Barron’s is bullish on Facebook, La-Z-Boy

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

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Stockwinners offers Barron’s review of stocks to buy

BULLISH   MENTIONS:

Barron’s lists potential takeover targets in cloud software – Shares of young cloud software companies like MongoDB (MDB) and SendGrid (SEND) have soared since the Nasdaq’s bottom on February 8, in part on speculation of a takeover, Barron’s Tiernan Ray contends. Takeover targets form a long list in addition to the aforementioned, and include Friday’s initial public offering Dropbox (DBX), Appian (APPN), Veeva Systems (VEEV), Atlassian (TEAM) and ServiceNow (NOW), Ray writes.

La-Z-Boy shares could rally 20% within a year or two – La-Z-Boy (LZB) shares currently trade at 13.8 times forecast earnings for the next 12 months, which is well below the small-cap Russell 2000 Index’s price/earnings ratio of 25, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index’s 17, and its own five-year average of 16.3 times forward earnings, writes Barron’s Brett Arend. He believes the stock, which closed Friday at $28.75, could merit a valuation of $36 per share, or roughly 20% higher, within a year or two “by simply getting back to its average five-year multiple.” Higher consumer spending, a new relationship to sell on Amazon.com (AMZN), and successful efforts to reach millennials could propel the shares even higher, Arend contends.

Time Warner shares look appealing with antitrust trial under way – Time Warner (TWX) investors face a “win-win” scenario with the antitrust trial for AT&T’s (T) proposed takeover now under way in Washington, Andrew Bary of Barron’s writes. Time Warner shares “look appealing, based on their underlying value and AT&T’s strong chances of winning,” Bary contends. He notes the stock closed Friday roughly $11 below the current value of AT&T’s cash and stock bid, worth $103.60 per share. The 12% deal spread is appealing with “many observers” believing AT&T and Time Warner will prevail over the U.S. government, according to Bary. He adds that while Time Warner shares could fall $5 if the government wins, some analysts think the stock will quickly recover to its current price of $92.57.

Interactive Brokers tops Barron’s list of best online brokers – Interactive Brokers (IBKR) sits atop Barron’s 23rd annual ranking of The Best Online Brokers. Interactive scored highly in trading experience, range of offerings, and portfolio analysis, Theresa Carey writes in a feature story for this weekend’s magazine. Interactive Brokers is followed by Fidelity, TD Ameritrade (AMTD), Charles Schwab (SCHW), TradeStation, Merrill Edge (BAC), E-Trade (ETFC) and tastyworks in Barron’s annual ranking.

Facebook may now be more tempting to investors – In its cover story titled “Facebook Comes Under Siege,” Barron’s says Facebook  (FB) shares may be more tempting to investors following last week’s 14% decline. With more than 2B users, however, Facebook is “almost certain” to not walk away unscathed as the top target for privacy concerns, Jon Swartz writes. Nonetheless, with nearly $42B in cash and investments, Facebook has the flexibility to diversify into other business lines, as it did with Instagram and WhatsApp, Swartz adds.


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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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Express Scripts sold for $67 billion

Cigna to acquire Express Scripts in cash, stock transaction for $67B

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

Cigna (CI) and Express Scripts (ESRX) 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.

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

The transaction was approved by the board of directors of each company. Under the terms of the definitive agreement, the transaction consideration will consist of $48.75 in cash and 0.2434 shares of stock of the combined company per Express Scripts share, or $54 billion in the aggregate.

Upon closing of the transaction, Cigna shareholders will own approximately 64% of the combined company and Express Scripts shareholders will own approximately 36%.

The consideration represents an approximately 31% premium to Express Scripts’ closing price of $73.42 on March 7, 2018.

Upon closing, the combined company will be led by David M. Cordani as President and CEO. Tim Wentworth will assume the role of President, Express Scripts.

The combined company’s board will be expanded to 13 directors, including four independent members of the Express Scripts board.

The combined company will be named Cigna.

Cigna’s headquarters in Bloomfield, Connecticut, will become the headquarters for the combined company, and Express Scripts will be headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri.

At closing, the combined company will make an incremental investment of $200 million in its charitable foundation, to support the communities in which it operates, and with the continued focus on improving societal health.

Cigna intends to fund the cash portion of the transaction consideration through a combination of cash on hand, assumed Express Scripts debt and new debt issuance and Cigna has obtained fully committed debt financing from Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, Inc. and The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.

The transaction is not subject to a financing condition.

Upon completion of the transaction, Cigna is expected to have debt of approximately $41.1 billion.

