Alliance Data sells Epsilon for $4.4 billion

Publicis to acquire Epsilon for $4.40B in cash

Publicis (PUBGY) announced it has entered into an agreement with Alliance Data Systems (ADS) under which Publicis will acquire Alliance Data’s Epsilon business for a net purchase price of $3.95B after tax step-up – total cash consideration of $4.40B – and build a strategic partnership with Alliance Data remaining business.


Publicis to acquire Epsilon for $4.40B in cash , Stockwinners

The acquisition gives Publicis access to Epsilon’s data capabilities. The company says, for example, it has more than 250 million unique consumers identified in the U.S. The company says it can build on top of a client’s first-party data with its own assets, like behavioral and transactional data.

The Directoire, or Management Board, and the Conseil de Surveillance, or Supervisory Board, of Publicis have unanimously approved this transaction.

Alliance Data sells Epsilon for $4.4 billion, Stockwinners

Arthur Sadoun, Chairman and CEO of Publicis, said that, “Our clients are facing increasing pressure from the rise in consumer expectations, the mainstreaming of direct-to-consumer brands and new data regulations. The only response is to deliver personalized experiences at scale. They have to transform to meet this new market imperative.”

Edward Heffernan, Alliance Data Systems’ President and CEO, added that, “I’m pleased to say today’s announcement represents a trifecta win for Alliance Data, Epsilon and Publicis Groupe.

The announcement of this transaction represents the culmination of an extensive assessment of strategic options for our Epsilon business.

With this transaction, we have found what we believe to be the right home for Epsilon’s technology, data assets and associates.

Publicis Groupe will be the ideal cultural and strategic fit for Epsilon and its Conversant business, and will help drive Publicis Groupe’s own transformation in today’s data-driven digital world.

Furthermore, the unique relationships that have been cultivated between Epsilon and our other Alliance Data businesses will remain intact, and we look forward to working with Publicis Groupe to develop an even broader relationship promoting mutual and sustainable growth going forward.”

Under the terms of the agreed transaction, Publicis will acquire Epsilon for a cash consideration of $4.40B, representing a net purchase price of $3.95B after deducting the benefit of acquisition-related tax step-up.

This implies an 8.2-times multiple, based on a 2018 Adjusted EBITDA of $485M.

According to Publicis, the transaction will be double digit accretive to its headline EPS and free Cash Flow per share from year one.

Publicis also said that it “remains committed” to its 45% dividend payout ratio and will put on hold its share repurchase program in the context of this acquisition.

The transaction remains subject to customary approvals and is expected to close in Q3 2019.

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Rig counts declined by three

  • Baker Hughes reports U.S. rig count down 3 to 1,022 rigs last week
  • The U.S. Rig Count is up 14 rigs from last year’s count of 1,008
Oil Rigs, See Stockwinners.com Market Radar to read the latest on oil and rig count
Rig counts declined by three, See Stockwinners.com

Baker Hughes (BHGE) reports that the U.S. rig count is down 3 rigs from last week to 1,022, with oil rigs up 2 to 833, gas rigs down 5 to 189, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at 0.

The U.S. Rig Count is up 14 rigs from last year’s count of 1,008, with oil rigs up 18 to 833, gas rigs down 3 to 189, and miscellaneous rigs down 1.

The U.S. Offshore Rig Count is up 1 rig to 23 and up 7 rigs year-over-year.

The Canada Rig Count is down 2 rigs from last week to 66, with oil rigs down 4 to 18 and gas rigs up 2 to 48.

The Canada Rig Count is down 36 rigs from last year’s count of 102, with oil rigs down 23 and gas rigs down 13.

Crude oil (WTI) is up 66 cents to $64.25 per barrel. Brent crude is up 95 cents to $64.27 per barrel.

