Microsoft buys Nuance

Microsoft to acquire Nuance for $56.00 per share in cash, or $19.7B

Microsoft (MSFT) and Nuance Communications (NUAN) announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Nuance for $56.00 per share, implying a 23% premium to the closing price of Nuance on Friday, April 9, in an all-cash transaction valued at $19.7B, inclusive of Nuance’s net debt.

Nuance sold for $19.7B

Nuance is a trusted cloud and AI software leader representing decades of accumulated healthcare and enterprise AI experience.

Mark Benjamin will remain CEO of Nuance, reporting to Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Cloud & AI at Microsoft.

The transaction is intended to close this calendar year.

Upon closing, Microsoft expects Nuance’s financials to be reported as part of Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud segment.

Microsoft expects the acquisition to be minimally dilutive (less than 1%) in fiscal year 2022 and to be accretive in fiscal year 2023 to non-GAAP earnings per share, based on the expected close timeframe.

Non-GAAP excludes expected impact of purchase accounting adjustments, as well as integration and transaction-related expenses.

The acquisition will not impact the completion of its existing share repurchase authorization.

Nuance Communications, Inc. provides conversational and cognitive artificial intelligence (AI) innovations that bring intelligence to everyday work and life. The company delivers solutions that understand, analyze, and respond to people – amplifying human intelligence to increase productivity and security.

B. Riley analyst Zach Cummins reiterates a Buy rating on LivePerson (LPSN) with a $77 price target after Microsoft (MSFT) acquired Nuance Communications (NUAN), a provider of conversational commerce solutions, with expertise geared toward the healthcare vertical.

The potential deal acquisition provides a “positive valuation data point” for LivePerson, a leading provider of conversational commerce solutions across the telecom, financial services, retail, and consumer verticals, Cummins tells investors in a research note.

LivePerson currently trades at an enterprise value to sales multiple of 6.5 times, below the comp group median of 9.5 times and Nuance’s implied takeout multiple of 12.5 times, says the analyst.

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Palantir’s Bulls and Bears

Goldman Sachs upgrades the recent IPO while Citi says Sell

Palantir Technologies Inc. (PLTR) builds and deploys software platforms for the intelligence community in the United States to assist in counterterrorism investigations and operations.

It offers Palantir Gotham, a software platform for government operatives in the defense and intelligence sectors, which enables users to identify patterns hidden deep within datasets, ranging from signals intelligence sources to reports from confidential informants, as well as facilitates the handoff between analysts and operational users, helping operators plan and execute real-world responses to threats that have been identified within the platform.

The company also provides Palantir Foundry, a platform that transforms the ways organizations operate by creating a central operating system for their data; and allows individual users to integrate and analyze the data they need in one place. 

The company took the unusual route of becoming a public company by directly listing it’s shares and bypassing the brokers. Shares came public around $9 and shot up to $45 a share before pulling back. There were a number of brokers who made comments about the shares today following the company’s earnings.

Earnings

Palantir Technologies reported 4th Quarter December 2020 earnings of $0.07 per share on revenue of $322.1 million yesterday morning. The consensus earnings estimate was $0.02 per share on revenue of $300.4 million.

The company said it expects 2021 revenue of $1.42 billion or more. The current consensus revenue estimate is $1.41 billion for the year ending December 31, 2021.

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs analyst Christopher #Merwin upgraded Palantir Technologies to Buy from Neutral with a price target of $34, up from $13. Palantir reported “strong” Q4 results and its Q1 guidance called for revenue growth of 45%, while fiscal 2021 revenue guidance was for 30%-plus, Merwin tells investors in a research note. The analyst is “encouraged” to see management guide to $4B of revenue in fiscal 2025, implying a 30% annual growth from fiscal 2020. With a growing backlog of $2.8B in deal value, there is increasing visibility into the achievability of that long-term target, says Merwin.

Further, the analyst believes Palantir’s recent efforts to modularize Foundry and add channel partners like IBM “should improve product market fit” for the commercial business in the coming quarters.

Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley analyst Keith #Weiss raised the firm’s price target on Palantir to $19 from $17, telling investors after the company’s Q4 report that Palantir’s results in FY20 showed a big expansion of existing customers, “huge leverage” in operating margins and the seeds for future distribution capability.

However, he keeps an Underweight rating on the shares as he would like to see evidence of effective investment behind the company’s opportunity to support growth and what he views as a “lofty valuation.”

Jefferies

Jefferies analyst Brent #Thill noted that Palantir reported a top and bottom line beat in Q4 along with “robust” large deal metrics and said it is targeting $4B or more in 2025 revenues, but that the stock remains under pressure due to Thursday’s lock-up expiry and the recent run-up that saw the stock up 35% year-to-date ahead of the report.

However, he views Palantir as “a highly unique story for long-term investors” given that he thinks its growth sustainability at significant scale, and “aggressive profitability ramp,” puts the stock “in rarified air” among software companies. Thill maintains a Buy rating on the stock, which he expects to “trend to $40,” his price target on Palantir shares.

RBC Capital

RBC Capital analyst Matthew #Hedberg raised the firm’s price target on Palantir to $27 from $15 and keeps a Sector Perform rating on the shares.

The company ended 2020 with a “solid” set of Q4 results while forecasting acceleration and margin improvement in Q1, the analyst tells investors in a research note. Hedberg adds however that while he is positive on Palantir’s catalysts, he remains on the sidelines due to the stock’s “full valuation”.

Citi

Citi analyst Tyler #Radke keeps a Sell rating on Palantir Technologies with a $15 price target following the company’s Q4 results.

The results featured “solid” reported revenue upside, but came with “signs of growth drivers narrowing with new customers growth still lacking and Commercial revenue missing expectations,” Radke tells investors in a research note.

The new five-year revenue target of $4B “looks high,” but ultimately may be a non-event for the stock, says the analyst. He thinks the stock is overvalued and “could be particularly volatile” into the upcoming lockup on February 18.

Insiders

Peter Thiel, Chairman, and well connected Washington insider

Several insiders have sold shares into the lockup expiry on Thursday but Peter Thiel, Chairman of the Board, reported a 5% ownership of the stock.

PLTR last traded at $28.50.

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Wrike sold for $2.25B cash

Citrix to acquire Wrike for $2.25B in cash

Citrix Systems (CTXS) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Wrike, a rapidly growing, recognized leader in the SaaS collaborative work management space, for $2.25B in cash.

Wrike ended calendar year 2020 with more than $140 million in unaudited SaaS ARR, reflecting more than 30 percent CAGR in SaaS ARR over the prior two years.

Citrix spends $2.55B to expand its offerings

The company is expected to have approximately 30 percent stand-alone growth to between $180M-$190M in SaaS ARR1 in 2021, with the opportunity to accelerate growth over time under Citrix’s ownership.

The addition of Wrike is highly complementary to Citrix’s existing customer base and is expected to accelerate Citrix’s SaaS ARR growth.

Wrike founders cash out

Financing and purchase accounting impacts to deferred revenue will affect 2021 non-GAAP earnings per share. Integration and other costs related to the acquisition are expected to be modestly dilutive to non-GAAP earnings per share in 2021.

The transaction is expected to be neutral to Citrix’s fiscal year 2022 non-GAAP earnings per share and free cash flow, and accretive thereafter.

Citrix expects to fund the transaction with a combination of new debt and existing cash and investments.

Citrix is committed to its investment grade credit ratings and plans to return to historical leverage levels within 24 months.

Citrix has obtained a commitment from JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. for a $1.45B senior unsecured 364-day bridge loan facility.

The transaction, which has been unanimously approved by the board of directors of both Citrix and Wrike, is expected to close in the first half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

SaaS is the new trend in software usage

Until close, the companies will continue to operate independently.

Upon closing, Andrew Filev, Wrike CEO will continue to lead the Wrike team and report to Arlen Shenkman, EVP and CFO, Citrix.

CTXS closed at $132.00.