Cigna expects to have a debt-to-capitalization ratio of approximately 49% following the acquisition, and aims to achieve a ratio in the 30’s within 18 to 24 months after the transaction closes. Cigna expects to maintain its investment grade ratings.

The transaction, which is expected to be completed by December 31, 2018, is subject to the approval of Cigna and Express Scripts shareholders and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including applicable regulatory approvals.

Until the closing, Cigna and Express Scripts will continue to operate as independent companies.


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Broadcom lowers its offer for Qualcomm

Broadcom adjusts offer for Qualcomm to $79.00 per Qualcomm share 

Broadcom proposes to buy Qualcomm for $79 per share.  

Broadcom (AVGO) reaffirms its commitment to acquiring Qualcomm (QCOM), and is adjusting its offer following the Qualcomm board’s decision to transfer $4.10 per Qualcomm share (or $6.2B of value) from Qualcomm stockholders to NXP (NXPI) stockholders.

Broadcom is prepared to acquire Qualcomm for $79 per Qualcomm share, consisting of $57 in cash and $22 in Broadcom shares (premised on Qualcomm’s revised agreement to acquire NXP at $127.50 per NXP share).

In addition, Broadcom’s proposed merger agreement for Qualcomm would provide for an automatic increase of $3 in cash per Qualcomm share, or a total of $82 per Qualcomm share, consisting of $60 in cash and $22 in Broadcom shares, in the event that Qualcomm is unable to complete the NXP (NXPI) acquisition.

Broadcom’s proposed merger agreement otherwise remains unchanged, including the $8 billion regulatory reverse termination fee and 6% per annum (net of dividends) ticking fee accruing from and after the 12-month anniversary of the date of the merger agreement.

Broadcom believes that a responsible Qualcomm board could have preserved value by following ISS’s clear recommendation to work with Broadcom on the NXP transaction and negotiate the sale of Qualcomm to Broadcom.

Instead Qualcomm’s board acted against the best interests of its stockholders by unilaterally transferring excessive value to NXP’s activist stockholders.

Despite this direct value transfer, Broadcom remains committed to delivering a value-maximizing offer to Qualcomm stockholders.

Broadcom remains confident that Qualcomm’s stockholders will continue to support its proposal to acquire Qualcomm, and looks forward to concluding a transaction with this Qualcomm board of directors, or the newly elected Qualcomm board following its annual meeting on March 6, 2018.

Broadcom continues to urge Qualcomm stockholders to vote the entire BLUE proxy card “FOR” ALL SIX Broadcom nominees to show support for the Broadcom proposal.


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A. Schulman sold for $2.25B

LyondellBasell to acquire A. Schulman for $2.25B

LyondellBasell to acquire A. Schulman for $2.25B. Stockwinners.com
LyondellBasell to acquire A. Schulman for $2.25B.

LyondellBasell (LYB) and A. Schulman (SHLM) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which LyondellBasell will acquire A. Schulman for a total consideration of $2.25B.

The acquisition builds upon LyondellBasell’s existing platform in this space to create a premier Advanced Polymer Solutions business with broad geographic reach, leading technologies and a diverse product portfolio.

Under the terms of the agreement, LyondellBasell will acquire A. Schulman for a total consideration of $2.25B.

LyondellBasell will purchase 100% of A. Schulman common stock for $42 per share in cash and one contingent value right per share and assume outstanding debt and certain other obligations.

In addition, the contingent value rights generally will provide a holder with an opportunity to receive certain net proceeds, if any are recovered, from certain ongoing litigation and government investigations relating to A. Schulman’s Citadel and Lucent acquisitions. LyondellBasell is using cash-on-hand to finance the acquisition.

LyondellBasell expects to achieve $150M in run-rate cost synergies within two years, primarily by leveraging its well-established approach to cost discipline and productivity, as well as its culture of operational, business and commercial excellence.

Further, the acquisition is expected to be accretive to earnings within the first full year following close.

The combined businesses had revenues of $4.6B and adjusted EBITDA of $446M over the last 12 months.

The proposed acquisition, which has been unanimously approved by the respective boards of LyondellBasell and A. Schulman, is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals and approval by A. Schulman shareholders.

The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of 2018.


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Vertex reports positive acute pain control data

Vertex’s Phase 2 study of NaV1.8 inhibitor VX-150 meets primary endpoint

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Vertex reports positive Phase 2 results

Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX) announced positive results of a Phase 2 study of the NaV1.8 inhibitor VX-150 in patients with acute pain following bunionectomy surgery.

