Liberty Property Trust sold for about $61 per share

Prologis to acquire Liberty Property for $12.6B

Prologis (PLD) and Liberty Property Trust (LPT) announced that the two companies have entered into a definitive merger agreement by which Prologis will acquire Liberty in an all-stock transaction, valued at approximately $12.6B, including the assumption of debt.

Prologis buys Liberty Property Trust, Stockwinners

The board of Prologis and the board of trustees of Liberty have each unanimously approved the transaction.

Warehouses and logistics facilities — Liberty’s specialty — have become a hot part of the real estate market as more shopping moves online and demand for the space increases. 

The acquisition gives Prologis a portfolio of 107 million square feet of logistics properties that’s owned or managed, as well as buildings under construction and land for future development. It also includes 4.9 million square feet of office space.

Prologis plans to dispose of approximately $3.5B of assets on a pro rata share basis. This includes $2.8B of non-strategic logistics properties and $700M of office properties.

This transaction is anticipated to create immediate cost synergies of approximately $120M from corporate general and administrative cost savings, operating leverage, lower interest expense and lease adjustments.

Initially, this transaction is expected to increase annual core funds from operations per share by 10c-12c. Upon stabilization of the acquired development assets, completion of the planned non-strategic asset sales and redeployment of the related proceeds, annual stabilized core FFO per share is forecasted to increase by an additional 4c per share for a total of 14c-16c.

Liberty holds mostly class A properties, Stockwinners

Further, there are future synergies with the potential to generate approximately $60M in annual savings, including $10M from revenue synergies and $50M from incremental development value creation.

“Liberty’s logistics assets are highly complementary to our U.S. portfolio, and this acquisition increases our holdings and growth potential in several key markets,” Prologis Chairman and Chief Executive Hamid R. Moghadam said in the statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Liberty shareholders will receive 0.675x of a Prologis share for each Liberty share they own.

The transaction, which is currently expected to close in Q1 of 2020, is subject to the approval of Liberty shareholders and other customary closing conditions.

Liberty shares have risen 21% this year, compared with the 55% jump in Prologis shares. 

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LVMH offers to buy Tiffany for $120 per share or $14.5B

Tiffany is expected to reject the offer

According to several sources including Bloomberg, Financial Times and Reuters, Louis Vuitton owner LVMH has approached Tiffany & Co (TIF) with a $14.5 billion acquisition offer, people familiar with the matter said, at a time when the U.S. luxury jeweler grapples with the impact of tariffs on its exports to China.

LVMH, which has for years been looking for ways to expand in the U.S. market, submitted a preliminary, non-binding offer to Tiffany earlier this month, one of the sources said.

LVMH is looking to boost U.S. sales, Stockwinners

LVMH’s offer valued Tiffany at about $120 per share, another of the sources added. Tiffany shares ended trading on Friday at $98.55.

Tiffany is expected to reject the $14.5B offer, Stockwinners

Financial Times reports that Tiffany is expected to rebuff the takeover approach from French luxury group LVMH, with the US jeweller believing the offer undervalues the company, according to people familiar with the matter. Tiffany’s advisers were on Sunday still assessing the surprise indicative offer from LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group by sales, with the board set to consider the next move. 

LVMH, which is behind brands such as Fendi, Christian Dior and Givenchy, as well as Veuve Cliquot champagne, has stood out for several years as one of the top performers in the upscale retail sector in China.

Tiffany, on the other hand, has not been as resilient. Beyond the tariffs that have been triggered by the trade war between the United States and China, a lower Chinese domestic sales tax has also contributed to double-digit decreases in its sales to Chinese tourists in the United States and in other destinations.

High-end brands have also long relied on Hong Kong as a major shopping hub drawing visitors from mainland China in particular, and four months of pro-democracy demonstrations are starting to take their toll.

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Feds Cut Rates on All Instruments!

Federal Reserve cuts federal funds target rate by 25 basis points

The Federal Reserve said in today’s statement, “Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June 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.

Powell, FOMC Chair, Stockwinners
Fed Chief Powell. Stockwinners.com

Although growth of household spending has picked up from earlier in the year, growth of business fixed investment has been soft.

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. Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability.

In light of the implications of global developments for the economic outlook as well as muted inflation pressures, the Committee decided to lower the target range for the federal funds rate to 2 to 2-1/4 percent. This action supports the Committee’s view that sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective are the most likely outcomes, but uncertainties about this outlook remain.

