General Mills North America sales decline

General Mills plunges after reporting North America sales decline

General Mills North America sales decline, Stockwinners
General Mills North America sales decline, Stockwinners

Shares of General Mills (GIS) sunk in late morning trading after the company reported quarterly results, including net sales for its North America Retail segment that fell 2% from the year-ago period.

QUARTERLY RESULTS AND GUIDANCE

General Mills reported first quarter adjusted earnings per share of 71c, beating analysts’ consensus estimates of 63c, while sales of $4.1B were essentially in line with the consensus forecast.

However, the company said net sales in North America, its biggest region, fell 2% to $2.39B, with net sales down 4% in U.S. Snacks and down 2% each in U.S. Meals & Baking and U.S. Yogurt.

General Mills said its pet-food division reported sales of $343.4M, up 14% on a pro forma basis. General Mills acquired Blue Buffalo earlier this year for $8B, and said its net interest expense was $134M in the quarter, primarily driven by financing related to the acquisition.

Looking ahead, General Mills reaffirmed fiscal 2019 targets, including adjusted EPS flat to down 3% from the base $3.11 earned in fiscal 2018, organic net sales flat to up 1%, net sales up 9%-10% including the impact of the Blue Buffalo deal and constant currency adjusted operating profit up 6%-9% from the base of $2.6B reported in FY18.

EXECUTIVE COMMENTARY

In a statement, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Harmening commented that FY19 is “off to a good start” and said the Blue Buffalo transition is “progressing well.”

General Mills expects double-digit top and bottom-line growth for the Blue Buffalo business this year, excluding acquisition-related charges. On its quarterly earnings conference call, CFO Donal Mulligan said he expects price/mix to improve as the year unfolds, and that operating margins will be down “somewhat” for the year.

He also thinks there will be “a little bit more pressure” on gross margin from where the company originally expected.

For the year, General Mills expects input cost inflation will be 5% of cost of goods, one point above FY18 levels.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Peers trading lower on Tuesday include Kraft Heinz (KHC), Campbell Soup (CPB) and J.M. Smucker (SJM).


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SodaStream sold for $3.2 billion

PepsiCo agrees to acquire SodaStream for $144 per share in cash

SodaStream sold for $3.2 billion, Stockwinners
SodaStream sold for $3.2 billion, Stockwinners

PepsiCo (PEP) and SodaStream (SODA) announced that they have entered into an agreement under which PepsiCo has agreed to acquire all outstanding shares of SodaStream for $144.00 per share in cash, which represents a 32% premium to the 30-day volume weighted average price.

PepsiCo’s strong distribution capabilities, global reach, R&D, design and marketing expertise, combined with SodaStream’s differentiated and unique product range will position SodaStream for further expansion and breakthrough innovation.

Under the terms of the agreement between PepsiCo and SodaStream, PepsiCo has agreed to acquire all of the outstanding shares of SodaStream International for $144.00 per share, in a transaction valued at $3.2B.

The transaction will be funded with PepsiCo’s cash on hand.

The acquisition has been unanimously approved by the boards of both companies.

The transaction is subject to a SodaStream shareholder vote, certain regulatory approvals and other customary conditions, and closing is expected by January 2019.

“SodaStream is highly complementary and incremental to our business, adding to our growing water portfolio, while catalyzing our ability to offer personalized in-home beverage solutions around the world,” said Ramon Laguarta, CEO-Elect and President, PepsiCo.

“From breakthrough innovations like Drinkfinity to beverage dispensing technologies like Spire for foodservice and Aquafina water stations for workplaces and colleges, PepsiCo is finding new ways to reach consumers beyond the bottle, and today’s announcement is fully in line with that strategy.”


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Zoe’s Kitchen sold for $300 million

Zoe’s Kitchen to be acquired by CAVA Group for $12.75 per share

Zoe's Kitchen sold for $300 million, Stockwinners
Zoe’s Kitchen sold for $300 million, Stockwinners

Zoe’s Kitchen (ZOES) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired in a transaction by privately held Cava Group, fast-growing Mediterranean culinary brand with 66 restaurants.

