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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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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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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Verrica Pharmaceuticals reports positive data on its molluscum contagiosum drug

Verrica Pharmaceuticals presents results from Phase 3 clinical trials of VP-102

Verrica Pharmaceuticals reports positive data on its molluscum contagiosum drug, Stockwinners

Verrica Pharmaceuticals (VRCA) presented data from the company’s pivotal Phase 3 CAMP-1 and CAMP-2 trials of lead product candidate, VP-102, at the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting being held in Washington, DC from March 1-5.

Both trials of VP-102 in patients with molluscum contagiosum successfully met their primary endpoints.

In each trial, a clinically and statistically significant proportion of patients treated with VP-102 demonstrated complete clearance of all treatable molluscum lesions in 12 weeks.

On average, molluscum can take approximately 13 months to resolve without treatment, and in some cases can remain unresolved for several years.

The two randomized, double-blind, multicenter, placebo-controlled trials evaluated the efficacy of dermal application of VP-102 compared to placebo in subjects with molluscum.

In total, the trials enrolled 528 subjects two years of age and older with molluscum at 31 centers in the U.S. Subjects were treated once every 21 days with topical solution of 0.7% cantharidin for up to four applications.

Complete clearance of molluscum lesions was evaluated by assessment of the number of lesions at study visits over 12 weeks. Results from CAMP-1 and CAMP-2 showed 46% and 54% of subjects treated with VP-102, respectively, achieved complete clearance of all treatable molluscum lesions at the end of the trials versus 18% and 13% of subjects in the placebo groups.

By Day 84, VP-102 treated subjects had a 69% and 83% mean reduction in the number of molluscum lesions, a pre-specified endpoint, in CAMP-1 and CAMP-2 respectively, compared to a 20% increase and a 19% reduction for subjects on placebo. VP-102 was well-tolerated in both trials, with no serious adverse events reported in VP-102 treated subjects.

The most frequently reported adverse events were application site reactions that are well-known, reversible side effects related to the mechanism of action of cantharidin, a blistering agent, which is the active ingredient in VP-102.

There were no treatment-related serious adverse events reported in CAMP-1 or CAMP-2. Verrica previously announced topline results from both trials on January 3, 2019.

Based on the positive results, the company plans to submit a New Drug Application for VP-102 in the second half of 2019. If approved, VP-102 would be the first FDA-approved treatment for molluscum contagiosum.


Molluscum contagiosum is a relatively common viral infection of the skin, mainly in children, Stockwinners.com

VRCA closed at $12.11.

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Kforce Government Solutions sold for $115 million

ManTech to acquire Kforce Government Solutions for $115M

KForce sold for $115 million, Stockwinners

ManTech (MANT) announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Kforce Government Solutions, or KGS, formerly a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kforce (KFRC) for $115M in cash.

Headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, KGS provides technology solutions, transformation management, data management and analytics in support of federal health and defense missions.

KGS has built a legacy of success with its customers particularly within the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA.

The acquisition adds over 500 employees to the ManTech team. In 2018, KGS generated approximately $98M of revenue and has profitability comparable to ManTech.

The combination will substantially increase ManTech’s footprint at the VA and enable ManTech to deliver services through the VA’s Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation, or T4NG, program.

The T4NG program is a 10-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract awarded by the VA Technology Acquisition Center to help the VA transform its information technology programs.

ManTech will fund the acquisition from cash on hand with additional funding from its existing line of credit. ManTech expects the acquisition to be slightly accretive to earnings per share in 2019.

The acquisition is subject to various closing conditions and approvals, including approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, and is expected to be completed in March.

David L. Dunkel, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer commented, “Our federal government solutions business has been a meaningful part of our business since our initial government acquisition in 2006. I am immensely proud of the success that our KGS management team has had in growing and positioning this business for continued future success despite the competitive challenges it has faced, given its scale.

We are excited for our KGS management team and associates to join forces with ManTech, which we expect will enhance KGS’s competitive positioning and leverage its deep and long-standing customer relationships to drive further growth. We firmly believe in the strong secular drivers within the commercial technology space and, with this divestiture, virtually all of our revenues are derived from domestic professional and technical staffing services and solutions.”


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Fiat Chrysler to invest $4.5B in Michigan

Fiat Chrysler to invest $4.5B in five existing Michigan plants

FCA (FCAU) would invest $1.6 billion to convert the two plants that comprise the Mack Avenue Engine Complex into the future assembly site for the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as an all-new three-row full-size Jeep SUV and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models, adding 3,850 new jobs to support production.

The Company intends to start construction of the new Detroit facility by the end of Q2 2019 with the first three-row vehicles expected to roll off the line by the end of 2020, followed by the all-new Grand Cherokee in the first half of 2021.