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RealPage sold for $10.2 billion

RealPage to be acquired by Thoma Bravo for $88.75 per share in cash

RealPage (RP) announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Thoma Bravo, a private equity investment firm focused on the software and technology-enabled services sector, in an all-cash transaction that values RealPage at approximately $10.2B, including net debt.

Real Page sold for $10.2 billion

Under the terms of the agreement, RealPage stockholders will receive $88.75 in cash per share of RealPage common stock upon closing of the transaction.

The purchase price represents a premium of 30.8% over RealPage’s closing stock price of $67.83 on December 18, 2020, a premium of 36.5% over RealPage’s 30-day volume-weighted average share price through that date, and a premium of 27.8% over RealPage’s all-time high closing stock price of $69.47 on December 7.

The RealPage board has unanimously approved the agreement with Thoma Bravo and recommends that RealPage stockholders vote in favor of the transaction at the special meeting of RealPage stockholders to be called in connection with the transaction.

Thoma Bravo buys the real estate software company

Upon completion of the transaction, RealPage expects to continue operating under the leadership of chairman and CEO Steve Winn and the existing RealPage leadership team based in Richardson, Texas.

Closing of the transaction is subject to customary conditions, including approval by the holders of a majority of the outstanding shares of RealPage common stock, expiration or early termination of the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, and receipt of other required regulatory approvals.

A special meeting of RealPage stockholders will be held in early 2021, following the filing of a definitive proxy statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Winn and certain affiliated entities, which collectively own approximately 10% of the outstanding shares of RealPage common stock, have entered into a voting agreement with Thoma Bravo pursuant to which they have agreed, among other things, to vote their shares of RealPage common stock in favor of the merger, and against any competing transaction, so long as, among other things, the RealPage board continues to recommend that RealPage stockholders vote in favor of the merger.

Consistent with the board’s commitment to maximizing stockholder value, under the terms of the definitive merger agreement, RealPage’s board and advisors may actively initiate, solicit and consider alternative acquisition proposals during a 45-day “go shop” period.

RealPage has the right to terminate the merger agreement to accept a superior proposal during the go-shop period, subject to the terms and conditions of the merger agreement.

There can be no assurances that this process will result in a superior proposal, and RealPage does not intend to disclose developments with respect to this solicitation process unless and until RealPage’s board makes a determination requiring further disclosure.

The parties expect the transaction to close in Q2 of 2021. Upon completion of the transaction, RealPage will become a privately held company, and its common stock will no longer be listed on the Nasdaq stock market.

RP closed at $67.83.

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Walmart to partner with Microsoft on TikTok deal

Walmart backs TikTok U.S. partnership with Microsoft

Walmart (WMT), which was previously said to have been working with SoftBank (SFTBY) on a potential acquisition of TikTok’s U.S. business, has now confirmed its involvement in a potential TikTok deal in partnership with Microsoft (MSFT), according to CNBC’s Alex Sherman.

“The way TikTok has integrated e-commerce and advertising capabilities in other markets is a clear benefit to creators and users in those markets.

We believe a potential relationship with TikTok U.S. in partnership with Microsoft could add this key functionality and provide Walmart with an important way for us to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.

We are confident that a Walmart and Microsoft partnership would meet both the expectations of U.S. TikTok users while satisfying the concerns of US government regulators,” a Walmart spokesperson told CNBC.

TikTok is nearing an agreement to sell its U.S., Canadian, Australian and New Zealand operations in a deal that could be announced as soon as next week, sources say. The deal is likely to be in the $25 billion to $30 billion range, sources say.

Earlier this week, TikTok filed a lawsuit against Trump Administration claiming that the Executive Order issued by the Administration on August 6, 2020 has the potential to strip the rights of that community without any evidence to justify such an extreme action, and without any due process.

WMT shares are up 5% on the news while MSFT is better by 3.5%.

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TikTok suing Trump Administration

TikTok suing Trump Administration over efforts to ban TikTok in U.S.

