Federal Reserve cuts benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points

Fed Chair Powell says more rate cuts could be needed if economy weakens

The Federal Reserve voted to cut interest rates by a quarter-percentage point for the second time in as many months to cushion the economy against a global slowdown amplified by the U.S.-China trade war. While they left the door open to additional cuts, officials were split over the decision and the outlook for further reductions.

Voting for the today’s 25 basis point cut today were Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, John Williams, Michelle #Bowman, Lael #Brainard, Richard #Clarida, Charles #Evans, and Randal #Quarles. Voting against the action were James #Bullard, who preferred at the meeting to lower the target range for the federal funds rate to 1.5% to 1.75%, and Esther George and Eric Rosengren, who preferred to maintain the target range at 2% to 2.25%.

FOMC Chair Powell votes for rate cut., Stockwinners

The Federal Reserve said in today’s statement, “Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in July indicates that the labor market remains strong and that economic activity has been rising at a moderate rate. Job gains have been solid, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low. Although household spending has been rising at a strong pace, business fixed investment and exports have weakened. On a 12-month basis, overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy are running below 2 percent. Market-based measures of inflation compensation remain low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed.”

Trade Negotiations

Fed Chair Powell said the Fed has to try to look through near-term volatility due to “complex” trade negotiations to react to the underlying economic situation. Powell said the central bank needs to be careful to not overreact but also to not underreact.

The Fed continues to see a strong labor market and reiterated that economic activity has been rising at a moderate rate. Job gains have been solid, on average, in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low.

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There was still a split between solid household spending, but weakening in business fixed investment and exports. Inflation is still running below 2%, while market-based measures of remain low. The Committee continued to appeal to implications of global developments for the economic outlook and low inflation as rationale for the easing.

More from Powell: this is a time of difficult judgments and disparate perspectives. The bulk of the FOMC is taking it meeting-by-meeting. He continues to believe it’s better to be proactive when adjusting policy, and when trouble is seen approaching on the horizon, you should steer away from it if possible. The Fed has repeatedly shifted policy to support the economy, showing the Fed’s willingness to to move based on an evolving risk picture. There’s real uncertainty around the effects of the trade policy. On the funding issues seen this week, Powell said analysts took appropriate actions to address the pressures. If there are additional pressures, analysts have the tools to address the funding pressures and analysts will not hesitate to use them. The Fed will be returning to the question of when to build the balance sheet. The level remains uncertain, however.

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Investment Technology Group sold for $1 billion

ITG to be acquired by Virtu Financial for $30.30 per share in cash

Investment Technology Group sold for $1 billion, Stockwinners
Investment Technology Group sold for $1 billion, Stockwinners

Investment Technology Group (ITG) announced that it has reached a definitive agreement for Virtu Financial (VIRT) to acquire all outstanding shares of ITG’s Common Stock for $30.30 per share in cash.

Investment Technology Group, Inc. operates as a financial technology company in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Asia Pacific.

Virtu Financial, Inc.  provides market making and liquidity services through its proprietary, multi-asset, and multi-currency technology platform to the financial markets worldwide.

The price represents a premium of more than 40% over ITG’s average closing share price of $21.55 in the 30 days prior to news reports of a potential sale on October 4, 2018.

Minder Cheng, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said, “ITG has made tremendous progress in executing on its Strategic Operating Plan over the past two years, and the agreement with Virtu is a result of the dedicated efforts of our management team and employees.

After careful consideration, ITG’s Board of Directors determined that the proposal from Virtu, which provides an immediate and significant cash premium, offers the most value for ITG stockholders. The combination of Virtu and ITG will create an industry-leading financial technology franchise with true global capabilities and scale.” J.P. Morgan is serving as the financial advisor and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is providing legal counsel to ITG.