As the Committee contemplates the future path of the target range for the federal funds rate, it will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion, with a strong labor market and inflation near its symmetric 2 percent objective.”

Long Term Rates

The Federal Reserve also said in today’s statement, “In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its maximum employment objective and its symmetric 2 percent inflation objective.

This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. The Committee will conclude the reduction of its aggregate securities holdings in the System Open Market Account in August, two months earlier than previously indicated.”

Bernanke came up with “Quantitative Easing” in 2008, Stockwinners

If you have no idea what the above paragraph means, this may help. Back in 2008, Ben Bernanke, then the Fed Chair, came up with a clever idea! Since the rates at the time where near zero. He needed a way to lower the rates, he started buying long term government bonds. The added demand for bonds caused bond prices to rise thus pushing the rates lower. In the past few quarters, the Feds have been selling these bonds, pushing prices lower, thus higher long term rates. Today’s announcement basically says Feds are ending the bond sales two months earlier, long term rates (mortgage prices) will now go lower.

Powell Comments

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the easing was to ensure against downside risks, as he begins his press conference.

He acknowledged the shift in the policy stance since December’s pivot. Fed has seen both positive and negative developments since the June meeting, including a stronger job market, but weaker manufacturing and disappointing foreign growth, while contacts continue to cite ongoing trade uncertainties are giving companies pause.

The Committee has gradually lowered the assessments of growth and that led to the easing today. On whether a 25 bp cut will prop up inflation, he noted one has to look at the Committee’s actions over the year as it’s moved to a more accommodative stance.

The Committee is thinking of today’s action as a mid-cycle adjustment to policy, designed to provide support for the economy, ensure against downside risks, and support inflation. Chair Powell continued to appeal to downside risks and below target inflation as the main threats to the favorable outlook.

He added, the Fed will monitor the evolution of trade uncertainty, which do seem to be having significant effect on the economy. He thinks trade is a new factor that the FOMC will have to assess “in a new way.”

The chair again said it’s not appropriate to just look at the quarter point easing, but rather the evolution of the Fed’s stance from tightening to easing, with the economy picking up since the end of 2018, which suggests monetary policy is working (though he declined to take full credit for the economy’s gains).

10-year yields fall, Stockwinners
Ten year yields approach 2.00 percent, Stockwinners

Market Action

The Fed repeated it will “monitor” incoming information and will “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion,” not really suggesting the path ahead. The long end of the Treasury market is leading the way with the benchmark 10-year 4.4 bps lower to test 2.00, versus 2.023% just ahead of the announcement. The 2-year is down 1.4 bps to 1.83% versus 1.81% earlier. Hence, the curve has flattened to 17 bps from around 20 bps previously.

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Liberty Tax revamps its operations

Liberty Tax to pursue new business model, offering $12 per share for all shares

Liberty Tax to revamp its operations, Stockwinners

Liberty Tax (TAXA), the parent company of Liberty Tax Service, last night announced that it has entered into definitive documentation with affiliates of Vintage Capital Management providing for a series of strategic transactions, including the acquisition by Liberty Tax of all of the outstanding equity interests in Buddy’s Newco, which operates substantially all of the Buddy’s Home Furnishings business.

Liberty Tax’s acquisition of Buddy’s was consummated concurrently with the execution of the definitive documentation.

“These transactions are intended as the first step in a strategic transformation of Liberty Tax.

Under the direction of its board of directors, Liberty Tax intends to evaluate the acquisition of or investment in other franchise-oriented or complementary businesses, including businesses that are not presently subject to franchising arrangements but that have the potential to be franchised in the future.

In recognition of the anticipated shift in its strategic direction, Liberty Tax intends to change its name to Franchise Group.

Liberty Tax will remain a publicly-traded company and intends to pursue a re-listing of its common stock on a national securities exchange,” the company said.

In addition, Liberty Tax intends to promptly commence a tender offer for any and all outstanding shares of common stock at a price of $12.00 per share in cash, representing an approximately 31.5% premium to the closing price of Liberty Tax on May 3, the day before the public announcement regarding a potential transaction between Liberty Tax and Vintage.

The tender offer will be financed through a combination of debt and equity financing. Concurrent with the closing of the acquisition of Buddy’s, Liberty Tax issued to an affiliate of Vintage approximately 2.083M shares of common stock in exchange for $25M in cash, representing a purchase price of $12.00 per share, and Buddy’s borrowed approximately $82M in cash.

