Rail Traffic Declined Last Week!

North American rail traffic fell 7.5% for the week ending April 16

The Association of American Railroads, AAR, reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending April 16.

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 489,801 carloads and intermodal units, down 8.1% compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending April 16 were 221,228 carloads, down 6.8% compared with the same week in 2021, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 268,573 containers and trailers, down 9.2% compared to 2021. North American rail volume for the week ending April 16 on 12 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 319,064 carloads, down 6.8% compared with the same week last year, and 354,060 intermodal units, down 8.1% compared with last year.

Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 673,124 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.5%.

North American rail volume for the first 15 weeks of 2022 was 9,987,458 carloads and intermodal units, down 3.9% compared with 2021.

Publicly traded companies in the space include CSX (CSX), Canadian National (CNI), Canadian Pacific (CP), Kansas City Southern (KSU), Norfolk Southern (NSC), Trinity Industries (TRN), Greenbrier (GBX), Wabtec (WAB), FreightCar America (RAIL), Union Pacific (UNP) and GATX (GATX).

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Investor seeks sale of Everbridge

Ancora pushes Everbridge for sale, sees over $70 per share takeout value

Everbridge, Inc. (EVBG) operates as a software company, providing enterprise software applications that automate and accelerate organizations operational response to critical events in the United States and internationally. The company has a market cap of around $1.6B.

Ancora Holdings Group, which owns approximately 4% of Everbridge’s outstanding common stock, issued an open letter to the company’s board.

It states in part: “We have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing Everbridge’s corporate governance, executive compensation, operations and sales, and overall strategy.

Given the immense destruction of shareholder value that has occurred under the current leadership team, we call on the Board of Directors to commence an immediate exploration of strategic alternatives.

We believe Everbridge is dramatically undervalued at current stock prices, and a sale to a well-capitalized acquirer could deliver more than $70 per share, or a more than 90% premium, for shareholders based on recent valuation multiples for both public and private company peers…

We believe Everbridge is a valuable strategic asset addressing a mission critical need in a large market with vast upside potential.

We believe Everbridge is dramatically undervalued at current share prices, representing an attractive acquisition target to both strategic and financial buyers.

In our view, the issues the Company is facing are not structural, but rather self-inflicted due to incompetent leadership that has failed to execute.”

EVBG is up $3.53 to $40.12.

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Epam shares tumble on Ukraine exposure

 Epam Systems withdraws Q1, FY22 guidance due to events in Ukraine

EPAM Systems (EPAM) announced it is withdrawing its first quarter and 2022 financial outlook due to heightened uncertainties and regional impacts resulting from military actions in Ukraine.

EPAM Systems, Inc. provides digital platform engineering and software development services in North America, Europe, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Georgia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia. 

“EPAM’s highest priority is the safety and security of its employees and their families in Ukraine. The company is proactively working to relocate its employees to lower risk locations in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

The company is executing business continuity plans and accelerating hiring across multiple locations in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and India.

EPAM continues to operate productively in more than 40 countries and is committed to providing consistent high-quality delivery in all our geographies around the world,” the company said.

Shares of the Newton Pennsylvania company are down 46% to $207.75. Stock has a 52-week trading range of $198.25 to $725.40. Today’s loss took the shares back to 2020 levels, wiping out two years of gains.

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Ford does not plan to spin off EV business!

Ford CEO says no plans to spin off electric business or ICE business

Ford (F) CEO Jim Farley said while speaking at the Wolfe Research Auto, Auto Tech and Mobility conference:

Jim Farley, Ford CEO

“I wanted to talk quickly about running a successful ICE (internal combustion engines) business versus a BEV (battery-powered electric vehicle) business as we’re scaling. The customers are different.

The EV customers are not like our ICE customers. Our go-to-market as the result has to be digital, no inventory and remote. It’s different. We can bridge to it today, but we have to go much deeper…

Ford to launch 50 new vehicles in China. See Stockwinners.com

Ford will ensure we have the right structure and talent in place to compete and win in this digital software-enabled vehicle business, but as well to revitalize our ICE business.

And here, I really want to emphasize the shift that we’re thinking about.

There’s a lot of focus on the digital electric growth opportunity. But we believe we have lots of room on our ICE business for better quality, lower structural costs and radical reduction in complexity.