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Starwood Property Trust goes shopping

Starwood Property to acquire GE Capital Project Finance Debt Business for $2.56B

Starwood Property goes shopping, Stockwinners
Starwood Property goes shopping, Stockwinners

Starwood Property Trust (STWD) announced that the company has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire GE Capital’s (GE) Energy Financial Services’ Project Finance Debt Business and loan portfolio for $2.56B, including $400M of unfunded loan commitments.

The acquired business will leverage the extensive experience of the company’s affiliate, Starwood Energy Group, which specializes in comparable energy infrastructure equity investments and has executed transactions with approximately $7B in asset value since its inception in 2005.

GE’s Energy Project Finance Debt Business includes a vertically integrated platform with a seasoned leadership team and 21 full-time employees across loan origination, underwriting, capital markets and asset management.

The Loan Portfolio consists of 51 senior loans secured by energy infrastructure real assets.

The company anticipates the transaction will be accretive to core earnings.

The company expects to finance the transaction with a new secured term loan facility from MUFG with an initial advance of approximately $1.7B and committed capacity for future funding obligations in the Loan Portfolio.

The company has ample available liquidity in addition to a $600M committed acquisition facility from Credit Suisse and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. to fund the balance of the purchase price.

The completion of the acquisition is subject to the satisfaction of a number of customary conditions and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018.

STWD closed at $22.45. GE closed at $13.16.


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Franklin American Mortgage sold for $511M

Citizens Financial to purchase Franklin American Mortgage for $511M

Citizens Financial to purchase Franklin American Mortgage for $511M, Stockwinners.com
Citizens Financial to purchase Franklin American Mortgage for $511M, 

Citizens Financial Group (CFG) announced a definitive agreement to purchase the assets of Franklin American Mortgage Company, a Franklin, Tennessee-based national mortgage servicing and origination firm with a leading position among private, non-bank mortgage companies.

As of March 31, 2018, Franklin American Mortgage managed a $41.4B mortgage servicing portfolio and generated approximately $13.7B in annualized originations for the first quarter 2018, nearly 100% of which was conforming.

“The addition of Franklin American Mortgage triples the size of Citizens’ off-balance sheet mortgage servicing portfolio, providing significantly more balance sheet leverage. The transaction also more than doubles Citizens’ origination platform while significantly diversifying its origination capabilities with the addition of correspondent and wholesale channels, which complement Citizens’ strong retail capabilities,” the bank said.

Under the terms of the asset purchase agreement, Citizens’ wholly-owned subsidiary, Citizens Bank, N.A., will purchase assets with a net book value of approximately $488M, which includes a mortgage servicing rights portfolio valued at $550M, for $511M in cash, or approximately 1.1 times tangible book value.

The transaction is expected to improve fee income, produce attractive returns and have a crossover earnback period of less than three years. The transaction is expected to reduce the company’s Basel III common equity tier one ratio by approximately 18 basis points at the transaction close.

This transaction has no impact on the execution of Citizens’ previously announced planned share repurchases under its 2017 capital plan. The company expects to achieve annual expense synergies of approximately $50M by 2020 with total estimated after-tax integration costs of $30M-$45M.

Return on average tangible common equity accretion is expected to be approximately 30 basis points in 2019 and approximately 45 basis points in 2020 with earnings per diluted common share accretion of approximately 2% in 2019 and approximately 3% in 2020.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018, subject to customary closing terms and conditions and regulatory approval.


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Zillow enters house flipping, shares decline

Zillow falls after announces house flipping plans, competitor Redfin declines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A “WASH” FOR SHAREHOLDERS

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

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

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

COMPETITION FOR REDFIN

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

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

PRICE ACTION

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


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Watch these bank earnings

What to watch in bank space earnings reports

What to watch in bank earnings. Stockwinners.com
What to watch in bank earnings.

Bank of America (BAC) and Goldman Sachs (GS) are scheduled to report quarterly results on January 17, while Morgan Stanley (MS) is expected to report on January 18.

What to watch for:

1. TAX REFORM:

Goldman Sachs estimates that the enactment of the new tax legislation will result in a reduction of approximately $5B in the firm’s earnings for Q4 and year ending December 31, 2017, approximately two-thirds of which is due to the repatriation tax.

