Shares of Block lower on short seller report!

Block intends to explore legal action against Hindenburg Research

#Hindenburg Research has published a short report on Block (SQ), formerly known as Square, stating that the firm’s “2-year investigation has concluded that Block has systematically taken advantage of the demographics it claims to be helping.

The “magic” behind Block’s business has not been disruptive innovation, but rather the company’s willingness to facilitate fraud against consumers and the government, avoid regulation, dress up predatory loans and fees as revolutionary technology, and mislead investors with inflated metrics.”

The firm, which discloses that it has taken a short position in shares of Block, contends that the company “has misled investors on key metrics, and embraced predatory offerings and compliance worst-practices in order to fuel growth and profit from facilitation of fraud against consumers and the government.”

In addition, it believes “Jack Dorsey has built an empire-and amassed a $5 billion personal fortune-professing to care deeply about the demographics he is taking advantage of. With Dorsey and top executives already having sold over $1 billion in equity on Block’s meteoric pandemic run higher, they have ensured they will be fine, regardless of the outcome for everyone else.”

Block Responds

Block said in a statement: “We intend to work with the SEC and explore legal action against #Hindenburg Research for the factually inaccurate and misleading report they shared about our Cash App business today.

Hindenburg is known for these types of attacks, which are designed solely to allow short sellers to profit from a declined stock price. We have reviewed the full report in the context of our own data and believe it’s designed to deceive and confuse investors. We are a highly regulated public company with regular disclosures, and are confident in our products, reporting, compliance programs, and controls. We will not be distracted by typical short seller tactics.”

Robert Baird

Baird analyst David #Koning comments on a short report that is significantly weighing on Block shares in pre-market trading, noting that the report implies that the company’s CashApp is reasonably easy, or relatively easier than other banking services, for criminals to use and claims that CashApp is somewhat complicit in allowing this type of behavior.

However, the firm believes Block helps many underbanked access the financial markets and “like any organization probably has some clients that are criminals.” The firm views the stock as good value, but is concerned with the prevalence of any criminal activity and how this could impact investor sentiment, estimating that “in a pretty dire case” shedding 20% of accounts could impact about 8% of total gross profit. Baird has an Outperform rating and $92 price target on Block shares, which are down about 20% to $58.07 in early trading following Hindenburg Research’s short report.

KeyBanc

KeyBanc analyst Josh #Beck sees “no merit to the disparaging claims” made against Block by a “smaller outfit” that published a short report and rather views the report as “observations from a relatively novice industry outsider who is not familiar with standard operating practices and principles within the FinTech industry.”

The firm, which said Block is subject to numerous laws and regulations as a financial services provider, believes Block “fully complies with applicable regulations and laws and prevents the maximal amount of fraud possible within a business that is inherently subject to, while not immune to, any instances of fraud.” KeyBanc has an Overweight rating and $100 price target on Block shares, 

Mizuho

Mizuho analyst Dan #Dolev says Hindenburg Research’s short report “makes valid arguments,” such as the slowdown in inflows and sustainability of the instant deposit fees.

While this might increase regulatory scrutiny, other claims and risks around high, unregulated interchange fees and definition of monthly users are well known to investors, the analyst tells investors in a research note. The firm says other aspects of the report, like adding back stock based compensation after Block publicly shifted focus to include non-cash expenses in operating income, “may hold less water.”

Mizuho says the near-term bull case on Blok remains reaching better than expected profits helped by cost control. The long-term bull case remains creating a “unique” closed-loop payments network by connecting merchants and consumers, the firm adds. It has a Buy rating on the stock with a $93 price target.

Raymond James

Raymond James contends that this morning’s short report on Block issued by Hindenburg Research doesn’t include a lot of “new” news or a “bombshell” and argues that the biggest risk is potentially drawing scrutiny from regulators and politicians, which could create an overhang on the stock.

However, given the situation concerning SVB Financial (SIVB) and the current banking fallout, the firm would guess “this is way down the list of priorities” for financial regulators at this time.

The firm, which adds that “while being accused of overstating users certainly isn’t positive,” notes that there are no accusations of fraudulent accounting and the “revenue is real.” Raymond James has a Market Perform rating on Block shares.