All electric Ford Mustang

And despite the press speculation, we have no plans to spin off our electric business or ICE business. It’s really more around focus and capabilities, expertise and talent. Those are key for Ford, and this is what we’re working on. Now many companies have studied this.

Some even have a person in charge of EVs here and there. But trust me, Ford will go deeper because we know our competition is Nio and Tesla, and we have to beat them, not match them…

Nio electric car

We believe and we acknowledge that we have upside in our ICE business and it’s critical that we leverage that and we’ve been working on and making progress to get to that 8% EBIT margin as a company…

We believe that both ICE and BEV portfolios are under-earning. Let me say that one more time. This management team firmly believes that our ICE and BEV portfolios are under-earning and that is not price. That is lower structural costs, improving our bill of material for our BEV vehicles and scaling…

Tesla Model 3

The net all of this is we have ample headroom for growth, as you said, Rod, and increased our company EBIT margin target to get to that 8%… And what we want to get across to all of you is that we have a long view of Ford that we have rethought our entire portfolio.”

F last traded at $17.00, down 30 cents.

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U.S. Ecology sold for $2.2 billion

Republic Services to acquire US Ecology for $48.00 per share in cash

Republic Services (RSG) and US Ecology (ECOL) have entered into a definitive agreement under which Republic Services will acquire all outstanding shares of US Ecology for $48 per share in cash, representing a total value of approximately $2.2B including net debt of approximately $0.7B.

US Ecology, Inc. provides environmental services to commercial and government entities in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, internationally. It operates through three segments: Waste Solutions, Field Services, and Energy Waste. It offers specialty waste management services, including treatment, disposal, beneficial re-use, and recycling of hazardous, non-hazardous, and other specialty waste at company-owned treatment, storage, and disposal facilities, as well as wastewater treatment services.

Republic Services, Inc. provides non-hazardous solid waste collection, transfer, disposal, recycling, and environmental services in the United States. 

The transaction is not subject to a financing condition.

Republic Services intends to finance the transaction using existing and new sources of debt.

Following completion of the transaction, Republic Services expects to maintain a strong balance sheet and solid investment-grade credit rating.

The company plans net debt-to-EBITDA, as defined in our credit agreement, to return back below 3x within 18 months of closing the transaction.

The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is expected to close by the end of the second quarter, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals and approval by holders of a majority of the outstanding shares of US Ecology’s common stock.

ECOL is up $19.28 to $47.48. RSG is up 24 cents to $127.19.

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Kohl’s rejects takeover offer!

Says offer does not reflect company’s true value

Read our blog about the offer.

Kohl’s (KSS) issued the following statement:

“The Kohl’s Board of Directors (the Board) has determined, following a review with its independent financial advisors and upon the recommendation of its Finance Committee, that the valuations indicated in the current expressions of interest which it has received do not adequately reflect the Company’s value in light of its future growth and cash flow generation.

The Board is committed to maximizing the long-term value of the Company and will review and pursue opportunities that it believes would credibly lead to value consistent with its performance and future opportunities.

The Board has designated its Finance Committee to lead the ongoing review of any expressions of interest. The Finance Committee, which was formed pursuant to the 2021 settlement agreement with Macellum Advisors GP, LLC and other shareholders, is comprised exclusively of independent directors.

The Company and the Board have also engaged financial advisors, including Goldman Sachs and PJT Partners, and have asked Goldman Sachs to engage with interested parties. The Board will continue to pursue all reasonable opportunities to drive value, consistent with its fiduciary obligations. The Company looks forward to updating shareholders on its ongoing strategic initiatives and capital allocation plans at Kohl’s Investor Day on March 7, 2022.”

Shareholders Disappointed:

Macellum Advisors GP, a long-term holder of nearly 5% of the outstanding common shares of Kohl’s Corporation, issued the below statement in response to the company’s announcement that its Board of Directors has rejected recent indications of interest and adopted a two-tiered shareholder rights plan that seems particularly punitive to any investor that may seek more active engagement with the Board. Jonathan Duskin, Macellum’s Managing Partner, commented:

We are disappointed and shocked by Kohl’s hasty rejection of confirmed indications of interest.