The international offshore rig count for April 2018 was 194. Stockwinners
Oil is higher on the new, Stockwinners

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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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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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Spark Therapeutics sold for $4.8 billion

Roche acquires Spark Therapeutics for $114.50 per share, a 122% premium

Spark tumbles on hemophilia study , Stockwinners

Roche acquires Spark Therapeutics for $114.50 per share , Stockwinners

Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement for Roche (RHHBY) to fully acquire Spark Therapeutics at a price of $114.50 per share in an all-cash transaction.

This corresponds to a total equity value of approximately $4.8B on a fully diluted basis, inclusive of approximately $500M of projected net cash expected at close.

The per share price represents a premium of 122% to Spark’s closing price on Feb. 22, 2019. The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the boards of both Spark and Roche.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Roche will commence a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of Spark’s common stock, and Spark will file a recommendation statement containing the unanimous recommendation of the Spark board that Spark shareholders tender their shares to Roche.

Spark Therapeutics will continue its operations in Philadelphia as an independent company within the Roche Group.

The closing of the transaction is expected to take place in Q2 of 2019.

Bernstein analyst Vincent #Chen notes that he has long seen Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) as a takeout candidate in gene therapy after the Wall Street Journal reported Roche (RHHBY) is near acquiring the company for close to $5B.

The analyst thinks the deal makes sense as adding hemophilia gene therapy to Hemlibra sets up Roche as a leader in next-gen non-factor hemophilia drugs, CNS gene therapy pipeline is a good fit for Roche’s growing neuroscience franchise, and as it serves as a cornerstone in establishing Roche as a gene therapy leader, to rival the likes of Novartis (NVS).


Credit Suisse analyst Martin Auster notes that the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Roche (RHHBY) is nearing a deal with Spark Therapeutics (ONCE) for $5B.

The analyst believes the transaction value implies the re-emergence of Spark’s hemophilia A gene therapy program with a competitive profile and substantial value assigned to additional pipeline programs, such as SPK-3006 for Pompe, and the technology platform.

Spark’s acquisition would further strengthen the company’s position in the hemophilia space, he contends. Further, Auster argues that the deal may increase M&A interest among other gene therapy names in his coverage universe, which include BioMarin (BMRN), Sarepta (SRPT), Ultragenyx (RARE), PTC (PTC) and Solid Biosciences (SLDB). He sees particularly strong read-through to Sarepta.


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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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Tesaro sold for $75 per share

Tesaro to be acquired by GSK for approx. $5.1B

 

Tesaro could be sold soon, Stockwinners
Tesaro sold for $75 per share, Stockwinners

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and TESARO (TSRO) announced that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which GSK will acquire TESARO, an oncology-focused company based in Waltham, Massachusetts, for an aggregate cash consideration of approximately $5.1B.

The proposed transaction significantly strengthens GSK’s pharmaceutical business, accelerating the build of GSK’s pipeline and commercial capability in oncology. The acquisition price of $75 per share in cash represents a 110% premium to TESARO’s 30 day Volume Weighted Average Price of $35.67 and an aggregate consideration of approximately $5.1B including the assumption of TESARO’s net debt.

Zejula’s revenues in its current approved indication as second-line maintenance treatment for ovarian cancer were $166 million for the 9 months ended 30 September 2018.

GSK expects the acquisition of TESARO and associated R&D and commercial investments will impact Adjusted EPS for the first two years by mid to high single digit percentages, reducing thereafter with the acquisition expected to start to be accretive to Adjusted EPS by 2022. GSK’s guidance for full-year 2018 Adjusted EPS growth remains unchanged at 8 to 10% at CER.

GSK continues to expect to deliver on its previously published Group Outlooks to 2020, but following the acquisition of TESARO now expects Adjusted EPS growth at CER for the period 2016-2020 to be at the bottom end of the mid to high single digit percentage CAGR range.

GSK confirms no change to its current dividend policy and continues to expect to pay 80p in dividends for 2018. GSK expects to fund the acquisition from cash resources and drawing under a new acquisition facility.

Please click here and read our blog when we predicted this transaction.