The remainder includes the effects of the implementation of the territorial tax system and the re-measurement of U.S. deferred tax assets at lower enacted corporate tax rates.

Earlier this month, Morgan Stanley (MS) said it also estimates the net income for the quarter ending December 31, 2017 will include an aggregate net discrete tax provision of approximately $1.25B, comprised of an approximate $1.4B net discrete tax provision as a result of the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, primarily from the re-measurement of certain net deferred tax assets using the lower enacted corporate tax rate, partially offset by an approximate $160M net discrete tax benefit, primarily associated with the re-measurement of reserves and related interest relating to the status of multi-year Internal Revenue Service tax examinations.

2. CRYPTOCURRENCY:

On December 14, Bloomberg reported that Goldman Sachs is seeking a 100% margin on some bitcoin future trades deterring some customers from looking to clear their trades through the bank and resulting in some taking their business elsewhere.

A week later, the publication said the bank was establishing a trading desk to make markets in digital currencies such as bitcoin. The company intends to get the business running by the end of June, if not earlier, the report added.

Also last month, Morgan Stanley said in a regulatory filing that it had purchased an 11.4% stake in Overstock (OSTK), which launched cryptocurrency trading with its tZERO subsidiary.

3. FAVORABLE OUTLOOK:

On November 29, JPMorgan analyst Kian Abouhossein raised his price target for Goldman Sachs to $270 from $263 and called it his top investment banking pick for 2018.

The analyst said he is more positive around the strength of the franchise and believes its fixed income, currencies and commodities business revenue growth opportunity of $1B-plus is more likely to be achieved. Goldman has shown “excellent progress” when it comes to delivering shareholder value, #Abouhossein contended.

Last month, BofA/Merrill analyst Michael #Carrier added Goldman Sachs to the U.S. 1 List, citing an increasing favorable outlook with rising GDP growth, favorable risk/reward, low expectations, and potential catalysts from de-regulation, tax reform, and increased volatility.

Carrier reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and raised his price target on the shares to $300 from $290.

4. BREXIT

On November 20, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said the bank will have two EU hubs, in Frankfurt and Paris, post-Brexit, according to Reuters. “We will have more employees on the continent. Some, if they want to, would come from London, we will hire others,” Blankfein said.

“Brexit pushes us to decentralize our activities. In the end, it’s the people who will largely decide where they prefer to live.”


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Credit Suisse pledges to return capital to shareholders

Credit Suisse pledges to return 50% of net income to shareholders by 2019

Credit Suisse pledges to return 50% of net income to shareholders by 2019. See Stockwinners.com
Credit Suisse pledges to return 50% of net income to shareholders by 2019

Credit Suisse (CS), in its Investor Day presentation, said that “As we approach 2018 – the final year of our three-year restructuring plan – we remain committed to achieving the 2018 targets announced last year for the Swiss Universal Bank, International Wealth Management, Investment Banking & Capital Markets and Global Markets.

For our Wealth Management & Connected business in Asia Pacific, we are confident that we can achieve our 2018 target of CHF 700M of adjusted pre-tax income for the full year 2017 ahead of schedule and we are therefore setting a new target for 2018 of CHF 850M.

Reflecting our strong progress on cost, we are confident of beating our target cost base of less than CHF 18.5B for 2017 and we estimate that our total cost base for the year will be approximately CHF 18B .

We are confirming our 2018 cost base target of less than CHF 17B.

Looking ahead, the Group aims to operate with a total cost base of between CHF 16.5B and CHF 17B in 2019 and 2020, subject to market conditions and investment opportunities within this range.

We are confident that we can complete the wind-down of our non-core unit, the Strategic Resolution Unit, and reach our targeted adjusted pre-tax loss of approximately CHF 1.4B in 2018.