Treatment with VX-150 showed statistically significant relief of acute pain compared to placebo, as determined by the time-weighted Sum of the Pain Intensity Difference over the first 24 hours of treatment, a standard measure of acute pain relief.

The study also included a standard-of-care reference arm of the commonly prescribed opioid medicine hydrocodone+acetaminophen to support the evaluation of a potential treatment effect for VX-150.

VX-150 was generally well tolerated, and there were no discontinuations for adverse events in any arm of the study.

This Phase 2 study is the second positive proof-of-concept study for VX-150 and provides further validation for the use of a NaV1.8 inhibitor for the treatment of pain.

A third Phase 2 study of VX-150 is currently ongoing in neuropathic pain with data expected in early 2019.

Vertex also recently initiated a Phase 1 study of a second NaV1.8 inhibitor, VX-128, in healthy volunteers.

The data announced were from a Phase 2 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study that evaluated two days of treatment with VX-150, hydrocodone+acetaminophen or placebo in 243 patients with acute pain following bunionectomy surgery. 82 patients received placebo, 80 patients received VX-150 and 81 patients received hydrocodone+acetaminophen.

Hydrocodone+acetaminophen was included as a standard-of-care reference arm to enable better evaluation of a potential treatment effect for VX-150.

The reference arm was not included to make statistical comparisons to VX-150. VX-150 was dosed orally as 1500 mg for the first dose, followed by 750 mg every 12 hours over the 48-hour treatment period.

The primary endpoint of the study was the time-weighted Sum of the Pain Intensity Difference over the first 24 hours of treatment, as recorded on a Numeric Pain Rating Scale, for those treated with VX-150 compared to placebo.

Increases in SPID24 values represent improvements in pain relief. Secondary endpoints included safety and tolerability assessments as well as other efficacy measurements, including SPID over the first 48 hours of treatment for those treated with VX-150 compared to placebo.

Additional pre-specified analyses of other endpoints included SPID24 and SPID48 for hydrocodone+acetaminophen compared to placebo. The study met its primary endpoint, showing a statistically significant improvement in SPID24 for those treated with VX-150 compared to placebo.

The SPID24 values for those treated with VX-150 and placebo were 36.14 and 6.64, respectively. The SPID24 value for hydrocodone+acetaminophen was 40.16. In this study, VX-150 was generally well tolerated. More than 90 percent of patients in each arm of the study completed treatment.

There were no discontinuations due to adverse events and there were no serious adverse events in any arm of the study. The majority of adverse events were mild or moderate.

Adverse events were observed in 35 percent, 31 percent and 37 percent of patients who received placebo, VX-150 or hydrocodone+acetaminophen, respectively.

The most common adverse events were nausea, headache, vomiting and dizziness. Based on these data, Vertex plans to initiate a Phase 1 study of VX-150 using an intravenous formulation for the treatment of acute pain.

This study is planned to begin in the second half of 2018. An additional Phase 2 proof-of-concept study of VX-150 dosed orally is currently ongoing in patients with neuropathic pain caused by small fiber neuropathy.

Vertex expects to obtain data from the study in neuropathic pain in early 2019.

VRTX closed at $154.14.


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Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn steps down

Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn steps down, Matt Maddox named CEO

Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn steps down. Stockwinners.com
Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn steps down

Wynn Resorts (WYNN) released the following statements today regarding Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn:

The board of Wynn Resorts reluctantly announced that it accepted the resignation of Steve Wynn as CEO and Chairman of the board. The board has appointed Matt Maddox, currently President of the company, as its CEO, and Boone Wayson as Non-Executive Chairman of the board, effective immediately.

“It is with a collective heavy heart, that the board of Wynn Resorts accepted the resignation of our founder, CEO and friend Steve Wynn,” said non-executive director of the board Boone Wayson.

“Steve Wynn is an industry giant. He is a philanthropist and a beloved leader and visionary. He played the pivotal role in transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment destination it is today. He also assembled a world-class team of executives that will continue to meet the high standards of excellence that Steve Wynn created and the Wynn brand has come to represent.”

Steve Wynn created modern Las Vegas. He transformed the city into an economic powerhouse by making it a world-wide tourist destination.

He designed, built and operated the most iconic resorts on the Las Vegas strip, beginning with the Mirage, then Treasure Island, the Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.

Wynn Macau, Wynn’s first resort in the SAR of Macau in China, was designated by Forbes Travel Guide as the best resort in the world.