Any excess financing proceeds that are not required to finance the tender offer will remain on the balance sheet of Liberty Tax or its subsidiaries.

An affiliate of Vintage has also entered into a binding commitment with Liberty Tax to purchase additional shares of common stock at a purchase price of $12.00 per share in the event that the net proceeds from the equity and debt financings referred to above are not sufficient to enable Liberty Tax to purchase all shares that are validly tendered and not withdrawn in the tender.

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No more rate hikes in 2019

Majority of Fed members see rates unchanged for rest of 2019

Members see rates to remain unchanged in 2019, Stockwinners

Minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting read, “With regard to the outlook for monetary policy beyond this meeting, a majority of participants expected that the evolution of the economic outlook and risks to the outlook would likely warrant leaving the target range unchanged for the remainder of the year.

Several of these participants noted that the current target range for the federal funds rate was close to their estimates of its longer-run neutral level and foresaw economic growth continuing near its longer-run trend rate over the forecast period.

Participants continued to emphasize that their decisions about the appropriate target range for the federal funds rate at coming meetings would depend on their ongoing assessments of the economic outlook, as informed by a wide range of data, as well as on how the risks to the outlook evolved.

Short term rates should decline as 30-year rates rise, Stockwinners

Several participants noted that their views of the appropriate target range for the federal funds rate could shift in either direction based on incoming data and other developments.

Some participants indicated that if the economy evolved as they currently expected, with economic growth above its longer-run trend rate, they would likely judge it appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate modestly later this year.”

Economic growth in 2019 likely lower than previous forecast

“Participants continued to view a sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective as the most likely outcomes over the next few years.

Underlying economic fundamentals continued to support sustained expansion, and most participants indicated that they did not expect the recent weakness in spending to persist beyond the first quarter.

Nevertheless, participants generally expected the growth rate of real GDP this year to step down from the pace seen over 2018 to a rate at or modestly above their estimates of longer-run growth. Participants cited various factors as likely to contribute to the step-down, including slower foreign growth and waning effects of fiscal stimulus.

A number of participants judged that economic growth in the remaining quarters of 2019 and in the subsequent couple of years would likely be a little lower, on balance, than they had previously forecast. Reasons cited for these downward revisions included disappointing news on global growth and less of a boost from fiscal policy than had previously been anticipated.”


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Economy expanded at a moderate rate

Fed’s Beige Book says “economic activity continued to expand”



Fed’s Beige Book says economic activity continued to expand , Stockwinners


Fed’s Beige Book: “economic activity continued to expand in late January and February,” said the report.

But 10 Districts noted “slight-to-moderate” growth, with Philly and St Louis reporting flat conditions. That’s the most tepid characterization in sometime, as the more normal description has been “moderate” to “modest.”

About half of the Districts said the shutdown weighed on some sectors, including consumer spending was mixed, but in part due to “harsh winter weather and higher costs of credit.”

Manufacturing generally strengthened but “numerous” contacts worries about weaker global growth, higher costs due to tariffs, and continued trade policy uncertainty.

The service sector increased at a modest-to-moderate pace. Also, residential construction activity was steady or slightly higher in most of the U.S., but home sales were generally lower.

There was little change in the employment outlook, with employment increasing in most Districts, with “modest-to-moderate gains in a majority of Districts and steady to slightly higher employment in the rest.

Labor markets remained tight for all skill levels.

Wages continued to increase for both low- and high-skilled positions, and a majority of Districts reported increases were moderate.

And for prices, they continued to increase at a modest-to-moderate pace, “with several Districts noting faster growth for input prices than selling prices. The ability to pass on higher input costs to consumers varied by region and industry.”

The report (prepared by KC Fed with data collected on or before February 25) is consistent with the FOMC’s outlook for slower growth with tame inflation.

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EQGP Holdings sold for $20.00 per share

Equitrans Midstream to acquire EQGP Holdings for $20.00 per unit in cash

Equitrans Midstream Corporation (ETRN) announced that it has entered into definitive purchase agreements with certain unitholders of EQGP Holdings (EQGP) to acquire limited partner interests in EQGP for $20.00 per unit in cash, which is a 17.5% premium to the EQGP closing market price as of November 29, 2018.