RBC Capital

RBC Capital analyst Daniel Perlin made no change to the firm’s Outperform rating or $95 price target on shares of Block. The firm says the short report that was released today focuses on Block’s “underbanked” user base, as being a series of bad actors, enabling the overstatement of its users metrics, as well as BNPL via its acquisition of Afterpay, systematically embracing predatory pricing, the analyst tells investors in a research note.

RBC Capital’s view of the stock is unchanged, but thinks the negative overhang can persist for some time.

Shares of Block are down 20% to $58.10.

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AppLovin offers to buy Unity!

 ironSource drops as AppLovin’s Unity bid contingent on ironSource deal exit

Shares of ironSource (IS) are down 12%, to $4.16 in Tuesday morning trading after AppLovin (APP) announced it has submitted a non-binding proposal to the board of directors of Unity Software (U) to combine AppLovin with Unity in a stock-based transaction.

Under the terms offered, current Unity shareholders would receive approximately 55% of the outstanding shares of the combined company, with the Class A shares representing approximately 49% of the outstanding voting rights of the combined company.

AppLovin, which markets software platforms for app developers to help them find customers and bring in revenue, is offering gaming platform Unity an alternative to its recently announced a deal to buy IronSource.

The all-stock merger consideration payable in a mix of AppLovin Class A and Class C common stock would value Unity at $58.85 per share and $20B enterprise value, representing a 48% premium to the Unity share price as of July 12 and 18% to yesterday’s closing price based on the closing price of AppLovin’s Class A common stock on August 8, AppLovin stated.

The execution of a definitive merger agreement between AppLovin and Unity would be subject to approval by each company’s board of directors, the termination of the proposed acquisition of ironSource LTD, and other customary signing conditions, the company noted.

Previously, on July 13, Unity and ironSource had announced that they entered into a definitive agreement under which ironSource will merge into a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unity via an all-stock deal, where each ordinary share of ironSource will be exchanged for 0.1089 shares of Unity common stock.

Under the terms of that deal, current Unity stockholders will own approximately 73.5% and current ironSource shareholders will own approximately 26.5% of the combined company.

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Short Seller Targets Core Scientific

Culper Research short Core Scientific on ‘rigged deals,’ oversold businesses

In a recently published report titled “Core Scientific, Inc. (CORZ): Rigged Deals,” Culper Research says it is “short Core, as we think Core has wildly oversold both its mining and hosting businesses, which it cobbled together in a series of questionable transactions before dumping onto the public markets via SPAC.

Core’s acquired mining business, Blockcap, was formed in December 2020 with just $58.5 million, then flipped to Core for just 7 months later for $1.46 billion in connection with Core’s go-public.

We estimate Blockcap insiders made 20-25x their money.

On Monday, Core disclosed that its board waived the 180- day lockup on over 282 million shares, making them free to be dumped just 5 trading days from today.

We believe this shows insiders have abandoned any pretense of care for minority shareholders.”

“We think Core is no exception to what’s become a steady drumbeat of egregious projections made by many SPACs. We think both Core’s hosting business and its self-mining business have been wildly overhyped, and it’s no wonder that insiders can’t even wait 6 months to clamor for the exits,” the report reads.

“We also think Core has wildly overhyped the profitability of its self-mining business, where we estimate all-in breakeven costs of $41,723 per BTC (Bitcoin) vs. the Company’s SPAC claims of $2,700 just in power costs per BTC.

As such, we see Core as effectively using public markets to throw good money after bad while insiders set themselves up to dump billions worth of stock.”

In Thursday trading, shares of Core Scientific have dropped almost 3% to $7.50.

According to Wikipedia, being short in an asset means investing in such a way that the investor will profit if the value of the asset falls. This is the opposite of a more conventional “long” position, where the investor will profit if the value of the asset rises.

There are a number of ways of achieving a short position. The most fundamental method is “physical” selling short or short-selling, which involves borrowing assets (often securities such as shares or bonds) and selling them. The investor will later purchase the same number of the same type of securities in order to return them to the lender.

Core Scientific, Inc. (CORZ) last traded at $7.15.

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MoneyGram sold for $1 billion

The private equity firm will pay $11 a share for MoneyGram

Madison Dearborn Partners agreed to buy the company.

MoneyGram International, Inc. provides cross-border peer-to-peer payments and money transfer services in the United States and internationally. The company operates through two segments, Global Funds Transfer and Financial Paper Products. 

MoneyGram (MGI) has been a takeover target for years, as more people turn to online payments and away from old-school money-transfer services.

