Starbucks receives $7.15 billion from Nestle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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21st Century Fox Says Thanks but Not Interested

 21st Century Fox rejected rival bid of $34.41 per share for assets

21st Century Fox Says Thanks but Not Interested, Stockwinners
21st Century Fox Says Thanks but Not Interested, Stockwinners

Disney (DIS) disclosed on Wednesday in a regulatory filing that on November 14, 2017, representatives of 21st Century Fox (FOXA) and “Party B” held discussions via conference call regarding a potential strategic transaction between the parties.

Party B, which Reuters reported last night to be Comcast (CMCSA), provided Fox a non-binding proposal to acquire the remaining company at a price of $34.41 per share payable in stock of Party B, subject to further discussions on the allocation of regulatory risk.

Disney’s filing further explained, “Representatives of Goldman Sachs and Centerview then discussed with the 21CF board the potential financial profiles of the surviving entities from potential strategic transactions with each of Party B and Disney.

In addition, representatives of Goldman Sachs discussed with the 21CF board illustrative financial implications of the potential strategic transactions as proposed by each of Disney and Party B, including illustrative future trading ranges for each of Disney and Party B on a pro forma basis, giving effect to the potential strategic transactions.

Goldman Sachs noted that the probability of Disney stock trading toward the higher ends of the range on a pro forma basis could be viewed as higher than such a likelihood for Party B.

Goldman Sachs also noted the higher likelihood for revenue synergies in a Disney transaction over and above the cost synergies assumed in the Goldman Sachs valuation analyses.

At the end of the meeting, the 21CF board directed management to cease discussions with Party B and focus on finalizing negotiations with Disney.”

On December 7, 2017, Fox’s Rupert Murdoch informed the Chairman and CEO of Party B that Fox would not enter into an exclusivity arrangement with Party B at this time and that Fox would suspend discussions while it pursued other opportunities, Disney’s filing states.


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Tropicana Entertainment sold for $1.85B

Eldorado Resorts to acquire Tropicana Entertainment in $1.85B transaction 

Tropicana Entertainment sold for $1.85B, Stockwinners
Tropicana Entertainment sold for $1.85B, 

Eldorado Resorts (ERI) announced that it entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Tropicana Entertainment (TPCA) in a cash transaction that is valued at $1.85B.

The definitive agreement provides that Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLPI) will pay $1.21B, excluding taxes and expenses, for substantially all of Tropicana’s real estate and enter into a master lease with Eldorado for the acquired real estate and that Eldorado will fund the remaining $640M of cash consideration payable in the acquisition.

Tropicana Entertainment sold for $1.85B, Stockwinners.com
Tropicana Entertainment sold for $1.85B, 

 

The transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to Eldorado’s free cash flow and diluted earnings per share, inclusive of identified expected cost synergies of approximately $40M in the first year following its completion and when giving effect to the lease transaction described below.

Pursuant to the transaction, GLPI is expected to acquire the real estate associated with the Tropicana property portfolio, except the MontBleu Casino Resort & Spa in South Lake Tahoe and the Tropicana Aruba Resort and Casino.

Following the acquisition of the real estate portfolio by GLPI, Eldorado will enter into a triple net master lease for the acquired properties with an initial term of 15 years, with renewals of up to 20 years at the Eldorado’s option.

The initial annual rent under the terms of the lease is expected to be approximately $110M.

Tropicana intends to dispose of Tropicana Aruba Resort and Casino prior to closing.

Eldorado’s net purchase price after the application of Tropicana’s expected net cash on hand and cash flow generated from operations through closing represents an estimated trailing twelve months EBITDA multiple of approximately 6.6x at closing.

Including the $40M of identified cost synergies, the purchase price multiple is expected to be below 5.0x.

The board of directors of each of Eldorado, GLPI and Tropicana approved the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of 2018, subject to receipt of required regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

Eldorado intends to fund the transaction consideration of approximately $640M payable by Eldorado and repay debt outstanding under Tropicana’s credit facility with cash generated from its current operations, proceeds from pending asset sales, Tropicana’s cash on hand, cash flow generated from Tropicana operations through closing and $600M of committed debt financing from J.P. Morgan.