The Private Purchases are expected to close on or about December 31, 2018, after which ETRN and its affiliates will own more than 95% of the outstanding EQGP Common Units. Upon closing of the Private Purchases, ETRN intends to exercise the Limited Call Right under EQGP’s partnership agreement to acquire all remaining EQGP Common Units not then owned by ETRN and its affiliates.

If the Limited Call Right is exercised, the remaining holders of EQGP Common Units will receive at least the same cash price per unit that will be paid in the Private Purchases.

The Limited Call Right is expected to close in January 2019 and will be a taxable transaction for EQGP unitholders.

ETRN intends to use the cash proceeds from a newly issued Term Loan B to finance the Private Purchases and the purchases pursuant to the Limited Call Right.

ETRN has secured committed financing in support of these purchases. ETRN also announced that it has made a proposal to EQM Midstream Partners (EQM) for the exchange of its incentive distribution rights and the economic general partner interest in EQM for 95 million units in EQM and a non-economic general partner interest in EQM, subject to the closing of the Private Purchases and completion of the Limited Call Right.

ETRN expects that a portion of the units received will be in the form of Payment-In-Kind Units.

The PIK Units would receive distributions in the form of additional PIK Units and would convert on a one-to-one basis into common units representing limited partner interests in EQM at a date to be determined.

Final terms of the Proposed IDR Transaction are subject to negotiation with the board of directors of EQM’s general partner or its conflicts committee, and assuming an agreement is reached, ETRN expects that the Proposed IDR Transaction would close in the first quarter of 2019.

Upon completion of the Private Purchases, the Limited Call Right, and the Proposed IDR Transaction, ETRN will have accomplished a full simplification of EQGP and EQM, resulting in a projected 61% ownership of EQM.

Additionally, EQM will be the only publicly traded partnership under ETRN and is expected to benefit from the elimination of the IDR burden, as well as stronger coverage and balance sheet metrics.

Highlights: The proposed transactions would not result in a distribution cut for EQM unitholders; Targeting 6% – 8% annual distribution growth beginning in 2019; 2019 distribution coverage in excess of 1.0x; Long-term distribution coverage target in excess of 1.2x beginning in 2020; Long-term debt to EBITDA target of 3.5x – 4.0x beginning in 2020; PIK Units will provide balance sheet and coverage support; Improves cost of capital; No equity issuance is required to fund capital projects for the next several years; Reduces corporate overhead associated with the elimination of a publicly traded entity.

ETRN expects that the EQM Conflicts Committee will review the Proposed IDR Transaction. Unitholder voting is not required in connection with the Private Purchases, the exercise of the Limited Call Right, or the Proposed IDR Transaction.


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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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L3 Technologies and Harris to merge

Harris, L3 Technologies to combine in merger of equals

L3 Technologies and Harris to merge, Stockwinners
L3 Technologies and Harris to merge, Stockwinners

L3 Technologies and Harris to merge, Stockwinners
L3 Technologies and Harris to merge, Stockwinners

Harris Corporation (HRS) and L3 Technologies (LLL) have agreed to combine in an all stock merger of equals.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, which was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies, L3 shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 1.30 shares of Harris common stock for each share of L3 common stock, consistent with the 60-trading day average exchange ratio of the two companies.

Upon completion of the merger, Harris shareholders will own approximately 54% and L3 shareholders will own approximately 46% of the combined company on a fully diluted basis.

The combined company, L3 Harris Technologies, will be the 6th largest defense company in the U.S. and a top 10 defense company globally, with approximately 48,000 employees and customers in over 100 countries.

For calendar year 2018, the combined company is expected to generate net revenue of approximately $16B, EBIT of $2.4B and free cash flow of $1.9B.

The combination is expected to generate approximately $500M of annual gross pre-tax cost synergies, or $300M net of savings returned to customers, in year 3.

The savings will come from reducing direct and indirect spend, rationalizing footprint, consolidating corporate and segment headquarters, establishing a common shared services platform for IT and finance and reducing other overhead costs.

The company is expected to invest approximately $450M cash to achieve the synergies over the next 3 years.

The combined company will target $3B in free cash flow by year 3, driven by organic growth, cost synergies, working capital improvements and capital expenditure efficiencies. L3 Harris Technologies will be well capitalized with a strong balance sheet and a leverage ratio of 2.2 times net debt to trailing twelve months EBITDA.