Chinese financial-services conglomerate Ant Group Co. agreed to buy MoneyGram in 2017, but walked away after pushback from regulators.

The acquisition by Madison Dearborn will enable MoneyGram “to accelerate the advancement of our digital growth strategy,” Chief Executive Officer Alex Holmes, who will continue to lead the firm after the deal is completed, said in the statement. “We will have greater opportunities to innovate and transform MoneyGram to lead the industry in cross-border payment technology and deliver a more expansive set of digital offerings.”

Remittances to most regions increased last year, aided by the economic recovery in the U.S. and Europe. Flows jumped almost 22% in Latin America and the Caribbean last year, 9.7% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 8% in South Asia, the World Bank said in November.

The MoneyGram acquisition, which includes a 30-day “go shop” period, is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter. Debt financing for the deal is being provided by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays Plc.

MGI is up $1.77 to $10.72.

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Stein Mart files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Stein Mart voluntarily files Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Stein Mart (SMRT) announced that it and its subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida – Jacksonville Division.

Stein Mart files for bankruptcy protection

Stein Mart offers designer and name-brand fashion apparels, home decor merchandise, accessories, and shoes at everyday discount prices in the United States. As of June 3, 2020, it operated 281 stores in 30 states. The company was founded in 1908 and is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Company has filed customary motions with the Bankruptcy Court that will authorize, upon Bankruptcy Court approval, the Company’s ability to maintain operations in the ordinary course of business, including, among other things, the payment of employee wages and benefits without interruption, payment of suppliers and vendors in the normal course of business, and the use of cash collateral.

Too much savings caused Stein Mart’s demise

These motions are typical in the Chapter 11 process and the Company anticipates that they will be approved shortly after the commencement of its Chapter 11 case.

Details on the Company’s Chapter 11 process and go-forward strategy are as follows:

The Company expects to close a significant portion, if not all, of its brick-and-mortar stores and, in connection therewith, the Company has launched a store closing and liquidation process.

The Company, however, will continue to operate its business in the ordinary course in the near term; and the Company is evaluating any and all strategic alternatives, including the potential sale of its eCommerce business and related intellectual property. 

SMRT last traded at $0.18.

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Mohawk shares tumble on investors lawsuit

Mississippi Retirement System sues the carpet maker

In January, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi filed a lawsuit claiming accounting fraud at Mohawk (MHK). The suit did not get a lot of attention at the time, but new filings submitted in late June add significant details about the allegations.

According to analysts, the filing includes testimony from a former Mohawk employee who claims the company has used fictitious sales to artificially boost revenue since 2017.

JPMorgan

JPMorgan analyst Michael Rehaut noted earlier that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi, as part of a consolidated class action complaint filing dated June 29, gave “significant incremental details” regarding claims that Mohawk engaged in channel stuffing at the end of the quarter and intentionally overproduced product.

MPERS sues Mohawk Industries

While “the veracity of these accusations will likely not be determined until after an extended legal process” of several months if not longer, Rehaut sees the lawsuit as likely to remain an overhang on the stock until this matter concludes.

He also sees the “fairly granular level of detail across the allegations” and quotes from interviews with several former employees creating a higher level of risk for the company from this lawsuit, added the analyst, who keeps a Neutral rating on Mohawk shares.

SunTrust

A shareholder lawsuit filed earlier this year has recently added new court filings that allege multiple issues inside Mohawk Industries, the most damaging allegation being its revenue recognition practices which included shipping goods on the last day of the quarter and then having those as returns in the following quarter, SunTrust analyst Keith Hughes tells investors in a research note.

The allegations being made during the company’s quiet period “have hamstrung any response,” says Hughes, who admits “it is hard to say as an outsider whether these have merit at this point.” However, given the size of Mohawk, it would need “widespread practices to boost revenues via the method” alleged, adds the analyst, who keeps a Buy rating on Mohawk with a $119 price target.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo analyst Truman Patterson notes that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi has filed a Class Action Complaint against Mohawk and CEO Jeff Lorberbaum, claiming the company engaged in a “fraudulent scheme to fabricate revenues through fictitious ‘sales’ of products that were not delivered to customers and to conceal from investors the true reasons for the company’s ballooning inventory,” damaging shareholders between April 2017 and July 2019.