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Barron’s is bullish on Facebook, La-Z-Boy

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

BULLISH   MENTIONS:

Barron’s lists potential takeover targets in cloud software – Shares of young cloud software companies like MongoDB (MDB) and SendGrid (SEND) have soared since the Nasdaq’s bottom on February 8, in part on speculation of a takeover, Barron’s Tiernan Ray contends. Takeover targets form a long list in addition to the aforementioned, and include Friday’s initial public offering Dropbox (DBX), Appian (APPN), Veeva Systems (VEEV), Atlassian (TEAM) and ServiceNow (NOW), Ray writes.

La-Z-Boy shares could rally 20% within a year or two – La-Z-Boy (LZB) shares currently trade at 13.8 times forecast earnings for the next 12 months, which is well below the small-cap Russell 2000 Index’s price/earnings ratio of 25, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index’s 17, and its own five-year average of 16.3 times forward earnings, writes Barron’s Brett Arend. He believes the stock, which closed Friday at $28.75, could merit a valuation of $36 per share, or roughly 20% higher, within a year or two “by simply getting back to its average five-year multiple.” Higher consumer spending, a new relationship to sell on Amazon.com (AMZN), and successful efforts to reach millennials could propel the shares even higher, Arend contends.

Time Warner shares look appealing with antitrust trial under way – Time Warner (TWX) investors face a “win-win” scenario with the antitrust trial for AT&T’s (T) proposed takeover now under way in Washington, Andrew Bary of Barron’s writes. Time Warner shares “look appealing, based on their underlying value and AT&T’s strong chances of winning,” Bary contends. He notes the stock closed Friday roughly $11 below the current value of AT&T’s cash and stock bid, worth $103.60 per share. The 12% deal spread is appealing with “many observers” believing AT&T and Time Warner will prevail over the U.S. government, according to Bary. He adds that while Time Warner shares could fall $5 if the government wins, some analysts think the stock will quickly recover to its current price of $92.57.

Interactive Brokers tops Barron’s list of best online brokers – Interactive Brokers (IBKR) sits atop Barron’s 23rd annual ranking of The Best Online Brokers. Interactive scored highly in trading experience, range of offerings, and portfolio analysis, Theresa Carey writes in a feature story for this weekend’s magazine. Interactive Brokers is followed by Fidelity, TD Ameritrade (AMTD), Charles Schwab (SCHW), TradeStation, Merrill Edge (BAC), E-Trade (ETFC) and tastyworks in Barron’s annual ranking.

Facebook may now be more tempting to investors – In its cover story titled “Facebook Comes Under Siege,” Barron’s says Facebook  (FB) shares may be more tempting to investors following last week’s 14% decline. With more than 2B users, however, Facebook is “almost certain” to not walk away unscathed as the top target for privacy concerns, Jon Swartz writes. Nonetheless, with nearly $42B in cash and investments, Facebook has the flexibility to diversify into other business lines, as it did with Instagram and WhatsApp, Swartz adds.


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Brunswick to spin-off fitness business

Brunswick announces plans to spin-off fitness business 

Brunswick to spin-off fitness business. Stockwinners.com
Brunswick to spin-off fitness business. 

Brunswick Corporation (BC) announced that its Board of Directors has authorized proceeding with a spin-off of its Fitness business.

Following the proposed transaction, the Fitness business will be an independent, standalone, publicly traded company, “FitnessCo”.

FitnessCo, which will be formally named at a later date, will continue to manufacture and sell its strength and cardiovascular equipment and game tables and accessories under the Life Fitness, Hammer Strength, Cybex, Indoor Cycling Group, SCIFIT and Brunswick Billiards brand names.

As an independent company, FitnessCo will be able to focus more sharply on driving product leadership, operational excellence and technology development to address evolving commercial fitness marketplace trends. FitnessCo sales revenue was $1.03B in 2017.

FitnessCo will remain headquartered in Rosemont, Illinois. Jaime Irick, current President of the Company’s Fitness division, will lead FitnessCo upon completion of the transaction.

Following the spin-off, Brunswick, comprised of the Marine Engine and Boat segments, will remain a global leader in recreational marine products.

The Marine Engine segment, which consists of Mercury Marine, manufactures and distributes a broad range of marine propulsion systems and related parts and accessories.

