Ambac shares jump on its legal victory!

Bank of America to pay $1.84B to Ambac Financial to resolve pending lawsuits

In a regulatory filing, Bank of America (BAC) disclosed that the corporation and certain wholly owned subsidiaries entered into an agreement with Ambac Assurance Corporation (AMBC) to resolve all pending Ambac lawsuits against the corporation and its subsidiaries previously disclosed in the corporation’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended 2021, and in prior U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reports.

As disclosed in those filings, the pending lawsuits, with damages claims of more than $3B, were brought by Ambac against Countrywide entities and other legacy entities related to bond insurance policies that Ambac provided before the 2008 financial crisis.

Under the terms of the agreement, in exchange for the corporation’s payment of $1.84B to Ambac, Ambac, among other things, will cause all pending litigation between the parties to be dismissed with prejudice, and release the corporation and its subsidiaries from all outstanding claims related to Ambac’s issuance of bond insurance policies for certain of the corporation’s and legacy entities’ securitized pools of residential mortgage loans.

The corporation previously accrued for certain amounts of the settlement payment. As a result of the previous accruals and in consideration of the settlement payment, Bank of America said it expects to incur a pre-tax expense in the third quarter of 2022 of approximately $354M, or 3c per share on an after tax basis.

Ambac had been seeking to recover billions of dollars in claims it paid out on bonds originally underwritten by Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America acquired after the mortgage firm’s collapse during the financial crisis. BofA has already paid more than $50 billion to resolve regulatory probes and litigation stemming from its $4 billion purchase of Countrywide.

A trial was underway before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Robert Reed and was expected to last months. The eventual final payment from Bank of America will resolve all legal matters, according to the filing.

Ambac shares are up 14% to $14.55.

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Spectrum Brands shares tumble on DOJ action

DOJ sues to block Assa Abloy deal to buy Spectrum Brands unit

On September 8th, 2021, Spectrum Brands Holdings (SPB) announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its HHI segment to ASSA ABLOY (ASAZY) for $4.3B in cash, which it said represents over 14 times HHI’s expected FY21 Adjusted EBITDA. Click here to read our blog.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today to block Assa Abloy’s (ASAZY) proposed $4.3B acquisition of the Hardware and Home Improvement division of its rival, Spectrum Brands Holdings (SPB).

Assa and Spectrum are two of the three largest producers of residential door hardware in the concentrated, $2.4 billion U.S. industry, the DOJ said.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the merger would eliminate important head-to-head competition between ASSA ABLOY and Spectrum, risking higher prices, lower quality, reduced innovation and poorer service in the sale of at least two types of residential door hardware: premium mechanical door hardware and smart locks.

The complaint, which seeks to enjoin the transaction under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, alleges that ASSA ABLOY and Spectrum have competed for years to be leaders in the U.S. markets for premium mechanical door hardware and for smart locks.

The proposed transaction would transform these markets, giving Assa “a near-monopoly in premium mechanical door hardware and more than a 50% share in smart locks, leaving only one significant competitor,” the DOJ said.

SPB is down 10% to $52.85.

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FOMC to raise rates by 75 bp on September 21

Fed’s Waller supports ‘significant increase’ in policy rate at next meeting

The Federal Reserve release a transcript for a speech to be delivered by Governor Christopher Waller at the 17th Annual Vienna Macroeconomics Workshop, in which he plans to state:

Christopher Waller

Christopher J. Waller took office as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on December 18, 2020, to fill an unexpired term ending January 31, 2030.

Prior to his appointment at the Board, Dr. Waller served as executive vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis since 2009.

There are three takeaways from my speech today.

First, inflation is far too high, and it is too soon to say whether inflation is moving meaningfully and persistently downward. The Federal Open Market Committee is committed to undertake actions to bring inflation back down to our 2% target.

This is a fight we cannot, and will not, walk away from.

The second takeaway is that the fears of a recession starting in the first half of this year have faded away and the robust U.S. labor market is giving us the flexibility to be aggressive in our fight against inflation.

For that reason, I support continued increases in the FOMC’s policy rate and, based on what I know today, I support a significant increase at our next meeting on September 20 and 21 to get the policy rate to a setting that is clearly restricting demand.