While Mohawk stakeholders have known about the lawsuit since early January, filings have only recently become publicly available, which the analyst believes drove shares down on Wednesday. Patterson expresses no opinion on the validity of the allegations against the company, but acknowledges that they would clearly be a negative if proven to be true, likely damaging shareholder confidence in management. The analyst has an Underweight rating and an $80 price target on the stock.

The stock is down 19% to $74.10. The question now shifts to whether the allegations will result in a full SEC investigation.

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FDA rejects Intercept’s drug application, shares plunge

Intercept receives FDA CRL for obeticholic acid recommending additional data

Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a Complete Response Letter regarding the New Drug Application for obeticholic acid for the treatment of fibrosis due to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

stockwinners.com ICPT
Shares plunge following FDA’s comments

The CRL indicated that, based on the data the FDA has reviewed to date, the Agency has determined that the predicted benefit of OCA based on a surrogate histopathologic endpoint remains uncertain and does not sufficiently outweigh the potential risks to support accelerated approval for the treatment of patients with liver fibrosis due to NASH.

NASH is the severe form of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). It can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis, and liver transplants.

The FDA recommends that Intercept submit additional post-interim analysis efficacy and safety data from the ongoing REGENERATE study in support of potential accelerated approval and that the long-term outcomes phase of the study should continue.

Intercept had previously disclosed that, based on the FDA’s decision to postpone a tentatively scheduled advisory committee meeting, it was expected that the Agency’s review of its NDA would extend beyond the PDUFA goal date and that the FDA would move forward with rescheduling the Adcom.

The NDA submission for OCA is the first for NASH and was based on data from 35 clinical trials and more than 1,700 NASH patients treated with the drug.

OCA is the only investigational NASH drug with Breakthrough Therapy designation and has uniquely demonstrated reproducible ability to reverse or otherwise stabilize liver fibrosis in patients with advanced fibrosis due to NASH.

According to the FDA draft guidance for NASH fibrosis, of the histologic features of NASH, fibrosis is considered the strongest predictor of adverse clinical outcomes, including liver-related death.

Estimated number of people suffering from fatty liver, Stockwinners

There is currently no approved therapy for this devastating disease, which has become a leading cause of liver failure and resulting poor clinical outcomes.

A number of other companies working on NASH treatments are also moving lower, with CymaBay (CBAY) down about 3% and NGM Biopharmaceuticals (NGM) fractionally lower.

Other companies exploring NASH treatments include Madrigal Pharmaceuticals (MDGL), Novo Nordisk (NVO), Genfit (GNFT), Eli Lilly (LLY), and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY).

ICPT closed at $77.49, last traded at $48.00, down 38%.

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California Resources on the verge of bankruptcy!

The oil driller is preparing near-term bankruptcy filing, WSJ reports

California Resources Corporation (CRC) operates as an oil and natural gas exploration and production company in the State of California.

The company sells crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids to marketers, California refineries, and other purchasers that have access to transportation and storage facilities. It holds interests in approximately 2.2 million net acres of mineral acreage. As of December 31, 2019, the company had net proved reserves of 644 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Interest Payment

California Resources skipped an interest payment to lenders and could file for bankruptcy as soon as next week, The Wall Street Journal’s Alexander Gladstone reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company said in an 8-K filing that it entered into forbearance agreements most of its lenders, who have agreed not to exercise “remedies” under the credit agreements. 

The oil driller said Monday it has entered into an agreement with a majority of its senior lenders to wait until Sunday before they can declare a default, the author notes.

2-Year price chart for CRC

The company has suffered from a sharp selloff in crude oil futures prices to start this year, as a result of the drop in demand from the COVID-19 pandemic and the price war between Saudia Arabia and Russia.

CRC is up 67 cents to $2.68.

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Iterum Therapeutics drug fails, shares cut in half

Iterum says Phase 3 trial of sulopenem did not meet primary endpoint

Iterum Therapeutics (ITRM) announced that sulopenem did not achieve statistical non-inferiority relative to ertapenem in its SUlopenem for Resistant Enterobacteriaceae 2 clinical trial in complicated urinary tract infection.

Iterum shares collapse following it’s drug failure

The primary U.S. Food and Drug Administration endpoint was overall clinical and microbiologic response on Day 21 in the micro-MITT population as evaluated using a 10% non-inferiority margin.

The randomized, multi-center, double-blind SURE 2 clinical trial enrolled 1,395 patients to measure the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of IV and oral sulopenem for the treatment of cUTI in adults.