This morning’s rejections – which come just two weeks after outreach from potential acquirers – only validates for us that a majority of the Board is entrenched and lacks objectivity when it comes to evaluating value-maximizing sale opportunities relative to management’s historically ineffective standalone plans. We doubt that interested parties were given adequate consideration or access to management, data rooms and the type of information required to inform upward adjustments to bids.

Moreover, it appears that the Board has not authorized its bankers to canvass the market and initiate substantive conversations with other logical suiters. Even if some of our fellow shareholders want the Board to compare sale opportunities to management’s go-forward strategy, we fear the Company’s actions and statements demonstrate a lack of impartiality and strategic thinking in the boardroom.”

Duskin added: “We will do everything in our power to prevent the current Board from continuing to chill a normal-course sales process. In our view, the Board’s cumbersome Friday morning press release and adoption of a poison pill that has a lower trigger for investors that may seek more active engagement with the Company demonstrate shareholders’ interests are not the top priority in the boardroom.

It seems to us that the Board is taking unprecedented steps to derail a credible process and kill interest among the growing crop of possible buyers of Kohl’s. Fortunately, the slate we plan to nominate in the coming days will be far more aligned, experienced and openminded when it comes to pursuing all paths to maximizing value.”

KSS +$1.35 to $59.94

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Citrix Systems sold for $104 per share

Citrix to be acquired by Vista, Evergreen in $16.5B all-cash transaction

Citrix (CTXS) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement under which affiliates of Vista Equity Partners, a global investment firm focused exclusively on enterprise software, data and technology-enabled businesses, and Evergreen, an affiliate of Elliott, will acquire Citrix in an all-cash transaction valued at $16.5B, including the assumption of Citrix debt.

Under the terms of the agreement, Citrix shareholders will receive $104.00 in cash per share.

The per share purchase price represents a premium of 30% over the company’s unaffected 5-day VWAP as of December 7, 2021, the last trading day before market speculation regarding a potential transaction, and a premium of 24% over the closing price on December 20, 2021, the last trading day prior to media reports regarding a potential bid from Vista and Evergreen.

In connection with the transaction, Vista and Evergreen intend to combine Citrix and Tibco Software, one of Vista’s portfolio companies.

Citrix makes software that workers use to log onto to their corporate programs virtually, a category of product extensively relied upon during the pandemic as businesses sought quick ways to keep remote workforces connected to central operations. Many are now planning permanent hybrid setups for home and office working, which is expected to grow the market for tools that help make this seamless.

As part of the transaction, Vista and Evergreen plan to combine Citrix with Tibco Software, an enterprise data management firm that’s one of Vista’s portfolio companies. The combination will create one of the world’s largest software providers, serving 400,000 customers, according to the statement.

Citrix shares are down 3.8% to $101.54.

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Mirage Hotel sold for $1.075B

Hard Rock International to buy The Mirage Hotel & Casino from MGM

MGM Resorts International (MGM) announced an agreement with Hard Rock International to sell the operations of The Mirage Hotel & Casino (“The Mirage”). The deal, which is valued at $1.075 billion in cash. The deal is likely to be completed in the second half of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals.

The Mirage, which was opened in 1989, was acquired by MGM Resorts in 2000. Per the agreement, MGM Resorts will retain “The Mirage name and brand, licensing it to Hard Rock royalty-free for a maximum period of three years while it finalizes its plans to rebrand the property.”

MGM Resorts anticipates net cash proceeds following taxes and estimated fees to be nearly $815 million. 

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs analyst Stephen Grambling notes that MGM Resorts (MGM) announced it has entered into an agreement to sell the operations of The Mirage to Hard Rock International for $1.075B in cash and $815M after taxes and estimated fees.

Concurrently, VICI Properties (VICI) announced that in connection with the deal, they have agreed to enter into a new separate lease with Hard Rock related to the operations of the Mirage with similar terms as the current MGM Master Lease, Grambling adds, highlighting that VICI has entered into an agreement to purchase MGP, of which MGM is a controlling shareholder.

The analyst believes the deal could be a strategic positive to MGM given the potential to drive deleveraging for the enterprise. He also notes the property had seen improving margins but decelerating growth pre-pandemic, and may require substantial capex to be reinvigorated. The deal therefore would allow MGM to focus on capital allocation elsewhere, the analyst argues. Grambling has a Neutral rating on MGM Resorts with a price target of $49.