We have lowered our 2019 adjusted pre-tax loss target for the Strategic Resolution Unit from approximately $800M to approximately $500M, which represents a significant improvement… Our objective is to achieve a Group reported return on tangible equity of 10% to 11% for 2019 and 11% to 12% for 2020.

We aim to operate with a look-through CET1 ratio of above 12.5% from 2018 to 2020, before the implementation of the Basel III reforms beginning in 2020.

Cumulatively in 2019 and 2020, as we continue to strengthen our capital generation, we expect to allocate approximately 20% for investment in wealth management and connected businesses .

We also expect that approximately 30% of the cumulative capital generated will be used for the RWA uplift resulting from Basel III reforms and other contingencies. We also aim to increase returns to shareholders and plan to distribute 50% of net income earned to them primarily through share buybacks or special dividends.”

CS closed at $16.65.


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Atlantic Coast Financial sold for $145 million

Ameris Bancorp to acquire Atlantic Coast Financial in $145M transaction

Atlantic Coast Bank sold for $145 million. See Stockwinners.com for details

Ameris Bancorp (ABCB) announced the signing of a definitive merger agreement under which Ameris will acquire Atlantic Coast Financial (ACFC), the parent company of Atlantic Coast Bank, Jacksonville, Florida.

Upon completion of the transaction, the combined company will have approximately $8.6B in assets, $6.9B in loans, $6.6B in deposits and a branching network across four states.

Under the terms of the definitive merger agreement, each share of Atlantic Coast common stock will be converted into the right to receive 0.17 shares of Ameris common stock and $1.39 in cash.

The transaction is valued at approximately $145M in the aggregate based on Ameris’ closing stock price of $47.30 as of November 16.

The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the board of directors of each company.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018 and is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals and the approval of the stockholders of Atlantic Coast.


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GGP receives $23 per share offer

GGP confirms receipt of unsolicited proposal from Brookfield Property

general-growth-properties receives $23 a share offer. See Stockwinners.com for details

GGP Inc. (GGP) confirmed that on Saturday, November 11, 2017, the company’s Board of Directors received an unsolicited proposal from Brookfield Property Partners L.P. (BPY) for BPY to acquire all of the outstanding shares of common stock of GGP other than those shares currently held by BPY and its affiliates.

According to the Proposal, each GGP stockholder would be entitled to elect to receive consideration per GGP common share of either $23.00 in cash or 0.9656 of a limited partnership unit of BPY, subject in each case to pro-ration based on a maximum cash component of 50% of the aggregate offer and a maximum stock component of 50% of the aggregate offer.

General Growth Properties, Inc is an equity real estate investment trust. The firm invests in the real estate markets of the United States. It engages in owning, managing, leasing, and redeveloping high-quality regional malls.

The Board has formed a special committee of its non-executive, independent directors which, in consultation with its financial and legal advisors, will carefully review and consider the Proposal and pursue the course of action that it believes is in the best interests of the company’s stockholders.

The company’s stockholders do not need to take any action at this time.

Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC. is serving as financial advisor and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is serving as legal counsel to the Special Committee.

Citigroup Global Markets Inc. is serving as financial advisor and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP is serving as legal counsel to GGP.


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Rent-A-Center receives $13 per share offer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Meet the next Fed Chief

Fed Policy: the nomination of Powell as Fed Chairman is all but sealed

Meet the next Fed Chief. See Stockwinners.com for details

Fed Policy: the nomination of Jerome Powell as Fed Chairman is all but sealed. The secret was fairly well kept, but late yesterday newswires largely confirmed it.

The markets have already reacted, by and large, with yields having dropped from last week’s jump when John Taylor was seen as the leading contender.

The dollar did soften a bit further yesterday.

Powell has been a governor on the Federal Reserve Board since 2012, and never dissented. Hence, this is a “continuity” pick and he’s seen following the gradualist approach of Yellen (and Bernanke).

He is also seen as a moderate on regulatory issues too. His confirmation process shouldn’t be problematic since he was already cleared as a Fed governor.