TikTok stated in a post to its corporate website:

“Today we are filing a complaint in federal court challenging the Administration’s efforts to ban TikTok in the US…

TikTok sues Trump Administration

Today, 100 million Americans turn to TikTok for entertainment, inspiration, and connection; countless creators rely on our platform to express their creativity, reach broad audiences, and generate income; our more than 1,500 employees across the US pour their hearts into building this platform every day, with 10,000 more jobs planned in California, Texas, New York, Tennessee, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, and Washington State; and

On August 6th, Trump issued an executive order giving TikTok 90 days to sell

many of the country’s leading brands are on TikTok to connect with consumers more authentically and directly than they can elsewhere.

Put simply, we have a thriving community and we are grateful – and responsible – to them.

The Executive Order issued by the Administration on August 6, 2020 has the potential to strip the rights of that community without any evidence to justify such an extreme action, and without any due process.

TikTok is owned by ByteDance

We strongly disagree with the Administration’s position that TikTok is a national security threat and we have articulated these objections previously.”

ByteDance has reportedly been making progress in talks with potential acquirers of the U.S. operations of the short video app, including Microsoft (MSFT) and Oracle (ORCL), media reports have indicated. Reports have also indicated that Twitter (TWTR) is exploring a bid for TikTok.

Other publicly traded companies in the social media space include Facebook (FB) and Snap (SNAP).

TikTok/Douyin is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based Internet technology company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. 

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DOJ issues guideline for online content

DOJ issues recommendations for Section 230 reform

The Department of Justice has released a set of reform proposals to update the outdated immunity for online platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

Responding to bipartisan concerns about the scope of 230 immunity, the department identified a set of concrete reform proposals to provide stronger incentives for online platforms to address illicit material on their services while continuing to foster innovation and free speech.

The department’s review of Section 230 over the last ten months arose in the context of its broader review of market-leading online platforms and their practices, which were announced in July 2019.

The department held a large public workshop and expert roundtable in February 2020, as well as dozens of listening sessions with industry, thought leaders, and policy makers, to gain a better understanding of the uses and problems surrounding Section 230.

The first category of recommendations is aimed at incentivizing platforms to address the growing amount of illicit content online, while preserving the core of Section 230’s immunity for defamation claims.

These reforms include a carve-out for bad actors who purposefully facilitate or solicit content that violates federal criminal law or are willfully blind to criminal content on their own services.

Additionally, the department recommends a case-specific carve out where a platform has actual knowledge that content violated federal criminal law and does not act on it within a reasonable time, or where a platform was provided with a court judgment that the content is unlawful, and does not take appropriate action.

A second category of proposed reforms is intended to clarify the text and revive the original purpose of the statute in order to promote free and open discourse online and encourage greater transparency between platforms and users.

One of these recommended reforms is to provide a statutory definition of “good faith” to clarify its original purpose.

The new statutory definition would limit immunity for content moderation decisions to those done in accordance with plain and particular terms of service and consistent with public representations. These measures would encourage platforms to be more transparent and accountable to their users.

The third category of recommendations would increase the ability of the government to protect citizens from unlawful conduct, by making it clear that Section 230 does not apply to civil enforcement actions brought by the federal government.

A fourth category of reform is to make clear that federal antitrust claims are not, and were never intended to be, covered by Section 230 immunity.

Over time, the avenues for engaging in both online commerce and speech have concentrated in the hands of a few key players.

It makes little sense to enable large online platforms (particularly dominant ones) to invoke Section 230 immunity in antitrust cases, where liability is based on harm to competition, not on third-party speech.

The action follows President Trump’s executive order seeking to weaken broad immunity enjoyed by Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and Google (GOOGL).

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Department of Defense back’s Microsoft cloud contract

DOD issues report on JEDI contract, sees award to Microsoft as proper

The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has issued a report on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud Procurement.

“On June 11, 2019, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General initiated a review of the DoD Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud procurement, and an investigation into allegations that former DoD officials engaged in ethical misconduct related to the JEDI Cloud procurement,” the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General said in a statement.

DOD OIG says JEDI contract was handled correctly

According to the report, the DoD OIG concluded that “the DoD’s decision to award the JEDI Cloud contract to a single contractor was consistent with applicable law and acquisition standards. […] We concluded that the procuring contracting officer’s determination to use a single-award contract was in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and was reasonable.