The combined company will remain committed to maintaining an investment grade credit rating and a dividend payout consistent with each company’s current practice and deploying excess cash toward share repurchases, including up to $2B in share repurchases in the 12 months post-closing.

L3 Harris Technologies will be headquartered in Melbourne, Florida.

The combined company’s Board of Directors will have 12 members, consisting of six directors from each company. William Brown will serve as chairman and CEO, and Christopher Kubasik will serve as vice chairman, president and COO for the first two years following the closing of the transaction. For the third year, Brown will transition to executive chairman and Kubasik to CEO, after which Kubasik will become chairman and CEO.

The merger is expected to close in mid-calendar year 2019, subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals and approval by the shareholders of each company.


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GE fires CEO, Shares rise

GE shares jump after CEO Flannery ousted amid Power unit challenges

GE introduces new company AiRXOS, Stockwinners
GE fires CEO, Shares rise

Shares of GE (GE) are rising in pre-market trading after the shrinking conglomerate announced that H. Lawrence Culp, Jr. has been named Chairman and CEO, replacing John Flannery, effective immediately.

POWER WRITE-OFF

The company stated that while its businesses other than Power are “generally performing consistently with previous guidance,” the company will fall short of previously indicated guidance for free cash flow and EPS for 2018 due to weaker performance in the GE Power business.

GE expects to take a non-cash goodwill impairment charge related to the GE Power business that will likely be as much as the approximately $23B current goodwill balance for the business, GE added.

GE previously forecast FY18 EPS at the low end of its $1.00-$1.07 range. The current EPS consensus is 95c.

RECENT ANALYST CONCERNS

In a recent note to investors, RBC Capital analyst Deane Dray lowered his price target on GE shares to $13 from $15, stating that the company had yet to reach a point where bad news does not make the stock decline and arguing that the bottom had not yet been reached.

Last month, JPMorgan analyst Stephen Tusa lowered his price target for General Electric to $10 from $11 and kept an Underweight rating on the shares.

The analyst’s channel checks, which were confirmed by GE Power’s CEO, GE investor relations, suggested GE had experienced a failure in a first stage blade on an H-frame in one of its two initial marquee installations in the U.S., Colorado Bend. Further, Tusa said the problem was material enough for Exelon (EXC) to have shut the plant down, along with the “award winning” Wolf Hollow plant for precautionary measures.

There should no longer be any doubt that GE Power has company-specific issues, Tusa contended at the time, stating that his new price target assumed weaker results at GE Power and some franchise value impact.

PRICE ACTION

In Monday’s pre-market trading, GE shares are up $1.53, or 13.5%, to $12.82.


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L Brands drops after PINK CEO departs

L Brands slides after slashing earnings forecast, PINK brand CEO departure 

L Brands drops after PINK CEO departs, Stockwinners
L Brands drops after PINK CEO departs, Stockwinners

Shares of L Brands (LB) are sliding after the parent of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works reported better than expected quarterly earnings and revenue but lowered its profit outlook.

While Jefferies analyst Randal Konik reduced his price target for L Brands and recommended investors sell the shares, his peer at Citi argued that the guidance cut was expected and reiterated a Buy rating on the stock.

QUARTERLY RESULTS

Last night, L Brands reported second quarter adjusted earnings per share of 36c and revenue of $2.98B, both above the consensus of 34c and $2.93B, respectively.

The company also lowered its FY18 earnings per share view to $2.45-$2.70 from $2.70-$3.00, with consensus at $2.77.

Additionally, L Brands said second quarter consolidated same-store sales for Stores and Direct were up 3%, while same-store sales for the quarter at Victoria’s Secret were down 1% and up 10% at at Bath & Body Works.

Alongside quarterly results, the company announced that Denise Landman, CEO of Victoria’s Secret PINK, has made the decision to retire at the end of this year.

Pink CEO departs, Shares slide

Amy Hauk, currently president for merchandising and product development of Bath & Body Works, will replace Landman as CEO of Victoria’s Secret PINK.

JEFFERIES SAYS SELL SHARES

In a research note to investors this morning, Jefferies’ Konik lowered his price target for L Brands to $20 from $23 and recommended investors sell the shares.

The analyst argued that the company’s fiscal year earnings guidance cut is still not low enough, and sees PINK on “precipice of massive declines.” Further, the analyst thinks L Brands’ free cash flow guidance is too high as its net debt continues to grow.