Of interest, he would be the first Fed chairman without a Ph.D. in economics since Volcker.

Along with serving on the Fed Board for the past five years, Powell, 64, has worked inside and outside government.

He was a Treasury undersecretary from 1990 to 1993 under President Bush.

More recently he was a partner and managing director of the Carlyle Group.

Note that newly installed governor Quarles also once worked at the Carlyle Group (CG).

There will be four vacancies on the seven member Fed Board, assuming Yellen retires from her governor position, giving President Trump lots of opportunities to make his mark on the Fed.


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CalAtlantic sold for $51.34 per share

Lennar, CalAtlantic to merge in deal valued at about $9.3B

CalAtlantic sold for $9.1 billion. See Stockwinners.com for details

Lennar (LEN) and CalAtlantic (CAA) announced that their respective boards of directors have unanimously approved a definitive merger agreement pursuant to which each share of CalAtlantic stock will be exchanged for 0.885 shares of Lennar Class A common stock in a transaction valued at approximately $9.3B, including $3.6B of net debt assumed.

The business combination will create the nation’s largest homebuilder with the last twelve months of revenues in excess of $17B and equity market capitalization, based on current market prices, of approximately $18B.

The combined company will control approximately 240,000 homesites and will have approximately 1,300 active communities in 49 markets across 21 states, where approximately 50% of the U.S. population currently lives.

It is currently anticipated that the transaction will generate annual cost savings and synergies of approximately $250M, with approximately $75M achieved in fiscal year 2018.

These synergies are expected to be achieved through direct cost savings, reduced overhead costs and the elimination of duplicate public company expenses.

Additional savings are also expected through production efficiencies, technology initiatives, and the roll out of Lennar’s digital marketing and dynamic pricing programs. Under the terms of the merger agreement, each share of CalAtlantic stock will be converted into the right to receive 0.885 shares of Lennar Class A common stock. Based on the closing price of Lennar’s Class A common stock on the NYSE on October 27, the implied value of the stock consideration is $51.34 per share, representing a 27% premium to CalAtlantic’s closing price that same day.

CalAtlantic’s stockholders will also have the option to elect to exchange all or a portion of their shares for cash in the amount of $48.26 per share, subject to a maximum cash amount of approximately $1.2B.

CalAtlantic stockholders will receive Lennar stock unless they exercise an option to receive cash. On a pro forma basis, CalAtlantic stockholders are expected to own approximately 26% of the combined company.

The transaction is expected to close in the first calendar quarter of 2018. The transaction is subject to approval by Lennar and CalAtlantic stockholders. Stuart Miller and the Miller Family Trusts have agreed to vote their 41.4% voting interest in Lennar in favor of the merger. MP CA Homes LLC, an affiliate of MatlinPatterson Global Opportunities Partners III L.P., has agreed to vote its 25.4% voting interest in CalAtlantic in favor of the merger.

Additionally, MP CA Homes has agreed to exercise the cash election for at least the number of shares to cause the maximum cash consideration amount to be fully subscribed by electing stockholders.

Upon completion of the transaction, Stowell, CalAtlantic’s Executive Chairman, will join the Lennar board.


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GE Disappoints!

GE shocks with ‘unacceptable’ results, guidance cut

GE gets $15B contract from Saudi Arabia

Shares of General Electric (GE) are lower in Friday’s  trading after the company reported quarterly profit that missed consensus estimates by 20c per share.

GE also cut its outlook for fiscal 2017 as new CEO John Flannery called the results “unacceptable.”

MISS AND CUT

GE this morning reported third quarter industrial operating earnings per share of 29c excluding restructuring charges, missing analysts’ estimates of 49c.

Total revenue for the quarter was $33.47B, which beat analysts’ expectations of $32.56B.

The company said that while the majority of its business units had “solid” earnings performance, “this was offset by a decline in Power performance in a difficult market.” “This was a very challenging quarter,” CEO John Flannery said.

