Amazon.com launches new delivery business

Amazon.com launches new offering to help entrepreneurs start delivery businesses

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Amazon.com launches new delivery business

Amazon (AMZN) announced the launch of a new offering that helps entrepreneurs build their own companies delivering Amazon packages.

Amazon will take an active role in helping interested entrepreneurs start, set up and manage their own delivery business.

Successful owners can earn as much as $300,000 in annual profit operating a fleet of up to 40 delivery vehicles.

Individual owners can build their business knowing they will have delivery volume from Amazon, access to the company’s sophisticated delivery technology, hands-on training, and discounts on a suite of assets and services, including vehicle leases and comprehensive insurance.

Over time, Amazon will empower hundreds of new, small business owners to hire tens of thousands of delivery drivers across the U.S., joining a robust existing community of traditional carriers, as well as small-and-medium-sized businesses that already employ thousands of drivers delivering Amazon packages.

The offering provides technology and operational support to individuals with little to no logistics experience the opportunity to run their own delivery business.

To help keep startup costs as low as $10,000, entrepreneurs will also have access to a variety of exclusively negotiated discounts on important resources they’ll need to operate a delivery business.

The deals are available on Amazon-branded vehicles customized for delivery, branded uniforms, fuel, comprehensive insurance coverage, and more.

Amazon is constantly looking for hands-on leaders who think big and deliver results for our customers. These principles are very familiar to those who have served our country in the armed forces.

The company is committing $1M towards funding startup costs for military veterans, offering $10,000 reimbursements for qualified candidates to build their own businesses.

AMZN closed at $1,660.51.


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Supreme Court ruling moves retail stocks

Physical retailers rise, online retailers drop after Supreme Court tax ruling

Supreme Court ruling moves retail stocks, Stockwinners
Supreme Court ruling moves retail stocks, Stockwinners

Shares of brick-and-mortar retailers are rising, while shares of e-commerce firms are slipping, after the Supreme Court ruled that online retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence.

SUPREME COURT RULING

On Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with the state of South Dakota in a fight it brought against Wayfair (W) to require a business that has no physical presence in the state to collect its sales tax.

Supreme Court ruling moves retail stocks, Stockwinners
Supreme Court ruling moves retail stocks, Stockwinners

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 vote that a 1992 judgement in Quill Corporation v. North Dakota regarding the physical presence rule was “unsound and incorrect,” according to a judgement posted to the high court’s website.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in writing for the majority opinion, said the Quill decision had distorted the economy and resulted in states losing annual tax revenues between $8B-$33B.

“Quill puts both local businesses and many interstate businesses with physical presence at a competitive disadvantage relative to remote sellers,” he wrote.

“Remote sellers can avoid the regulatory burdens of tax collection and can offer de facto lower prices caused by the widespread failure of consumers to pay the tax on their own.”

WHAT’S NOTABLE:

Following the ruling, industry trade organization National Retail Federation issued a statement saying,

“Retailers have been waiting for this day for more than two decades. The retail industry is changing, and the Supreme Court has acted correctly in recognizing that it’s time for outdated sales tax policies to change as well.

This ruling clears the way for a fair and level playing field where all retailers compete under the same sales tax rules whether they sell merchandise online, in-store or both.”

ANALYST COMMENTARY

KeyBanc analyst Edward Yruma called the ruling a negative for Wayfair, arguing that it may reduce some of the price differential that has helped it gain share from traditional peers.

The ruling is also a negative, but to a lesser degree, for eBay (EBAY) and Etsy (ETSY), said Yruma, who views the impact on those two as more related to compliance and implementation.

He adds that the news could be a modest positive for retailers of high-ticket and branded products, such as Best Buy (BBY), Home Depot (HD), Lowe’s (LOW), La-Z-Boy (LZB), Kirkland’s (KIRK), RH (RH) and Williams-Sonoma (WSM).

PRICE ACTION

At Thursday midday, Target (TGT) rose 1.8%, Walmart (WMT) was up 0.7%, Costco (COST) rose roughly 1.1% while Amazon (AMZN) was down 0.4%, Etsy dropped about 2.5%, eBay fell 1.4% and Wayfair (W) was down 1.2%.

In addition, Avalara (AVLR), a software company focused on automated tax compliance that recently held its initial public offering, gained 17.1%.


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Oracle lower after losing business to Amazon, Microsoft

Oracle slides as JPMorgan cuts rating on business lost to Amazon, Microsoft

Oracle slides as JPMorgan cuts rating on business lost to Amazon, Microsoft , Stockwinners
Oracle slides as JPMorgan cuts rating on business lost to Amazon, Microsoft ,

Shares of Oracle (ORCL) are sliding after JPMorgan analyst Mark Murphy downgraded the stock to Neutral, citing negative results from a survey of Chief Information Officers about their spending.