CBRE

CBRE analyst John DeCree called this a “record multiple” as well as a “winner, winner, chicken dinner deal for all parties involved, plus some bystanders,” such as Wynn (WYNN) and Caesars (CZR), who have significant Las Vegas exposure.

Mirage sets a new bar for Las Vegas operating company valuation, which makes DeCree tell investors that he “can’t help but get excited about the prospects” for Caesars, which is planning to sell one of its Vegas resorts in early 2022, and Wynn, which “is sitting on what is arguably the most valuable casino resort in Las Vegas, if not the country,” according to the analyst. DeCree has Buy ratings on MGM, Caesars and Wynn shares.

MGM is up $1.26 to $41.60.

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NeoPhotonics sold for $918M

 Lumentum to acquire NeoPhotonics for $16 per share in cash

Lumentum (LITE) and NeoPhotonics (NPTN) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Lumentum will acquire NeoPhotonics for $16.00 per share in cash, which represents a total equity value of approximately $918M.

NeoPhotonics Corporation develops, manufactures, and sells optoelectronic products that transmit and receive high speed digital optical signals for cloud and hyperscale data center internet content provider and telecom networks worldwide.

Lumentum Holdings Inc. manufactures and sells optical and photonic products in the Americas, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The company operates in two segments, Optical Communications (OpComms) and Commercial Lasers (Lasers). 

Laser chips made by Lumentum

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies.

The purchase price represents a premium of approximately 39% to NeoPhotonics’ closing stock price on November 3, 2021.

Laser chips made by NeoPhotonics

Lumentum intends to finance the transaction through cash from the combined company’s balance sheet.

Related to the transaction, Lumentum will provide up to $50M in term loans to NeoPhotonics to fund anticipated growth, which may require increased working capital and manufacturing capacity.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of calendar year 2022, subject to approval by NeoPhotonics’ stockholders, receipt of regulatory approvals, and other customary closing conditions.

“With NeoPhotonics, we’re making another important investment in better serving our customers and expanding our photonics capabilities at a time when photonics are at the forefront of favorable long-term market trends. At the center of our strategy is a relentless focus on developing a differentiated portfolio with the most innovative products and technology in our industry so that we can help our customers compete and win in their respective markets.

Adding NeoPhotonics’ differentiated products and technology and innovative R&D team is consistent with this strategy and together, we will better meet the growing need for next generation optical networking solutions. We are confident this transaction will make us an even better partner to our customers, while enabling our team to deliver significant, long-term value to our stockholders. We look forward to welcoming NeoPhotonics’ talented team of employees to Lumentum,” said Alan Lowe, Lumentum President and CEO.

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AbbVie’s antidepressant achieves positive results

AbbVie’s cariprazine met primary endpoint in Phase 3 study

AbbVie (ABBV) announced top-line results from two Phase 3 clinical trials, Study 3111-301-001 and Study 3111-302-001, evaluating the efficacy and safety of cariprazine as an adjunctive treatment for patients with major depressive disorder.

Cariprazine, sold under the brand names Vraylar in the United States and Reagila in the European Union, is an atypical antipsychotic which is used in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar mania, and bipolar depression.

Drug pipeline looks very promising for Abbvie

In Study 3111-301-001, cariprazine showed a statistically significant change from baseline to week six in the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale total score compared with placebo.

The Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) is a ten-item diagnostic questionnaire which psychiatrists use to measure the severity of depressive episodes in patients with mood disorders. 

Patients treated with cariprazine at 1.5 mg/day achieved improved MADRS total score at week six compared to placebo.

Patients treated with cariprazine at 3.0 mg/day demonstrated improvement in MADRS total score at week six over placebo but did not meet statistical significance.

In Study 3111-302-001, cariprazine demonstrated numerical improvement in depressive symptoms from baseline to week six in MADRS total score compared with placebo but did not meet its primary endpoint for either the 1.5 mg/day or 3.0 mg/day dose.

In a previously published Phase 2/3 registration-enabling study, RGH-MD-75, patients treated with cariprazine flexible doses of 2.0-4.5 mg/day in addition to ongoing antidepressant therapy met the primary endpoint and achieved improved MADRS total scores at week eight compared to placebo.

