Shareholder opposes sale of At Home

At Home Group shareholder calls on company to release Q2 interim sales results

CAS Investment Partners, which beneficially owns approximately 17% of the outstanding common stock of At Home Group (HOME), called on the company to release its interim sales results for Q2 in order to provide material information and keep stockholders informed as they consider the $37 per share tender offer made by funds advised by Hellman & Friedman.

As previously disclosed, CAS deems the $37 per share tender offer wholly inadequate and opposes the transaction on its current terms. Clifford Sosin, founder and portfolio manager of CAS, commented:

“We urge At Home to promptly release interim sales results for the second quarter of fiscal year 2022. Rather than keep stockholders in the dark about the Company’s continued momentum, we believe At Home should be providing them with as much information as possible.

Clifford Sosin, founder and portfolio manager of CAS

Stockholders should not be asked to make a decision about whether to tender into the meager H&F offer without first receiving an easily-prepared update on the current quarter. It is not as if At Home has not pre-released sales data in the past.

Stockholders should seriously question why the Company is not releasing this important information at a time when we need it the most?

According to credit card data analyzed by CAS, the Company’s second quarter same store sales are trending approximately 30% above 2019 levels. Sales appear to be remaining very strong even as the economy reopens and the impact of federal stimulus fades.

We contend that this information demonstrates the Company’s recent success is durable and not a temporary byproduct of the pandemic.

It appears to us that At Home and H&F are desperately trying to avoid releasing these numbers, as evidenced by the fact that the tender deadline ends five days before the close of the second quarter on July 20th.

We are concerned that this is due to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lee Bird being set up to make more than $100 million in compensation if the proposed transaction is completed.

We are equally concerned that H&F may already be exerting an inappropriate level of influence over the corporate governance decisions at the Company. Given we are At Home’s largest stockholder, we call on the Company to immediately respond to our request to disclose this material information and remind the independent directors of their fiduciary duties to At Home stockholders.”

On May 7, 2021, At Home Group Inc. agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Hellman and Friedman (H&F) for a total cash consideration of $2.8 billion, inclusive of debt assumption. Under the agreement, At Home shareholders will receive $36 in cash for each share held. HOME closed at $36.80.

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Berkshire Hathaway reports record profit

Buffett also said in his annual shareholder letter to “never bet against America.”

Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.A, BRK.B) fourth quarter profits rose, with its net earnings rising to $38.5B, or $23,015 a Class A share equivalent, up almost 23% from the previous year’s profit of $29.2B, or $17,909 a share.

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Operating earnings, which exclude some investment results, rose to $5 billion from $4.4 billion the year before.

Buffett also said in his annual shareholder letter to “never bet against America.”

“In its brief 232 years of existence… there has been no incubator for unleashing human potential like America,” he added.

“Despite some severe interruptions, our country’s economic progress has been breathtaking. Our unwavering conclusion: Never bet against America.” Buffett said the conglomerate owns the biggest amount of U.S. assets by value than any other company in the country.

Berkshire Hathaway also bought back a record amount of company stock last year. During the fourth quarter, the company bought back about $9B shares for a total 2020 repurchase of $24.7B.

Buffett said in his annual shareholder letter that repurchases have continued since year-end and “is likely to further reduce its share count in the future.”

“That action increased your ownership in all of Berkshire’s businesses by 5.2% without requiring you to so much as touch your wallet,” the letter reads.

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Mohawk shares tumble on investors lawsuit

Mississippi Retirement System sues the carpet maker

In January, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi filed a lawsuit claiming accounting fraud at Mohawk (MHK). The suit did not get a lot of attention at the time, but new filings submitted in late June add significant details about the allegations.

According to analysts, the filing includes testimony from a former Mohawk employee who claims the company has used fictitious sales to artificially boost revenue since 2017.

JPMorgan

JPMorgan analyst Michael Rehaut noted earlier that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi, as part of a consolidated class action complaint filing dated June 29, gave “significant incremental details” regarding claims that Mohawk engaged in channel stuffing at the end of the quarter and intentionally overproduced product.

MPERS sues Mohawk Industries

While “the veracity of these accusations will likely not be determined until after an extended legal process” of several months if not longer, Rehaut sees the lawsuit as likely to remain an overhang on the stock until this matter concludes.

He also sees the “fairly granular level of detail across the allegations” and quotes from interviews with several former employees creating a higher level of risk for the company from this lawsuit, added the analyst, who keeps a Neutral rating on Mohawk shares.