Along with Wynn Palace in Cotai, the company built by Steve Wynn has been recognized as having more Five Star awards than any independent hotel company in the world.

Wynn Resorts remains as committed as ever to upholding the highest standards and being an inclusive and supportive employer. In fact, more than 40% of all Wynn Las Vegas management are women; the highest in the gaming industry.

The company will continue to fully focus on its operations at Wynn Macau, Wynn Palace and Wynn Las Vegas; the development and opening of the first phase of Wynn Paradise Park, currently under construction on the former Wynn golf course; as well as the construction of Wynn Boston Harbor, which will open in June 2019.

Details of Mr. Wynn’s separation agreement will be disclosed when they are finalized.

Steve Wynn released the following statement: “In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity. As I have reflected upon the environment this has created – one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts – I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles.

Therefore, effective immediately, I have decided to step down as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Wynn Resorts, a company I founded and that I love.

The Wynn Resorts team and I have built houses of brick. Which is to say, the institution we created – a collection of the finest designers and architects ever assembled, as well as an operating philosophy now ingrained in the minds and hearts of our entire team – will remain standing for the long term. I am extremely proud of everything we have built at this company.

Most of all, I am proud of our employees. The succession plan laid out by the board and which I wholeheartedly endorse now places Matt Maddox in the CEO seat.

With Matt, Wynn Resorts is in good hands. He and his team are well positioned to carry on the plans and vision for the company I created. I want to thank all of the employees who have made Wynn Resorts the most admired resort company in the world, and for the support I have received from them in recent weeks.

Most importantly, I want everyone to continue to be proud of this company and the many unique ways it will forever continue to delight guests.”

WYNN closed at $163.22, it last traded at $176.34.


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Changes to S&P MidCap 400, S&P SmallCap 600 indices

Changes to S&P MidCap 400, S&P SmallCap 600 indices

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Changes to S&P MidCap 400, S&P SmallCap 600 indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices will make the following changes to the S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600:

S&P SmallCap 600 constituent Boyd Gaming (BYD) will replace CalAtlantic Group (CAA) in the S&P MidCap 400, and Ring Energy (REI) will replace Boyd Gaming in the S&P SmallCap 600 effective prior to the open of trading on Tuesday, February 13.

S&P 500 constituent Lennar (LEN) is acquiring CalAtlantic Group in a deal expected to be completed on or about February 12 pending final approvals.

James River Group Holdings (JRVR) will replace Barracuda Networks (CUDA) in the S&P SmallCap 600 effective prior to the open of trading on Monday, February 12.

Thoma Bravo is acquiring Barracuda Networks in a deal expected to be completed on or about that date pending final conditions.

EVERTEC (EVTC) will replace Sucampo Pharmaceuticals (SCMP) in the S&P SmallCap 600 effective prior to the open of trading on Wednesday, February 14.

S&P 500 constituent Mallinckrodt (MNK) is acquiring Sucampo Pharmaceuticals in a deal expected to be completed on or about that date pending final conditions.


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Broadcom raises bid for Qualcomm

Broadcom raises bid for Qualcomm to ‘best and final’ offer of $82 per share

Broadcom proposes to buy Qualcomm for $82 per share

Broadcom Limited (AVGO) announced that it has made a “best and final” offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of common stock of Qualcomm Incorporated (QCOM).

Under the terms of the offer, Qualcomm stockholders would receive an aggregate of $82.00 per each Qualcomm share, consisting of $60.00 in cash and the remainder in Broadcom shares.

Broadcom’s improved offer is premised on either Qualcomm acquiring NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NXPI) on the currently disclosed terms of $110 per NXP share or the transaction being terminated and is also premised on Qualcomm not delaying or adjourning its annual meeting past March 6, 2018.

Broadcom remains confident that the proposed transaction would be completed within approximately 12 months following the signing of a definitive agreement.

“The significantly improved offer, which has been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of Broadcom, represents a 50% premium over the closing price of Qualcomm common stock on November 2, 2017, the last unaffected trading day prior to media speculation regarding a potential transaction, and a premium of 56% to Qualcomm’s unaffected 30-day volume-weighted average price…Broadcom believes this offer is vastly superior to Qualcomm’s standalone prospects, with or without the closing of the NXP transaction, and remains hopeful the Qualcomm board of directors will act responsibly on behalf of Qualcomm stockholders and engage with Broadcom on this offer without further delay,” Broadcom stated.