The combined companies will have 327 restaurants in 24 states throughout the U.S. Under the terms of the agreement, Zoes Kitchen shareholders will receive $12.75 in cash for each share of common stock they hold.

This represents a premium of approximately 33% to Zoes Kitchen’s closing share price on August 16, 2018 and a premium of approximately 33% to Zoes Kitchen 30-day volume weighted average price ended on August 16, 2018, and an enterprise value of approximately $300M.

The acquisition of Zoes Kitchen will be financed through a significant equity investment in CAVA led by Act III Holdings, the investment vehicle created by Ron Shaich, founder, chairman, and former CEO of Panera Bread, and funds advised by The Invus Group, with participation from existing investors SWaN & Legend Venture Partners and Revolution Growth.

After closing, Brett Schulman, current CEO of CAVA, will serve as CEO of the combined company and will work closely with the existing leadership teams at Zoes Kitchen and CAVA to oversee their growth and evolution.

Ron Shaich will serve as Chairman of the combined company.

Consummation of the merger is subject to certain closing conditions, including the adoption of the merger agreement by the holders of a majority of the Company’s outstanding common stock, and the expiration or early termination of all applicable waiting periods under the HSR Act.

CAVA has agreed to pay to the Company a $17M termination fee if the merger agreement is terminated under certain circumstances and the merger does not occur.

The parties expect the merger to close in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, the Company is permitted to actively solicit, for a 35-day period, alternative acquisition proposals from potential buyer and business combination candidates.

There can be no assurance that any superior proposals will be received during this solicitation process or that any alternative transaction providing for a superior proposal will be consummated.

Except as may be required by law, the Company does not intend to disclose any developments with respect to such a solicitation process unless and until the Company’s board of directors determines that it has received a superior proposal. The Company would be required to pay to CAVA an $8.5M termination fee if the Company terminates the merger agreement to accept a superior proposal under certain circumstances. T

he Company’s Board of Directors has determined that the merger agreement with CAVA is fair to and in the best interests of the Company and the holders of the Company’s common stock.

Zoes Kitchen also announced that it will not hold its previously scheduled second quarter 2018 earnings conference call and web simulcast on the morning of Friday, August 17 and will not issue a press release with second quarter 2018 financial results.

The Company expects to file its quarterly report with second quarter 2018 financial results on or before August 20, 2018.


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Starbucks receives $7.15 billion from Nestle

Nestle pays $7.15B to Starbucks for rights to sell packaged coffee, tea

Nestle pays $7.15B to Starbucks for rights to sell packaged coffee, Stockwinners
Nestle pays $7.15B to Starbucks for rights to sell packaged coffee,

Starbucks (SBUX) announced it will form a global coffee alliance with Nestle (NSRGY) to “accelerate and grow the global reach of Starbucks brands in Consumer Packaged Goods and Foodservice.”

It added, “With a shared commitment to ethical and sustainable sourcing of coffee, this alliance will transform, expand and elevate both the at-home and away-from-home coffee and related categories around the world.” As part of the alliance, Nestle will obtain the rights to market, sell, and distribute Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Starbucks Reserve, Teavana, Starbucks VIA and Torrefazione Italia packaged coffee and tea in all global at-home and away-from-home channels.

Nestle will pay Starbucks $7.15B in closing consideration, and Starbucks “will retain a significant stake as licensor and supplier of roast and ground and other products going forward.”

Additionally, the Starbucks brand portfolio will be represented on Nestle’s single-serve capsule systems.

The agreement is subject to customary regulatory approval and is expected to close this summer or early fall.

The agreement excludes ready-to-drink coffee, tea and juice products. Starbucks intends to use the after-tax proceeds from the up-front payment primarily to accelerate share buybacks and now expects to return approximately $20B in cash to shareholders in the form of share buybacks and dividends through fiscal year 2020.

Additionally, the transaction is expected to be earnings per share accretive by the end of fiscal year 2021 or sooner, with no change to the company’s currently stated long-term financial targets.