The dividend is at risk in the medium-term and the company needs to save cash now “before the next recession,” Konik contended.

The analyst reiterated an Underperform rating on the stock.

Meanwhile, his peer at JPMorgan also lowered his price target for L Brands to $26 from $28.

While the stock was bracing for an earnings forecast reduction, the magnitude of management’s near-term third quarter cut was greater than expected, calling for break-even earnings at the low-end, the first time in more than a decade, analyst Matthew Boss contended.

He reiterated a Neutral rating on the shares. Voicing a similar opinion, Wells Fargo analyst Ike Boruchow lowered his price target for L Brands to $30 from $42 and kept a Market Perform rating on the shares as the core Victoria’s Secret concept continues to struggle.

Pointing out that the second quarter results “raised a number of red flags,” including “severe” margin contraction, “bloated” inventory, Bath & Body Works returning to margin contraction and issues at PINK, Nomura Instinet analyst Simeon Siegel reiterated a Neutral rating and $31 price target on L Brands’ shares.

CITI SAYS RISK/REWARD STILL ATTRACTIVE

Still bullish on the stock, Citi analyst Paul Lejuez told investors that while the turnaround path for Victoria’s Secret “remains unclear,” the market expected last night’s fiscal 2018 guidance cut.

With a 7.5% dividend yield, the stock’s risk/reward is attractive, particularly given actions by management that suggest “they have more than enough liquidity to continue funding the dividend,” Lejuez argued.

The analyst reiterated a Buy rating on the shares and said he views the dividend as safe.

While lowering her price target for L Brands to $44 from $49, B. Riley FBR analyst Susan Anderson kept a Buy rating on the stock as she believes Bath & Body Works continues to excel and Victoria’s Secret remains a work in progress.

While weaker PINK performance is “disappointing,” the analyst believes management is taking steps to correct lounge performance as well as improve performance in lingerie.

Further, Anderson highlighted that L Brands reiterated its commitment to share repurchases and dividend, and reiterated that the company has substantial liquidity to fund the dividend and other expenditures.

PRICE ACTION

In Thursday’s trading, shares of L Brands have plunged over 12% to $28.50.


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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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MoviePass raises prices

Helios and Matheson says MoviePass accelerating plan for profitability

MoviePass raises prices, Stockwinners
MoviePass raises prices, Stockwinners

MoviePass, a majority-owned subsidiary of Helios and Matheson Analytics (HMNY), announced the implementation of several new measures aimed at accelerating the plan for profitability.

Through these new steps, the company believes it will be able to compress its timeline to reach profitability.

Approaching the one-year anniversary of introducing its standard $9.95 price point, the MoviePass community has grown to more than 3 million members and in turn has contributed to record box office growth, responsible for approximately 6 percent of the nation’s total box office sales in the first half of 2018.

In addition, MoviePass Ventures and MoviePass Films are contributing to the company’s ancillary revenue. The company has implemented several elements of a long-term growth plan to protect the existing community and set it up for future sustainable growth.

MoviePass has implemented several new cost-reduction and subscription revenue increase measures: Actions that have been implemented are currently cutting the monthly burn by 60%.

A future increase of the standard pricing plan to $14.95 per month within the next 30 days.

First Run Movies opening on 1,000+ Screens to be limited in their availability during the first two weeks, unless made available on a promotional basis, Implementation of additional tactics to prevent abuse of the MoviePass service.

As of Q3 and beyond, MoviePass is also generating incremental non-subscription revenue of approximately $4 to $6 per subscriber per quarter: Integration of MoviePass Ventures and MoviePass Films with our own original content allows us to gain revenue by owning the films through box office, streaming, DVD, retail, transactional sales e.g. Apple and Samsung, and international rights, etc.

Partnerships with 3rd party media inventory to increase scale and reach of marketing efforts driven by data. Continued rollout and refinement of the Peak Pricing program.

Creating strategic marketing partnerships and promotions with studios, content owners, and brands. Integration of Moviefone.Com to support the media buys of brands and studios.

In an effort to maintain the integrity of the MoviePass mission, to enhance discovery, and to drive attendance to smaller films and bolster the independent film community, MoviePass will begin to limit ticket availability to Blockbuster films. This change has already begun rolling out, with Mission Impossible 6 being the first film included in the measure.