The Boat segment manufactures and distributes a range of recreational boats under 14 boat brand names including Boston Whaler, Bayliner, Lund, Lowe, Harris and others.

These businesses generated approximately $3.5B in sales in 2017.

The Brunswick marine portfolio will continue to deliver unique technology and solutions to boaters worldwide.

Mark Schwabero will continue to lead Brunswick following the spin-off. The Company will remain headquartered in Mettawa, Illinois, and will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BC.

BC closed at $57.20.


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Wyndham sells its European vacation business rental for $1.3B

Wyndham to sell European vacation rental business to Platinum Equity for $1.3B

 

Wyndham sells its European vacation rental for $1.3B. Stockwinners.com
Wyndham sells its European vacation rental for $1.3B

Wyndham (WYN) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement for the sale of its European vacation rental business to Platinum Equity for approximately $1.3B.

In conjunction with the sale, the European vacation rental business has entered into a 20-year agreement under which it will pay a royalty fee of 1% of net revenue to Wyndham’s hotel business for the right to use the by Wyndham Vacation Rentals endorser brand.

The European vacation rentals operations will also participate as a redemption partner in the award-winning Wyndham Rewards loyalty program.

Wyndham’s industry-leading European vacation rental business is the largest manager of holiday rentals in Europe, with more than 110,000 units in over 600 destinations in more than 25 countries.

The business operates more than two dozen local brands, including cottages.com, James Villa Holidays, Landal GreenParks, Novasol and Hoseasons.

It generates approximately $750 million in annual revenue and approximately $130 million of EBITDA, including allocated costs.

Wyndham Worldwide originally announced its intent to explore strategic alternatives for its European rental brands in August 2017, in conjunction with the Company’s announcement of the planned separation of its hotel business from its vacation ownership and timeshare exchange businesses.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018, subject to customary closing conditions including works council consultation.


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Lululemon CEO resigns over misconduct accusations

lululemon CEO Potdevin resigns over misconduct accusations 

Lululemon CEO resigns over misconduct accusations. Stockwinners.com
Lululemon CEO resigns over misconduct accusations

Shares of lululemon athletica (LULU) are in focus after the company announced the resignation of chief executive officer Laurent Potdevin for “conduct” issues.

CEO RESIGNATION

lululemon announced yesterday that Laurent Potdevin has resigned as CEO and member of the board of directors, effective immediately. Potdevin had served as CEO since January 2014.

lululemon expects all employees to exemplify the highest levels of integrity and respect for one another, and Potdevin “fell short of these standards of conduct,” the company said, adding that the board has begun a search for a new CEO.

“While this was a difficult and considered decision, the Board thanks Laurent for his work in strengthening the company and positioning it for the future,” said Glenn Murphy, executive chairman.

“Culture is at the core of lululemon, and it is the responsibility of leaders to set the right tone in our organization. Protecting the organization’s culture is one of the Board’s most important duties.”

Lululemon has promoted three members of its management team — Celeste Burgoyne, Stuart Haselden and Sun Choe — to oversee more day-to-day operations, marketing, e-commerce growth, product innovation and supply chain enhancements.

According to a Bloomberg report, Potdevin’s resignation was over misconduct that spanned a range of incidents involving multiple individuals. The misconduct was not related to finances or operations, the report noted.

GUIDANCE REAFFIRMED

In the wake of Potdevin’s resignation, lululemon looked to reassure investors by backing its fourth quarter guidance of earnings per share between $1.25-$1.27 and revenue of $905M-$915M, which compares to analysts’ estimates of $1.27 and $911.67M, respectively.

In addition, the company’s growth strategies remain on track to achieve $4B in revenue in 2020.

ANALYST COMMENTARY

Following the announcement, Jefferies analyst Randal Konik said the level of management turnover at lululemon during “this critical juncture in the company’s growth trajectory gives us some pause.”

The analyst sees better opportunities elsewhere given lululemon’s “high” valuation and “less plentiful” margin opportunity. He maintained a Hold rating on lululemon with a $72 price target.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Trussell said that while he finds the circumstances of Potdevin’s resignation unfortunate, he has confidence in the remainder of lululemon’s management team, particularly Glenn Murphy.