The analyst noted that the survey showed spending contraction ahead as Oracle’s databases are being unplugged in favor of Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon (AMZN) databases.

SURVEY SAYS

In a research note this morning, JPMorgan’s Murphy downgraded Oracle to Neutral from Overweight as specific metrics in the firm’s large-scale CIO survey have arced over into negative territory.

The analyst told investors that while Oracle’s shares have risen from the $30s into the high $40s in the last 2 years, the company’s fundamental performance has remained inconsistent. Citing his survey of 154 CIOs, Murphy noted that Oracle received the largest number of indications for planned spending contraction this year, materially more than the second-worst company, which was IBM (IBM) with 25 indications of spending contraction.

Further, while ranking the top 8 or 9 mega-vendors in terms of who will be most critical and indispensable to CIOs’ IT environment in the future, Oracle only received 6.5% of votes, down from 11% in previous surveys, the analyst highlighted.

At the same time, Murphy pointed out that Amazon AWS improved from 9.5% of votes last year to 14.9% of votes this year, creating the appearance of a “sucking sound” out of Oracle and into AWS.

The company also ranked number 8 in terms of association with Digital Transformation projects, disappointing relative to its scale and lagging behind the likes of SAP (SAP), IBM, and Cisco (CSCO), he added, noting that despite Oracle’s efforts to build a Cloud presence, it rated no better than SAP in terms of association with Cloud Computing plans, and is nowhere close to the leaders Microsoft, Amazon, and Google (GOOGL; GOOG) in this respect. Oracle was mentioned by only 2% of the CIOs as the platform that will be “most integral” to their cloud computing plans, Murphy said.

Overall, the analyst questions where Oracle’s business and stock are heading in the next couple of years if the largest-scale CIO survey shows Oracle now has negative spending intentions, is lagging in Digital Transformation projects, is trailing in Cloud Computing plans, its databases are being unplugged in favor of Microsoft and Amazon databases, its applications are being unplugged in favor of Salesforce (CRM) and Workday (WDAY) applications, and customers are weary of its unpopular commercial tactics.

Murphy also lowered his price target on Oracle’s shares to $53 from $55.

WHAT’S NOTABLE

In a research note of his own, Nomura Instinet analyst Christopher Eberle lowered his price target for Oracle to $60 from $64 ahead of the company’s fourth quarter results on June 19.

The analyst trimmed his estimates to account for currency and expectations for more modest revenue acceleration in fiscal 2019. He remains optimistic, however, on Oracle’s transition and model growth reacceleration as the year progresses. Eberle reiterated a Buy rating on the shares.

PRICE ACTION

In Wednesday’s trading, shares of Oracle dropped almost 5% to $46.14.


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Barron’s is bullish on GM and Delta

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

Stockwinners offers Barron's review of Stockwinners offers stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earnings, Stocks to Buy On Margin
Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy

BULLISH   MENTIONS:

Delta, GM look cheap, with growth potential – While a solid start to earnings season helped push share prices higher earlier this week, some remain deeply discounted, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Despite Delta Air Lines’ (DAL) pessimistic valuation, consolidation has left only a handful of key players and the company faces less competition in key markets than some of its peers, the report adds. Additionally, Goodyear Tire (GT), General Motors (GM) and Lincoln National (LNC) also made the valuation cutoff, Hough says.

General Mills shares fall to ‘bargain territory.’  – General Mills (GIS) has fallen 27% so far this year and while the drop seems deserved because earnings growth has stalled, a closer look suggests sales trends are improving, thanks in part to new-product launches, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s.

Cruise operators can offer ‘nice’ yields, solid dividend growth – Cruise operators, like Carnival (CCL), Royal Caribbean (RCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH), can offer nice yields and solid dividend growth, but economic downturns can pressure payouts, Lawrence Strauss writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Another option for investors looking for yield among cruise operators is Walt Disney (DIS), the report added. The entertainment company has a wide variety of holdings, and while its cruise business did not account for a large portion of its $55B of sales last year, it is not insignificant either.

Tech giants may make own custom chips to get edge on one another. – There has been a tension between the world’s largest tech companies- Alphabet (GOOG; GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), Baidu (BIDU), and Alibaba (BABA)-and the chip companies they rely on, especially Intel (INTC) and Nvidia (NVDA), Tiernan Ray writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. While the giants buy massive quantities of Intel’s microprocessors, and Nvidia’s graphics chips, or GPUs, to power their data centers, they are also in an arms race to have the best artificial-intelligence-based machine-learning functions, the report noted, adding that there was always the possibility they may decide to buy fewer off-the-shelf parts and make their own custom chips to get an edge on one another.

 MPL valuations look cheap – Master limited partnerships’ valuations appear cheap, and U.S. energy production is thriving, lifting cash flows for pipeline firms, Darren Fonda writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. MLP, such as Enterprise Products Partners (EPD), Magellan Midstream Partners (MMP), MPLX (MPLX), Plains All American Pipeline (PAA), could reward investors with higher yields as cash flows rise, Fonda adds.