This is a strategic move by the company to both limit cash burn and stay loyal to its mission to empower the smaller artistic film communities.

Major studios will continue to be able to partner with MoviePass to promote their first run films, seeding them with a valuable moviegoing audience.

HMNY is up 7 cents to $0.88.


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Synovus to acquire FCB Financial for $2.9B

Synovus to acquire FCB Financial for $2.9B

 

Synovus to acquire FCB Financial for $2.9B, Stockwinners
Synovus to acquire FCB Financial for $2.9B, Stockwinners

Synovus Financial Corp. (SNV) and FCB Financial Holdings, Inc. (FCB) jointly announced their entry into a definitive merger agreement under which Synovus will acquire FCB Financial Holdings, Inc., owner of Florida Community Bank.

The transaction is expected to close by the first quarter of 2019.

Following the closing, FCB will merge with Synovus Bank and operate under the Synovus brand, and FCB Financial Holdings President and CEO Kent Ellert will be executive vice president of Synovus and Florida market president.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, FCB shareholders will receive a fixed ratio of 1.055 shares of Synovus common stock for each common share of FCB in an all-stock transaction.

Based on Synovus’ closing share price on July 23, 2018, the transaction is valued at $58.15 per FCB share or $2.9 billion in aggregate.

Following completion of the merger, former FCB shareholders will own approximately 30% of the combined company. In addition, based on the exchange ratio, Synovus’ most recent quarterly dividend translates to a pro forma annualized dividend of $1.06 per FCB share.

The transaction is expected to be tax free to FCB shareholders. Synovus expects approximately $40 million in pretax synergies to be fully realized by 2020.

Excluding one-time charges, Synovus expects the acquisition to be approximately 6.5% accretive to earnings per common share in 2020 and to deliver strong returns on capital.

The transaction is expected to produce tangible book value per share dilution of 3.3% with an earnback period of less than two years.

The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by both companies’ Boards of Directors.

The merger is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by Synovus and FCB Financial Holdings shareholders and approval by state and federal bank regulators. BofA Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC served as financial advisors to Synovus on this transaction, while Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Alston & Bird LLP served as legal advisors.

Sandler O’Neill + Partners L.P., Guggenheim Securities, LLC, and Evercore Group L.L.C. served as financial advisors to FCB Financial Holdings, and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz served as legal advisor.


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Veritex, Green Bancorp to merge 

Veritex, Green Bancorp to merge 

Veritex, Green Bancorp to merge, Stockwinners
Veritex, Green Bancorp to merge, Stockwinners

Veritex Holdings (VBTX) and Green Bancorp (GNBC) jointly announced the entry into a definitive agreement pursuant to which Green and Green Bank, N.A. will merge with and into Veritex and Veritex Community Bank, respectively.

Veritex, Green Bancorp to merge, Stockwinners
Veritex, Green Bancorp to merge, Stockwinners

The transaction will create a leading Texas community bank, with 43 branches across Texas, ranking as the tenth largest Texas-based banking institution by deposit market share.

The combined franchise would have approximately $7.5B in assets, $5.6B in loans and $5.9B in deposits, based on the companies’ balance sheets as of June 30, 2018.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, upon completion of the merger, shareholders of Green will receive 0.79 shares of Veritex common stock for each share of Green common stock, valuing the transaction at approximately $1B, or $25.89 per Green share, based on the closing share price of Veritex of $32.77 on July 23, 2018.

Legacy Veritex and Green shareholders will collectively own approximately 45% and 55% of the combined company, respectively.

Upon completion of the merger, C. Malcolm Holland, current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Veritex, will continue to serve as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the combined company.

Terry Earley, current Chief Financial Officer of Green, will serve as Chief Financial Officer of the combined company, and Geoffrey Greenwade, current President of Green, will serve as the Houston President of the combined company.

The board of directors of the combined company will consist of nine members, six from Veritex’s current board of directors and three from Green’s current board of directors.

Veritex expects this acquisition to be approximately 25% accretive to earnings per common share, excluding one-time charges.

The transaction is expected to produce approximately 12.0% tangible book value per share dilution at closing with an earnback period of approximately 2.8 years.

The merger agreement has been unanimously approved by the board of directors of both Veritex and Green.

The merger agreement contains customary representations and warranties and covenants by Veritex and Green. Closing is subject to customary approvals by regulatory authorities and the shareholders of both Veritex and Green, and is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2019.


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