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Barron’s is bullish on Ensco, bearish on Chipotle

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:

Investors should consider Ensco to benefit from oil-price surge.  Crude-oil prices are set to jump because President Donald Trump is likely to reintroduce harsh sanctions on Iran by mid-May and to benefit from the oil-price surge, investors should consider buying shares in Ensco (ESV), Simon Constable writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Other key oil stocks include EOG Resource (EOG), Transocean (RIG), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Halliburton (HAL), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Devon Energy (DVN), he adds.

Netflix may soon pass Disney in Market Value – Any week now, Netflix (NFLX) will surpass in market value Walt Disney (DIS) as investors cheer on the streaming service’s continued subscriber growth, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Investors who buy Disney shares now could have a long wait before they learn whether the streaming push will result in a rebounding price/earnings ratio, but that is where a diversified business model helps, Hough says.

BEARISH  MENTIONS

Chipotle results boosted by potentially short-lived dynamics – Brian Niccol, the new CEO at Chipotle Mexican Grill, got an “enormous” endorsement on Thursday, as shares of the restaurant chain soared 24%, Avi Salzman writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. But Salzman is still skeptical that investors should buy the rebound. The first-quarter report was boosted by several dynamics that could be short-lived, he argues, adding that even with those results, it is hard to “make a queso” for Chipotle tripling earnings.


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Goldman says sell Pepsi, buy Coca Cola

Goldman swaps sell call on Coca-Cola to PepsiCo on growth outlook

Goldman says sell Pepsi, buy Coca Cola, Stockwinners
Goldman says sell Pepsi, buy Coca Cola

In a research note to investors on the beverage space, Goldman Sachs analyst Judy #Hong upgraded Coca-Cola (KO) to Neutral and downgraded PepsiCo (PEP) to Sell.

While the analyst sees an improving organic sales growth outlook for Coca-Cola, Hong sees potential for continued softer North American Beverage volumes to weigh on PepsiCo’s organic sales growth.

BEVERAGE SPACE

Within the Staples sector, beverage valuations look most elevated, while food stocks appear oversold on consensus estimates, Goldman Sachs’ Hong told investors in a research note.

The analyst sees the beverage group’s premium valuation as mostly justified given industry characteristics that are more attractive versus secularly challenged U.S. center store food companies.

Goldman says sell Pepsi, buy Coca Cola, Stockwinners.com
Goldman says sell Pepsi, buy Coca Cola,

Beverages have more channel diversification and are less reliant on food grocers, beverage categories tend to have low level of private label penetration and a greater level of market/brand concentration also allows for higher pricing power, she contended.

Hong believes all these dynamics should drive higher top-line growth and more insulated margin structure for beverage companies compared to food companies in the U.S. over the next 12 months.

Additionally, the analyst pointed out that she sees “a few relevant trends” across the beverage theme playing out thus far in 2018, namely relative convenience store underperformance, comparative alcohol slowdown, and improvement in emerging markets benefiting multinationals, particularly in Latin America.

SWAPPING COCA-COLA, PEPSICO

Goldman Sachs’ Judy Hong upgraded Coca-Cola to Neutral from Sell, while trimming her price target on the shares to $46 from $47.

The analyst told investors that she sees an improving organic sales growth outlook, a “cleaner base” post-refranchising, and better visibility on its margin and earnings targets.

Hong believes Coca-Cola is “one of the rare” over 4% organic growth mega-cap stories, and now has increased confidence in its organic sales growth outlook.

Additionally, Hong noted that she now views fundamentals as warranting a relative premium given Coca-Cola’s positioning as a beneficiary of moderating foreign exchange impact, improving emerging markets growth, and higher margins post-refranchising.

Meanwhile, the analyst downgraded PepsiCo to Sell from Neutral and lowered her price target on the shares to $110 from $118, citing the potential for continued softer North American Beverage volumes to weigh on organic sales growth and present modest downside risk to gross margins.