OTHER MENTIONS

Trump’s tweets politicize U.S. markets, Barron’s says – With President Donald Trump, both politics and business appear personal as he continues his tweets aimed at individual companies, Vito Racanelli writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Before and after the election, he consistently aimed arrows at Amazon.com (AMZN) and at the proposed acquisition of Time Warner (TWX) by AT&T (T), the report noted. The President is not alone in singling out companies, Racanelli points out, adding that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton also took issue with Mylan’s (MYL) price increases for its EpiPen. Maybe it is a sign of the times, but the rise of powerful social-media platforms is the key enabling factor, the report said.


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Amazon higher on Prime members

Amazon rises as Prime reaches 100M paid members

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Amazon higher on Prime members

Amazon’s (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos told investors that the company has exceeded 100M paid members globally and has shipped more than 5B items with Prime worldwide.

The good news for the e-commerce giant may not end there, as Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak told investors that his analysis shows that Amazon has gained 1.5% of U.S. apparel market share in 2017 and may achieve number one U.S. apparel market share in 2018 as Prime members and Millennials shift spending to Amazon and away from traditional brick and mortar retailers.

100M PAID MEMBERS

According to a regulatory filing, Amazon said that it has exceeded 100M paid Prime members globally 13 years post-launch.

In 2017, Amazon shipped more than 5B items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year — both worldwide and in the U.S., the company said, adding that members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100M different items. The company expanded Prime to Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and introduced Business Prime Shipping in the U.S. and Germany.

Additionally, CEO Jeff Bezos informed shareholders that Amazon Music now has tens of millions of paid customers, with Amazon Music Unlimited expanding to more than 30 new countries in 2017.

GAINING APPAREL MARKET SHARE

In a research note to investors this morning, Morgan Stanley’s Nowak said his analysis shows that Amazon gained 1.5% of U.S. apparel market share in 2017, largely at the expense of department stores.

According to his work around Amazon’s apparel gross merchandise value, the analyst estimates the e-commerce giant continues to be the second largest U.S. apparel retailer, trailing only Walmart (WMT), as the company has grown to about 7.9% of the overall U.S. apparel market, excluding shoes, or $21.1B apparel gross merchandise value.

Further, #Nowak told investors he expects Amazon to achieve the number one spot in 2018, as Prime members and Millennials shift spending to Amazon and away from traditional brick and mortar retailers.

The analyst pointed out that Amazon’s 2017 share gains look to have come largely at the expense of department stores, estimating Sears (SHLD), Macy’s (M) and J.C. Penney (JCP) lost 0.8% share in 2017, with shareholding remaining roughly flat for Target (TGT) and Kohl’s (KSS).

L Brands (LB) lost share due to the elimination of its swimwear and apparel categories, he contended.

Additionally, his U.S. apparel market deep-dive indicated that Walmart and Costco (COST) showed “impressive gains” despite a weak industry backdrop. Among the Softline retailers, Gap’s (GPS) Old Navy, Ross Stores (ROSS) and Nordstrom’s (JWN) Nordstrom Rack also added 10-15 bps of market share in 2017, he added.

Nowak reiterated an Overweight rating and $1,550 price target on Amazon shares.

PRICE ACTION

In Thursday’s trading, shares of Amazon have gained 2% to $1,554.90.


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Barron’s is bullish on Tesla, bearish on Deutsche Bank

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

Stockwinners offers Barron's review of Stockwinners offers stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earnings, Stocks to Buy On Margin
Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy, stocks to watch

BULLISH   MENTIONS:

Comcast a bargain despite risk – Comcast (CMCSA; CMCSK) has fallen from favor with investors following its the proposal to buy SKY (SKYAY) as they fear it will get into a bidding war with Fox (FOXA) and overpay for Sky, Andrew Bary writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Now the stock trades at a discount to rival Charter (CHTR) and yields 2.2%, he notes.

Investors may want to look at Microsoft to play tech-stock downdraft  – For the past two weeks, large-cap technology stocks have sold off on investor concerns following the data crisis at Facebook (FB), Bill Luby writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. One collateral-damage victim has been Microsoft (MSFT), and it is “easy to argue” that the downturn in its shares is overdone, Luby contends, adding that the tech giant’s strong fundamentals, combined with good technical support for its shares just below their recent price, make the company’s stock a strong candidate for a rebound.

Oil refiners primed for profits – The outlook for companies that turn crude oil into gasoline has looked better and demand for refining is poised to grow faster than supply in the years ahead, leading to a surge in profits and share prices across the industry, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Refiners include Andeavor (ANDV), Marathon Petroleum (MPC), Philips 66 (PSX) and Valero (VLO), the report notes.

