Allergan sold for $63 billion

AbbVie to acquire Allergan in cash, stock deal valued around $63B

Watch Allergan into better botox data. See Stockwinners.com
Allergan sold for $63 billion, Stockwinners

AbbVie (ABBV) and Allergan (AGN) announced that the companies have entered into a definitive transaction agreement under which AbbVie will acquire Allergan in a cash and stock transaction for a transaction equity value of approximately $63B, based on the closing price of AbbVie’s common stock of $78.45 on June 24.

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Abbvie to pay $63B to buy Allergan, Stockwinners

Upon completion of the transaction, AbbVie will continue to be incorporated in Delaware as AbbVie Inc. and have its principal executive offices in North Chicago, IL.

AbbVie will continue to be led by Richard Gonzalez as chairman and CEO.

Two members of Allergan’s board, including chairman and CEO, Brent Saunders, will join AbbVie’s board upon completion of the transaction.

Under the terms of the Transaction Agreement, Allergan Shareholders will receive 0.8660 AbbVie Shares and $120.30 in cash for each Allergan Share that they hold, for a total consideration of $188.24 per Allergan Share.

The transaction represents a 45% premium to the closing price of Allergan’s Shares on June 24.

AbbVie anticipates that the Acquisition will provide annual pre-tax synergies and other cost reductions of at least $2B in year three while leaving investments in key growth franchises untouched.

The synergies and other cost reductions will be a result of optimizing the research and early stage portfolio, and reducing overlapping R&D resources, driving efficiencies in SG&A, including sales and marketing and central support function costs, and eliminating redundancies in manufacturing and supply chain, and leveraging procurement spend.

The synergies estimate excludes any potential revenue synergies.

AbbVie is expected to generate significant annual operating cash flow, which will support a debt reduction target of $15B to $18B before the end of 2021, while also enabling a continued commitment to Baa2/BBB or better credit rating and continued dividend growth.

It is expected that, immediately after the closing of the Acquisition, AbbVie Shareholders will own approximately 83% of AbbVie on a fully diluted basis and the Allergan Shareholders will own approximately 17% of AbbVie on a fully diluted basis.

PIPER COMMENTS

Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Raymond said his first reaction to the deal could be summed up with the phrase “two turkeys don’t make an eagle,” but he is “willing to listen” despite his skepticism about the transaction.

Though he cannot say he is “excited at the prospect of AbbVie entering the field of medical aesthetics,” EPS accretion of 10% in year one and over 20% at peak, and the potential for meaningful deleveraging and cost cutting, has his attention, Raymond said. He keeps a Neutral rating on AbbVie based on his initial reaction to the deal announcement.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo analyst David #Maris said he views the deal as a good alternative for Allergan versus the current share price, but he is not convinced its a better long term alternative given the eventual biosimilar threat to Abbvie’s blockbuster drug Humira.

With that said, Maris tells investors that “deals at such premiums are rarely killed because of a bad strategic fit or longer -term value outlook in the absence of other bidders.” Though he would not completely rule out an activist investor disrupting the deal, he thinks it is unlikely given there has been a strategic review of the company for some time. Maris, who said he thinks the deal could go through, keeps an Outperform rating on Allergan shares.

Leerink 

SVB Leerink analyst Marc Goodman is not surprise that one of the large pharma companies has made a bid on Allergan (AGN) given the multi-year stock weakness.

However, he believes a $188 price is “too low,” as he “can’t believe that Allergan is not being taken out at least at $200,” which “begs the question” whether this was a process or is AbbVie (ABBV) “opportunistically pursuing a wounded stock.” If it is the latter, Goodman believes this bid could initiate others to pursue Allergan as well. He has an Outperform rating on Allegan’s shares.

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US Ecology and NRC Group to merge

US Ecology, NRC Group to merge in all-stock transaction

US Ecology and NRC Group to merge, Stockwinners

US Ecology (ECOL) announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with NRC Group Holdings (NRCG) in an all-stock transaction with an enterprise value of $966M.