The analyst recommended using any pullback in the shares as a buying opportunity and reiterated a Buy rating with a $95 price target. Citi analyst Paul Lejuez said he views the resignation as more of a positive for lululemon.

It presents the company with an opportunity to bring in a seasoned executive to take lululemon “to the next level,” the analyst said.

Lejeuz kept a Neutral rating on the shares with an $88 price target.

Additionally, KeyBanc analyst Edward Yruma said he views the departure negatively, and notes it comes after creative director Lee Holman’s departed in November.

The analyst believes Potdevin has been an integral part of the company’s stabilized performance in recent quarters.

Canaccord analyst Camilo Lyon said he does not see the departure as a major setback, but notes there is a level of uncertainty until the position is filled. Lyon reiterated his Hold rating and $75 price target.

Furthermore, Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger said it is likely that investors will speculate the top two contenders for the job are Murphy, executive chairman and ex-CEO of The Gap (GPS), and Stefan Larsson, the ex-CEO Ralph Lauren (RL). If lululemon picks either, Greenberger would expect the stock to react positively.

The analyst kept an Equal Weight rating and $73 price target on lululemon.

PRICE ACTION

lululemon is down 0.75% to $76.85.


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Wyndham acquires La Quinta hotel for $1.95B

Wyndham acquires La Quinta hotel for $1.95B

Wyndham acquires La Quinta hotel for $1.95B. Stockwinners.com
Wyndham acquires La Quinta hotel for $1.95B.

Wyndham Worldwide (WYN) and La Quinta (LQ) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Wyndham Worldwide will acquire La Quinta’s hotel franchise and hotel management businesses for $1.95B in cash.

The acquisition is expected to close in Q2 of 2018.

Under the terms of the agreement, stockholders of La Quinta will receive $8.40 per share in cash, approximately $1.0 billion in aggregate, and Wyndham Worldwide will repay approximately $715 million of La Quinta debt net of cash and set aside a reserve of $240 million for estimated taxes expected to be incurred in connection with the taxable spin-off of La Quinta’s owned real estate assets into CorePoint Lodging Inc.

Immediately prior to the sale of La Quinta to Wyndham Worldwide, La Quinta will spin off its owned real estate assets into a publicly-traded real estate investment trust, CorePoint Lodging. Wyndham’s Hotel Group is the world’s largest and most diverse hotel business based on number of properties.

With the acquisition of La Quinta’s asset-light, fee-for-service business consisting of nearly 900 managed and franchised hotels, Wyndham Hotel Group will span 21 brands and over 9,000 hotels across more than 75 countries.

The addition of La Quinta, one of the largest midscale brands in the industry, will build upon Wyndham Hotel Group’s strong midscale presence, expand its reach further into the fast-growing upper-midscale segment, and position Wyndham Hotel Group to be the preferred partner and accommodations provider of developers and guests.

The La Quinta Returns loyalty program, with its 13 million enrolled members, will be combined with the award-winning Wyndham Rewards program, with its 53 million enrolled members.

The transaction, which has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies, is expected to close upon the completion of the planned spin-off of La Quinta’s owned real estate assets into the separate entity.

Closing is subject to approval by La Quinta stockholders, regulatory and government approval and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

La Quinta also announced today that Keith A. Cline has been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of CorePoint Lodging effective upon completion of the planned spin-off.

Wyndham Worldwide’s planned spin-off of Wyndham Hotel Group remains on track for an expected distribution in the second quarter of 2018.

LQ closed at $19.45. WYN closed at $117.13.


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Cannabis in California

Names to watch ahead of California marijuana legalization

Names to watch ahead of California marijuana legalization. Stockwinners.com
Names to watch ahead of California marijuana legalization

As recreational use of marijuana is set to become legal in California on the first day of the year, the space seems to be getting more and more attention, with a new marijuana ETF starting to trade this week and Constellation Brands (STZ) taking a stake in a Canadian medical marijuana producer earlier this year.

CANNABIS IN CALIFORNIA

For people residing in California, the New Year means they will able to buy recreational marijuana as it is set to become legal in the state starting January 1, a date that dispensaries and consumers have had in their sights on since Proposition 64 made it the official opening of the adult-use market in California.