While the analyst does not expect Pepsi shares to be “a material absolute underperformer,” she does see scope for it to underperform other beverage names over the next 12 months given muted fundamentals and lack of clear catalysts. Both top-line and margin gains are likely to be harder to come by for PepsiCo’s North America beverage business as multi-year tailwinds to volume are no longer driving growth while c-store underperformance is creating a drag, she contended.

OTHERS TO WATCH

Goldman’s Hong also upgraded Coca-Cola European Partners (CCE) to Buy, as she believes muted sentiment in the context of sugar tax implementation in the UK and France provides a compelling opportunity, and downgraded Molson Coors (TAP) to Neutral, predicting that weaker than expected beer volumes will drive cuts to consensus estimates. The analyst reiterated a Buy rating on Monster Beverage (MNST).

PRICE ACTION

In Tuesday’s trading, shares of Coca-Cola are fractionally up to $44.79, while PepsiCo’s stock dropped over 1% to $108.41.


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Fogo De Chao sold for $560 million

Fogo De Chao to be acquired by Rhone for $15.75 per share in cash

Fogo De Chao to be acquired by Rhone for $15.75 per share in cash. Stockwinners.com
Fogo De Chao to be acquired by Rhone for $15.75 per share in cash.

Fogo de Chao (FOGO) announced an agreement to be acquired by investment entities affiliated with Rhone Capital.

Under the terms of the agreement, Rhone will acquire the Company in an all cash transaction valued at $560M.

The Company’s stockholders will receive $15.75 per share, representing a 25.5% premium to the closing share price of the Company’s shares on February 16, 2018.

The transaction is the result of a comprehensive strategic alternatives review process taken by the Company’s Board of Directors.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by Fogo’s Board of Directors. Funds affiliated with Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. and certain of Fogo’s directors and executive officers, which collectively hold more than 60 percent of Fogo’s shares, have approved the transaction by written consent.

The acquisition is expected to be completed during the second calendar quarter of 2018, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.


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McDonald’s announces changes to Happy Meals

McDonald’s announces changes to Happy Meals

No more Chocolate Milk or Cheeseburger in Happy Meals

McDonald's announces changes to Happy Meals, Stockwinners.com
McDonald’s announces changes to Happy Meals

McDonald’s (MCD) announced an expanded commitment to families, supporting the company’s long-term global growth plan by leveraging its reach to impact children’s meals, access to reading, and keeping families together through Ronald McDonald House Charities.

By 2022, McDonald’s will make improvements to the Happy Meal menu across 120 markets to offer more balanced meals, simplify ingredients, continue to be transparent with Happy Meal nutrition information, reinforce responsible marketing to children, and leverage innovative marketing to help impact the purchase of foods and beverages that contain recommended food groups in Happy Meals.

Using rigorous nutrition criteria grounded in science and nutrition policy, by the end of 2022, at least 50 percent or more of the Happy Meals listed on menus (restaurant menu boards, primary ordering screen of kiosks and owned mobile ordering applications) in each market will meet McDonald’s new Global Happy Meal Nutrition Criteria of less than or equal to 600 calories; 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; 650mg sodium; and 10 percent of calories from added sugar.

Currently, 28 percent of Happy Meal combinations offered on menu boards in 20 major markets meet these new nutrition criteria.

To reach the goal of 50 percent or more, markets will add new menu offerings, reformulate or remove menu offerings from the Happy Meal section of the menu board.

For example, last month McDonald’s Italy introduced a new Happy Meal entree called the “Junior Chicken,” a lean protein sandwich (grilled chicken).

McDonald’s Australia is currently exploring new vegetable and lean protein options and McDonald’s France is looking at new vegetable offerings.

As consumers’ tastes and preferences continue to evolve, markets will prioritize Happy Meals and simplify ingredients by removing artificial flavors, added colors from artificial sources, and reducing artificial preservatives where feasible.

The company has made a continuous effort to meet consumers’ desire for easy access to nutrition information for menu items it serves with a goal of ensuring that nutrition information for Happy Meals is available and accessible through all McDonald’s owned websites and mobile apps used for ordering where they exist.