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Toyota enters self-driving car services

Toyota, SoftBank agree to form JV for self-driving car services

Toyota enters self-driving car services, Stockwinners
Toyota enters self-driving car services, Stockwinners

Shares of Toyota (TM) are in focus on Thursday after the company announced plans to team up with SoftBank (SFTBF) to develop self-driving car services.

The news follows an announcement from General Motors (GM) on Wednesday that Honda (HMC) will invest $2.75B and take a 5.7% stake in its Cruise self-driving vehicle unit, in which SoftBank is also an investor.

TOYOTA, SOFTBANK TO FORM JV

Toyota announced in a statement that it and SoftBank will form a joint venture called MONET, short for mobility network, to develop businesses that will use driverless-car technology to offer new services, such as mobile convenience stores and delivery vehicles in which food is prepared en route.

MONET will provide coordination between Toyota’s Mobility Services Platform, Toyota’s information infrastructure for connected vehicles, and SoftBank’s Internet of Things Platform, which was built to create new value from the collection and analysis of data acquired from smartphones and sensor devices, the companies said.

MONET will roll out an autonomous driving service using e-Palette, Toyota’s dedicated battery electric vehicle for mobility services, by the second half of the 2020s, Toyota and SoftBank added.

The venture will have initial capital of Y2B, and SoftBank will own just over half of the business, which will initially focus on Japan and eventually go global, according to a Reuters report.

Junichi Miyakawa, chief technology officer at SoftBank who will be CEO of the new company, commented that “SoftBank alone and automakers alone can’t do everything… We want to work to help people with limited access to transportation.”

WHAT’S NOTABLE

Earlier this year, Toyota set up a new company dedicated to the research and development of self-driving vehicles, with plans to invest $2.8 billion to develop a commercially viable autonomous car.

RECENT PARTNERSHIPS IN AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

On Wednesday, Cruise and GM announced that they partnered with Honda to work towards large-scale deployment of autonomous vehicle technology.

Honda will work jointly with Cruise and General Motors to fund and develop a purpose-built autonomous vehicle for Cruise that can serve a wide variety of use cases and be manufactured at high volume for global deployment.

Honda will contribute approximately $2B over 12 years to these initiatives, which, together with a $750M equity investment in Cruise, brings its total commitment to the project to $2.75B.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund committed $2.3B to Cruise earlier this year.

Additionally, Renault (RNSDF)-Nissan (NSANY) and Daimler (DDAIF) are considering expanding their collaboration to battery and autonomous vehicle technology as well as mobility services, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing comments made by the CEOs of both companies.

“The industry being in transformation in the area of connectivity, autonomous cars and connected services, there are plenty of areas of cooperation for our entities,” Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said.


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Today’s stock disaster

GTx announces placebo-controlled ASTRID trial did not meet primary endpoint

GTx Phase 2 trial of enobosarm meets primary endpoint. Stockwinners.com
Today’s stock disaster

GTx (GTXI) announced that the ASTRID Trial, a Phase 2 double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of orally-administered enobosarm in post-menopausal women with stress urinary incontinence, did not achieve statistical significance on the primary endpoint of the proportion of patients with a greater than 50% reduction in incontinence episodes per day compared to placebo.

The percentage of patients with a greater than 50% reduction after 12 weeks of enobosarm treatment was 58.9% for 3mg, 57.7% for 1mg and 52.7% for placebo.

Enobosarm was generally safe and well tolerated.

Reported adverse events were minimal and similar across all treatment groups.

“We are very disappointed that the ASTRID Trial did not achieve its primary endpoint,” said Robert Wills, executive chairman of GTx.

“We plan to conduct a full review of all the data. We want to thank the patients, physicians, study coordinators and the entire GTx team for their support of this novel study. We have an ongoing preclinical program assessing the potential of SARDs, our novel selective androgen receptor degrader technology, to treat castration-resistant prostate cancer. We are currently on target to have development candidates by year end, which we potentially plan to take into IND-enabling studies.”