SunTrust

A shareholder lawsuit filed earlier this year has recently added new court filings that allege multiple issues inside Mohawk Industries, the most damaging allegation being its revenue recognition practices which included shipping goods on the last day of the quarter and then having those as returns in the following quarter, SunTrust analyst Keith Hughes tells investors in a research note.

The allegations being made during the company’s quiet period “have hamstrung any response,” says Hughes, who admits “it is hard to say as an outsider whether these have merit at this point.” However, given the size of Mohawk, it would need “widespread practices to boost revenues via the method” alleged, adds the analyst, who keeps a Buy rating on Mohawk with a $119 price target.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo analyst Truman Patterson notes that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi has filed a Class Action Complaint against Mohawk and CEO Jeff Lorberbaum, claiming the company engaged in a “fraudulent scheme to fabricate revenues through fictitious ‘sales’ of products that were not delivered to customers and to conceal from investors the true reasons for the company’s ballooning inventory,” damaging shareholders between April 2017 and July 2019.

While Mohawk stakeholders have known about the lawsuit since early January, filings have only recently become publicly available, which the analyst believes drove shares down on Wednesday. Patterson expresses no opinion on the validity of the allegations against the company, but acknowledges that they would clearly be a negative if proven to be true, likely damaging shareholder confidence in management. The analyst has an Underweight rating and an $80 price target on the stock.

The stock is down 19% to $74.10. The question now shifts to whether the allegations will result in a full SEC investigation.

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Anixter sold for $4.5 billion

Wesco to acquire Anixter in cash, stock deal valued at $4.5B

WESCO (WCC) and Anixter (AXE) announced that their boards of directors have unanimously approved a definitive merger agreement under which WESCO will acquire Anixter in a transaction valued at approximately $4.5 billion.

Anixter’s prior agreement to be acquired by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, has been terminated, following CD&R’s waiver of its matching rights under the agreement.

Under the terms of the agreement, each share of Anixter common stock will be converted into the right to receive $70.00 in cash, 0.2397 shares of WESCO common stock and preferred stock consideration valued at $15.89, based on the value of its liquidation preference.

Based on the closing price of WESCO’s common stock on January 10 and the liquidation preference of the WESCO preferred stock consideration, the total consideration represents approximately $100 per Anixter share, giving effect to the downside protection described below.

Based on transaction structure and the number of shares of WESCO and Anixter common stock currently outstanding, it is anticipated that WESCO stockholders will own 84%, and Anixter stockholders 16%, of the combined company.

The combined company will have pro forma 2019 revenues of approximately $17 billion.

With an extensive global reach and increased international exposure, approximately 12% of revenues will be generated outside of North America.

Anixter sold to Wesco, Stockwinners

The increased scale will enable the combined company to accelerate digitization strategies and provide a platform for growth in attractive emerging markets.

WESCO expects to realize annualized run-rate cost synergies of over $200 million by the end of year three through efficiencies in corporate and regional overhead, including duplicative public company costs, branch and distribution center optimization, and productivity in procurement, field operations, and supply chain. In addition, WESCO expects incremental sales growth opportunities to result by cross-selling the companies’ complementary product and services offerings to an expanded customer base and capitalizing on the enhanced capabilities across both networks.

The combination is expected to be accretive to WESCO’s earnings in the first full year of ownership and, with the realization of synergies, substantially accretive thereafter.

WESCO also expects the transaction to generate significant margin expansion and EPS growth.

The combined company will have strong free cash flow generation, supporting continued investments in the business and enabling a return of capital to stockholders in the future.

Wesco to buy Anixter, Stockwinners

At closing, WESCO estimates that its pro forma leverage on a net debt to EBITDA basis will be approximately 4.5x.

WESCO intends to utilize the strength of the combined company’s cash flows, including significant synergies, to reduce its leverage quickly and ultimately intends to be within its long-term target leverage range of 2.0x to 3.5x within 24 months post-close.

Under the terms of the agreement, each share of Anixter common stock will be converted into the right to receive $70.00 in cash, 0.2397 shares of WESCO common stock, and preferred stock consideration consisting of 0.6356 depositary shares, each whole share representing a fractional interest in a newly created series of WESCO perpetual preferred stock.