Customers in the U.S. will see accelerated changes to the Happy Meal menu this year.

In June 2018, 100 percent of the meal combinations offered on Happy Meal menu boards in the U.S. will be 600 calories or fewer, and 100 percent of those meal combinations will be compliant with the new nutrition criteria for added sugar, saturated fat, and 78 percent compliant with the new sodium criteria. Listing only the following entree choices: Hamburger, 4-piece and 6-piece Chicken McNuggets.

The Cheeseburger will only be available at a customer’s request.

Replacing the small French fries with kids-sized fries in the 6-piece Chicken McNugget meal, which decreases the calories and sodium in the fries serving by half.

Reformulating chocolate milk to reduce the amount of added sugar.

During this period, chocolate milk will no longer be listed on the Happy Meal menu, but will be available at a customer’s request.

Later this year, bottled water will be added as a featured beverage choice on Happy Meal menu boards.

In December 2017, McDonald’s USA completed the transition to Honest Kids Appley Ever After organic juice drink, which has 45 less calories and half the total sugar than the prior 100 percent apple juice served in the U.S. With these planned menu updates, there will be average reductions of 20 percent in calories, 50 percent in added sugars,13 percent in saturated fat and/or 17 percent in sodium, depending on the customer’s specific meal selection.

These reductions reflect the average nutrition data of U.S. Happy Meal offerings on the menu last year compared to those planned for later this year.

Already, several of the Happy Meal combinations available on U.S. menu boards today meet the new nutrition criteria and will not be changing.

MCD closed at $160.00.


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Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn steps down

Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn steps down, Matt Maddox named CEO

Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn steps down. Stockwinners.com
Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn steps down

Wynn Resorts (WYNN) released the following statements today regarding Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn:

The board of Wynn Resorts reluctantly announced that it accepted the resignation of Steve Wynn as CEO and Chairman of the board. The board has appointed Matt Maddox, currently President of the company, as its CEO, and Boone Wayson as Non-Executive Chairman of the board, effective immediately.

“It is with a collective heavy heart, that the board of Wynn Resorts accepted the resignation of our founder, CEO and friend Steve Wynn,” said non-executive director of the board Boone Wayson.

“Steve Wynn is an industry giant. He is a philanthropist and a beloved leader and visionary. He played the pivotal role in transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment destination it is today. He also assembled a world-class team of executives that will continue to meet the high standards of excellence that Steve Wynn created and the Wynn brand has come to represent.”

Steve Wynn created modern Las Vegas. He transformed the city into an economic powerhouse by making it a world-wide tourist destination.

He designed, built and operated the most iconic resorts on the Las Vegas strip, beginning with the Mirage, then Treasure Island, the Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.

Wynn Macau, Wynn’s first resort in the SAR of Macau in China, was designated by Forbes Travel Guide as the best resort in the world.

Along with Wynn Palace in Cotai, the company built by Steve Wynn has been recognized as having more Five Star awards than any independent hotel company in the world.

Wynn Resorts remains as committed as ever to upholding the highest standards and being an inclusive and supportive employer. In fact, more than 40% of all Wynn Las Vegas management are women; the highest in the gaming industry.

The company will continue to fully focus on its operations at Wynn Macau, Wynn Palace and Wynn Las Vegas; the development and opening of the first phase of Wynn Paradise Park, currently under construction on the former Wynn golf course; as well as the construction of Wynn Boston Harbor, which will open in June 2019.

Details of Mr. Wynn’s separation agreement will be disclosed when they are finalized.

Steve Wynn released the following statement: “In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity. As I have reflected upon the environment this has created – one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts – I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles.

Therefore, effective immediately, I have decided to step down as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Wynn Resorts, a company I founded and that I love.

The Wynn Resorts team and I have built houses of brick. Which is to say, the institution we created – a collection of the finest designers and architects ever assembled, as well as an operating philosophy now ingrained in the minds and hearts of our entire team – will remain standing for the long term. I am extremely proud of everything we have built at this company.

Most of all, I am proud of our employees. The succession plan laid out by the board and which I wholeheartedly endorse now places Matt Maddox in the CEO seat.