In keeping with state rules, retailers will be able to sell or deliver cannabis between 6am and 10pm.

NAMES TO WATCH

Among the publicly traded names in the space is Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR), a REIT that owns dispensary properties.

Last year, NYSE became the first major exchange to list a cannabis company with its acceptance of Innovative Industrial Properties’ initial public offering.

Constellation Brands seems to also be interested in the blossoming cannabis industry as the company bought a minority stake in a Canadian medicinal marijuana producer.

In October, Constellation announced it paid C$245M for a 9.9% interest in Canopy Growth, a Canadian provider of medicinal cannabis products.

Constellation, which is looking to develop cannabis products that don’t contain alcohol, does not expect to sell products in the U.S. before marijuana is nationally legalized but may begin to sell products in Canada, where such products are expected to be legalized by 2019.

Earlier this week, ETF Managers Group announced that MJX, the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF, was live and available for trading on the NYSE Arca.

This fund is one of the first of its kind available to U.S. investors and is designed to replicate the Prime Alternative Harvest Index, which tracks companies likely to benefit from the increasing global acceptance of various uses of the cannabis plant.

This includes treatments from innovative medicinal breakthroughs involving the plant’s unique properties.

PRICE ACTION

In Wednesday’s trading, shares of Constellation Brands are fractionally down to $224.95, while Innovative Industrial Properties is up nearly 5% to $27.24.


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Helios and Matheson jumps as MoviePass exceeds estimates

Helios and Matheson jumps as MoviePass tops 1M subscribers 

Helios and Matheson jumps as MoviePass exceeds initial projections

Shares of Helios and Matheson (HMNY) jumped in afternoon trading after the company said its MoviePass theater subscription services surpassed 1M paying monthly subscribers this month.

MOVIEPASS EXCEEDS 1M MONTHLY SUBSCRIBERS

Helios and Matheson, a majority owner of MoviePass, said this morning that the subscriber base for the movie theater subscription service surpassed 1M paying monthly subscribers, compared to more than 600,000 as of October 18 and approximately 20,000 as of August 14, the day before MoviePass announced its new $9.95 per month subscription price.

In a statement, the company said MoviePass has increased its subscriber base by over 6,500% since the introduction of the $9.95 per month pricing model.

MoviePass shifted to the lower price subscription model on August 15, and noted today that it has reached the 1M subscriber mark in less time than Netflix (NFLX) or Hulu (DIS, CMCSA, CMCSK, FOX, FOXA).

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe said:

“Our focus on creating the best movie theater subscription service experience for our subscribers has propelled our growth to date. We believe that growth will continue as we further develop our application, improve customer service, enhance exhibitor relations and fill movie theater seats for incredible films to be released in the future.”

WHAT’S NOTABLE

Helios and Matheson announced plans in November to raise its stake in MoviePass from the 53.71% it held in October. After MoviePass dropped its subscription price to $9.95, analysts predicted the service would hit 1M subscribers by the end of the year.

In October, MoviePass said its continued growth trajectory “exceeded MoviePass’ initial projections, and now MoviePass projects that it will acquire at least 3.1 million additional paying subscribers through August 18, 2018, exceeding its previous estimate of 2.5 million subscribers.

“Earlier this month, MoviePass and streaming service Fandor partnered with Costco (COST) to offer a one-year subscription plan for a flat fee of $89.99.

CITRON CAUTIOUS

Citron Research has expressed cautious comments on Helios and Matheson, saying in October that the stock will “trade back to $20…You might like product but $1+bill it isn’t. Giving away $1 for .90 no biz.” Helios and Matheson has also been mentioned cautiously by TheStreetSweeper.

PRICE ACTION

Shares of Helios and Matheson are up about 5% in Wednesday’s trading to $6.51.


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Pinnacle Entertainment sold for $2.8 billion

Pinnacle Entertainment sold for $32.47 per share

 Penn National to acquire Pinnacle Entertainment in deal valued at $2.8B. Stockwinners
Penn National to acquire Pinnacle Entertainment in deal valued at $2.8B

Penn National Gaming (PENN) and Pinnacle Entertainment (PNK) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Penn National will acquire Pinnacle in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $2.8B.