The common stock consideration is subject to downside protection, such that if the average market value of WESCO common stock prior to closing is between $47.10 per share and $58.88 per share, then the cash consideration paid at closing will be increased commensurately by up to $2.82 per share, such that the reduction in value of the WESCO common stock is offset by an increase in the cash consideration within that range. $2.82 per share will also be paid if the value of WESCO stock is below $47.10.

The preferred stock consideration consists of 0.6356 depositary shares, with each whole depositary share representing a 1/1,000th interest in a share of WESCO Series A cumulative perpetual preferred stock, with a liquidation preference of $25,000 per preferred share and a fixed dividend rate calculated based on a spread of 325 basis points over the prevailing unsecured notes to be issued to effect the transaction.

The fixed dividend rate will be subject to reset and the Series A preferred stock will have a five year non-call feature.

WESCO has agreed to list the depositary shares representing the newly created series of preferred stock on the NYSE, and the security is expected to receive equity treatment from the rating agencies.

The 0.6356 depositary share to be issued in the merger per share of Anixter common stock is valued at $15.89 based on the liquidation preference of the underlying interest in the Series A preferred stock represented thereby.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, WESCO may elect to substitute additional cash consideration to reduce the amount of the preferred stock consideration on a dollar-for-dollar basis based on the value of the liquidation preference of the preferred stock consideration. WESCO and Anixter currently anticipate completing the transaction during the second or third quarter of 2020.

WESCO International, Inc. distributes electrical, industrial, and communications maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) and original equipment manufacturers products and construction materials in North America and internationally. 

Anixter International Inc. distributes enterprise cabling and security solutions, electrical and electronic wire and cable solutions, and utility power solutions worldwide. 

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William Lyon Homes sold for $2.4B

Taylor Morrison to acquire William Lyon Homes for $21.45/share in cash and stock

Taylor Morrison Home (TMHC) and William Lyon Homes (WLH) announced they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Taylor Morrison will acquire all of the outstanding shares of William Lyon Homes common stock for per share consideration of $2.50 in cash and 0.800 shares of Taylor Morrison common stock, implying a company value for William Lyon Homes of $21.45 per share or $2.4B including assumption of debt.

William Lyon Homes sold for $2.4B in stock, Stockwinners

The transaction consideration mix consists of approximately 90% Taylor Morrison stock and 10% cash.

Based on current trading, Taylor Morrison stockholders will own approximately 77% of the combined company while William Lyon Homes stockholders will own approximately 23%.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both Taylor Morrison and William Lyon Homes and will be submitted to the stockholders of William Lyon Homes for approval.

Taylor Morrison Home buys William Lyon Homes to expand its footprint, Stockwinners

William Lyon Homes designs, constructs, markets, and sells single-family detached and attached homes in California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Texas. It sells its homes primarily to entry-level, first-time move-up, and second-time move-up homebuyers. 

Taylor Morrison Home Corporation operates as a public homebuilder in the United States. The company designs, builds, and sells single-family and multi-family attached and detached homes; and develops lifestyle and master-planned communities. It operates under the Taylor Morrison and Darling Homes brand names in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina and Texas. 

The issuance of shares of Taylor Morrison common stock in the transaction will also be submitted to the stockholders of Taylor Morrison for approval.

The transaction is expected to close late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2020 and the closing is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

William H. Lyon, executive chairman and chairman of the board and holder of approximately 42 percent of the voting power of William Lyon Homes common stock, has agreed to vote all of the shares of William Lyon Homes common stock controlled by him in support of the transaction.

“The strategic combination creates the nation’s fifth largest homebuilder based on the last 12 months of closings, and firmly places Taylor Morrison in a Top 5 position in 16 of the combined 23 markets with an estimated 14,200 closings for the pro forma combined company,” the companies stated.

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Anixter sold for $3.8 billion

Anixter to be acquired by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice for $81.00 per share in cash

Anixter (AXE) has entered into a definitive agreement with an affiliate of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice to be acquired in an all cash transaction valued at approximately $3.8B.

Anixter sold for $3.8B, Stockwinners

The transaction will result in Anixter becoming a private company and is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2020.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, CD&R-managed funds will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Anixter common stock for $81.00 per share in cash.

This represents a premium of approximately 13% over Anixter’s closing price on October 29, and a premium of approximately 27% over the 90-day volume-weighted average price of Anixter’s common stock for the period ended October 29.