U.S. Ecology and NRC Group to merge, Stockwinners

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter and is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, respective stockholder approvals and other customary closing conditions.

The transaction will create a nationwide leader in industrial and hazardous waste management services and is projected to be mid-single digit accretive to US Ecology’s 2020 adjusted earnings per share, before synergies.

The transaction has been approved by both companies’ Boards of Directors.

Upon completion of the transaction, US Ecology stockholders will own approximately 70% of the combined company, and NRCG stockholders will own approximately 30% on a fully diluted basis.

The combined company will use the US Ecology name, and its shares will continue to be listed on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker ECOL.

Jeffrey Feeler will continue to serve as President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors.

The company will maintain its headquarters in Boise, Idaho with regional support centers in Boise, Detroit, New York and Houston.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, US Ecology will form a new holding company which will take the name of US Ecology, Inc. immediately upon the closing of the transaction and will own both US Ecology and NRCG.

US Ecology stockholders will receive 1 share of common stock of the new holding company for each share of US Ecology common stock they own upon closing of the transaction.

NRCG common stockholders will receive 0.196 shares of common stock of the new holding company for each share of NRCG common stock they own upon closing of the transaction.

The exchange ratio represents a price of $12.00 per share of NRCG stock, based on the US Ecology average share price over the last 15-trading days.

The $12.00 price per share represents a premium of approximately 36% to NRCG’s June 21 closing price of $8.83.

Each share of NRCG’s 7.00% Series A Convertible Cumulative Preferred Stock is expected to be converted in the merger into approximately 1.8 common shares of the new holding company.

NRCG’s 19.249M outstanding Warrants to purchase NRCG common stock will be converted to 3.773M Warrants to purchase common stock of the new holding company, with a strike price of $58.67 each.

The transaction will provide NRCG stockholders with continued participation in the future prospects expected to result from the combination through their ownership of approximately 30% of the stock of the new holding company, on a fully diluted basis.

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Nanometrics and Rudolph Technologies to merge

Nanometrics, Rudolph Technologies to combine in an all-stock merger of equals

Nanometrics and Rudolph to merge, Stockwinners

Nanometrics (NANO) and Rudolph Technologies, Inc. (RTEC) announced that they have agreed to combine in an all-stock merger of equals transaction.

Nanometrics and Rudolph Technologies to merge, Stockwinners

Nanometrics Incorporated provides process control metrology and inspection systems for use primarily in the fabrication of semiconductors and other solid-state devices, and industrial and scientific applications worldwide.

Rudolph Technologies, Inc. designs, develops, manufactures, and supports process control defect inspection and metrology, advanced packaging lithography, and process control software systems used by microelectronic device manufacturers. 

The merged company will be a premier end-to-end metrology, inspection, process control software, and lithography equipment provider for the semiconductor industry and other advanced markets.

Under the terms of the agreement, which was unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, Rudolph stockholders will receive 0.8042 shares of Nanometrics common stock for each Rudolph share.

Upon completion of the merger, current Nanometrics stockholders will own approximately 50% and current Rudolph stockholders will own approximately 50% of the combined company.

Rudolph CEO Michael Plisinski will serve as Chief Executive Officer and Rudolph CFO Steven Roth will serve as Chief Financial Officer of the combined company, alongside a highly experienced leadership team comprised of executives from both companies.

The Board of Directors will be led by Nanometrics director Christopher Seams and will have 12 directors, consisting of six from each existing Board.

The combined company will be headquartered in Wilmington, Massachusetts and will maintain a strong presence at Nanometrics’ headquarters in Milpitas, California.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of 2019, subject to the completion of customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals, and approval by the stockholders of each company.

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HP Enterprise to acquire Cray for $35 per share

HP Enterprise to acquire Cray in deal valued at $1.3B

HP Enterprise to buy Cray Research, Stockwinners

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Cray (CRAY) announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which HPE will acquire Cray for $35.00 per share in cash, in a transaction valued at approximately $1.3B, net of cash.