Patients were randomized to receive either IV sulopenem once daily for a minimum of five days followed by oral sulopenem twice daily to complete seven to ten days of treatment, or IV ertapenem once daily for a minimum of five days followed by either oral ciprofloxacin or, for quinolone resistant isolates, amoxicillin-clavulanate twice daily.

Responder rates at the test of cure visit for sulopenem were 67.8% and for ertapenem were 73.9% with a difference of -6.1%.

The difference in response rates was driven almost entirely by higher rates of asymptomatic bacteriuria on sulopenem relative to ertapenem, only evident at the test of cure visit; the rates of patients receiving additional antibiotics or with residual cUTI symptoms was similar.

Clinical response at the test of cure in the Modified Intent to Treat patient population and Clinically Evaluable patient population sulopenem vs ertapenem: 0.4% was similar.

The outcome at other secondary endpoints was also similar, including the overall response at the end of therapy visit at Day 10.

Strategic Alternatives

Based on the trial results, Iterum Therapeutics is evaluating its corporate, strategic and financial alternatives with the goal of maximizing value for its stakeholders while prudently managing its remaining resources.

These alternatives could potentially include the licensing, sale or divestiture of the company’s assets or proprietary technologies, a sale of the company, a merger or other business combination, another strategic transaction involving the company, restructuring activities, winding down of operations, dissolving and liquidating assets or seeking protection under bankruptcy laws.

ITRM shares are down 54% to $1.95.

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Minerva shares collapse following its drug failure

Minerva says Phase 3 trial of roluperidone did not meet primary endpoint

Minerva Neurosciences (NERV) announced that the Phase 3 trial of roluperidone to treat negative symptoms in schizophrenia did not meet its primary and key secondary endpoints.

Shares tumble following its drug failure

In total, 515 patients were enrolled into the trial, and 513 patients received treatment and were included in the safety and Intent-To-Treat population.

The trial was conducted in the USA, Europe and Israel.

There were 172 patients who received placebo, 172 patients who received roluperidone 32 mg, and 171 patients who received roluperidone 64 mg.

Demographic and baseline disease characteristics were comparable across all treatment arms.

The results for both roluperidone doses versus placebo across both the primary and the key secondary endpoints to Week 12 were corrected for multiplicity using the truncated Hochberg procedure.

The primary objective of the trial was to evaluate the change from baseline to Week 12 of NSFS with 32 mg and 64 mg doses of roluperidone compared to placebo in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia presenting with moderate to severe negative symptoms.

Neither the 32 mg nor 64 mg dose of roluperidone showed a statistically significant separation from placebo.

Furthermore, neither dose showed a statistically significant separation from placebo on the key secondary endpoint, the change from baseline to Week 12 in PSP.

Schizophrenia destroys patient’s life

Although limited inferences can be drawn from this data, unadjusted statistically significant separations from placebo were observed in NSFS at Week 4 for both doses and at Week 8 for the 64 mg dose, and the 64 mg dose was statistically significantly different from placebo as measured by change in PSP at all other assessment timepoints.

Overall, subgroup analyses by region and by age groups were similar.

Roluperidone was generally well tolerated, and the incidences of patients who reported treatment-emergent adverse events over the duration of 12 weeks of treatment were 37% for the 64 mg group, 42% for the 32 mg group, and 33% for placebo.

Only 42 patients discontinued from the study due to adverse events, 16 in 64 mg arm, 18 in 32 mg arm, and 8 in placebo arm.

Two treatment-unrelated deaths were reported in the 32 mg treatment arm says Phase 3 trial of roluperidone did not meet primary endpoint.

NERV is down 82% to $2.50.

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Several retailers grab their shopping bags and file for bankruptcy

As JC Penney’s files for bankruptcy, others line up to do the same

Retailers have long been suffering from a tough retail environment due to competition from online retailers such as Amazon, Etsy and eBay; it seems like COVID-19 fired the kill shot.

J.C. Penney

J.C. Penney announced that it has received approvals from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, in Corpus Christi, TX for the “First Day” motions related to the company’s voluntary Chapter 11 petitions filed on May 15, 2020, including approval for the company to access and use its approximately $500M in cash collateral.

The 118 year old retailer files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Stockwinners

J.C. Penney entered into a restructuring support agreement with lenders holding approximately 70% of J.C. Penney’s first lien debt to reduce the company’s outstanding indebtedness and strengthen its financial position. J.C. Penney has approximately $500M in cash on hand as of the Chapter 11 filing date.