New AI era for chip makers– Artificial intelligence is about to become a lot more pervasive as the computer circuitry to perform AI grows more prevalent, Tiernan Ray writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. The desire to embed AI in just about anything has meant that more chip makers are racing to diffuse their designs for circuitry that processes the algorithms that drive the software, he note, adding that relevant companies spanning the semiconductor industry include Nvidia (NVDA), CEVA (CEVA), Synopsys (SNPS) and Cadence Design Systems (CDNS).

Tesla stock may rally later this year – In a follow-up article, Barron’s notes that investors have had fun following Tesla’s journey, reaping stock gains of 600% in the last five years, but some wonder if “the music is going to stop.” The key question is whether Tesla (TSLA) can raise enough cash to keep going, the report notes, arguing that Tesla should “live to fight another day” to produce cars, and may even start to turn a cash profit next year. Barron’s believes later this year, its shares will most likely rally as clouds lift.

BEARISH  MENTIONS:

New CEO may not save Deutsche Bank stock – News that Deutsche Bank (DB) Chairman Paul Achleitner has been looking for another CEO grabbed the financial industry’s attention, but just as it may be premature to organize farewell drink for current CEO John Cryan, it may also be too soon to turn bullish on the shares, Victor Reklaitis writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. There are plenty of reasons to stay bearish on the stock and the latest escalation of tensions between Achleitner and Cryan is just “a piece of Deutsche Bank puzzle,” he adds.


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Trump targets Amazon

Amazon slides as president said to take aim at tax treatment 

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Trump targets Amazon

Shares of Amazon (AMZN) are slipping this morning after Axios reported that President Donald Trump may want to go after the e-commerce giant rather than Facebook (FB) and has discussed changing the former’s tax treatment.

AFTER AMAZON, NOT FACEBOOK

According to a report by Axios, President Trump wants to go after tech giant Amazon rather than Facebook and has discussed changing the company’s tax treatment due to concerns about small retailers being put out of business.

Citing five sources familiar with the matter, the publication added that Trump has wondered if there is any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law as he thinks the e-commerce giant has gotten a free ride from taxpayers and the Postal service and agrees the company is killing shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retailers.

“The whole post office thing, that’s very much a perception he has,” a source said. “It’s been explained to him in multiple meetings that his perception is inaccurate and that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon.”

VICE-PRESIDENT CONCERNED OVER FACEBOOK, GOOGLE

Nonetheless, the same Axios’ article pointed out that Vice-President Mike Pence is concerned about Facebook and Google (GOOG; GOOGL).

While Pence is not yet pushing internally for any specific regulations, he views these companies as dangerously powerful and worries about their influence on media coverage as well as their control of the advertising industry and users’ personal info, a source told the publication.

FACEBOOK POLICY CHANGE

Facebook, embroiled recently in a scandal over the way it has handled users’ personal data, has announced a privacy policy change.

According to Erin Egan, VP and Chief Privacy Officer, Policy and Ashlie Beringer, VP and Deputy General Counsel at Facebook:

“We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed. […] We’ve redesigned our entire settings menu on mobile devices from top to bottom to make things easier to find. […] We’re introducing Access Your Information – a secure way for people to access and manage their information, such as posts, reactions, comments, and things you’ve searched for.

You can go here to delete anything from your timeline or profile that you no longer want on Facebook. It’s also our responsibility to tell you how we collect and use your data in language that’s detailed, but also easy to understand. In the coming weeks, we’ll be proposing updates to Facebook’s terms of service that include our commitments to people.”

PRICE ACTION

In Wednesday’s trading, shares of Amazon have dropped nearly 5% to $1,426, while Facebook’s stock has gained over 1% to $153.99.


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Polycom sold for $2 billion

Plantronics to acquire Polycom for $2B in cash, stock deal

 Plantronics to acquire Polycom for $2B. Stockwinners.com
Plantronics to acquire Polycom for $2B.

Plantronics (PLT)  and Polycom announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Plantronics will acquire Polycom in a cash and stock transaction valued at $2B enterprise value.

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies, is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, and is expected to close by the end of the third calendar quarter of 2018. With the acquisition of Polycom, Plantronics will become the partner of choice for the communications and collaboration ecosystem.

Polycom, a privately held company, brings a global leadership position in voice and video collaboration, accelerating Plantronics vision of delivering new communications and collaboration experiences.

With the addition of Polycom, Plantronics will have the broadest portfolio of complementary products and services across the global communications and collaboration ecosystem, and the ability to create exceptional user experiences.

The combination positions Plantronics to capture additional opportunities across the $39.9B Unified Communications and Collaboration industry driven by innovation in video and the ubiquity of audio, building growth opportunities through data analytics and insight services.

Polycom significantly expands Plantronics services offering, providing a meaningful presence in management and analytics services.

The transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to Non-GAAP EPS. Plantronics targets achieving annual run-rate cost synergies of $75M within 12 months of transaction close.

Under terms of the definitive agreement, Plantronics will acquire Polycom for $2B enterprise value consisting of an estimated $690M of net debt and an estimated $948M in cash and 6.352M Plantronics shares, valued at $362M based on the 20 trading day average closing price of Plantronics stock prior to signing, resulting in Polycom shareholders owning approximately 16.0% of the combined company.

Estimated amounts are subject to customary post-closing adjustments per the definitive agreement. Frank Baker, Founder and Managing Partner, Siris Capital, and Daniel Moloney, Executive Partner, Siris Capital, will join Plantronics Board of Directors.

Plantronics intends to fund the cash portion of the consideration with cash on hand and approximately $1.375B in new, fully-committed debt financing. Wells Fargo Bank and affiliates have committed to provide the debt financing for the transaction, subject to customary conditions. P

lantronics expects to pay down a significant portion of the debt within the next several years with cash on the balance sheet and through cash generation.


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Netflix higher on potential Obama deal

Netflix rises on report Obamas may produce series of shows

Disney loss having minimal impact on Netflix subscribers. See Stockwinners.com Market Radar to read more
Netflix higher on potential Obama deal

Shares of Netflix (NFLX) are rising following a report that said the company is in “advanced negotiations” with former U.S. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama to produce a series of shows.

POTENTIAL OBAMA DEAL

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama are nearing a deal with Netflix to produce a series of exclusive shows that will give them a global platform after their departure from the White House, the New York Times reported Friday.

Netflix higher on potential Obama deal. Stockwinners.com
Netflix higher on potential Obama deal.

It is not clear how much the Obamas will be paid under the proposed deal, which is not yet final, and the number of episodes and formats for the shows have not yet been decided.

Obama does not plan to use the shows to directly respond to President Trump or conservative critics but has talked about producing shows that feature inspirational stories.

The move comes as Netflix competes for viewers with Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN), which have also expressed interest in discussing content deals with Obama.

The company previously said it could spend as much as $8B on content this year. Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former president, commented that “President and Mrs. Obama have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire.

Throughout their lives, they have lifted up stories of people whose efforts to make a difference are quietly changing the world for the better. As they consider their future personal plans, they continue to explore new ways to help others tell and share their stories.”

ANALYST COMMENTARY

Following the report of the talks, GBH Insights head of technology research Daniel Ives reiterated a “highly attractive” rating and reaffirmed his $375 price target on Netflix, citing optimism over the company’s original content initiatives, CNBC reported.

“We would characterize this as a ‘home run’ deal for the company as they are aggressively looking to acquire high profile talent and original content to further feed the Netflix consumer machine,” Ives said, adding Netflix is an appealing distribution platform for Obama due to its 120M subscribers.

In addition, the analyst said he believes the company remains in “a unique position of strength” to grow content and distribution over the next 12 to 18 months as well as further expand its content and streaming footprint with the potential Obama deal.

PRICE ACTION

Netflix (NFLX) shares are higher about 3%, or $9.17, to $326.17 in Friday’s trading.


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Humana, WellCare dive after Cigna buys Express Scripts

Humana, WellCare fall Cigna agrees to buy Express Scripts for $67B

Cigna to acquire Express Scripts for $67B. Stockwinners
Cigna to acquire Express Scripts for $67B. 

Shares of Humana (HUM) and WellCare (WCG) are in the red after Cigna (CI) announced that it has agreed to acquire Express Scripts (ESRX) in a cash and stock transaction valued at about $67B.

Commenting on the news, Piper Jaffray argued that the deal makes it less likely in the near-term that Cigna would buy a Medicaid or Medicare Advantage plan.

EXPRESS SCRIPTS ACQUISITION:

Cigna and Express Scripts announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement whereby Cigna will acquire Express Scripts in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $67B, including Cigna’s assumption of approximately $15B in Express Scripts debt. The merger consideration will consist of $48.75 in cash and 0.2434 shares of stock of the combined company per Express Scripts share.

Upon closing of the transaction, Cigna shareholders will own approximately 64% of the combined company and Express Scripts shareholders will own approximately 36%. Upon closing, the combined company will be led by David Cordani as President and CEO. Tim Wentworth will assume the role of President, Express Scripts.

igna to acquire Express Scripts for $67B. Stockwinners
Express Scripts sold for $67B

MEDICAID, MA DEAL LESS LIKELY

Piper Jaffray analyst Sarah #James told investors that she does not foresee any issues with approval, even though a Cigna/Express Scripts combination would increase annual script volume to 848M, making it the third-largest pharmacy benefit manager.

However, the analyst noted that she does not expect Cigna’s script volume to transition over to a combined company until 2023 when its contract with UnitedHealth’s (UNH) OptumRx ends.