Based on the positive results of studies 3111-301-001 and RGH-MD-75, and the totality of data reported, AbbVie intends to submit a supplemental New Drug Application with the U.S. FDA for the expanded use of cariprazine for the adjunctive treatment of MDD.

Separately, AbbVie reported Q3 Global Humira sales of $5.425B up 5.6% on reported basis.

In Q3, Global net revenues from the immunology portfolio were $6.674 billion, an increase of 15.3 percent on a reported basis, or 14.9 percent on an operational basis.

Global Humira net revenues of $5.425 billion increased 5.6 percent on a reported basis, or 5.2 percent on an operational basis.

U.S. Humira net revenues were $4.613 billion, an increase of 10.1 percent.

Internationally, Humira net revenues were $812 million, a decrease of 14.6 percent on a reported basis, or 16.7 percent on an operational basis, due to biosimilar competition.

Treatment for Psoriasis

Global Skyrizi net revenues were $796 million. Global Rinvoq net revenues were $453 million.

Treatment for moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis

ABBV is up $5 to $114.70.

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New York reaches settlement over opioid drugs

NY AG announces $1.1B agreement with big three drug distributors over opioids

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced an agreement with McKesson (MCK), Cardinal Health (CAH), and Amerisource Bergen (ABC) – three of the nation’s largest drug distributors – that will deliver up to $1.1B to New York state to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.

“The $1.1B agreement is the largest monetary settlement ever negotiated by Attorney General James. The agreement resolves claims made by Attorney General James for the three companies’ role in helping to fuel the opioid epidemic and will remove the three distributors from New York’s ongoing opioid trial, currently underway in Suffolk County State Supreme Court…

Additionally, late last month, Attorney General James announced an agreement with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) that removed the company from New York’s opioid trial in exchange for up to $230M for the state’s opioid prevention and treatment efforts, as well as it ending the sale of opioids nationwide.

The trial against the three remaining defendants – Endo Health Solutions (ENDP), Teva Pharmaceuticals USA (TEVA), and Allergan Finance (ABBV) – is currently underway and will continue in state court,” the AG stated.

As part of today’s agreement, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen will pay New York state a total of up to $1,179,251,066.68, of which more than $1 billion will go towards abatement.

Payments will start in just two months and will continue over the course of the next 17 years, the AG said.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. 

Fentanyl and similar compounds like carfentanil are powerful synthetic opioids — 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. High doses of opioids, especially potent opioids such as fentanyl, can cause breathing to stop completely, which can lead to death.

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Shareholder opposes sale of At Home

At Home Group shareholder calls on company to release Q2 interim sales results

CAS Investment Partners, which beneficially owns approximately 17% of the outstanding common stock of At Home Group (HOME), called on the company to release its interim sales results for Q2 in order to provide material information and keep stockholders informed as they consider the $37 per share tender offer made by funds advised by Hellman & Friedman.

As previously disclosed, CAS deems the $37 per share tender offer wholly inadequate and opposes the transaction on its current terms. Clifford Sosin, founder and portfolio manager of CAS, commented:

“We urge At Home to promptly release interim sales results for the second quarter of fiscal year 2022. Rather than keep stockholders in the dark about the Company’s continued momentum, we believe At Home should be providing them with as much information as possible.

Clifford Sosin, founder and portfolio manager of CAS

Stockholders should not be asked to make a decision about whether to tender into the meager H&F offer without first receiving an easily-prepared update on the current quarter. It is not as if At Home has not pre-released sales data in the past.

Stockholders should seriously question why the Company is not releasing this important information at a time when we need it the most?

According to credit card data analyzed by CAS, the Company’s second quarter same store sales are trending approximately 30% above 2019 levels. Sales appear to be remaining very strong even as the economy reopens and the impact of federal stimulus fades.

We contend that this information demonstrates the Company’s recent success is durable and not a temporary byproduct of the pandemic.

It appears to us that At Home and H&F are desperately trying to avoid releasing these numbers, as evidenced by the fact that the tender deadline ends five days before the close of the second quarter on July 20th.

We are concerned that this is due to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lee Bird being set up to make more than $100 million in compensation if the proposed transaction is completed.

We are equally concerned that H&F may already be exerting an inappropriate level of influence over the corporate governance decisions at the Company. Given we are At Home’s largest stockholder, we call on the Company to immediately respond to our request to disclose this material information and remind the independent directors of their fiduciary duties to At Home stockholders.”