James Cash Penney started the company in 1902

JCP Gets Delisted

The New York Stock Exchange announced that the staff of NYSE Regulation has determined to commence proceedings to delist the common stock of J.C. Penney Company – ticker symbol JCP – from the NYSE. NYSE Regulation reached its decision that the company is no longer suitable for listing after the company’s May 15, 2020 disclosure that the company filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Recent Retail Bankruptcies

On May 4th, J.Crew Group announced it has reached an agreement with its lenders holding approximately 71% of its Term Loan and approximately 78% of its IPCo Notes, as well as with its financial sponsors, under which the company will restructure its debt and deleverage its balance sheet, positioning J.Crew and Madewell for long-term success.

Houston-based Stage Stores Inc. filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas last week.

GNC Holdings (GNC), the nutritional supplement retailer, avoided bankruptcy by reaching a last-minute deal with creditors that allows it to avoid bankruptcy for at least 30 days but no more than 90 days under a deal announced Friday.

GNC avoids bankruptcy for 90 days

True Religion

Even before COVID-19 forced True Religion to close its 87 stores, the denim specialist’s sales were in decline and its profits were negative. After shuttering its footprint in response to the pandemic, 80% of its sales disappeared, according to the company. 

Others on the list

According to Law.com, both Macy’s (M) and Neiman Marcus have hired bankruptcy law firm Kirkland, and Wachtell. Neiman filed for Chapter 11 last week. Macy’s should be forthcoming.

Pier 1 Imports (PIR) filed for bankruptcy protection this month. It would only make sense if it’s competitors follow the same path.

Nashville-based retailer, Kirkland’s, Inc. operates as a specialty retailer of home décor in the United States. The company’s stores provide various merchandise, including holiday décor, furniture, ornamental wall décor, decorative accessories, art, textiles, mirrors, fragrance and accessories, lamps, artificial floral products, housewares, outdoor living items,

Kirkland’s has avoided Chapter 11, Stockwinners

In 2019, seventeen major retailers filed for bankruptcy. For some of them it was their second trip to the alter including Payless, Gymboree, and Charming Charlie.

Some of the retailers that filed for bankruptcy in the past 18 months. Stockwinners

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In the market for a used car? You are in luck

A Hertz bankruptcy will flood the market with used vehicles

If you are in the market for a used car, you are in luck. That is, if you have a place to drive to!

According to the Detroit Press, used car prices fell 34.4 percent in April alone. The paper offers solace to it’s readers by mentioning that  used car prices could go up soon due to a shortage of new cars caused by plant closures. The paper however, failed to mention the nearly half a million cars currently sitting ideal on Hertz car lots. With practically no one traveling these days, the need for rental cars has evaporated. Hertz (HTZ) and Avis-Budget (CAR) have suffered the most. Hertz has bigger problems than COVID-19 and that is it’s balance sheet.

There are several stories suggesting a Hertz bankruptcy is around the corner.

Hertz is near bankruptcy

According to Bloomberg, Hertz’s situation is a three-way standoff between Holders of Hertz’s asset-backed securities. They could delay pressuring Hertz to sell down its fleet for a short period of time, but they will need Hertz’s banks to promise to make them whole. The banks, in turn, may not want to take on such a risk, which requires them to bet that either the rental car business or used car prices return to some normal operating level.

A 2-year price chart of Hertz (HTZ), Stockwinners

Meanwhile, controlling shareholder Carl Icahn (IEP) holds a 39% equity stake in the rental company. Bloomberg says that he could put in more money to keep Hertz afloat, but this once again is dependent on a belief that the rental car business will recover to some extent in the very near future.

Carl Icahn

In a bankruptcy, Bloomberg notes, equity holders’ claims would be behind those of creditors, which is not an incentive for Icahn to put in more money at the moment.

Used car prices have fallen sharply due to Covid-19

A Hertz bankruptcy could flood the used car market with several hundred thousand cars, whose value is likely to take a substantial hit at a time when used car lots are already quite full and demand is low.

Companies now deliver used cars to your home for test drives

Bloomberg notes that used car prices dropped 11.4% from March to April, while sales were merely a quarter of pre-outbreak levels.