Nonetheless, James argued the deal makes it less likely that Cigna will buy a Medicaid or Medicare Advantage plan near-term, consistent with management’s softened language around using M&A to win long-term services and supports, or LTSS, contracts.

Two names that have been seen as potential targets in the sector are Humana and WellCare.

 Humana, WellCare dip after Cigna agrees to buy Express Scripts. Stockwinners
Humana, WellCare dip after Cigna buys Express Scripts 

WHAT’S NOTABLE:

Some Wall Street analysts had previously seen Cigna as a potential takeover target for Amazon (AMZN) as they speculated what the next step would be for the e-commerce giant, especially following its health care venture with Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A., BRK.B) and JPMorgan (JPM).

 Humana, WellCare dip after Cigna agrees to buy Express Scripts. Stockwinners
Humana, WellCare dip after Cigna agrees to buy Express Scripts

PRICE ACTION

In Thursday’s trading, shares of Cigna have plunged about 9.5% to $175.90, while Express Script’s stock has gained over 11% to $81.63.

Shares of Humana are fractionally down to $272.27, and WellCare’s stock has slipped almost 1% to $193.03.


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Macy’s rises on strong earnings

Macy’s rises as turnaround plan fuels better-than-expected earnings

Macy's rises as turnaround plan fuels better-than-expected earnings. Stockwinners.com
Macy’s rises as turnaround plan fuels better-than-expected earnings. Stockwinners.com

Shares of Macy’s (M) rallied after the company reported better-than-expected earnings, including a surprise increase in same-store sales, and offered 2018 guidance.

EARNINGS AND GUIDANCE

Macy’s reported fourth quarter adjusted earnings per share of $2.82, beating analysts’ estimates of $2.71, on revenue of $8.67B, essentially in line with the $8.68B consensus but up 1.8% from the year-ago period.

Comparable sales on an owned basis were up 1.3% and up 1.4% on an owned plus licensed basis. Macy’s also offered guidance for 2018, including EPS of $3.55-$3.75, excluding anticipated settlement charges related to the company’s defined benefit plans, which compares to analyst estimates of $3.66. The retailer sees comp sales on both an owned and an owned plus licensed basis flat to up 1% and expects total sales to decline 0.5% to 2%.

EXECUTIVE COMMENTARY

In a statement, Chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette said, “We are committed to returning Macy’s to comparable sales growth in 2018 and will build on the momentum we created in the fourth quarter of 2017… We head into 2018 with an improved base business, healthy inventories, a focused and engaged organization and a clear path to return Macy’s to growth.”

On the company’s quarterly earnings call, CFO Karen Houget said Macy’s expects stronger sales in the second half of 2018 than the first half and that first half owned plus licensed comp sales are expected to be “approximately flat to slightly down.”

UPDATE ON BROOKFIELD ALLIANCE

Macy’s this morning also provided an update on its agreement with Brookfield Asset Management (BAM), noting that it recently agreed to sell seven floors of its State Street store in Chicago to a private real estate fund sponsored by Brookfield.

As part of the transaction, Macy’s will receive a total of $30M as well as upside participation in the ultimate value creation associated with the conversion of the upper floors to office space. The company anticipates closing this transaction in the first half of fiscal 2018.

The company is also exploring opportunities to sell the approximately 240,000 gross square footI. Magnin portion of the main Union Square building in San Francisco.

The companies have also agreed to certain terms on nine assets, which Brookfield will redevelop once it has received approval. Macy’s said it hopes to reach a deal on the nine assets in 2019. Macy’s said it “continues to opportunistically evaluate its real estate portfolio to identify opportunities where the redevelopment value of its real estate exceeds that of non-strategic operating locations.”

PEERS

Macy’s and other mall-based retailers and department stores have been hurt by the increasing popularity of fast-fashion retailers like Zara, Forever 21 and H&M, as well as an increase in online shopping on sites such as Amazon (AMZN).

Additionally, in January, Macy’s reported that its comparable sales on an owned basis increased 1% in the months of November and December 2017 combined, which lagged rivals J.C. Penney (JCP) and Kohl’s (KSS). J.C. Penney posted same-store sales growth of 3.4% during the November-December holiday period, while Kohl’s reported that total and comparable sales were up 6.9% for the period over the last year. Kohl’s , J.C. Penney, and Nordstrom (JWN) are expected to report later this week.

PRICE ACTION

Shares of Macy’s are off earlier highs and are now up about 4% to $28.51 in Tuesday’s trading.

OTHERS TO WATCH

J.C. Penney is up 2.3%, Nordstrom is down about 2% and Kohl’s is down 1.5%.