Looking ahead, GE cut its FY17 EPS view to $1.05-$1.10 from $1.60-$1.70, well below estimates of $1.53.

“We are focused on redefining our culture, running our businesses better, and reducing our complexity,” Flannery added.

EXECUTIVE COMMENTARY

On GE’s earnings call, Flannery said the results were “unacceptable to say the least” and that while there are many areas of strength at the company, “it’s clear we need to make some major changes.”

Flannery said GE is doing “deep dives” on all aspects of the company, adding that “everything is on the table and there have been no sacred cows.” The company has started to outline its restructuring plans, saying it plans to exit more than $20B of its businesses in the next one to two years, but noted that the dividend is a “priority.”

STRATEGY UPDATE UPCOMING

GE is planning to update its company strategy and 2018 framework on November 13. Flannery has already been cutting jobs, research operations and corporate jets and cars.

PERSONNEL CHANGES

GE has also undertaken personnel changes, including the earlier-than-expected retirement of Chairman Jeff Immelt. According to a spokeswoman, “[Immelt felt Flannery] is prepared to be chairman and CEO now and leaving GE allows him to look at opportunities outside the company.”

Additionally, on October 6, GE said CFO Jeff Bornstein would leave the company on December 31 and will be succeeded by GE Transportation CEO Jamie Miller.

Bornstein said on today’s earnings call that GE was not “living up to our own standards or investor standards and the buck stops with me.”

Earlier this month, GE announced the election of Trian Fund’s Ed Garden to its board to replace Robert Lane, who is retiring. Trian’s Nelson Peltz said he had pushed to get Garden on GE’s board to “bring a fresh mindset.”

‘SHOCKING’ RESULTS

Deutsche Bank analyst John Inch called GE’s weaker than expected Q3 results this morning “shocking,” noting that the company “falls well short” of generating enough cash to pay its $8B common dividend from operations, which raises the prospects of a pending dividend cut and/or raising financial leverage to pay for the dividend. He has a Sell rating and $21 price target on GE shares.

Meanwhile, Citi analyst Andrew Kaplowitz said the earnings report indicates that the mounting challenges developing over time in the Power business now appear to be fully materializing. Kaplowitz, who has a Buy rating and $31 price target on GE, thinks shares could potentially be approaching a bottom.

PRICE ACTION

GE shares are down about 3%  at $22.72, improving quickly from their opening lows. The early drop pushes the stock’s year-to-date losses to nearly 30%. Shares have a 52-weeks trading range of $22.10 – $32.38.


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Barron’s is bullish on JD.com, Softbank

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

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M&A may be easiest way for Google to catch-up in the Cloud – Alphabet’s (GOOG; GOOGL) Google has been chasing competitors Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) in cloud computing, Tiernan Ray writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. The easiest way to close in may be through M&A, the publication notes, with rumors saying Alphabet could contemplate a deal as large as buying Workday (WDAY) or Salesforce (CRM).

JD.com could rise 25% or more – With the China Single’s Day – the biggest shopping day of the year – less than a month away, investors looking for growth stocks in the country may want to look to JD.com (JD), its number two online retailer after Alibaba (BABA), Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. JD.com stock could gain 30% or more in the next year, he adds.

Post-Peltz, P&G must to do more than cut costs – Last week, Procter & Gamble (PG) announced that its eleven standing board members won re-election, while activist Nelson Peltz had not won a seat, Vito Racanelli writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Nonetheless, Peltz has yet to concede, saying the vote remains too close to call, with an independent inspector expected to certify the results, the publication adds. Management’s victory means that its CEO David Taylor is on “a short leash,” facing the task of doing more than just cutting costs, Racanelli contends.

Softbank shares can still go higher – SoftBank (SFTBF) is reportedly ready to announce a $10B deal to buy up to 17% of Uber, as it negotiates a merge of its Sprint (S) unit with rival T-Mobile (TMUS) to challenge Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T), Assif Shameen writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. SoftBank stock is up 27% year to date and 140% from the lows of February 2016, but its shares can go still higher, the publication adds.