Meanwhile Hertz has started discounting its cars on its used car lots and Hertz Car Sales. In fact, you can pick up a car, and they will deliver it to your house for a test drive. We have seen discounts as high as 25% on some models.  The company carries brands like Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota and Nissan, to some luxury brands like Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.

Cars are discounted by Hertz

One more footnote to this story: auto dealerships usually set their used car prices as a function of new car prices. With most of the domestic auto plants closed, price of new cars (2021 model year) will not be known anytime soon.

Companies in the space include: Copart (CPRT), CarMax (KMX), Carvana (CVNA), CarGurus (CARG), Penske (PAG). AutoNation (AN). 

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Chesapeake Energy may file for bankruptcy

Chesapeake Energy slides as company considers bankruptcy, strategic alternatives

Shares of Chesapeake Energy (CHK) are tumbling after the company warned that it might not be able to stay in business amid low commodity prices caused by a global price war and depressed demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chesapeake is near bankruptcy

EVALUATING STRATEGIC ALTERNATIVES:

On Monday, Chesapeake Energy announced that it filed its Form 10-Q for the three-month period ended March 31, 2020 and, in light of the unprecedented market environment, has withdrawn the financial outlook it previously provided on February 26, 2020.

The company also reinstated a “going concern” warning. “Fluctuations in oil and natural gas prices have a material impact on our financial position, results of operations, cash flows and quantities of oil, natural gas and NGL reserves that may be economically produced.

Historically, oil and natural gas prices have been volatile; however, the volatility in the prices for these commodities has substantially increased as a result of COVID-19 and the OPEC+ decisions […]

Historical oil prices represented in 2020 dollar, Stockwinners

If the current depressed prices persist, combined with the scheduled reductions in the leverage ratio covenant and an expected significant reduction in our borrowing base in our scheduled determination, then our liquidity and our ability to comply with our financial covenants during the next 12 months will be adversely affected,” Chesapeake said in the filing.

Boom to bust for CHK

“Based on our current forecast, we do not expect to be in compliance with our financial covenants beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020. Failure to comply with these covenants, if not waived, would result in an event of default under our revolving credit facility, the potential acceleration of outstanding debt thereunder and the potential foreclosure on the collateral securing such debt, and could cause a cross-default under our other outstanding indebtedness.

As a result of the impacts to the company’s financial position resulting from declining industry conditions and in consideration of the substantial amount of long-term debt outstanding, the company has engaged advisors to assist with the evaluation of strategic alternatives, which may include, but not be limited to, seeking a restructuring, amendment or refinancing of existing debt through a private restructuring or reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

However, there can be no assurances that the company will be able to successfully restructure its indebtedness, improve its financial position or complete any strategic transactions. As a result of these uncertainties and the likelihood of a restructuring or reorganization, management has concluded that there is substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

REVERSE STOCK SPLITs NEVER WORK:

Chesapeake stock has lost about 50% of it’s value since a 1-for-200 reverse stock split took effect after the close of trading on April 14, 2020.

The company had implemented the reverse split to raise its share price enough to regain compliance with listing standards, but it was viewed as validation of investor concerns as the company struggled with falling commodities prices, high debt levels and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the author added.

The company lost its way after Aubrey McClendon, a founder and former chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, died in a fiery car crash in 2016, a day after he was charged with conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases. Many believe he committed suicide.

Aubrey McClendon

McClendon — a key player in the U.S. shale boom — co-founded Chesapeake in 1989 and stepped down from the company in 2013. Chesapeake used to be the second-largest natural gas producer in the United States.

PRICE ACTION: In afternoon trading on Tuesday, shares of Chesapeake have dropped almost 22% to $10.13.

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Retail bankruptcy filings are coming

J. Crew files for bankruptcy; Madewell to remain part of J.Crew

J.Crew Group announced it has reached an agreement with its lenders holding approximately 71% of its Term Loan and approximately 78% of its IPCo Notes, as well as with its financial sponsors, under which the Company will restructure its debt and deleverage its balance sheet, positioning J.Crew and Madewell for long-term success.

Madewell to remain part of the J.Crew Company, Stockwinners

Under the terms of the Transaction Support Agreement, the Company’s lenders will convert approximately $1.65 billion of the Company’s debt into equity.

To facilitate the restructuring contemplated by the TSA, the parent company of J.Crew Group, Inc., Chinos Holdings, Inc. and certain affiliates, have filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Company has secured commitments for a debtor-in-possession financing facility of $400 million and committed exit financing provided by existing lenders Anchorage Capital Group, L.L.C., GSO Capital Partners and Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP, among others.