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice buys Anixter, Stockwinners

Anixter International Inc. distributes enterprise cabling and security solutions, electrical and electronic wire and cable solutions, and utility power solutions worldwide. The company operates through Network & Security Solutions (NSS), Electrical & Electronic Solutions (EES), and Utility Power Solutions (UPS) segments. 

It is anticipated that upon completion of the transaction, Bill Galvin, along with other members of Anixter’s executive management team, will continue to lead the company.

Anixter’s Board of Directors has unanimously approved the agreement with CD&R and recommends that Anixter stockholders approve the proposed merger and merger agreement.

Anixter expects to hold a Special Meeting of Stockholders to consider and vote on the proposed merger and merger agreement as soon as practicable after the mailing of the proxy statement to its stockholders.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Anixter may solicit superior proposals from third parties for a period of 40 calendar days continuing through December 9, 2019.

In accordance with the merger agreement, Anixter’s Board of Directors, with the assistance of its advisors, intends to solicit superior proposals during this period.

In addition, Anixter may, at any time, subject to the provisions of the merger agreement, respond to unsolicited proposals that are reasonably likely to result in a superior proposal.

Anixter advises that there can be no assurance that the solicitation process will result in an alternative transaction.

To the extent that a superior proposal received prior to December 9, 2019 or, in certain circumstances, 10 days thereafter leads to the execution of a definitive agreement, Anixter would be obligated to pay a $45M break-up fee to CD&R.

Anixter does not intend to disclose developments with respect to this solicitation process unless and until it determines it is appropriate to do so.

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Milacron sold for $2 billion

Hillenbrand to acquire Milacron in cash, stock deal valued around $2B

Milacron sold for $2 billion, Stockwinners

Hillenbrand (HI) and Milacron (MCRN) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Hillenbrand will acquire Milacron in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $2B, including net debt of approximately $686M as of March 31.

Under the terms of the agreement, which has been unanimously approved by the boards of both companies, Milacron stockholders will receive $11.80 in cash and a fixed exchange ratio of 0.1612 shares of Hillenbrand common stock for each share of Milacron common stock they own.

Based on Hillenbrand’s closing stock price on July 11, the last trading day prior to the announcement, the implied cash and stock consideration to be received by Milacron stockholders is $18.07 per share, representing a premium of approximately 34% to Milacron’s closing stock price on July 11, and a premium of approximately 38% to Milacron’s 30-day volume-weighted average price as of the close on July 11.

Hillenbrand pays $2 billion to buy one of its suppliers, Stockwinners

Upon closing, Hillenbrand shareholders will own approximately 84% of the combined company, and Milacron stockholders will own approximately 16%.

Milacron will benefit from the Hillenbrand Operating Model, or HOM, and Hillenbrand expects to leverage Milacron’s global shared services center to drive operational efficiency.

The transaction is expected to generate annualized, run-rate cost synergies of approximately $50M within three years following close, primarily through reducing public company costs, realizing operating efficiencies, and capturing direct and indirect spend opportunities.

The transaction is also expected to generate revenue synergies, driven by opportunities to cross-sell extruder and material handling equipment, and to leverage the combined service footprint to further penetrate the product aftermarket.

These efficiencies will be driven across the combined organization through utilizing the HOM, while maintaining a commitment to serving customers with excellence and innovation.

The transaction, which is expected to close in Q1 of 2020, is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, including the approval of stockholders of Milacron.

About the Companies

Hillenbrand, Inc. operates as a diversified industrial company in the United States and internationally. The company operates in two segments, Process Equipment Group and Batesville. The Process Equipment Group segment designs, engineers, manufactures, markets, and services process and material handling equipment and systems for various industries, including plastics, food and pharmaceuticals, chemicals, fertilizers, minerals and mining, energy, wastewater treatment, forest products, and other general industrials.

Milacron Holdings Corp. manufactures, distributes, and services engineered and customized systems within the plastic technology and processing industry in the United States and internationally. 

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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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ModSpace sold for $1.1 billion

Williams Scotsman to acquire ModSpace for approx. $1.1B

ModSpace sold for $1.1 billion, Stockwinners
ModSpace sold for $1.1 billion, Stockwinners

WillScot Corporation (WSC) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Modular Space Holdings, the parent holding company of Modular Space Corporation, for an enterprise value of approximately $1.1B. Williams Scotsman will indirectly acquire MS Holdings for a purchase price comprising $1,063,750,000 of cash consideration, 6,458,500 shares of WSC Class A common stock and warrants to purchase 10,000,000 shares of WSC Class A common stock at an exercise price of $15.50 per share, subject to customary adjustments.