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Barron’s in bullish on Dropbox IPO

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

Stockwinners offers Barron's review of Stockwinners offers stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earnings, Stocks to Buy On Margin
Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy, stocks to watch

BULLISH   MENTIONS: 

Advertising companies cheaper than usual – After a tumble last year, shares of advertising companies such as Interpublic Group (IPG), Omnicom Group (OMC), Publicis Group (PUBGY), and WPP (WPP) are cheaper than usual relative to earnings, and business appears to be picking up, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. That is an opportunity for value investors, the report adds.

Quantum computing soon to be reality – Microsoft (MSFT) predicts that in five years there will be practical quantum computers, Tiernan Ray writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. But there may be implications worth pondering, the report notes. As quantum computing grows nearer, it could ripple through technology and the race for innovative chips, software and cloud computing could be affected, Ray contends, adding that the companies that shoulder risk and reward include Intel (INTC), Nvidia (NVDA), Micron Technology (MU), Microsoft, Alphabet (GOOG; GOOGL) and Amazon (AMZN).

Dropbox IPO bodes well – In a follow-up article after Dropbox (DBX) filed a prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering that could raise as much as $500M, Barron’s notes that the company has a private-market value of about $10B, making it one of the most valuable unicorns. A successful deal could invigorate the tech IPO market after Snap’s (SNAP) disappointing offering last year, the report adds.

May be time to consider Time Warner – Time Warner (TWX) shares look increasingly attractive as the company’s profit outlook should limit the downside if its merger deal with AT&T (T) is blocked on antitrust reasons, Andrew Bary writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s.

Many downsides when Amazon’s HQ2 comes to town – As Amazon decides on the location for its second corporate headquarters in North America, many have cautioned the 20 finalists to “be careful what you wish for,” Jon Swartz writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. There are several downsides and prospective bidders should look no further than Silicon Valley, with workers still struggling to find affordable housing while enduring hellacious traffic and escalating costs in the area, the report noted.


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Medical suppliers tumble on Amazon fears; ABC in play

Medical suppliers slide as Amazon looms

Walgreens pursues AmerisourceBergen

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Medical suppliers tumble on Amazon fears

Two news reports are moving several names in the medical supply space this morning.

Namely, Amazon (AMZN) is said to be looking to expand its medical supplies business, while Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) has approached AmerisourceBergen (ABC) about a potential takeover.

Walgreens pursues AmerisourceBergen. Stockwinners.com
Walgreens pursues AmerisourceBergen

Shares of Owens & Minor (OMI), McKesson (MCK), and Cardinal Health (CAH) are all slipping following the two Wall Street Journal scoops.

AMAZON RAMPS UP IN MEDICAL SUPPLY

Amazon is seeking to expand its medical supplies business into being a major distributor to hospitals and outpatient clinics, according to The Wall Street Journal. The e-commerce giant is currently running a pilot with a Midwestern hospital system to supply its 150 outpatient facilities, the publication said. Typically, hospitals sign contracts to buy supplies directly from manufacturers or distributors like Owens & Minor, McKesson, Cardinal Health and Medline Industries.

WALGREENS DEAL INTEREST

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal separately reported, citing sources, that Walgreens reached out several weeks ago to Amerisource to discuss the possibility of buying the portion of the company it doesn’t already own. The sources added, though, that there is not an offer on the table.

In a research note to investors, Jefferies analyst Brian Tanquilut pointed out that while Walgreens acquiring AmerisourceBergen would be EPS-accretive and would allow the former to take advantage of its strong free cash flow and balance sheet, the rationale for such a deal is a bit of a “headscratcher” as both companies already have a joint venture that affords them the strategic value that combining would provide.

Leerink analyst David Larsen told investors in a note of his own that he is surprised that talks of such a large transaction have surfaced so quickly following the Rite Aid (RAD) deal being blocked, but says he has always believed that Walgreens at some point would seek to acquire either Express Scripts (ESRX) or AmerisourceBergen.

His peer at Loop Capital added that a full merger would have similar attributes to that of the vertically integrated pharmacy model that Walgreens operates in the U.K., which lowers product costs and working capital requirements to the benefit of all customers.

Ultimately, analyst Andrew Wolf views this strategic response positively as it would better position a combined company to navigate in the face of industry change and possibly even be a disrupter, he said.

Wells Fargo analyst Peter Costa also commented on The Journal report, saying he believes the acquisition makes sense given the already existing long-term partnership and limited ability to merge laterally.

Further, the analyst argued that a potential combination could help lower costs and wring out synergies in the U.S. drug distribution channel, and better position Walgreens in the face of increasing competitive threat from a possible Amazon entry. However, a merger might risk alienating AmerisourceBergen’s retail pharmacy customers that compete with Walgreens’ pharmacies, he contended.

CNBC’s  REPORT

The recently announced healthcare venture from Amazon (AMZN), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A;BRK.B) and JPMorgan (JPM) is aiming to cut out drug distributors like AmerisourceBergen (ABC), Cardinal Health (CAH) and McKesson (MCK), according to CNBC’s Jim Cramer, citing sources.