With Matt, Wynn Resorts is in good hands. He and his team are well positioned to carry on the plans and vision for the company I created. I want to thank all of the employees who have made Wynn Resorts the most admired resort company in the world, and for the support I have received from them in recent weeks.

Most importantly, I want everyone to continue to be proud of this company and the many unique ways it will forever continue to delight guests.”

WYNN closed at $163.22, it last traded at $176.34.


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Chipotle drops on downgrade

Analyst says sell Chipotle amid ‘depressed’ brand perceptions, more competition

Chipotle Mexican Grill spokesman Chris Arnold says the company is aware of a "small number" of illnesses linked to a store in Sterling, Virginia
Chipotle drops on downgrade

Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) dropped in Thursday’s trading after a UBS analyst said to sell the stock, telling investors that brand perceptions “remain depressed” while competition is unlikely to ease this year.

SELL CHIPOTLE

UBS analyst Dennis #Geiger downgraded Chipotle to Sell from Neutral, saying he is “concerned” about deteriorating online customer review trends and possible implications for the trajectory of sales.

The analyst, who cut his price target to $290 from $345, noted that online review trends have continued to trend downward and have dropped below pre-food safety crisis lows.

He contended that “Despite aggressive efforts to improve brand perceptions through a new national advertising campaign and the launch of new products including queso recently, customer review scores have not shown any signs of improvement.”

Additionally, Geiger told clients that in addition to “depressed” brand perceptions, competition is unlikely to ease in 2018 and said Chipotle’s unit development expectations could be “ambitious.”

His analysis of more than 230,000 Chipotle reviews found that food safety, combined with rising competition, has likely weighed on Chipotle’s efforts to regain customers.

“The increasing penetration of fast casual brands and traditional quick service restaurants has likely weighed on Chipotle’s efforts to regain lost customers. In the aftermath of the Chipotle food safety incidents, our survey analysis indicated ‘like other QSR better’ as the second most cited reason for eating less at Chipotle,” Geiger said.

WHAT’S NOTABLE

Chipotle has faced several foodborne illness outbreaks since 2015. As recently as December 2017, public health officials in Los Angeles investigated a possible foodborne illness outbreak at a local Chipotle restaurant.

Chipotle confirmed that it was aware of the reports tied to its Pico Boulevard location, but said it had not heard from any customers directly. “As a precautionary measure, we have implemented heightened sanitization measures at this restaurant, which we do as a matter of policy if ever we receive reports of illness — even if they are not substantiated,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said at the time.

The company’s executive ranks have also been in turmoil, with the company searching for a new chief executive officer.

When a new CEO is appointed, current CEO and founder Steve Ells said he will focus primarily on innovation. In December, an analyst at Bernstein called Chipotle a “reasonably” attractive takeover target.

PRICE ACTION

In Thursday morning trading, shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill are down 4.3% to $310.92.


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Barron’s is bullish on Goldman Sachs, bearish on Snap On

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:

Biotech could be headed for a revival – Big biotechnology stocks could be headed for a revival, Ben Levisohn writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Biogen (BIIB) and Celgene (CELG) finished the week higher, AbbVie (ABBV) gained 14% after releasing earnings, and Gilead (GILD) rose 5% after a rating upgraded, he notes. Overall, the sector should also benefit from increased merger activity, lower taxes, and a less-onerous regulatory regime, the report adds.

Goldman Sachs regaining ‘its touch,’  – While Goldman Sachs’ (GS) overall financial results have been strong, with three out of four of its main business units thriving, trading has been reduced to crumbs, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Further, its competitor, Morgan Stanley (MS), surpassed it in market value for the first time in a decade, despite Goldman Sachs shares hitting a new 52-week high, he notes. Nonetheless, this makes an opportune time to buy Goldman Sachs stock, he argues, as the bank is more diversified than it was before the financial crisis and as it becomes more prosperous given expansion in mergers, lending and money management.