GTXI closed at $23.29, it last traded at $2.00.


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Scotts Miracle-Gro dragged down by Bayer woes

Bayer drags Scotts Miracle-Gro down after Monsanto weed killer ruling

Scotts Miracle-Gro dragged down by Bayer woes, Stockwinners
Scotts Miracle-Gro dragged down by Bayer woes, Stockwinners

Shares of Bayer (BAYRY) trading in New York are sliding after the recently acquired Monsanto was ordered to pay $289M by a California court, who found it liable in a lawsuit alleging that the company’s Roundup caused cancer.

Commenting on the news, JPMorgan analyst Richard Vosser told investors that the selloff in the shares is “significantly overdone” as he sees the potential for the verdict to be overturned on appeal and for the damage amount to be greatly reduced.

Meanwhile, his peer at Bank of America Merrill Lynch argued that the ruling adds cloud over an important product for Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG).

ROUNDUP RULING

Last week, a jury found Monsanto, which was recently acquired by Bayer for $63B, liable in a lawsuit alleging that the company’s glyphosate-based weedkillers, including its Roundup brand, caused cancer.

The case against Monsanto is the first of more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the U.S.

The jury at San Francisco’s Superior Court of California found that Monsanto had failed to warn school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by its weed killers, and awarded Johnson $250M in punitive damages and about $39M in compensatory damages.

Monsanto, which plans to appeal the verdict, has denied that glyphosate causes cancer and has contended that decades of scientific studies have shown the chemical to be safe for human use.

SELLOFF ‘SIGNIFICANTLY OVERDONE’

In a research note to investors, JPMorgan’s Vosser said he views the selloff in shares of Bayer after a California jury ordered the company’s Monsanto unit to pay $289M for not warning of cancer risks posed by its weed killer, Roundup, as “significantly overdone.”

The analyst added that he sees the potential for the verdict to be overturned on appeal and for the damage amount to be greatly reduced. Overall, Vosser believes current share levels of Bayer provide a good long-term buying opportunity and reiterated an Overweight rating on the name.

RULING ‘ADDS CLOUD’ OVER IMPORTANT PRODUCT

Also commenting on the California court’s ruling, BofA/Merrill analyst Christopher Carey pointed out in a research note of his own that while the product is owned by Monsanto, Scotts Miracle-Gro is the exclusive distributor/marketer of consumer Roundup in the U.S. and Canada, with the brand on track to be about 15% to FY18 profit, but less in FY19 as a 3-year term for $20M annual payments from Monsanto ends in FY18.

Carey noted that he does not expect a ban of glyphosate, but argued that the court decision nevertheless “adds a cloud” over a product which is important for Scotts Miracle-Gro.

While any additional impact from Roundup is unclear, this adds another layer to risks, he contended, highlighting that the company already must overcome a number of headwinds in 2019.

The analyst reiterated an Underperform rating and $74 price target on Scotts Miracle-Gro’s shares. Meanwhile, his peer at SunTrust told investors that there is likely no legal risk to Scotts Miracle-Gro from Friday’s jury verdict in California.

As part of the master agreement between Scotts and Monsanto signed three years ago, Scotts is indemnified from any litigation relating to the Roundup/glyphosate issue, analyst William Chappell pointed out.

Further, the analyst noted that the company is not listed as a defendant in any of the cases filed against Monsanto.

Nevertheless, Chappell estimates that Roundup represents roughly 10% of Scotts’ EBITDA, and believes sales could be impacted over the long-term from these trials.

The analyst reiterated a Buy rating and $100 price target on Scotts Miracle-Gro’s shares.

PRICE ACTION

In Monday morning trading, shares of Bayer in New York have dropped over 10% to $23.75, while Scotts Miracle-Gro’s stock has slipped 2.25% to $73.65.