Amazon sued to overturn the contract , Stockwinners

We also concluded that the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment’s authorization for a single-award contract was consistent with applicable law.

DOD awarded the contract to Microsoft, Stockwinners

In addition, we concluded that the JEDI Cloud requirements in the Request for Proposal were reasonable and based on approved requirements, essential cloud capabilities, DoD cloud security policy, and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program guidance.

In addition, we concluded that the DoD’s inclusion of gate requirements was reasonable and did not overly restrict competition. We also concluded that the DoD conducted the JEDI Cloud source selection in compliance with the FAR, the DoD Source Selection Procedures, the JEDI Cloud Source Selection Plan, and the Request for Proposals, Sections M1 – Basis for Award and M2 – Evaluation Process.

We concluded that the source selection team’s evaluation of the contractors’ proposals was consistent with established DoD and Federal source selection standards. We also note that on February 13, 2020, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued an opinion and order which granted Amazon’s request for a preliminary injunction and stopped the DoD from proceeding with JEDI Cloud contract activities until further order of the court.

The court concluded that Amazon is likely to demonstrate in the course of their bid protest that the DoD erred in its evaluation of a discrete portion of Microsoft’s proposal for the JEDI Cloud contract. The court’s decision was not inconsistent with our conclusion that the source selection process used by the DoD was in compliance with the FAR, the DoD Source Selection Procedures, the JEDI Cloud Source Selection Plan, and the Request for Proposals, Sections M1 – Basis for Award and M2 – Evaluation Process.

In this report, we do not draw a conclusion regarding whether the DoD appropriately awarded the JEDI Cloud contract to Microsoft rather than Amazon Web Services.

We did not assess the merits of the contractors’ proposals or DoD’s technical or price evaluations; rather we reviewed the source selection process and determined that it was in compliance with applicable statutes, policies, and the evaluation process described in the Request for Proposals. In addition, however, we concluded that after the JEDI Cloud Contract award, the DoD improperly disclosed source selection and proprietary Microsoft information to Amazon.

In addition, the DoD failed to properly redact names of DoD source selection team members in the source selection reports that were disclosed to Amazon and Microsoft. […] we believe the evidence we received showed that the DoD personnel who evaluated the contract proposals and awarded Microsoft the JEDI Cloud contract were not pressured regarding their decision on the award of the contract by any DoD leaders more senior to them, who may have communicated with the White House.”

AMZN last traded at $2308. MSFT last changed hands at $172.44.

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Microsoft acknowledges security flaw in its new Windows operating system

Microsoft says aware of new security flaw found in Microsoft Windows

Microsoft (MSFT) said it is aware of limited targeted attacks that could leverage un-patched vulnerabilities in the Adobe Type Manager Library, and is providing the following guidance to help reduce customer risk until the security update is released.

A security flaw is discovered in Windows, Stockwinners

Two remote code execution vulnerabilities exist in Microsoft Windows when the Windows Adobe Type Manager Library improperly handles a specially-crafted multi-master font – Adobe Type 1 PostScript format.

There are multiple ways an attacker could exploit the vulnerability, such as convincing a user to open a specially crafted document or viewing it in the Windows Preview pane.

Vulnerability exists on Adobe Type Manager, Stockwinners

Microsoft is aware of this vulnerability and working on a fix.

Updates that address security vulnerabilities in Microsoft software are typically released on Update Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month.

This predictable schedule allows for partner quality assurance and IT planning, which helps maintain the Windows ecosystem as a reliable, secure choice for our customers.

The operating system versions that are affected by this vulnerability are listed below. Please see the mitigation and workarounds for guidance on how to reduce the risk.

Software patch is coming, Stockwinners

The security flaw, which Microsoft deems “critical” — its highest severity rating — is found in how Windows handles and renders fonts, according to the advisory posted.

Although Windows 7 is also affected, only enterprise users with extended security support will receive patches. In the meantime, the advisory offered a temporary workaround for affected Windows users to mitigate the flaw until a fix is available.

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