Cray Inc. designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and services computing products for high-performance computing, data analytics, and AI markets. It operates through Supercomputing, Storage and Data Management, Maintenance and Support, and Engineering Services and Other segments. 

Cray sold to HPE for $1.3 billion, Stockwinners

“Bringing together HPE and Cray enables an enhanced financial profile for the combined company that includes several revenue growth opportunities and cost synergies.

The companies expect the combination to drive significant revenue growth opportunities by:

Capitalizing on the growing HPC segment of the market and Exascale opportunities; Enhancing HPE’s customer base with a complementary footprint in federal business and academia and the company’s ability to accelerate commercial supercomputing adoption; Introducing new offerings in AI / ML and HPC-as-a-service with HPE GreenLake; We also expect to deliver significant cost synergies through efficiencies and by leveraging proprietary Cray technology, like the Slingshot interconnect, to lower costs and improve product performance.”

As a result of the enhanced financial profiles of the combined companies, the deal is expected to be accretive to HPE non-GAAP operating profit and earnings in the first full year following the close.

As part of the transaction, HPE expects to incur one-time integration costs that will be absorbed within HPE’s FY20 free cash flow outlook of $1.9B-$2.1B that remains unchanged.

The transaction is expected to close by the first quarter of HPE’s fiscal year 2020, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

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Tesla higher after raising money

Tesla offers $650M of shares, $1.35B of notes to ‘strengthen’ balance sheet

Tesla Model 3 named Popular Mechanics' Car of the Year
Tesla higher after raising money, Stockwinners

Tesla (TSLA) confirmed in a press release that it disclosed this morning offerings of $650M of common stock and $1.35B aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes due in 2024 in concurrent underwritten registered public offerings.

In addition, Tesla has granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 15% of each offering.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, will participate by purchasing $10M of common stock.

The aggregate gross proceeds of the offerings, assuming full exercise by the underwriters of their option to purchase additional securities, would be approximately $2.3B before discounts and expenses.

Concurrently with this offering of common stock and pursuant to a separate prospectus supplement, Tesla is offering convertible senior notes due 2024 to the public in an aggregate principal amount of $1.35B, or $1.55B if the underwriters for the concurrent convertible notes offering exercise in full their option to purchase additional notes.

Tesla intends to use the net proceeds from the offerings to “further strengthen its balance sheet, as well as for general corporate purposes.”

The notes in the offering will be convertible into cash and/or shares of Tesla’s common stock at Tesla’s election. The interest rate, conversion price and other terms of the notes are to be determined.

Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are acting as lead joint book-running managers for the offering, with BofA Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank Securities, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse acting as additional book-running managers, and Societe Generale and Wells Fargo Securities acting as co-managers.

Wolfe Research

#Wolfe Research analyst Daniel Galves downgraded Tesla to Peer Perform from Outperform and cut his price target for the shares to $265 from $375. Tesla’s product is “truly differentiated” with a multi-year sustainable advantage in long-range electric powertrains and highly-assisted driving, Galves told investors in a research note. However, the analyst says it is now clear that “broad consumer awareness doesn’t happen overnight.”

In the interim, he believes shares of Tesla will be driven by investor confidence in the company’s medium-term demand and earnings power. And #Galves no longer has confidence in substantial free cash flow at Tesla until its Model 3 volumes rise to 7,000 per week. As such, the analyst moves to the sidelines saying he can no longer recommend the shares.

Shares of Tesla are up 4%, or $9.09, to $243.55 in Thursday’s trading following the news.

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Mustang Bio soars on its gene therapy data

NEJM reports ‘medical breakthrough’ in Mustang Bio cell and gene therapy

Mustang Bio (MBIO) announced that the New England Journal of Medicine has published data from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the nation’s “leading hospital” for understanding, treating and curing childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Mustang Bio soars on its gene therapy data, Stockwinners

The data comes from a Phase 1/2 clinical trial of a lentiviral gene therapy for the treatment of newly diagnosed infants under two years old with XSCID, also referred to as SCID-X1 and commonly known as “bubble boy disease.”

Under a licensing agreement with St. Jude, Mustang will develop the lentiviral gene therapy for commercial use as MB-107.