The final takeaway is that I believe forward guidance is becoming less useful at this stage of the tightening cycle.

Future decisions on the size of additional rate increases and the destination for the policy rate in this cycle should be solely determined by the incoming data and their implications for economic activity, employment, and inflation.” 

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Emerson Electric to sell InSinkErator to Whirlpool for $3B

Whirlpool confirms pact with Emerson Electric to acquire InSinkErator for $3B

Whirlpool (WHR) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Emerson Electric (EMR) to acquire InSinkErator, the world’s largest manufacturer of food waste disposers and instant hot water dispensers for home and commercial use, in an all-cash transaction for $3B.

The acquisition is expected to be immediately accretive to Whirlpool Corporation’s margins, adding approximately $1.25 EPS accretion in fiscal 2023.

Whirlpool also expects to generate revenue upside by capitalizing on InSinkErator’s leading consumer brand preference, an installed base that is five times larger than the rest of the industry driving a recurring sales profile, the strong underlying secular tailwinds of the U.S. housing market, and the expansion of the InSinkErator brand into new markets and product offerings.

Whirlpool plans to initially fund the acquisition through available liquidity, with new debt put in place at a later date.

The acquisition, which has been approved by the Board of Directors of both companies, is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Whirlpool’s 2022 guidance remains unchanged.

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Beige Book says housing is slowing amid high inflation

Fed’s Beige Book reiterated the economy expanded at a moderate pace

Fed’s Beige Book reiterated the economy expanded at a moderate pace.

But there was a big “however,” something the Fed typically does not express:

“several Districts reported grow signs of a slowdown in demand, and contacts in five Districts noted concerns over an increased risk of a recession.”

Most Districts reported moderation in consumer spending as higher food and gas prices diminished households’ discretionary income.

Federal Reserve Regions

Auto sales were sluggish with low inventories still impacting.

Leisure travel was “healthy.” Manufacturing was mixed. Non-financial services firms saw stable to slightly higher demand. Housing demand weakened.

As in the prior report, the outlook for future economic growth was mostly negative.

Employment generally continued to rise at a moderate pace and conditions were tight overall.

Jerome Powell, FOMC Chair

But there was some sign of modest improvement in labor availability.

Most Districts reported wage growth.

“Substantial” price increases were reported across all Districts, at all stages of consumption, with food, commodities, and energy (particularly fuel) cost remaining “significant.”

There was some moderation in construction materials.

Pricing power was steady, but firms in some sectors like travel and hospitality, were able to pass through sizeable increases to consumers. That is seen persisting through the year.

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Spectrum Brands shares soar on sale of it’s division

Spectrum Brands agrees to sell Hardware & Home Improvement segment for $4.3B

Spectrum Brands Holdings (SPB) announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its HHI segment to ASSA ABLOY (ASAZY) for $4.3B in cash, which it said represents over 14 times HHI’s expected FY21 Adjusted EBITDA.

Upon closing of the transaction, Spectrum Brands expects to receive approximately $3.5B in net proceeds, subject to final tax calculations and purchase price adjustments.

Spectrum Brands expects to use the proceeds from this transaction to repay debt and reduce its gross leverage ratio to approximately 2.5x times in the near term.

Excess proceeds are expected to be allocated to invest for organic growth, fund complementary acquisitions and return capital to shareholders.

The company expects to maintain its quarterly cash dividend of 42c per common share, which will be subject to the company’s continued review from time to time.

The sale of HHI is expected to close following the receipt of certain regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

The results of operations of HHI will be reported as discontinued operations beginning in the fourth quarter of 2021. David Maura, CEO of Spectrum Brands, said, “I am exceedingly proud of the fact that our Hardware & Home Improvement business nearly doubled its EBITDA under Spectrum Brands’ ownership.

I am pleased to know that HHI has found a new home with a great partner, and I am confident that ASSA ABLOY will take it to its highest potential, bringing great value and innovation to consumers for generations to come.

We believe this transaction demonstrates the tremendous value of Spectrum Brands as an owner and steward of our businesses and places the Company in a strong position for the future by allowing us to further reduce our leverage levels, and enhance our capital allocation strategy.

Our remaining business will be more focused, allowing us to prioritize innovation to accelerate organic growth and pursue synergistic acquisitions to further drive value creation in Global Pet Care and Home & Garden, while continuing to look for strategic and organic ways to enhance the value of Home and Personal Care.