PRICE ACTION

In Tuesday’s trading, shares of Amazon have gained over 2% to $1,415, while Walgreens is fractionally higher and AmerisourceBergen shares have jumped 8%. Moving in the opposite direction, Owens & Minor is sliding 8%, McKesson is slipping 2% and Cardinal Health is down 4%.


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Amazon’s move into AI chip pressures Nvidia

Amazon developing AI chip to work on Alexa-powered devices

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Amazon developing AI chip to work on Alexa

Amazon (AMZN) is developing a chip designed for artificial intelligence to work on the Echo and other hardware powered by Alexa, according to The Information, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The chip should allow Alexa-powered devices to respond more quickly to commands, the report added.

The effort makes Amazon the latest major tech company, following Google (GOOG; GOOGL) and Apple (AAPL), to design its own AI chips, which may have major ramifications for chip companies like Intel (INTC) and Nvidia (NVDA), the publication said.

Recently, Nvidia announced major accomplishments in the AI space.

On January 10th, NVIDIA (NVDA) unveiled details of its functional safety architecture for NVIDIA DRIVE, its AI autonomous vehicle platform, which uses redundant and diverse functions to enable vehicles to operate safely, even in the event of faults related to the operator, environment or systems.

Nvidia pullback after Q2 beat a buying opportunity. See Stockwinners.com Market Radar for more
Nvidia lower on Amazon move into AI space

On January 8th, Volkswagen announced it plans to use Nvidia to build AI into new electric microbus  Volkswagen (VLKAY) and NVIDIA (NVDA) shared their vision for how AI and deep learning will shape the development of a new generation of intelligent Volkswagen vehicles using the NVIDIA DRIVE IX platform to create new cockpit experiences and improve safety.

In November, GE Healthcare (GE) and Nvidia (NVDA) announced they will deepen their 10-year partnership to bring the most sophisticated artificial intelligence to GE Healthcare’s 500,000 imaging devices globally and accelerate the speed at which healthcare data can be processed.

Amazon’s move into AI chip for Alexa powered devices could pave the way for Amazon to expand its reach into autonomous driving space

In Monday’s trading, shares of Nvidia have dropped more than 2% to $227. AMZN is up more than 1% to $1355.


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Barron’s is bullish on banks, bearish on Twitter and Snap

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

Stockwinners offers Barron's review of Stockwinners offers stocks to buy, stocks to watch, upgrades, downgrades, earnings, Stocks to Buy On Margin
Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy, stocks to watch

BULLISH   MENTIONS: 

Bigger bank payouts amid looser regulation – Helped by higher capital levels and more leeway from regulators, large-cap banks should be increasing dividends over the next several years, Lawrence Strauss writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Those include Bank of America (BAC), BB&T (BBT), Citigroup (C), Citizens Financial (CFG), Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB), PNC Financial (PNC), Regions Financial (RF), SunTrust (STI), U.S. Bancorp (USB) and Wells Fargo (WFC), the report notes.

Delta, Apple among stocks merit a look – Shares of Delta (DAL), Apple (AAPL), Starbucks (SBUX), D.R. Horton (DHI), Verizon (VZ), American Electric Power (AEP) and NextEra Energy (NEE) have fallen but estimates for their earnings have risen, Jack Hough writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. These names should be worth consideration by bargain hunters, he adds.

Wells Fargo looks inexpensive, regulatory risks remain– Shares of Wells Fargo (WFC) have badly trailed rivals as the bank grapples with the fallout from scandals, Ben Walsh write’s in this week’s edition of Barron’s. And while Wells Fargo looks inexpensive relative to some other big banks, regulatory risks remain and changing the bank’s aggressive culture will not be easy, the report adds.

Market volatility putting bitcoin to the test – Bitcoin started to rebound last week, but its usefulness as a hedge against stock market volatility has lately been called into questions, Avi Salzman writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. While Bulls argue that short-term price action does not change the longer trend, bitcoin price drop has been fueled by the same problems that it has had for year, namely unreliable exchanges and worries about manipulation and fraud, the report notes. If bitcoin is to survive as an alternate currency, the hype will have to fade and it will have to become useful, Salzman adds

BEARISH  MENTIONS

Twitter/Snap ‘hot for now,’ may not last – Results from Twitter (TWTR) and Snap (SNAP) beat expectations last week and both notched double-digit percentage gains, but this cannot last, with the thrill likely to fade in coming weeks, Tiernan Ray writes in this week’s edition of Barron’s. Twitter and Snap have years ahead of them to develop their product and innovate in ways that may give them a broader appeal, but for now they are boutiques in an advertising market of giants that includes not only Facebook (FB) but Alphabet (GOOG; GOOGL) and Amazon (AMZN), Ray adds.


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