The multi-center Phase 1/2 clinical trial is evaluating the safety and efficacy of a lentiviral vector to transfer a normal copy of the IL2RG gene to bone marrow stem cells in newly diagnosed infants under the age of two with XSCID, preceded by low exposure-targeted busulfan conditioning.

A total of 10 infants have received the therapy to date in this clinical trial. Among the data highlights, bone marrow harvest, busulfan conditioning and cell infusion were well tolerated.

In seven of the eight cases, normalization of naive T-cell and natural killer cell numbers occurred within three to four months after treatment, accompanied by vector marking in T, B, NK and myeloid cells and marrow progenitors.

All patients cleared previous infections and are growing normally. Seven of the eight infants treated have developed normal IgM levels to date.

Most patients were discharged from the hospital within one month.

Data Highlights:

  • Bone marrow harvest, busulfan conditioning and cell infusion were well tolerated.
  • In seven of the eight cases, normalization of CD3+, CD4+ and CD4+ naïve T-cell and natural killer (“NK”) cell numbers occurred within three to four months after treatment, accompanied by vector marking in T, B, NK and myeloid cells and marrow progenitors.
    • The eighth infant had insufficient T cells initially, but normalization of T cells occurred following an unconditioned boost of gene-corrected cells, and the patient is progressing favorably.
  • All patients cleared previous infections and are growing normally.
  • Seven of the eight infants treated have developed normal IgM levels to date.
    • Four of these seven infants have discontinued monthly infusions of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy to date.
    • Three of those four infants that discontinued monthly IVIG infusions have responded to vaccines to date.

MBIO closed at $2.66, it last traded at $8.91.

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Electronics for Imaging sold for $1.7 billion

Siris Capital affiliate to acquire Electronics for Imaging for $37.00 per share

Electronics for Imaging (EFII), or EFI, announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of Siris Capital in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.7B.

EFI sold for $1.7 billion, Stockwinners

Electronics for Imaging, Inc. provides industrial format display graphics, corrugated packaging and display, textile, and ceramic tile decoration digital inkjet printers worldwide. Its Industrial Inkjet segment offers VUTEk format display graphics, Nozomi corrugated packaging and display, Reggiani textile, and Cretaprint ceramic tile decoration and building material industrial digital inkjet printers; digital ultra-violet curable, light emitting diode curable, ceramic, water-based, thermoforming, and specialty inks; various textile inks, including dye sublimation, pigmented, reactive dye, acid dye, pure disperse dye, and water-based dispersed printing inks, as well as coatings; digital inkjet printer parts; and professional services. 

Under the terms of the agreement, which has been unanimously approved by EFI’s board, an affiliate of Siris will acquire all the outstanding common stock of EFI for $37.00 per share in cash.

The purchase price represents an approximately 45% premium over EFI’s 90-day volume-weighted average price ended on April 12. EFI may solicit alternative acquisition proposals from third parties during a “go-shop” period over the next 45 calendar days.

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

There is no guarantee that this process will result in a superior proposal and the agreement provides Siris with a customary right to attempt to match a superior proposal.

EFI does not intend to disclose developments with respect to the solicitation process unless and until it determines such disclosure is appropriate or is otherwise required.

EFI’s board has unanimously recommended that its shareholders adopt the agreement with Siris.

Subject to the go-shop, a special meeting of EFI’s shareholders will be held as soon as practicable following the filing of the definitive proxy statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and subsequent mailing to shareholders.

Subject to the go-shop, the proposed transaction is expected to close by Q3 and is subject to approval by EFI’s shareholders, along with the satisfaction of customary closing conditions including antitrust regulatory approvals.

The transaction is not subject to any financing conditions. Upon completion of the acquisition, EFI will become wholly owned by an affiliate of Siris.

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Altaba to dissolve itself

Altaba board approves plan of complete liquidation and dissolution

Altaba to dissolve itself, Stockwinners

Altaba (AABA) announced last night that the fund’s board of directors has approved the liquidation and dissolution of the fund pursuant to a plan of complete liquidation and dissolution, subject to stockholder approval.