The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close in 3Q18.

ModSpace, a privately-owned provider of office trailers, portable storage units and modular buildings, had approximately $1.1B of total assets as of March 31, 2018.

ModSpace generated $453M of total revenue, $18M of net income and $106M of Adjusted EBITDA for the twelve months ended March 31, 2018. Once combined, Williams Scotsman will have over 160,000 modular space and portable storage units serving a diverse customer base from approximately 120 locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Williams Scotsman expects to capture $60M in annual cost synergies after integration, with approximately 80% of the forecast synergies expected to be realized on a full run-rate basis by the end of 2019.

Williams Scotsman also expects to benefit from the net operating tax loss carryforwards to be acquired in the transaction, and for the transaction to be accretive to earnings in 2019.

Williams Scotsman expects to expand its “Ready to Work” value proposition across the ModSpace fleet and customer base, a strategy that has driven double-digit organic Adjusted EBITDA growth in Williams Scotsman’s U.S. Modular segment in recent years and proven successful in Williams Scotsman’s acquisitions of Acton Mobile and Tyson Onsite.

Until the transaction closes, both companies will operate independently and execute on their respective strategic priorities. Williams Scotsman has secured committed financing to fund the transaction, which includes an amendment and expansion of its existing revolving ABL credit facility to $1.35B with an accordion feature allowing up to $1.8B of total capacity, a $280M secured bridge credit facility, and $320M unsecured bridge credit facility.

Williams Scotsman expects the permanent financing plan to include a combination of long-term debt and equity or equity-linked securities.

WSC closed at $12.15, it last traded at $14.10.


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A.V. Homes sold for $963 million

Taylor Morrison to acquire A.V. Homes for $21.50 per share

A.V. Homes sold for $963 million, Stockwinners
A.V. Homes sold for $963 million

Taylor Morrison Home (TMHC) and AV Homes (AVHI) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Taylor Morrison will acquire all of the outstanding shares of AV Homes common stock at $21.50 per share in a cash and stock transaction valued, including outstanding AV Homes debt, at approximately $963M.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of both Taylor Morrison and AV Homes and will be submitted to the stockholders of AV Homes for approval.

The transaction is expected to close late in Q3 or early in Q4 and the closing is subject to customary closing conditions. TPG Capital, the holder of approximately 40% of AV Homes common stock, has agreed to vote all of its shares of AV Homes common stock in favor of the transaction.

Under the terms of the agreement, AV Homes stockholders will have the option to receive, at their election, consideration per share equal to $21.50 in cash, 0.9793 shares of Taylor Morrison Class A common stock or the combination of $12.64 in cash and 0.4034 shares of Taylor Morrison Class A common stock, subject to an overall proration of approximately 60% cash and 40% stock.

On a pro forma basis, AV Homes stockholders are expected to own up to approximately 10% of the combined company, subject to conversion mechanics applicable to holders of AV Homes’ convertible notes.

AVHI closed at $16.50.


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Carbon-free aluminum smelting process now a reality

Alcoa, Rio Tinto, Apple  announce ‘world’s first’ carbon-free aluminum smelting process 

carbon-free aluminum smelting process; Stockwinners
carbon-free aluminum smelting process; 

Alcoa (AA) and Rio Tinto (RIO) announced what the companies called “a revolutionary process to make aluminum that produces oxygen and eliminates all direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process.”

carbon-free aluminum smelting process, Stockwinners
carbon-free aluminum smelting process, Stockwinners

To advance larger scale development and commercialization of the new process, Alcoa and Rio Tinto are forming Elysis, a joint venture company to further develop the new process with a technology package planned for sale beginning in 2024.

carbon-free aluminum smelting process, Stockwinners
carbon-free aluminum smelting process, Stockwinners

Apple (AAPL) is also investing in the venture. Apple said that its involvement with the new process started in 2015, when Apple engineers came across the new technology at Alcoa in Pittsburgh when looking for a cleaner way to mass-produce aluminum. They were able to get Rio Tinto on board, and three years later, the three companies have formed a joint venture.

Elysis, which will be headquartered in Montreal with a research facility in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, will develop and license the technology so it can be used to retrofit existing smelters or build new facilities. Canada and Quebec are each investing C$60M in Elysis.