Under the terms of the agreement, Pinnacle shareholders will receive $20.00 in cash and 0.42 shares of Penn National common stock for each Pinnacle share, which implies a total purchase price of $32.47 per Pinnacle share based on Penn National’s closing price on December 15, 2017.

The transaction reflects a 36% premium for Pinnacle shareholders based on Pinnacle’s closing price of $21.86 and Penn National’s closing price of $22.91 on October 4, 2017.

The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is expected to close in the second half of 2018.

Pinnacle owns and operates 16 gaming and entertainment facilities in 11 jurisdictions across the United States.

Following the acquisition of Pinnacle and the planned divestiture of four of its properties to Boyd Gaming (BYD) , Penn National will have significantly greater operational and geographic diversity and operate a combined 41 properties in 20 jurisdictions throughout North America.

The transaction is expected to generate $100M in annual run-rate cost synergies following integration and is anticipated to be immediately accretive to free cash flow in the first year. Pro forma for the divestitures and synergies, the acquisition reflects a multiple of 6.6x LTM EBITDA.

Gaming and Leisure Properties (GLPI), the landlord for Penn National and Pinnacle under their respective master lease agreements, has entered into an agreement to amend the terms of the Pinnacle master lease to permit the divestitures.

In connection with the transaction, Penn National, GLPI and Boyd have agreed to the following:

Penn National and GLPI will enter into a sale and leaseback of the real estate associated with Belterra Park and Plainridge Park Casino for approximately $315M.

An amendment to the terms of the Pinnacle master lease following closing of the merger to reflect an annual fixed rent payment of $25M for Plainridge Park Casino and $13.9M in incremental annual rent to adjust to market conditions.

At closing, GLPI and Boyd will enter into a master lease agreement for the divestitures pursuant to which Boyd will lease the divested real property from GLPI.

Penn National will assume the existing master lease and Pinnacle’s existing lease for the Meadows Casino and Racetrack in Pennsylvania. Penn National’s master lease with GLPI will not be affected by this transaction. The companies expect the transaction to close in the second half of 2018.

PNK closed at $30.95.  PENN closed at $29.69.


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Chipotle to name a new CEO

Chipotle forms search committee to identify new CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANALYST COMMENTS

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

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

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


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CBS blocks Dish Network

CBS blacks out DISH subscribers, DISH offers OTA antennas at no cost 

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DISH reported that CBS Corporation (CBS) chose to black out DISH customers’ access to 28 local channels in 18 markets across 26 states.

CBS is blocking consumers in an effort to raise carriage rates for local channels and gain negotiating leverage for unrelated cable channels, all with declining viewership on DISH.

“CBS is attempting to tax DISH customers on programming that’s losing viewers, tax DISH customers on programming available for free over the air, and tax DISH customers for content available directly from CBS,” said Warren Schlichting, DISH executive vice president of Marketing, Programming and Media Sales.

“Our customers are clear: they don’t want to pay a CBS tax. It’s regrettable and unnecessary that CBS is bringing its greed into the homes of millions of families this Thanksgiving.”

On a recent investor conference call, CBS boasted about the rate increases promised to shareholders, going from $250 million in 2012 to a forecasted $2.5 billion by 2020.

Those desired increases come as DISH customers are watching less CBS, with average viewership down 20 percent over the past 3 years.

As DISH works to reach an agreement, the company is offering digital over-the-air, or OTA, antennas at no cost so that customers in affected markets can watch CBS’s local broadcast channels for free.

Eligible DISH customers have the option to completely drop their local channels from their programming package, saving $10 on their monthly bill.

In recent weeks, thousands of eligible DISH customers in CBS markets have made the switch to OTA, accessing news, popular network shows and sports from CBS and other local channels for free, over the air.

Customers with qualifying equipment, programming, and location can choose to receive local channels free over the air and save $10 per month on their bill. At no cost, DISH will install an antenna for qualifying customers in CBS markets based on the reception available at their home.

In addition to asking for significant price increases for local channels, CBS is attempting to “force bundle” unrelated and low-performing cable channels at a premium.

“CBS is using its mix of local and national channels against viewers, abusing outdated laws to try to force consumers to pay more. This greedy attempt to extort more money from our customers is one of the main reasons we – and our industry – are asking Congress to restore balance in the broadcaster-pay TV equation,” said Jeff Blum, DISH senior vice president and deputy general counsel.