Altaba Inc. is a non-diversified, closed-end management investment company based in New York City that was formed from the remains of Yahoo! Inc. after Verizon acquired Yahoo’s Internet business  The company that remained after the purchase changed its name to Altaba Inc. on June 16, 2017.

Verizon completed its acquisition of Yahoo!’s core internet business on June 13, 2017, and put the assets under a new subsidiary named Yahoo! Holdings within its newly created division, Oath.

The only Yahoo!-branded interest held by Altaba was its stake in the joint venture Yahoo! Japan but this stake has since been sold to SoftBank Group.

The fund intends to file a proxy statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with respect to a special meeting of stockholders to seek stockholder approval of the liquidation and dissolution pursuant to the plan.

Altaba said the fund “has pursued a number of strategies with the goal of achieving its investment objective, including by repurchasing the shares, both in the open market and through an exchange offer of American Depository Shares of Alibaba Group Holding Limited (BABA) and cash for shares, the simplification of the fund through the disposition of assets other than its position in Alibaba and the resolution of certain actual and contingent liabilities, and through other means.

After carefully considering the risks, timing, viability and potential impact on the fund’s stockholders of additional strategies potentially available to the fund to achieve its investment objective, as well as the recommendation of management, and in consultation with the fund’s advisors, the board unanimously determined that the liquidation and dissolution pursuant to the plan is advisable and in the best interests of the fund and its stockholders.

” If the liquidation and dissolution pursuant to the plan is approved by the fund’s stockholders, the fund expects to sell or otherwise dispose of all of the remaining ordinary shares and ADSs of Alibaba held by the fund, other than Alibaba ADSs, if any, to be distributed in kind, and its equity interests in Excalibur IP, to the extent any such assets have not been sold or disposed of by the fund before the special meeting, Altaba stated.

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FDA to hold hearing on cannabis products

FDA to hold hearing on potential regulatory pathways for cannabis products

FDA to evaluate cannabis use, Stockwinners

The FDA issued a statement from outgoing Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on new steps to advance the agency’s continued evaluation of potential regulatory pathways for cannabis-containing and cannabis-derived products, in which he stated in part:

“In recent years, we’ve seen a growing interest in the development of therapies and other FDA-regulated consumer products derived from cannabis and its components, including cannabidiol, or CBD…We also recognize that stakeholders are looking to the FDA for clarity on how our authorities apply to such products, what pathways are available to market such products lawfully under these authorities, and how the FDA is carrying out its responsibility to protect public health and safety with respect to such products.”

The FDA is announcing a number of new steps and actions to advance its consideration of a framework for the lawful marketing of appropriate cannabis and cannabis-derived products under its existing authorities, Gottlieb said.

These new steps include:

A public hearing on May 31, as well as a broader opportunity for written public comment, for stakeholders to share their experiences and challenges with these products, including information and views related to product safety;

The formation of a high-level internal agency working group to explore potential pathways for dietary supplements and/or conventional foods containing CBD to be lawfully marketed; including a consideration of what statutory or regulatory changes might be needed and what the impact of such marketing would be on the public health;

Updates to its webpage with answers to frequently asked questions on this topic to help members of the public understand how the FDA’s requirements apply to these products;

and the issuance of multiple warning letters to companies marketing CBD products with “egregious and unfounded claims that are aimed at vulnerable populations.”

Publicly traded companies in the cannabis space include Aphria (APHA), Aurora Cannabis (ACB), CV Sciences (CVSI), CannTrust Holdings (CNTTF), Canopy Growth (CGC), Cronos Group (CRON), General Cannabis (CANN), India Globalization Capital (IGC), MediPharm Labs (MLCPF) and Tilray (TLRY).