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 EU ruling against Google seen as win for Amazon, Apple

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

 

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

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

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

ANTITRUST FINE

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

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

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

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

‘PRO-AMAZON’ RULING:

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

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

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

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

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

PRICE ACTION

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


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Arconic higher following report of private equity interest

Arconic higher following report of private equity interest

Arconic higher following report of private equity interest, Stockwinners
Arconic higher following report of private equity interest, Stockwinners

Shares of Arconic (ARNC) are rising following a report that the aluminum producer has received interest from private equity firms including Apollo Global Management (APO).

PE  INTEREST

Arconic has received takeover interest from private-equity firms, including Apollo Global, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

A deal for the aerospace parts maker, which currently has a market value of $8.3B, could be worth over $10B, but no buyout agreement is imminent, the report said.

The company, which also holds $6.4B in debt, has a tumultuous recent history, facing an activist investor campaign from Elliott Management after being separated from the aluminum business now known as Alcoa (AA) in 2016.

The campaign led to the resignation of former Arconic Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld and an overhaul of the company’s board.

In addition, the company came under scrutiny after investigators discovered its aluminum composite panels contributed to the spread of a fire last year at London’s Grenfell Tower that killed 80 people.

At the time, Arconic said it had no control over how its products were used in the building.

‘PLAUSIBLE LBO CANDIDATE’

Following the WSJ report, Morgan Stanley analyst Rajeev Lalwani said two things stand out to make Arconic a “plausible” leveraged buyout candidate: Its low EV/EBITDA multiple, which creates potentially favorable entry and exit points, and its cash flow profile, which has room for improvement.

The analyst stated that a more lean and efficient approach could support considerably better cash generation.

While the reported private equity interest “adds a level of intrigue,” Lalwani still believes headwinds within it rings and disks business, working capital and CapEx issues and volatility associated with aluminum prices will be the key driver of shares in the near-term.

Given the aforementioned execution concerns, Lalwani kept an Equal Weight rating and $20 price target on Arconic shares.

‘VERY VIABLE LBO CANDIDATE’

Credit Suisse analyst Curt Woodworth said he views Arconic as a “very viable” leveraged buyout candidate given its “highly depressed” multiples, operational and financial mismanagement, and “very strong” positions in automotive and aerospace end markets.

The analyst believes the issues at Firth Rixson are “very fixable” as the company is a new entrant into the disks market and said Arconic could be worth $24-$26 per share in a buyout. Woodworth has an Outperform rating on the shares with a $28 price target.

WHAT’S NOTABLE

On Monday, Arconic announced it had signed a new long-term contract with Boeing (BA) to supply aluminum sheet and plate for all models produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The multiyear contract, which extends and adds to the companies’ 2014 contract, is the largest to date and captures growth in the build rate increases of the Boeing 737 program.

PRICE ACTION

Arconic rose about 10%, or $1.73, to $19.12 in morning.


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Pfizer shares lower after talk with President prompts rollback

Pfizer under pressure after talk with President prompts rollback

Pfizer shares lower after talk with President prompts rollback, Stockwinners
Pfizer shares lower after talk with President prompts rollback, Stockwinners

After speaking with President Donald Trump, Pfizer (PFE) stated that it will roll back its July 1 price increases “to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access for patients.”

Additionally this morning, the company announced that it will reorganize into three units, separating its consumer health-care business, which the drugmaker has been trying to sell since last year, from its groups focused on “innovative” medicines” and “established” medicines.

PRICE ROLLBACK

In a statement provided to CNBC’s Meg Tirrell yesterday, Pfizer said it will roll back its July 1 price increases “to give the president an opportunity to work on his blueprint to strengthen the healthcare system and provide more access for patients.”

The company released the statement following an “extensive discussion” with President Trump. Pfizer said it will return such prices to their pre-July 1 levels as soon as technically possible, and the prices will remain in effect until the earlier of when the president’s blueprint goes into effect or the end of the year. In addition, the drug giant said that the price declines the company took as of July 1 will remain in effect.

This comes after President Trump called out the company and other drugmakers for raising prices.