Domestic companies to go on spending spree – Capital spending has picked up and shows signs of staying strong this year, with help from tax overhaul as it lowers the corporate tax and offers a chance for companies to repatriate overseas cash, Lawrence Strauss writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Apple, for instance, has announced that it expects to invest more than $30B in capex in the U.S. over the next five years, he notes.

BEARISH  MENTIONS

Investors should sell First Solar (FSLR), pocket gain – In a follow-up story, Barron’s notes that President Trump has imposed 30% tariffs on solar cells and modules, which will likely drive the panel’s prices higher and reshuffle the renewable-energy industry. First Solar’s products will be exempt from the tariff and its stock has jumped 54% since then, the report says, adding that investors should sell the stock and pocket that gain. Most solar stocks remain risky bets as the tariff will drive up prices in the U.S. and given the supply-demand imbalance, Barron’s contends.

Snap-On could miss consensus EPS this year. – Shares of Snap-On (SNA) have tooled along nicely for years, but the joyride may be over soon as potential headwinds could cause the company to miss consensus earnings per share expectations this year, Vito Racanelli writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. An increasing number of borrowers are falling behind and recent evidence points to a slowdown in organic growth in the main tools division, the biggest of Snap-on’s businesses, he notes.


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Long Island Iced Tea to rebrand as ‘Long Blockchain Corp.’

Long Island Iced Tea to rebrand as ‘Long Blockchain Corp.’

Long Island Iced Tea to rebrand as 'Long Blockchain Corp.' Stockwinners.com
Long Island Iced Tea to rebrand as ‘Long Blockchain Corp.’

Long Island Iced Tea Corp. (LTEA) announced that the parent company is shifting its primary corporate focus towards the exploration of and investment in opportunities that leverage the benefits of blockchain technology.

In connection with the shift in strategic direction, the company has approved changing its name from “Long Island Iced Tea Corp.” to “Long Blockchain Corp.” and has reserved the web domain www.longblockchain.com.

The company intends to request Nasdaq to change its trading symbol in connection with the name change.

The company will continue to operate Long Island Brand Beverages, LLC as a wholly-owned subsidiary and maintain the focus of this business on the ready-to-drink segment of the beverage industry, specifically, premium, ‘better-for-you’ brands marketed at an affordable price.

In conjunction with the shift in business strategy, the company has submitted a request to the SEC to withdraw its previously filed S-1 registration statement relating to a proposed underwritten public offering, which was filed on November 11, Long Island noted.

LTEA closed at $2.44. It last traded at $12.05 in pre-market trading. This seems to be the bubble mentality at its worse!


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Jack in the Box sold Qdoba for $305 million

Jack in the Box to sell Qdoba to Apollo affiliates for $305M

Qdoba sold for $305M. Stockwinners.com
Qdoba sold for $305M.

Jack in the Box (JACK) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell Qdoba Restaurant Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the company which operates and franchises more than 700 QDOBA MEXICAN EATS restaurants, to certain funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management (APO).

Under the terms of the agreement, the Apollo funds will purchase Qdoba for approximately $305M in cash, subject to customary closing conditions and adjustments.

The transaction is expected to close by April 2018.

The Company expects to use the net cash proceeds after tax and transaction costs to retire outstanding debt under its term loan, as required by the terms of its credit facility.

Lenny #Comma, chairman and CEO of Jack in the Box Inc., said, “For the past several months, we have worked closely with our financial advisors and evaluated various strategic alternatives with respect to Qdoba, including a sale or spin-off, as well as opportunities to refranchise company restaurants.

Following the completion of this robust process, our Board of Directors has determined that the sale of Qdoba is the best alternative for enhancing shareholder value and is consistent with the Company’s desire to transition to a less capital-intensive business model.

The Company intends to provide guidance for fiscal 2018 in connection with its presentation at the ICR Conference on January 9, 2018.

JACK closed at $100.34. It last traded at $103.00. APO closed at $32.63.