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Advaxis jumps on its prostate cancer drug data

Advaxis says ADXS-PSA in combination with KEYTRUDA prolonged survival in mCRPC

Advaxis jumps on its prostate cancer drug data, Stockwinners

Advaxis (ADXS) announced updated data from the Phase 1/2 KEYNOTE-046 study in metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Castrate-resistant prostate cancer refers to prostate cancer that keeps growing even when the amount of testosterone in the body is reduced to very low levels. Many early-stage prostate cancers need normal levels of testosterone to grow, but castrate-resistant prostate cancers do not. 

Androgens are required for normal growth and function of the prostate. Androgens are also necessary for prostate cancers to grow. Androgens promote the growth of both normal and cancerous prostate cells by binding to and activating the androgen receptor, a protein that is expressed in prostate cells Once activated, the androgen receptor stimulates the expression of specific genes that cause prostate cells to grow .

Early in their development, prostate cancers need relatively high levels of androgens to grow. Such prostate cancers are called castration sensitive, androgen dependent, or androgen sensitive because treatments that decrease androgen levels or block androgen activity can inhibit their growth.

This trial is being conducted in conjunction with Merck (MRK) and is evaluating ADXS-PSA, one of Advaxis’ Listeria monocytogenes-based immunotherapies, alone and in combination with KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy.

Findings will be highlighted in a poster discussion entitled “Effects of ADXS-PSA with or without Pembrolizumab on Survival and Antigen Spreading in Metastatic, Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer Patients” at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting underway in Atlanta.

KEYNOTE-046 is an open-label, multicenter, dose-determining safety and tolerability Phase 1/2 trial of 50 heavily pretreated patients conducted in two parts, with a Phase 2 expansion cohort. The objective of the study is to evaluate ADXS-PSA alone and in combination with KEYTRUDA for primary endpoints that include safety, tolerability and dosing.

Secondary endpoints include anti-tumor activity and progression-free survival, and exploratory endpoints include associations between biomarkers of immunologic response with clinical outcomes.

Key findings from the combination arm of KEYNOTE-046 include the following: The majority of treatment-related adverse events consisted of transient and reversible Grade 1-2 chills/rigors, fever, hypotension, nausea and fatigue.

The combination of ADXS-PSA and pembrolizumab has been well-tolerated, to date, with no additive toxicity observed. Median overall survival was 21.1 months at data cutoff in this dataset of 37 patients.

Correlative immune analyses showed T-cell responses against PSA in 75% of subjects and antigen spreading in 85% of subjects. Broader immune stimulation, including B-cell activation, was observed in the combination arm than in the ADXS-PSA monotherapy arm.

ADXS closed at $5.91, it last traded at $8.15. MRK closed at $83.17.

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Quantenna sold for $1.07 billion

ON Semiconductor to acquire Quantenna for $24.50 per share

Quantenna sold for $1.07 billion, Stockwinners

ON Semiconductor Corporation (ON) and Quantenna Communications, Inc. (QTNA) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement for ON Semiconductor to acquire Quantenna for $24.50 per share in an all cash transaction.

The acquisition consideration represents equity value of approximately $1.07B and enterprise value of approximately $936M, after accounting for Quantenna’s net cash of approximately $136M at the end of fourth quarter of 2018.

The acquisition significantly enhances ON Semiconductor’s connectivity portfolio with the addition of Quantenna’s industry leading Wi-Fi technology and software capabilities.

Following consummation, the transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to ON Semiconductor’s non-GAAP earnings per share and free cash flow, excluding any non-recurring acquisition related charges, the fair value step-up inventory amortization, and amortization of acquired intangibles.

The transaction is not subject to a financing condition. ON Semiconductor intends to fund the transaction through cash on hand and available capacity under its existing revolving credit facility.

Completion of the transaction is subject to approval by Quantenna’s stockholders, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

The transaction has been approved by ON Semiconductor’s and Quantenna’s boards of directors and is expected to close in the second half of 2019.

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

Note that QNTA was featured by Stockwinners on February 22 at $18.00.

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Zoosk sold for $255 million

Spark Networks to acquire Zoosk, sees adjusted EBITDA to exceed $50M in 2020

Spark Networks (LOV) announced its entry into a definitive agreement to acquire Zoosk.