In a tweet, Trump previously said Pfizer and peers “should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason,” accusing the company and industry of “merely taking advantage of the poor and others unable to defend themselves, while at the same time giving bargain basement prices to other countries in Europe and elsewhere.”

BUSINESS REORGANIZATION

This morning, Pfizer also announced it will organize the company into three businesses, namely a science-based Innovative Medicines business that will now include biosimilars and a new hospital business unit for anti-infectives and sterile injectables; an off-patent branded and generic Established Medicines business operating with substantial autonomy within Pfizer; and a Consumer Healthcare business.

These changes will be effective at the beginning of the company’s 2019 fiscal year, and are not expected to impact current capital allocation priorities or full-year 2018 financial guidance.

READ-THROUGH TO OTHERS IN THE SECTOR

Commenting on the events, Wells Fargo analyst David Maris told investors that drug stocks will not react favorably to this news, given the chilling effect this will likely have on others looking to take price increases.

Nonetheless, the analyst pointed out that the price increases taken in July are only small compared to other increases taken over the past year or several years, so the impact of the rollback to the healthcare system is insignificant in the big picture.

Maris also added that he believes the administration’s and other key legislators’ focus is not only on drug pricing, but on the overall supply chain and delivery system, including drug rebating, co-pay coupons, etc.

WHAT’S NOTABLE

According to Bloomberg, Gilead (GILD), Roche (RHHBY), Novo Nordisk (NVO) and Novartis (NVS) have all sent notices to California health plans rescinding or reducing previously announced price hikes in the wake of a new drug pricing transparency law that was enacted in the state.

The California measure, which is among the most aggressive efforts by states to rein in drug costs, is being challenged in court by the drug industry’s lobbying group, the report noted.

Other large cap pharmaceutical companies include AstraZeneca (AZN), Bristol-Myers (BMY), Eli Lilly (LLY), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Merck (MRK), and Sanofi (SNY).

PRICE ACTION

In morning trading, shares of Pfizer have dropped about 0.5% to $37.28.


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21st Century Fox boosts it’s offer for Sky

21st Century Fox boosts offer for Sky to GBP 14 or $32.5B 

21st Century Fox boosts it's offer for Sky , Stockwinners
21st Century Fox boosts it’s offer for Sky , Stockwinners

21st Century Fox (FOXA) and the Independent Committee of Sky PLC (SKYAY) announced that they have reached agreement on an increased recommended pre-conditional cash offer for the fully diluted share capital of Sky which Fox and its affiliates do not already own at a price of GBP 14.00 for each Sky share.

The price of GBP 14.00 per Sky share represents an increase of approximately 12% to the Comcast (CMCSA) offer price of GBP 12.50 per Sky share announced on April 25, Fox says in a statement.

Under the terms of the increased offer, Sky shareholders will be entitled to receive for each Sky share GBP 14.00 in cash.

The increased price includes an amount in lieu of a final dividend in respect of the financial year ended June 30, 2018.

It is intended that the acquisition will be implemented by means of a scheme of arrangement under applicable U.K. law.

The Sky Independent Committee announced that it intends to unanimously recommend that the Sky shareholders unaffiliated with 21st Century Fox vote in favor of the scheme and take no action in relation to the Comcast offer.

Fox currently anticipates that the acquisition will complete in Q3 of 2018.

Fox added that the Sky acquisition is not a condition to completion of the Disney (DIS) transaction.

Completion of the Sky acquisition will not affect the amount or form of consideration that stockholders of 21st Century Fox receive in the Disney deal, it said.

“We strongly believe that a combined 21CF and Sky will be a powerful driver for the continued growth and vibrancy of the UK and broader global creative industries.

The enhanced scale and capabilities of the combination will enrich Sky’s ability to continue on its mission for years to come, especially at a time of dynamic change in our industry.

This transformative transaction will position Sky so that it can continue to compete within an environment that now includes some of the largest companies in the world, but none of whom have demonstrated the same local depth of investment and commitment to the UK and to Europe,” added Fox.


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