Subject to Court approval, the DIP financing, combined with the Company’s projected cash flows, is expected to support its operations during the restructuring process.

As part of the TSA, Madewell will remain part of J.Crew Group, Inc.

Libby Wadle will continue in her role as CEO of Madewell.

J.Crew files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Stockwinners

“This agreement with our lenders represents a critical milestone in the ongoing process to transform our business with the goal of driving long-term, sustainable growth for J.Crew and further enhancing Madewell’s growth momentum,” said Jan Singer, CEO, J.Crew Group.

Neiman Marcus is expected to file for bankruptcy protection too

“Throughout this process, we will continue to provide our customers with the exceptional merchandise and service they expect from us, and we will continue all day-to-day operations, albeit under these extraordinary COVID-19-related circumstances.

Pier 1 Imports filed for bankruptcy protection

As we look to reopen our stores as quickly and safely as possible, this comprehensive financial restructuring should enable our business and brands to thrive for years to come.”

GNC is also expected to file for bankruptcy protection

The Company has filed a series of customary “first day” motions with the Bankruptcy Court seeking to maintain its operations during the restructuring process to help facilitate a smooth transition into Chapter 11.

JCP is inline for bankruptcy filing protection following weak sales

Note that in 2011, TPG Capital LP and Leonard Green & Partners LP privatized J.Crew in a $3 billion leveraged buyout.

Recent bankrupt retailers include Forever 21 and Pier 1 Imports.

Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy protection recently

Other retailers that may file for bankruptcy in the near future include: Neiman Marcus, JCP, GNC, and AEO. Note that Gaps (GPS) has been suffering from soft retail sales. Lands’ End (LE) is also suffering from soft sales.

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Amarin shares tumble as court voids patent

Amarin ‘strongly disagrees’ with ruling in Vascepa ANDA litigation

Shares of Amarin (AMRN) tumbled in after hours trading after a federal judge ruled patents on its best selling drug, Vascepa was invalid. The company issued the following statement after shares tumbled 65 percent.

Amarin loses patent on its Vascepa, Stockwinners

Vascepa (Icosapent ethyl) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, a fat found in fish oil. It is used along with a proper diet to help lower fats (triglycerides) in the blood. This medication is thought to work by decreasing the amount of triglycerides made by the body.

Amarin Corporation (AMRN) commented on the United States District Court for the District of Nevada’s ruling in favor of the generic companies in the company’s patent litigation against two filers of abbreviated new drug applications, or ANDAs, for Amarin’s VASCEPA capsule franchise.

Vascepa is derived from fish oil, Stockwinners

Based on Amarin’s review of U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, an ANDA for VASCEPA has not been approved, which would be required for launch of a generic product in the United States.

The company thus does not believe there is an impending generic launch by the litigants that would compete with VASCEPA at this time.

“Amarin strongly disagrees with the ruling and will vigorously pursue all available remedies, including an appeal of the Court’s decision and a preliminary injunction pending appeal to, if an ANDA is approved by FDA, prevent launch of generic versions of VASCEPA in the United States,” said John F. Thero, president and chief executive officer of Amarin.

“At Amarin, we have a strong balance sheet with capacity and flexibility, and we plan to fight to protect our VASCEPA franchise for the benefit of our patients, physicians, the broader healthcare community and our investors.

We believe we are favorably situated to obtain an injunction against generic launch pending appeal, subject to our posting a bond to secure generics’ lost profits in the event that generics prevail on appeal.

UK’s Hikma Pharma. had asked for overturn of the patent

As we work to take all legal actions necessary to defend and protect our intellectual property, we will continue to press forward with our educational and promotional efforts for VASCEPA in treating indicated patients at high risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke. After we determine the outcome of our effort to prevent a generic launch (if an ANDA approval is obtained), we expect to provide an update on how we would adjust certain promotional activities for VASCEPA in the United States.”

Generic drug maker Dr. Reddy’s will be making generic Vascepa

Generic drugmakers Hikma Pharmaceuticals of UK and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Limited  (RDY) had asked to overturn the patents so they can begin making generic versions of the medication.

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This article does not constitute investment advice. Each reader is encouraged to consult with his or her individual financial professional and any action a reader takes as a result of information presented here is his or her own responsibility.

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