After the closing, we will become a more pure play consumer staples company with higher growth rates and strong margins.”

The company added: “Spectrum Brands will be a simplified business consisting of three focused business units with leading market share, strong growth opportunities and consistent performance.

The pro forma business generated $3.0B in net sales and $386 million in Adjusted EBITDA representing a 13.0% margin for the LTM period ended July 4, 2021.

Spectrum Brands will report its fourth quarter 2021 results in mid-November and expects to provide Fiscal 2022 Earnings Framework at that time.”

ASSA ABLOY AB is a Swedish company that provides door opening products, solutions, and services for the institutional, commercial, and residential markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North and South America, Asia, and Oceania.  In addition, the company offers entrance automation products, services, and components, such as automatic swing, sliding, and revolving doors; industrial doors; garage doors; high-performance doors; docking solutions; hangar doors; gate automation products; components for overhead sectional doors and sensors; and high security fencings and gates. The company provides its products primarily under the ASSA ABLOY, Yale, and HID brands.

Spectrum’s Hardware & Home Improvement segment offers hardware products under the National Hardware and FANAL brands; locksets and door hardware under the Kwikset, Weiser, Baldwin, EZSET, and Tell Manufacturing brands; and plumbing products under the Pfister brand. Its Home and Personal Care segment provides home appliances under the Black & Decker, Russell Hobbs, George Foreman, Toastmaster, Juiceman, Farberware, and Breadman brands; and personal care products under the Remington and LumaBella brands.

The company’s Global Pet Care segment provides rawhide chewing, dog and cat clean-up and food, training, health and grooming, small animal food and care, and rawhide-free products under the 8IN1 (8-in-1), Dingo, Nature’s Miracle, Wild Harvest, Littermaid, Jungle, Excel, FURminator, IAMS, Eukanuba, Healthy-Hide, DreamBone, SmartBones, ProSense, Perfect Coat, eCOTRITION, Birdola, and Digest-eeze brands.

ASAZY is down 38 cents to $15.53 per share while SPB is up $15 to $94.

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Berkshire Hathaway reports record profit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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William Lyon Homes sold for $2.4B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No more rate hikes in 2019

Majority of Fed members see rates unchanged for rest of 2019

Members see rates to remain unchanged in 2019, Stockwinners

Minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting read, “With regard to the outlook for monetary policy beyond this meeting, a majority of participants expected that the evolution of the economic outlook and risks to the outlook would likely warrant leaving the target range unchanged for the remainder of the year.

Several of these participants noted that the current target range for the federal funds rate was close to their estimates of its longer-run neutral level and foresaw economic growth continuing near its longer-run trend rate over the forecast period.

Participants continued to emphasize that their decisions about the appropriate target range for the federal funds rate at coming meetings would depend on their ongoing assessments of the economic outlook, as informed by a wide range of data, as well as on how the risks to the outlook evolved.

Short term rates should decline as 30-year rates rise, Stockwinners

Several participants noted that their views of the appropriate target range for the federal funds rate could shift in either direction based on incoming data and other developments.

Some participants indicated that if the economy evolved as they currently expected, with economic growth above its longer-run trend rate, they would likely judge it appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate modestly later this year.”

Economic growth in 2019 likely lower than previous forecast

“Participants continued to view a sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective as the most likely outcomes over the next few years.

Underlying economic fundamentals continued to support sustained expansion, and most participants indicated that they did not expect the recent weakness in spending to persist beyond the first quarter.

Nevertheless, participants generally expected the growth rate of real GDP this year to step down from the pace seen over 2018 to a rate at or modestly above their estimates of longer-run growth. Participants cited various factors as likely to contribute to the step-down, including slower foreign growth and waning effects of fiscal stimulus.

A number of participants judged that economic growth in the remaining quarters of 2019 and in the subsequent couple of years would likely be a little lower, on balance, than they had previously forecast. Reasons cited for these downward revisions included disappointing news on global growth and less of a boost from fiscal policy than had previously been anticipated.”