Also as part of this announcement, the Jefferson North Assembly Plant would receive an investment of $900 million to retool and modernize the facility to build the Dodge Durango and next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee.

FCA expects to create 1,100 new jobs at Jefferson North. The reborn Mack facility would be the first new assembly plant to be built in the city of Detroit in nearly three decades.

In 1991, Jefferson North was the last new assembly plant built in the city.

When complete, Mack would join Jefferson North as the only automotive assembly plants to be located completely within the city limits of Detroit. The Pentastar engines – the 3.6-, 3.2- and 3.0-liter – currently built at Mack would be relocated to the Dundee Engine Plant as part of a $119 million investment. Pentastar production at Mack I would end by Q3 2019.

Mack II has been idle since it ceased production of the 3.7-liter V-6 in September 2012.FCA also confirms the investment at Warren Truck to retool for production of the all-new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, announced in 2017, along with their electrified counterparts, would increase to $1.5 billion.

The Pentastar Engines currently built at Mack would be relocated to the Dundee Engine Plant, Stockwinners

Production is expected to launch in early 2021. In addition to the new Jeep models, the plant would continue building the Ram 1500 Classic, which is being extended to meet market demand. It is expected that 1,400 new jobs would be added.

As a result of this investment announcement, production of the all-new Ram Heavy Duty will continue at its current location in Saltillo, Mexico.

To support the additional production, the Company’s Warren Stamping (Warren, Michigan) and Sterling Stamping (Sterling Heights, Michigan) plants would receive investments of $245 million and $160 million, respectively, with Sterling Stamping expected to add more than 80 new jobs.


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Merck reports positive results of its renal cell carcinoma drug

Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study

Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, Stockwinners
Merck presents results from Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 study, Stockwinners

Merck (MRK) announced presentation of the full results from the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-426 trial investigating KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with Pfizer’s (PFE) Inlyta, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, for the first-line treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma at the 2019 Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.

Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy works in combination with Pfizer's (PFE) Inlyta, Stockwinners

Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy works in combination with Pfizer’s (PFE) Inlyta

This is the first combination regimen to significantly improve overall survival, progression-free survival and objective response rate compared to sunitinib.

Results were consistent across all IMDC subgroups, including favorable, intermediate and poor risk groups, and regardless of PD-L1 expression.

As previously announced, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted priority review for a supplemental Biologics License Application for #KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced RCC based on the results of KEYNOTE-426, and has set a Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or target action, date of June 20, 2019.

Findings from the first interim analysis showed KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib reduced the risk of death by 47% – significantly improving OS compared to sunitinib.

For the dual primary endpoint of PFS, the KEYTRUDA combination showed a reduction in the risk of progression of disease or death of 31% compared to sunitinib.

In the study, the ORR was 59.3% for patients who received KEYTRUDA in combination with axitinib and 35.7% for those who received sunitinib, with a complete response rate of 5.8% and 1.9% and a partial response rate of 53.5% and 33.8%, for patients receiving the KEYTRUDA combination or sunitinib, respectively.

Median duration of response was not reached in the KEYTRUDA combination arm and was 15.2 months in the sunitinib arm. The results for OS, PFS and ORR were consistent across all IMDC risk groups and seen regardless of PD-L1 expression.

The observed adverse event profile was as expected based on the known profiles of KEYTRUDA and axitinib.

There was a higher incidence of grade 3 or 4 liver enzyme elevation with KEYTRUDA plus axitinib than previously observed with each agent as monotherapy.

Merck has filed these data with regulatory authorities worldwide.

Merck has an extensive clinical development program in RCC and is advancing multiple potential registration-enabling studies with KEYTRUDA, as monotherapy and in combination with other treatments, including KEYNOTE-564 and KEYNOTE-581.

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WalMart Earnings Outlook

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

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

What to watch for:

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

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

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

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

2. HOLIDAY SEASON:

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

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

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

3. COMPETITION:

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

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

4. FLIPKART:

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

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

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

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

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

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Retail Sales Plunged in December

U.S. retail sales dropped 1.2% in December with ex-autos plunging 1.8%.

Retail sales plunge in December, Stockwinners
Retail sales plunge in December, Stockwinners

November’s 0.2% headline gain was revised down to 0.1%, while the 0.2% ex-auto figure was unrevised after strong gains in October of 1.0% (revised from 1.1%) and 0.8% (revised from 1.0%), respectively.

Sales excluding autos, gas, and building materials tumbled 1.6% versus the prior 0.7% jump (revised from 0.6%). Motor vehicle sales climbed 1.0% after a 0.7% prior gain (revised from 0.2%).