“We are asking lawmakers to reform outdated TV laws to give our customers the best viewing experience at an affordable price – without the threat of broadcaster blackouts.”

Along with other pay-TV companies and public interest groups that form the American Television Alliance, DISH has called for the U.S. Congress to revamp the out-of-date laws that favor these high fees and unnecessary blackouts.

Blum continued: “We continue to urge the FCC and Congress to update a system that emboldens broadcasters to black out consumers.”


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Applebee’s sales continue to suffer

DineEquity revises FY17 outlook

DineEquity Revises its guidance. See Stockwinners.com for details

DineEquity (DIN) revises expectations for Applebee’s domestic system-wide comparable same-restaurant sales performance to range between negative 5.5% and negative 6.5%.

This compares to previous expectations of between negative 6.0% and negative 8.0%.

Reiterates expectations for IHOP’s domestic system-wide comparable same-restaurant sales performance to range between negative 1.0% and negative 3.0%.

Reiterates expectations for Applebee’s franchisees to develop between 20 and 30 new restaurants globally, the majority of which are expected to be international openings.

Reiterates expectations for Applebee’s closures to range between approximately 105 and 135 restaurants.

Reiterates expectations for IHOP franchisees and its area licensee to develop between 80 and 95 restaurants globally, the majority of which are expected to be domestic openings.

Revised expectations for IHOP closures to range between 25 and 30 restaurants. This compares to previous expectations of between 20 and 25 restaurants.

Revised expectations for Franchise segment profit to be between $297 million and $303 million. This compares to previous expectations of between $302 million and $314 million. This downward revision is primarily due to additional expected reserves related to the collectability of Applebee’s royalties.

Reiterates expectations for the Rental and Financing segments to generate approximately $38 million in combined profit.

Reiterates expectations for general and administrative expenses to range between $166 million and $172 million, including non-cash stock-based compensation expense and depreciation of approximately $22 million.

Reiterates expectations for interest expense to be approximately $62 million. Approximately $3 million is projected to be non-cash interest expense.

Reiterates expectations for weighted average diluted shares outstanding to be approximately 18 million shares.

Reiterates expectation for the income tax rate to be approximately 40%. Revised expectations for cash flows provided by operating activities to range between $64 million and $74 million. This compares to previous expectations of between $80 million and $90 million.

The decline is primarily due to the timing of fourth quarter 2017 marketing spend and projections for lower Franchise segment profit as discussed above.

Reiterates expectations for capital expenditures to be approximately $14 million. Revised expectations for adjusted free cash flow (See “Non-GAAP Financial Measures” below) to range between $60 million and $70 million. This compares to previous expectations of between $76 million and $86 million.

DIN closed at $42.96.


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Rent-A-Center receives $13 per share offer

Rent-A-Center shareholder Vintage Capital proposes $13 all-cash acquisition

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In a regulatory filing, it was disclosed that Vintage Capital Management, which currently own approximately 6% of the common stock of Rent-A-Center (RCII), said in a letter to the company that it is “in a unique position to deliver certain and immediate value to shareholders through an all-cash acquisition at $13.00 per share.”

In the letter to the CEO of Rent-A-Center, Vintage Capital Managing Member Brian Kahn added, “However, the value that we are willing to pay, and our interest in pursuing this transaction, is significantly impacted by whether or not our future competitors have access to proprietary information concerning RAC’s assets, including but not limited to store-level financial information and contract terms with Acceptance Now retail partners.

Due to the significant amount of work that we and our lenders have completed, as well our familiarity with the Rent-to-Own industry, we are confident that we can complete due diligence, obtain financing commitments, and execute a definitive transaction agreement within 30 days of gaining access to due diligence information.

We have engaged legal counsel and we are prepared to immediately engage additional due diligence resources to assist us with an expedited process to complete this acquisition.

In recognition of the significant costs that we will incur, and the prospect of certain and compelling value that would be immediately realized by all RAC shareholders, we ask for a 30-day exclusivity period.”

Following the filing, Rent-A-Center shares have jumped 11% to $11 per share in Friday’s pre-market trading.


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