of them.

Today’s decision rejects the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less. We intend to appeal.”

‘PRO-AMAZON’ RULING:

In a research note to investors, Baird’s Sebastian argued that the European Commission’s ruling against Google is “a bit misguided,” but likely a “relatively minor inconvenience” in the short and medium terms.

Longer-term, the analyst said he sees modest but not unexpected added risk from requirements to support forked versions of Android, and from the direct and/or indirect benefits of this ruling for Apple and Amazon. In practical terms, the EC is saying that Android users need to download the Google apps they want rather than have them pre-installed and implicitly instructs Google to make its apps available on forked-version of Android, even if those apps won’t work as well or as intended on modified operating systems, he contended.

Sebastian believes this ruling should have a limited direct impact on Google since it ostensibly does not force a change to the Google search algorithm and seems relatively straight-forward for Google to comply. However, the bigger issue may be the obvious benefits to Amazon and potentially Apple, he argued.

The analyst pointed out that while Amazon already generates about 50% of commerce and product-related searches, the EC will require Android users to take another step before they can access an alternative product search engine. Additionally, to force Google to support distribution of forked-versions of Android could directly benefit Amazon’s Fire devices, he highlighted.

Nonetheless, the analyst noted that the decision does not change his positive view on Alphabet and reiterated an Outperform rating and $1,300 price target on shares of Google’s parent company.

PRICE ACTION

In morning trading, Class A shares of Alphabet and Amazon are each fractionally lower. Meanwhile, Apple’s stock has dropped almost 1% to $190.12.


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Market higher at midday

Stocks on Wall Street were higher at midday as the S&P 500 rose above 2,800 for the first time since the middle of March.

Stocks on Wall Street were higher at midday as the S&P 500 rose above 2,800, Stockwinners
Stocks on Wall Street were higher at midday as the S&P 500 rose above 2,800, Stockwinners

The Dow has also been strong, though not much of that outperformance is due to JPMorgan (JPM) after the bank and several of its large peers kicked off earnings season with their reports this morning.

ECONOMIC EVENTS:

In the U.S., the June trade price report was mixed, with a weaker than expected 0.4% import price decline and a stronger than expected 0.3% increase in export prices.

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey was weaker than expected, falling 1.1 points to a 6-month low of 97.1 in the preliminary print for July. In Asia, China’s exports were strong in June, rising 11.3%, while imports fell a bit short of expectations with an increase of 14.1%.

COMPANY NEWS:

Shares of JPMorgan advanced fractionally after it started off this summer’s earnings season by reporting better than expected earnings for the second quarter. Of note, the bank’s CEO Jamie Dimon said he sees “good global economic growth, particularly in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo (WFC) slipped 2% after reporting downbeat results for Q2, with the company noting in presentation slides that the third party review of customer accounts is “ongoing.”

Citi (C) shares also fell about 2% after its quarterly report, though the bank’s headline earnings for the quarter beat analysts’ estimates.

In addition, PNC Financial (PNC) reported better than expected results for the quarter and guided for third quarter net interest income to be up low-single digits…

Meanwhile, AT&T (T) was in focus after the U.S. Department of Justice said it plans to appeal the approval of the merger between AT&T and Time Warner. In an interview on CNBC this morning, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that he doesn’t know exactly what the government basis will be for an appeal and that the move by the DOJ “changes nothing”.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) dipped about 1% after a Missouri jury awarded $4.69B to 22 women who alleged that use of J&J’s talcum powder products caused their ovarian cancer. The jury award includes $550M in compensatory damages and $4.14B in punitive damages against the company. J&J responded by saying it “intends to pursue all available appellate remedies.”

MAJOR MOVERS:

Among the noteworthy gainers was Biocept (BIOC), which surged 58% after it announced a provider agreement with Alliance Global FZ.

Also higher was Achillion (ACHN), which gained 13% after it said it began dosing in its Phase 1 trial of ACH-5548. Among the notable losers was Gogo (GOGO), which fell 11%, reversing last night’s afterhours gains following the company’s announcement of a strategic review.

Also lower was Ingredion (INGR), which dropped 11% after it announced a $125M cost savings program, provided lower than expected Q2 guidance, and cut its outlook for fiscal 2018.

INDEXES:

Near midday, the Dow was up 93.18, or 0.37%, to 25,018.07, the Nasdaq was up 13.35, or 0.17%, to 7,837.26, and the S&P 500 was up 4.74, or 0.17%, to 2,803.03.


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