Gas station sales declined 5.1% from -4.4% (revised from -2.3%). Food, beverage prices were down 0.4% compared to 0.1% previously (revised from 0.4%).

Building materials edged up 0.3% from -1.5% (revised from -0.3%). Furniture sales dropped 1.3% from 0.5% (revised from 1.2%).

Clothing sales fell 0.7% from 0.4% (revised from -0.2%). Nonstore retailers were down 3.9% from 2.8% (revised from 2.3%).

Miscellaneous sales crashed down 4.1% from 4.0% (revised from 0.4%). This is a very disappointing result and should knock yields and equities lower.

Some analysts blame the drop on the government shutdown while others are seeing a worrying consumers above the situation in Washington as the main reason.

Retailer Stocks to Watch: FIVE, OLLI, ULTA, and BOOT.

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Tribune Media sold for $6.4 billion

Nexstar to acquire Tribune Media for $46.50 per share

Nexstar agrees to acquire Tribune Media, Stockwinners
Nexstar agrees to acquire Tribune Media, Stockwinners

Nexstar Media Group (NXST) and Tribune Media (TRCO) announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement whereby Nexstar will acquire all outstanding shares of Tribune Media for $46.50 per share in a cash transaction that is valued at $6.4B including the assumption of Tribune Media’s outstanding debt.
The transaction reflects a 15.5% premium for Tribune Media shareholders based on its closing price on November 30, 2018, and a 45% premium to Tribune Media’s closing price on July 16, 2018, the day the FCC Chairman issued a public statement regarding his intention to circulate a Hearing Designation Order for Tribune Media’s previously announced transaction with a third party.
Tribune Media shareholders will be entitled to additional cash consideration of approximately 30c per month if the transaction has not closed by August 31, 2019, pro-rated for partial months and less an adjustment for any dividends declared on or after September 1, 2019.
The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is expected to close late in the third quarter of 2019, subject to receipt of required regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.
Upon closing, the transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to Nexstar’s operating results inclusive of expected operating synergies of approximately $160M in the first year following the completion of the transaction and planned divestitures.
The proposed transaction will combine two leading local media companies with complementary national coverage and will reach approximately 39% of U.S. television households pro-forma for anticipated divestitures and reflecting the FCC’s UHF discount.
The transaction is not subject to any financing condition and Nexstar has received committed financing for the transaction from BofA Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. Completion of the transaction is subject to approval by Tribune’s shareholders, as well as customary closing conditions, including approval by the FCC, and satisfaction of antitrust conditions.

Nexstar intends to divest certain television stations necessary to comply with regulatory ownership limits and may also divest other assets which it deems to be non-core. All after-tax proceeds from such asset sales are expected to be applied to leverage reduction.


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EQGP Holdings sold for $20.00 per share

Equitrans Midstream to acquire EQGP Holdings for $20.00 per unit in cash

Equitrans Midstream Corporation (ETRN) announced that it has entered into definitive purchase agreements with certain unitholders of EQGP Holdings (EQGP) to acquire limited partner interests in EQGP for $20.00 per unit in cash, which is a 17.5% premium to the EQGP closing market price as of November 29, 2018.

The Private Purchases are expected to close on or about December 31, 2018, after which ETRN and its affiliates will own more than 95% of the outstanding EQGP Common Units. Upon closing of the Private Purchases, ETRN intends to exercise the Limited Call Right under EQGP’s partnership agreement to acquire all remaining EQGP Common Units not then owned by ETRN and its affiliates.

If the Limited Call Right is exercised, the remaining holders of EQGP Common Units will receive at least the same cash price per unit that will be paid in the Private Purchases.

The Limited Call Right is expected to close in January 2019 and will be a taxable transaction for EQGP unitholders.

ETRN intends to use the cash proceeds from a newly issued Term Loan B to finance the Private Purchases and the purchases pursuant to the Limited Call Right.

ETRN has secured committed financing in support of these purchases. ETRN also announced that it has made a proposal to EQM Midstream Partners (EQM) for the exchange of its incentive distribution rights and the economic general partner interest in EQM for 95 million units in EQM and a non-economic general partner interest in EQM, subject to the closing of the Private Purchases and completion of the Limited Call Right.

ETRN expects that a portion of the units received will be in the form of Payment-In-Kind Units.

The PIK Units would receive distributions in the form of additional PIK Units and would convert on a one-to-one basis into common units representing limited partner interests in EQM at a date to be determined.

Final terms of the Proposed IDR Transaction are subject to negotiation with the board of directors of EQM’s general partner or its conflicts committee, and assuming an agreement is reached, ETRN expects that the Proposed IDR Transaction would close in the first quarter of 2019.