Time to rethink how to play Wal-Mart. – Wal-Mart (WMT) has had a good run, so it is time to rethink how to play the stock, Steven Sears writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. The sell-side analyst community may spend the next few months getting bullish on Wal-Mart’s digital future, while realizing that more than 4,000 retail stores offer competitive advantages, Sears noted, adding that the November earnings report should provide additional evidence for “analysts to update earnings models, raise price targets, and hike investment ratings.”


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Bank stocks to watch

What to watch in bank space earnings reports

JPMorganChase on Stockwinners.com

JPMorgan (JPM) and Citigroup (C) are scheduled to report quarterly results on October 12, while Wells Fargo (WFC) is scheduled to report on October 13.

What to watch for:

1. OUTLOOK:

During its last earnings call, JPMorgan said it sees 2017 average core loan growth of about 8%, 2017 net interest income up over $4B year over year, 2017 adjusted expense of about $58B, and 2017 net charge-offs of about $5B.

On September 12, JPMorgan’s Dimon added that trading revenue should be down about 20% in Q3.

Meanwhile, back in July, Citi said it was “on track” to increase return on capital and that it expects continued year over year revenue growth in retail banking, excluding mortgage, as well as modest organic growth in cards.

Meanwhile, mortgage should continue to be a headwind in Q3, the company noted. Later in the month, Citi CEO Michael Corbat said he sees earnings per share approaching $9.00 in 2020.

During Wells Fargo last earnings call, the bank said it is targeting $2B expense reduction by year-end 2018.

Additionally, the bank plans to close about 450 branches in 2017-2018, and expects to increase Q3 dividend to 39c per share.

Last month, Wells Fargo said it sees net interest income up low to mid-single digits in 2017, with loan growth in Q3 expected to be impacted by continued decline in auto loans, run off of the junior lien mortgage portfolio, and a slower and more competitive commercial and CRE lending environment.

2. VALUATION, LACK OF CATALYSTS:

Back in July, #Berenberg analyst James Chappell downgraded Wells Fargo to Sell saying the bank’s competitive advantages have been eroded. Wells has become “too big to differentiate itself” from wider market trends and deliver the expected growth, Chappell contended.

A few days later, BMO Capital analyst James Fotheringham cut his rating for Citi to Market Perform based on valuation and lack of catalysts.

Last month, JPMorgan also saw a rating change, with Deutsche Bank analyst Matt O’Connor downgrading the stock to Hold as he sees net interest income growth slowing and credit costs inching up as the Fed raises short rates and the yield curve flattens.

Further meaningful outperformance of JPMorgan shares will be harder amid increased competition within investment banking and trading as well as slowing loan growth, he contended. 3.

UPSIDE POTENTIAL

Late July, Andrew Bary wrote on Barron’s that Citi could rise by 50%, or hit $100, saying he sees upside ahead as it offers a low valuation and what could be the highest earnings growth rate among its peers in upcoming years.

Two weeks later, Wells Fargo analyst Mike Mayo resumed coverage of Citi with an Outperform rating, calling it his top pick in Large-Cap U.S. Banks. Mayo expects the stock to double in four-to-five years.

Meanwhile, Citi analyst Keith Horowitz argued that now is the time to buy Wells Fargo, telling investors Wells Fargo’s business improved, not broken. The company’s issue is an “aggressive sales culture encouraged the wrong behavior leading to strong account generation,” which had an immaterial impact to earnings, Horowitz added. 4.

WELLS TO REMEDIATE CUSTOMERS

On July 28, Wells Fargo announced a plan to remediate auto loan customers of Wells Fargo Dealers Services who may have been financially harmed due to issues related to auto Collateral Protection Insurance policies.

This month, the bank also announced plans to reach out to all home lending customers who paid fees for mortgage rate lock extensions requested from September 16, 2013, through February 28, 2017, and to refund customers who believe they should not have paid those fees.


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