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Chipotle to name a new CEO

Chipotle forms search committee to identify new CEO

Chipotle Mexican Grill spokesman Chris Arnold says the company is aware of a "small number" of illnesses linked to a store in Sterling, Virginia
Stocks to Avoid, Stocks to short, Put Options, Stocks to Watch

Chipotle Mexican Grill  (CMG) announced that Steve Ells, chairman and CEO — and the founder of the company in 1993 — will become executive chairman following the completion of a search to identify a new CEO.

The Board has formed a search committee comprised of Directors Robin Hickenlooper and Ali Namvar, as well as Ells, to identify a new leader with demonstrated turnaround expertise to help address the challenges facing the company, improve execution, build customer trust, and drive sales.

Ells said, “Simply put, we need to execute better to ensure our future success.

The Board and I are committed to bringing in an experienced leader with a passion for driving excellence across every aspect of our business, including the customer experience, operations, marketing, technology, food safety, and training.

Bringing in a new CEO is the right thing to do for all our stakeholders. It will allow me to focus on my strengths, which include bringing innovation to the way we source and prepare our food. It will ultimately improve our ability to provide our guests with delicious food that is prepared with high quality ingredients that are raised responsibly and served in a way that is accessible to everyone. I am confident that this will allow us to deliver value for our shareholders, and provide rewarding opportunities for our employees. Chipotle has vast unrealized potential.

As we work hard to restore our brand, I believe we can capitalize on opportunities, including in areas such as the digital experience, menu innovation, delivery, catering, and domestic and international expansion, to deliver significant growth.”

ANALYST COMMENTS

Chipotle CEO change to be welcomed by investors, says SunTrust – After Chipotle announced it has started a search to identify a new CEO and that founder Steve Ells will become executive chairman when one is identified, SunTrust analyst Jake Bartlett said he views the news as positive for both the company’s turnaround efforts and the stock as he expects investors to welcome a CEO with a proven operational track record. Bartlett has a Buy rating and $355 price target on Chipotle shares.

William Blair downgraded the stock to Market Perform from Outperform. William Blair analyst Sharon Zackfia downgraded Chipotle Mexican Grill to Market Perform . While a new leader may accelerate the company’s turnaround longer term, today’s move likely signals that Chipotle’s trends remain under pressure and creates more near-term uncertainty, Zackfia tells investors in a research note. The analyst adds that transition years, in which costs accelerate before sales trends rebound, often follow new CEOs. As such, she’s more cautious on Chipotle’s earnings recovery trajectory following today’s announcement. The market, on the other hand, is applauding the company’s decision.

CMG closed at $285.86. It last traded at $300 in pre-market action.


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Buffalo Wild Wings sold for $2.9 billion

Arby’s to acquire Buffalo Wild Wings for $157 per share in cash

Buffalo-Wild-Wings gets $2.3 billion offer. See Stockwinners.com for details
Buffalo-Wild-Wings sold for $2.9 billion offer.  

Arby’s Restaurant Group and Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) announced that the companies have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which ARG will acquire BWLD for $157 per share in cash, in a transaction valued at approximately $2.9B, including BWW’s net debt.

The agreement, which has been unanimously approved by both companies’ Boards of Directors, represents a premium of approximately 38% to BWW’s 30-day volume-weighted average stock price as of November 13, 2017, the latest trading day prior to news reports speculating about a potential transaction.

The transaction is not subject to a financing condition and is expected to close during the first quarter of 2018, subject to the approval of BWW shareholders and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including applicable regulatory approvals.

Following the close of the transaction, BWW will be a privately-held subsidiary of Arby’s Restaurant Group and will continue to be operated as an independent brand.

Paul Brown will serve as CEO of the parent company.

Arby’s is majority owned by affiliates of Roark Capital Group, an Atlanta based private equity firm that focuses on investing in franchised and multi-unit businesses in the restaurant, retail and other consumer sectors.

Affiliates of Roark are committing all of the equity that, together with the proceeds of debt financing, will be necessary to complete the transaction. Certain funds advised by Marcato Capital Management, LP, which own approximately 6.4% of the outstanding shares of BWW, have entered into an agreement to vote in favor of the transaction.

BWLD closed at $146.40.


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