Upon completion of the Private Purchases, the Limited Call Right, and the Proposed IDR Transaction, ETRN will have accomplished a full simplification of EQGP and EQM, resulting in a projected 61% ownership of EQM.

Additionally, EQM will be the only publicly traded partnership under ETRN and is expected to benefit from the elimination of the IDR burden, as well as stronger coverage and balance sheet metrics.

Highlights: The proposed transactions would not result in a distribution cut for EQM unitholders; Targeting 6% – 8% annual distribution growth beginning in 2019; 2019 distribution coverage in excess of 1.0x; Long-term distribution coverage target in excess of 1.2x beginning in 2020; Long-term debt to EBITDA target of 3.5x – 4.0x beginning in 2020; PIK Units will provide balance sheet and coverage support; Improves cost of capital; No equity issuance is required to fund capital projects for the next several years; Reduces corporate overhead associated with the elimination of a publicly traded entity.

ETRN expects that the EQM Conflicts Committee will review the Proposed IDR Transaction. Unitholder voting is not required in connection with the Private Purchases, the exercise of the Limited Call Right, or the Proposed IDR Transaction.


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Altria to buy stake in Juul Labs

Altria, under pressure from FDA, said in talks to buy stake in Juul Labs

 

Altria to buy stake in Juul Labs, Stockwinners
Altria to buy stake in Juul Labs, Stockwinners

Following a report that Altria Group (MO) is in talks to take a “significant” stake in Juul Labs, an analyst said that an agreement could make strategic sense for the tobacco giant to gain exposure to a fast-growing product that poses a threat to its cigarette business.

The Wall Street Journal said Altria is in talks to take a “significant” minority interest in Juul Labs, a controversial e-cigarette startup.

According to people familiar with the matter, any deal is likely several weeks away. Juul was last valued at $16B in a private fundraising round this summer.

Altria has an agreement with Philip Morris (PM) to market IQOS, subject to regulatory approval. Philip Morris is already selling it in 43 countries and has said it could get approved for the U.S. by the end of the year.

Juul has drawn criticism over its products’ popularity with teens.

Juul, whose products are sold online and in convenience stores, gas stations and vape shops, accounted for about three-quarters of the U.S. e-cigarette market in the four-week period ended November 17, according to the Wells Fargo analysis of Nielsen data.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced plans to place restrictions on sales of flavored e-cigarettes.

Juul also said it would restrict sales of nearly all its flavored pods to the internet, and stop most social media promotion to combat youth vaping.

“More than 99% of all social media content related to JUUL Labs is generated through third-party users and accounts with no affiliation to our company. Nevertheless, we understand that many young people get their information from social media. To remove ourselves entirely from participation in the social conversation, we have decided to shut down our U.S.-based social media accounts on Facebook (FB) and Instagram. We have never used Snapchat (SNAP),” the company stated.

WHAT’S NOTABLE

Following the FDA statement on the agency’s proposed steps against underage smoking, Altria General Counsel Murray Garnick said it “welcomed” the FDA’s efforts to address the underage use of e-vapor products and said it believes Congress should raise the legal age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21.

Last month, Altria said it would pull its pod-based e-vapor products from the market until approved by FDA.

The company said Nu Mark will remove MarkTen Elite and Apex by MarkTen pod-based products from the market “until these products receive a market order from the FDA or the youth issue is otherwise addressed,” and that for the remaining MarkTen and Green Smoke cig-a-like products, Nu Mark will sell only tobacco, menthol and mint varieties.

Nu Mark will discontinue the sale of all other flavor variants of our cig-a-like products until these products receive a market order from the FDA.

The FDA is also pursuing a ban on menthol cigarettes, which could remove nearly a third of the roughly 250B cigarettes sold annually in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal said.

A rule could take a year or more to finalize, the FDA said. The FDA concluded in 2013 that menthols are harder to quit and likely pose a greater health risk than regular cigarettes.

ANALYST COMMENTARY

Morgan Stanley analyst Pamela Kaufman said she has no knowledge of a potential deal between Altria and Juul but that taking such a stake could make strategic sense for Altria to gain exposure to a fast growing product that poses a threat to its cigarette business.

Altria does not have a robust reduced risk product portfolio and Juul’s e-cigs could significantly enhance its competitive position, stated Kaufman, who also believes Altria would likely be buying in at a lower valuation than the previously reported $15B given the FDA recently prohibited flavored pods sales in convenience stores.

 OTHERS TO WATCH

Publicly traded companies in the tobacco products space also include Philip Morris and British American Tobacco (BTI).


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Apptio sold for $1.94 billion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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