On May 7, 2021, At Home Group Inc. agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Hellman and Friedman (H&F) for a total cash consideration of $2.8 billion, inclusive of debt assumption. Under the agreement, At Home shareholders will receive $36 in cash for each share held. HOME closed at $36.80.

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Merger in Senior Housing Industry!

Welltower to acquire Holiday Retirement’s Seniors Housing Portfolio for $1.58B

Welltower (WELL) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire a portfolio of 86 seniors housing properties, including 80 nearly identical independent living and six combination independent living/assisted living properties, currently owned by Holiday Retirement.

Additionally, as announced on June 21, upon the closing date of this transaction, which is expected to be in the third quarter, Atria Senior Living will assume operations of the properties and retain Holiday’s in-place senior management and staff.

Through this landmark transaction, the 86-property portfolio will be acquired by Welltower for $1.58B, or $152,000 per unit, representing a discount to estimated replacement cost in excess of 30%.

The transaction is expected to be approximately 10c per diluted share accretive to Welltower’s normalized funds from operations during the first twelve months post-closing.

The portfolio is expected to deliver substantial net operating income growth in future quarters and in coming years as occupancy growth accelerates from near-trough levels of 76.3% as of June 20.

Portfolio occupancy has already increased over 2.7% since bottoming in March.

Additionally, the anticipated recovery in occupancy and Atria’s operational and technological expertise is expected to maximize community level performance and to generate meaningful expansion in operating margins going forward.

Welltower and Atria have agreed to a highly incentivized and strongly aligned enhanced RIDEA 3.0 management contract based on both top and bottom-line financial metrics. The contract will also include substantial promote opportunities to Atria upon achievement of certain long-term financial metrics.

The achievement of such hurdles would imply significant growth in underlying property level performance, resulting in a nominal yield in excess of 9% to Welltower and a net economic yield in excess of 8% to Welltower after capital expenditures and payment of the promote.

Welltower CEO

Atria expects to integrate Holiday’s corporate staff and retain its experienced and reputed management team, thereby de-risking the overall transaction.

Atria has significant experience with Holiday properties, having successfully assumed operations in recent years of two portfolios previously managed by Holiday: a 29-property portfolio across Canada in 2014 and, in April 2021, a 21-property portfolio owned by New Senior Investment Group Inc.

The portfolio is expected to benefit from Atria’s operating model and technology platform, which includes its proprietary Glennis software for staffing optimization, digital marketing, and CRM.

Atria’s digital marketing capabilities and front of house technology suite are also expected to reduce dependency on referral sources and increase organic lead generation.

Holiday’s management team expects that this significant investment in its platform and technology infrastructure will significantly enhance their ability to serve residents going forward.

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RAPT Therapeutics shares soar on data

RAPT Therapeutics, Inc. (RAPT) announced positive topline results from its randomized placebo-controlled Phase 1b clinical trial of RPT193 as monotherapy in 31 patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis (AD).

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. It’s common in children but can occur at any age. Atopic dermatitis is long lasting (chronic) and tends to flare periodically. It may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever.

After four weeks of treatment, patients with moderate-to-severe AD who received RPT193 showed a 36.3% improvement from baseline in the Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI) score, a standard measure of disease severity, compared to 17.0% in the placebo group.

Notably, in the two-week period following the end of treatment, the RPT193 group showed continued improvement and further separation from placebo with a 53.2% improvement in EASI at the six-week time point compared to 9.6% in the placebo group. This continued improvement may be related to RPT193’s mechanism of action, which is upstream of other agents targeting cytokines or signaling pathways.

Emma Guttman-Yassky, M.D., Ph.D., the Waldman Professor of Dermatology and System Chair Department of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and member of RAPT’s Scientific Advisory Board, added, “I am very excited about these results as they not only demonstrate clinically meaningful improvement after just four weeks of treatment, but also further improvement for two weeks after completion of treatment. This may suggest that this novel mechanism of action targeting CCR4 on Th2 cells could have prolonged, disease-modifying effects, which could differentiate it from other agents. Along with being an oral drug that seems to have promising clinical activity and a well-tolerated safety profile, RPT193 could fill a high unmet medical need for AD patients.”