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Canary in the mine, Homebuilders

Homebuilders continue tumble as Credit Suisse downgrades several in space

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Homebuilder shares tumble; Stockwinners

Many believe that housing market is the engine of the economy. If that is the case, we should expect a slow down in the economy. Housing prices have always been one of the first indicators of a slowdown or a coming out of a recession for the economy. We should brace ourselves for lower home prices!

Shares of homebuilders continued their decline after an analyst at Credit Suisse downgraded several companies in the space, saying that she expects more tempered demand and rising affordability concerns to weigh on homebuilding sentiment and broader group valuation, offsetting any near-term earnings beats.

A different analyst at the firm downgraded home improvement retailers Home Depot (HD) and Lowe’s (LOW) this morning, due to his concern that their recent results and stock prices have disconnected from housing.

HOMEBUILDERS DOWNGRADED

Credit Suisse analyst Susan Maklari told investors in a research note this morning that although she believes housing and macro fundamentals remain “intact,” including high consumer confidence and sustained low unemployment, unit gains are likely to moderate.

She sees any near-term earnings beats to be offset by even more tempered demand and rising affordability concerns. She sees average order growth for 2019 of 8%, compared to 11% in 2018 and 12% in 2017, and sees “relative” outperformance from builders who are able to capture above-trend gains due to product mix, like D.R. Horton (DHI), and geographic positioning, like PulteGroup (PHM). Maklari downgraded Lennar (LEN) and Meritage Homes (MTH) to Neutral from Outperform and lowered her respective price targets for the shares to $45 from $55 and to $36 from $50.

The analyst sees more limited upside to Lennar looking ahead as its strategic initiatives, as well as geographic exposure, are reflected in its current valuation.

While Meritage has benefited from efforts to drive improvements in operations in its East region as well as the rollout of its entry level targeted homes, Maklari believes much of the initial gains have been captured and she expects limited upside to the current valuation as comparisons become more difficult.

The analyst also downgraded KB Home (KBH) to Underperform from Neutral and lowered her price target to $18 from $27, saying that over the last several months her channel checks and Realtor Survey have pointed to slowing demand in higher cost MSAs, including California, which accounted for about 50% of the company’s 2017 revenues.

HOME DEPOT, LOWE’S ALSO DOWNGRADED

Another analyst at Credit Suisse, Seth Sigman, this morning downgraded Home Depot and Lowe’s, both to Neutral from Outperform, citing his concern that their recent results and stock prices have disconnected from housing. In a research note of his own, Sigman said his key concern is that home prices will continue to moderate, at least temporarily, as higher rates weigh on affordability.

Overall, Sigman still sees EPS growing, but sees less upside over the next 12 months relative to current estimates.

The analyst continues to view Home Depot as best-in-class in retail, but struggles to find multiple upside from its current premium level as housing sentiment shifts and some uncertainty arises. While he continues to expect meaningful improvement in sales and operating profit at Lowe’s under new CEO Marvin Ellison, Sigman thinks consensus estimates are baking that in. The analyst cut his price target on Home Depot to $204 from $222 and on Lowe’s to $111 from $115.

PRICE ACTION

Shares of Lennar dropped 3%, while Meritage Homes dropped 6.6% and KB Home declined 4.4%. Other homebuilders were dragged lower, including D.R. Horton, PulteGroup and Toll Brothers (TOL), which are all down over 3%.

Additionally, Home Depot and Lowe’s both declined over 4%. Further, XHB, the homebuilding ETF, is down nearly 3% today and about 10% month-to-date.


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ModSpace sold for $1.1 billion

Williams Scotsman to acquire ModSpace for approx. $1.1B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Zillow enters house flipping, shares decline

Zillow falls after announces house flipping plans, competitor Redfin declines

Zillow tumble on Amazon news. See Stockwinners.com Market Radar
Zillow enters house flipping, shares decline

Shares of Zillow (Z,ZG) dropped in Friday’s trading after the company announced plans to enter the home-flipping business just in time for the Spring selling season.

Zillow, which has focused on just the listing part of the real estate business, announced last night along with quarterly and yearly revenue, that it will expand Zillow Instant Offers to Phoenix this month.

With this expansion, Zillow said it plans to participate in the marketplace, buying and selling homes with Premier Agent partners in the Phoenix and Las Vegas markets.