Zoosk shareholders will receive $95 million in cash, Stockwinners

The combination will drive a meaningful increase in Spark’s scale, with over one million monthly paying subscribers across the two platforms. Spark expects the transaction to drive meaningful margin expansion in 2020 and beyond.

“Zoosk is one of the strongest dating apps in the North American market, which comprises half of the $5B global online dating opportunity,” said Jeronimo Folgueira, Chief Executive Officer of Spark Networks SE.

“Similarly, North America has been a key strategic market for Spark, and the focal point for our growth initiatives. Our deal with Zoosk creates the second largest online dating platform in North America and the second largest publicly-listed dating company in the world.

Spark buys Zoosk for $255 million, Stockwinners

Over the past 18 months, our management team has successfully integrated acquisitions and developed new brands. As a result of these efforts, our brand portfolio now includes SilverSingles, which continues to exceed our expectations, and the Christian Mingle, Jdate and JSwipe brands, which have all shown significant improvement since they were acquired in late 2017.

Our acquisition of Zoosk is the most transformative deal in our history, and we expect the transaction to immediately strengthen our position in the online dating market. With the increased scale that results from the combination, we see a clear path to profitability improvements and greater opportunity to invest in innovation and growth initiatives that will drive shareholder value.”

With the addition of Zoosk, Spark will more than double in size and the combined business will be considerably more valuable than the two stand-alone entities: Following the completion of its integration plans, Spark expects to drive significant Adjusted EBITDA margin expansion.

In 2020, Spark expects Adjusted EBITDA to exceed $50M. Under the terms of the agreement, Spark will acquire 100% of Zoosk’s shares with a combination of cash and stock valuing the company at approximately $255M based on the closing price of Spark Networks SE stock on March 20.

Spark will issue 12.98M American Depository Shares valued at approximately $150M based on the closing price of Spark Networks SE stock of $11.53 on March 20.

Additionally, Zoosk shareholders will receive net cash consideration of $95M at closing and $10M via a deferred cash payment in December 2020, which will be funded through a new $120M senior secured debt facility.

The transaction is expected to close early in the third quarter of 2019.

LOV closed at $11.90.

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Tribune to buy nineteen stations from Nexstar

Nexstar enters agreements to divest nineteen stations for $1.32B

Nexstar to sell 19 stations, Stockwinners

Nexstar Media Group (NXST) and Tribune Media Company (TRCO) announced that Nexstar has entered into definitive agreements to sell a total of nineteen stations in fifteen markets for an aggregate $1.32B in cash following the acquisition of Tribune Media by Nexstar.

Under the terms of the agreements, TEGNA Inc. (TGNA) will acquire eleven stations in eight markets for $740M and The E.W. Scripps Company (SSP) will acquire eight stations in seven markets for $580M.

Separately, Nexstar remains engaged in active negotiations to divest two stations in Indianapolis, Indiana. On December 3, 2018, Nexstar and Tribune Media entered into a definitive merger agreement whereby Nexstar will acquire all outstanding shares of Tribune Media.

Nexstar agrees to acquire Tribune Media, Stockwinners
Nexstar agrees to sell stations from Tribune, Stockwinners

The planned divestiture of nineteen stations reflects Nexstar’s stated intention to divest certain television stations in order to comply with the FCC local and national television ownership rules and to obtain FCC and Department of Justice approval of the proposed Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction.

Nexstar intends to use the net proceeds from the divestitures to fund the Tribune acquisition and to reduce debt.

Given that the net proceeds from the divestitures exceed those initially estimated at the time the transaction was announced, Nexstar now estimates that net leverage at the closing of the transaction will be reduced to approximately 5.1x.

The planned divestiture of the nineteen stations is subject to FCC approval, other regulatory approvals, the closing of the Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction and other customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed on, or about the time of, the closing of the Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction, which is expected later this year.

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Economy expanded at a moderate rate

Fed’s Beige Book says “economic activity continued to expand”



Fed’s Beige Book says economic activity continued to expand , Stockwinners


Fed’s Beige Book: “economic activity continued to expand in late January and February,” said the report.