The provincial government of Quebec will have a 3.5% equity stake in the joint venture with the remaining ownership split evenly between Alcoa and Rio Tinto. Apple is providing an investment of C$13M.

The company helped facilitate the collaboration between Alcoa and Rio Tinto on the carbon-free smelting process, and Apple has agreed to provide technical support to the JV partners.

Aluminum has been mass produced the same way since 1886, when it was pioneered by Alcoa’s founder, Charles Hall. The process involves applying a strong electrical current to alumina, which removes oxygen. Both Hall’s original experiments and today’s largest smelters use a carbon material that burns during the process, producing greenhouse gases.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto will invest C$55M cash over the next three years and contribute specific intellectual property and patents.

The patent-protected technology, developed by Alcoa, is currently producing metal at the Alcoa Technical Center, near Pittsburgh in the United States, where the process has been operating at different scales since 2009.

The joint venture intends to invest up to C$40M in the United States, which would include funding to support the supply chain for the proprietary anode and cathode materials.


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Gebr. Knauf offers to acquire USG for $42 per share

Gebr. Knauf offers to acquire USG for $42 per share

 Gebr. Knauf offers to acquire USG for $42 per share. Stockwinners.com
Gebr. Knauf offers to acquire USG for $42 per share.

In a regulatory filing, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) disclosed that from time to time, beginning many years ago, executives of Gebr. Knauf Verwaltungsgesellschaft KG, or “Gebr. Knauf,” have contacted Berkshire’s Chief Executive Officer to describe the Knauf Entities’ potential and conditional interest in a transaction with USG.

Most recently, the Knauf Entities furnished Berkshire a copy of a letter from Gebr. Knauf to USG dated March 15, 2018 in which Gebr. Knauf submitted an indicative and non-binding proposal for the acquisition of 100% of the outstanding shares of Common Stock of USG at $42.00 per share.

“On March 23, 2018 Berkshire’s CEO and another Berkshire executive held a telephonic discussion with two executives of the Knauf Entities and three representatives of one of the advisors of the Knauf Entities, during which Berkshire proposed to grant to the Knauf Entities an option to purchase all of the Berkshire Entities’ shares of Common Stock of USG, subject to legal review.

Such option would be exercisable only in connection with the consummation of a purchase by the Knauf Entities of all of the outstanding shares of Common Stock of USG that the Knauf Entities did not already own, at a price of not less than $42.00 per share, subject to and in accordance with applicable law and contractual restrictions.

The option exercise price per share was proposed by Berkshire to be the price per share paid to such other holders of Common Stock of USG by the Knauf Entities, less the option purchase price of $2.00 per share to be paid to the Berkshire Entities upon entering into a definitive option agreement.

The option would have a term of approximately 6 months.

The Knauf Entities have not responded to this proposal, and the Reporting Persons do not know whether the Knauf Entities will pursue further discussion with Berkshire of the proposed option or will make an offer to purchase shares of Common Stock of USG.

Berkshire has not agreed to support any plan or proposal by the Knauf Entities with respect to the Common Stock of USG, and there are no agreements, written or otherwise, between the Reporting Persons and the Knauf Entities.”

USG closed at $33.51.


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House Republicans sign letter expressing ‘deep concern’ over Trump tariffs

House Republicans sign letter expressing ‘deep concern’ over Trump tariffs

divided-gop over Trump tariff, Stockwinners
GOP divided over Trump tariffs,

Over 100 House Republicans have signed a letter to the White House expressing “deep concern” over potential tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.

divided-gop over Trump tariff, Stockwinners
GOP divided over Trump tariffs,

Representative Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote in the letter that, while the GOP lawmakers “support” President Trump’s “resolve to address distortions caused by China’s unfair practices,” they urge him to “reconsider the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences to the U.S. economy and its workers.”

The letter says that “key elements” are required to minimize any negative consequences associated with the proposed tariffs, namely that any relief should be “narrow” and that a robust exclusion process should be announced at the outset that allows U.S. companies to petition for and promptly obtain duty-free access for imports that are unavailable from U.S. sources or otherwise present extenuating circumstances.

In addition, the lawmakers believe that existing contracts to purchase aluminum or steel should be “grandfathered to allow duty-free imports and avoid disrupting the operations and finances of projects that are already budgeted and underway.”

Lastly, the letter says that the effects of this remedy on the U.S. economy should be “reviewed and reconsidered” on a short-term basis to determine if another approach would be better. Publicly traded metal producers include U.S. Steel (X), Century Aluminum (CENX), Alcoa (AA), and AK Steel (AKS).