Zillow began testing Instant Offers in May 2017 with Premier Agent partners in Las Vegas and Orlando, and will add Phoenix this month.

According to Zillow, the program “gives real estate agents the opportunity to acquire new listings by connecting them with motivated sellers who have taken a direct action to sell their home.

Across all testing, Zillow found the vast majority of sellers who requested an Instant Offer ended up selling their home with an agent, making Instant Offers an excellent source of seller leads for Premier Agents and brokerage partners.”

“Even in today’s hot market, many sellers are stressed and searching for a more seamless way to sell their homes,” Zillow Chief Marketing Officer Jeremy Wacksman said in a statement.

“They want help, and while most prefer to sell their home on the open market with an agent, some value convenience and time over price. This expansion of Instant Offers, and Zillow’s entrance into the marketplace, will help us better serve both types of consumers as well as provide an opportunity for Premier Agents to connect with sellers.

A “WASH” FOR SHAREHOLDERS

Craig-Hallum analyst Brad Berning downgraded Zillow to Hold from Buy after the company announced the expansion of the Instant Offers program to Phoenix in addition to Las Vegas and Orlando.

The program will require what he estimates to be about $3B of capital, which Zillow intends to fund using its balance sheet, while only creating what he estimates will be about $3B in incremental shareholder value, Berning told investors.

Thus, he sees the expansion as “a wash” for shareholder value, but one that comes at the price of potential added risk. Berning lowered his price target on Zillow to $50 from $58.

COMPETITION FOR REDFIN

Redfin (RDFN), an online real-estate brokerage, “began experimenting with buying homes a little more than a year ago,” said The Wall Street Journal, citing Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman.

Redfin falls after Zillow enters house flipping; Stockwinners
Redfin falls after Zillow enters house flipping;

PRICE ACTION

Shares of Zillow are down over 10% to $48.19 per share, while Redfin is lower by 2.5% to $22.15 in Friday’s trading.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The option would have a term of approximately 6 months.

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

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

USG closed at $33.51.


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Barron’s in bullish on Citi, bearish on GE

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

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

BULLISH   MENTIONS: 

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

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

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

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

BEARISH  MENTION:

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


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Layne Christensen sold for $565M

Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen in $565M stock merger

Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen. Stockwinners.com
Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen 

Granite Construction Incorporated (GVA) and Layne Christensen Company (LAYN) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement whereby Granite will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Layne in a stock-for-stock transaction valued at $565 million, including the assumption of net debt.

The transaction, which was unanimously approved by the Boards of Directors of both companies, is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.

Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen. Stockwinners.com
Granite Construction to acquire Layne Christensen

Under the terms of the agreement, Layne shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 0.270 Granite shares for each share of Layne common stock they own. This represents $17.00 per Layne share, or a premium of 33%, based on the volume-weighted average prices for Granite and Layne shares over the past 90 trading days.

Following the close of the transaction, Layne shareholders will own approximately 12% of Granite shares on a fully diluted basis, and Granite’s Board will be expanded to include one additional director from Layne.

The transaction represents an enterprise value multiple of 8.2x 2018 expected EBITDA.

Granite expects to achieve approximately $20 million of annual run-rate cost savings by the third year following the close of the transaction, with approximately one-third realized in 2018.

Granite expects to incur approximately $11 million in one-time costs to achieve these savings.

The transaction is expected to be accretive to Granite’s adjusted earnings per share, and high single-digit accretive to Granite’s adjusted cash earnings per share in the first year after closing.

Granite expects to assume outstanding Layne convertible debt with principal value of $170 million and honor the terms and existing maturity date provisions of the indentures.

The transaction is not expected to trigger any change of control provisions under Layne’s indentures.

Granite also expects to fund the cash financing requirements of the transaction of approximately $70 million through a combination of existing cash on hand and availability under Granite’s revolving credit facility.

Following close, Granite will maintain an investment grade credit profile and significant financial flexibility.

The transaction, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018, is subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including applicable regulatory approvals and the approval of the shareholders of Layne.

Wynnefield Capital, which has an approximate 9% voting interest in Layne, has agreed to vote in favor of the transaction.

In connection with the transaction, Granite will issue approximately 5.4 million shares of Granite common stock to Layne common stockholders.

LAYN closed at $12.62. GVA closed at $60.08.


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