But 10 Districts noted “slight-to-moderate” growth, with Philly and St Louis reporting flat conditions. That’s the most tepid characterization in sometime, as the more normal description has been “moderate” to “modest.”

About half of the Districts said the shutdown weighed on some sectors, including consumer spending was mixed, but in part due to “harsh winter weather and higher costs of credit.”

Manufacturing generally strengthened but “numerous” contacts worries about weaker global growth, higher costs due to tariffs, and continued trade policy uncertainty.

The service sector increased at a modest-to-moderate pace. Also, residential construction activity was steady or slightly higher in most of the U.S., but home sales were generally lower.

There was little change in the employment outlook, with employment increasing in most Districts, with “modest-to-moderate gains in a majority of Districts and steady to slightly higher employment in the rest.

Labor markets remained tight for all skill levels.

Wages continued to increase for both low- and high-skilled positions, and a majority of Districts reported increases were moderate.

And for prices, they continued to increase at a modest-to-moderate pace, “with several Districts noting faster growth for input prices than selling prices. The ability to pass on higher input costs to consumers varied by region and industry.”

The report (prepared by KC Fed with data collected on or before February 25) is consistent with the FOMC’s outlook for slower growth with tame inflation.

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Ascendis Pharma reports positive data, shares jump

Phase 3 heiGHt trial met primary objective in children with pediatric growth hormone deficiency

Ascendis Pharma (ASND) announced positive top-line results from the phase 3 heiGHt Trial, a randomized, open-label, active-controlled trial that compared once-weekly TransCon Growth Hormone to a daily growth hormone in children with pediatric growth hormone deficiency.

Ascendis Pharma reports positive data, shares jump, Stockwinners

The trial met its primary objective, demonstrating that TransCon hGH was observed to be non-inferior and, additionally, superior to the daily hGH on the primary endpoint of annualized height velocity at 52 weeks.

In the primary analysis of the intent-to-treat population using ANCOVA, TransCon hGH demonstrated an AHV of 11.2 cm/year compared to 10.3 cm/year for the daily hGH.

The treatment difference was 0.86 cm/year with a 95% confidence interval of 0.22 to 1.50 cm/year.

The AHV for TransCon hGH was significantly greater than the daily hGH.

The AHV was greater for TransCon hGH than for the daily hGH at each visit, with the treatment difference reaching statistical significance from and including week 26 onward.

The incidence of poor responders was 4% and 11% in the TransCon hGH and daily hGH arms, respectively. All sensitivity analyses completed from the trial support the primary outcome, indicating the robustness of these results.

Results from the trial indicate that TransCon hGH was generally safe and well-tolerated, with adverse events consistent with the type and frequency observed with daily hGH therapy and comparable between arms of the trial.

ASND is up $44.64 to $113.95.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young raised her price target for Ascendis Pharma to $185 from $100 as she was “positively surprised” that the TransCon hGH study for growth hormone achieved a superior result on annualized growth velocity of .86cm.

The analyst thinks that the expectation had been non-inferiority with a slightly favorable numerical trend. Young also thinks safety was clean as well, which has been a challenge with other long acting growth hormones.

She would expect shares to trade up 50%-100% based on her model, and sees continued upside from shares as additional programs, such as TransCon PTH, achieve proof of concept and more candidates from the proprietary TransCon platform enter the clinic. The analyst reiterates an Overweight rating on the shares.

Growth hormone (GH) has been available for management of the short stature associated with growth hormone deficiency (GHD) for more than 60 years; recombinant DNA-derived human growth hormone (rhGH) has been available since 1985. While availability is no longer a problem, there still remains a number of difficulties with the diagnosis of GHD, resulting mainly from the lack of appropriate tools to make (or exclude) the diagnosis reliably.

The incidence of short stature associated with GHD has been estimated to be about 1:4000 to 1:10000 . It is the primary indication for GH treatment in childhood, which presently requires daily subcutaneous injections for the patient and substantial cost for the healthcare system. Based on these premises, it is clear that an accurate diagnosis is essential

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