Cantor Fitzgerald

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Alethia Young raised the firm’s price target on Rapt Therapeutics to $71 from $51 and reiterates an Overweight rating on the shares. The stock in midday trading is up 110%, or $19.60, to $38.17. This morning’s RPT193 data update “was robust with clear clinical benefit compared to placebo on all exploratory endpoints,” Young tells investors in a research note.

The analyst took the drug’s probability of success in atopic dermatitis to 50% from 25% previously, and increased her peak sales estimates. Young sees a “large unmet need” for a safe and effective oral treatment which is separate from the injectable market, and models peak sales of $4B in atopic dermatitis by 2035. She views Rapt’s risk/benefit profile as potentially best-in-class for an oral treatment.

RAPT is up 107% to $37.70.

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Canadian Pacific approaches Kansas City Southern again

Canadian Pacific says prepared to re-engage with Kansas City Southern

Canadian Pacific (CP) sent the following letter to the Surface Transportation Board in response to the Kansas City Southern (KSU) Board of Directors’ decision to terminate the Merger Agreement with CP:

Canadian Pacific wants to merge with Kansas City Southern

“I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Applicants in this proceeding to advise the Board and Interested Parties of the CP Applicants’ intentions in light of Kansas City Southern’s decision to terminate the merger agreement between CP and Kansas City Southern and to enter a merger agreement with Canadian National Railway.

For the reasons explained below, CP intends to proceed to prepare and file its Application in this docket seeking Board authority to control KCS and its U.S. rail carrier subsidiaries.

The decision of KCS’s board of directors to designate CN’s offer a “superior proposal” reflects the extreme price CN has offered KCS in order to extinguish CP’s proposed transaction,2 coupled with CN’s undertaking to attempt to absolve KCS and its shareholders of the regulatory risks associated with CN’s proposed acquisition through the use of a voting trust. In order to neutralize the regulatory risks posed by CN’s proposed transaction from the perspective of KCS’s shareholders,

CN’s agreement to acquire KCS is conditioned on CN’s ability to acquire KCS shares in advance of receiving Board approval to control KCS via the use of a voting trust.

On May 17, the Board ruled in Finance Docket No. 36514 that CN’s proposed acquisition of KCS is subject to the 2001 Major Merger rules, and, accordingly, that CN’s proposed use of a voting trust requires formal STB approval under 49 U.S.C. Section1180.4(b)(4)(iv).

The Combined network covers Gulf of Mexico to Pacific Ocean

The Board explained that it would “take a more cautious approach to a voting trust” in the CN proceeding and that its “consideration of whether the proposed use of a voting trust in a potential CN-KCS transaction is ‘consistent with the public interest’ would be informed by argument on both the potential benefits and costs of such use.”

CP believes that CN cannot demonstrate that its proposed use of a voting trust would be “consistent with the public interest” for reasons CP has already summarized and will address further in its comments on CN’s proposal in Finance Docket No. 36514, once CN refiles its motion seeking Board approval and the Board establishes a comment period.

Because STB Voting Trust Approval is a condition to closing, were CN unable to use a voting trust, CN’s proposed acquisition of KCS could not be consummated. KCS would then face the choice of whether to renegotiate the CN-KCS merger agreement in order to proceed with CN without the use of a voting trust.

Were KCS presented with the question of how to proceed following a decision by the Board not to approve CN’s proposed use of a voting trust, CP anticipates being available to engage with KCS to enter into another agreement to acquire KCS.

CP expects that such an agreement would be in substantially the form of the merger agreement previously entered into by CP and KCS, which was previously noticed in this docket and reviewed by the Board in connection with its approval of CP’s proposed voting trust agreement.

Accordingly, CP intends to proceed forward with the preparation of its Application in this docket seeking Board authority to acquire control of KCS.

CP believes that pursuing its Application is in the best interests of both KCS and the public so that the pro-competitive CP/KCS transaction can proceed to be reviewed by the Board and – in the event KCS’s agreement with CN is terminated or CN is otherwise unable to acquire control of KCS – a potential acquisition of KCS by CP could be implemented without undue delay, all in accord with the rulings and processes already established by the Board in this docket.

CP looks forward to establishing that its acquisition of control of KCS would be consistent with the public interest.”

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