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TopBuild to acquire United Subcontractors for $475M

TopBuild to acquire United Subcontractors for $475M in cash

TopBuild to acquire United Subcontractors. Stockwinners.com
TopBuild to acquire United Subcontractors

TopBuild (BLD) has entered into an agreement to acquire United Subcontractors in an all-cash transaction valued at $475M.

The company expects to finance the acquisition using a combination of debt financing and cash on hand.USI is a leading provider of insulation installation and distribution services to the residential and commercial construction markets, generating pro forma annual revenue of approximately $375M in 2017 and an adjusted EBITDA margin of 12.5%.

It has a diversified product and service offering including fiberglass, spray foam and window and glass installation.

Founded in 1998 and headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, USI has 38 locations in 14 states, including high growth regions in the Pacific Northwest, Mountain West, Southwest and Southeast.

TopBuild expects to achieve cost savings of $15M, with approximately $5M-$10M expected in the first full year after closing and the full run-rate by the end of year two after closing.

On a December 31, 2017 pro forma basis, inclusive of expected run rate synergies of $15 million, the combined company had revenue of $2.3 billion, adjusted EBITDA of $259 million, almost 10,000 employees and close to 300 installation and distribution locations.

The Company plans to fund this transaction using proceeds from a $350 million bond issuance, $100 million from a delayed draw term loan commitment currently available under its existing secured credit facility and $25 million from cash on hand or drawings under its revolving credit facility.

In the event the bond market terms are not attractive to the Company at the time of execution, the Company would expect to finance the transaction with secured bank debt.

At the close of the transaction, the Company’s net debt to pro forma adjusted EBITDA implies a multiple of 2.9 times pre-synergies, or 2.8 times post-synergies.

The transaction, which has been approved by TopBuild’s Board of Directors, is subject to customary closing conditions, including expiration or termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.

The Company expects the transaction to close in the second quarter of 2018.

TopBuild Corp. engages in the installation, distribution, and sale of insulation and other building products to the United States construction industry. The company operates in two segments, Installation and Distribution.

BLD closed at $68.00.


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Barron’s in bullish on Citi, bearish on GE

Barron’s, the weekly publication owned by the Wall Street Journal, in its latest issue mentions several names:

Stockwinners offers Barron's review of Stockwinners offers stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earnings, Stocks to Buy On Margin
Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy, stocks to watch

BULLISH   MENTIONS: 

Hovnanian (HOV) stock too cheap to ignore- Hovnanian Enterprises offers an interesting speculative bet, because more than a decade’s worth of problems are reflected in the price, Brett Arends writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. A successful resolution of its legal issues, a corporate turnaround, a takeover, or a continued recovery in the U.S. real estate market are all potential catalysts, he adds.

JPMorgan, Walmart cash flow yields exceed dividend yields – The cash flow yields of JPMorgan (JPM), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Walmart (WMT), Pfizer (PFE), Cisco (CSCO), AbbVie (ABBV), PepsiCo (PEP), 3M (MMM), Bristol-Myers (BMY), United Technologies (UTX), Texas Instruments (TXN) and Abbott Laboratories (ABT) exceed their dividend yields, a good signal for dividend coverage and growth, Lawrence Strauss writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s.

Alphabet, Citi well positioned for later stages of market rally – It is time for investors to think about how and when bull markets end, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Groups to favor now include financials, which benefit from rising interest rates, and industrials, he notes, adding that technology still looks attractive. Alphabet (GOOG; GOOGL), Lam Research (LRCX), Citigroup (C), and Cummins (CMI) are all well positioned for the later stages of a long market rally, Hough contends.

Bears, bulls battle over Under Armour – In a follow-up story, Barron’s says that Under Armour (UA) reported fourth quarter revenue that beat Wall Street’s estimate, but is difficult to tell whether the revenue upside represents a turning point for the business. Bulls and bears both found something to support their arguments, as revenue increased but gross margin declined while inventories swelled and store count rose 22%, the report notes.

BEARISH  MENTION:

General Electric stock could drop another 10% – General Electric (GE) lost $6B in 2017 after a series of charges and impairments, cut its dividend by 50%, and its accounting is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, but lately it has been attracting fresh attention from value-oriented investors, Andrew Bary writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Nonetheless, the stock is not a bargain and could drop another 10% or more, he contends


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