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Alibaba buys a third of Ant Financial 

Alibaba to take 33% equity stake in Ant Financial 

Alibaba to take 33% equity in Ant Financial. Stockwinners.com
Alibaba to take 33% equity in Ant Financial

Alibaba Group (BABA) and Ant Small and Micro Financial Services Group announced that pursuant to 2014 transaction agreements, Alibaba will acquire a 33% equity interest in Ant Financial.

The parties have agreed to certain amendments to their 2014 transaction agreements to facilitate the transaction.

Under the terms of the amended agreements, Alibaba will acquire newly-issued equity from Ant Financial in exchange for certain intellectual property rights owned by Alibaba exclusively related to Ant Financial. There will be no cash impact to Alibaba following completion of the transaction.

Upon closing, the companies will terminate the current profit-sharing arrangement under which Ant Financial pays royalty and technology service fees in an amount equal to 37.5% of its pre-tax profits to Alibaba.

Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group, said, “This transaction is a significant step for Alibaba to enhance our long-term strategic relationship with Ant Financial as we continue to pursue our mission to make it easy to do business anywhere.

Importantly, an equity stake in Ant Financial enables Alibaba and our shareholders to participate in the future growth of the financial technology sector, as well as the benefits of user growth and improved customer experience.”

The transaction was reviewed and approved by a committee of non-executive directors, the majority of whom are independent under NYSE rules, the audit committee of Alibaba’s board and the full Alibaba board of directors.

The closing of the transaction is subject to customary conditions. Alibaba will acquire the equity interest in Ant Financial through a Chinese domestic subsidiary.

Morrison & Foerster and King & Wood Mallesons acted as legal advisors, Credit Suisse acted as financial advisor and PricewaterhouseCoopers acted as tax advisor to the Alibaba Independent Committee.

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Sidley Austin LLP and Fangda Partners acted as legal advisors to Ant Financial.


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Boeing reports tomorrow

What to watch in Boeing’s earnings report 

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Boeing reports tomorrow

Boeing (BA) is scheduled to report results of its fiscal fourth quarter before the market opens on Wednesday, January 30, with a conference call scheduled for 10:30 am ET.

What to watch for:

1. GUIDANCE:

When Boeing reported its fiscal third quarter results on October 25, 2017, the company increased its fiscal 2017 adjusted earnings per share view to $9.90-$10.10 from $9.80-$10.00, against consensus estimates of $10.04 at that time, and reaffirmed its FY17 revenue expectations of $90.5B-$92.5B, against analyst estimates of $92.15B.

Current consensus estimates sit at $10.21 and $92.55B, respectively. The company also backed its FY17 commercial airplane deliveries view of 760-765.

2. CAPITAL RETURNS:

On December 11, 2017, Boeing announced a new $18B share repurchase program and a 20% increase to its quarterly dividend. The board declared the dividend will increase 20% to $1.71 per share.

The board also replaced the existing share repurchase program with a new $18B authorization. The new dividend will be payable March 2, 2018, to shareholders of record as of February 9, 2018.

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Defense spending increase should help Boeing

The company this year has repurchased $9.2B worth of its shares from the $14B authorization approved in December 2016. The new repurchase program replaces the existing one, bringing the total authorization to $18B.

3. ANTI-DUMPING:

On December 20, 2017, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the affirmative final determinations in the antidumping duty and countervailing duty investigations of 100-seat to 150-seat large civil aircraft from Canada.

“This decision is based on a full and unbiased review of the facts in an open and transparent process.” said Secretary Ross.

“The United States is committed to a free, fair, and reciprocal trade and will always stand up for American workers and companies being harmed by unfair imports.”

Commerce determined that exporters from Canada sold 100- to 150-seat large civil aircraft in the United States at 79.82% less than fair value.

Commerce also determined that Canada is providing unfair subsidies to its producers of 100- to 150-seat large civil aircraft at a rate of 212.39%. Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to collect cash deposits from importers of 100- to 150-seat large civil aircraft based on the final rates.

Bombardier (BDRBF), the Government of Canada, and Petitioners agreed that the proposed transaction between Bombardier and Airbus (EADSY) does not impact these investigations.

4. EMBRAER

Boeing confirmed takeover talks with Embraer (ERJ) during the quarter. The Brazilian government, which owns a golden share in Embraer, represents a potential hurdle in the deal.

Investors should look for more guidance on this topic when Boeing reports. BA last traded at $337.10.


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Avon Products is encouraged to sell the company

Shareholder calls on Avon Products to consider a sale of the company

Shareholder calls on Avon Products to consider a sale. Stockwinners.com
Shareholder calls on Avon Products to consider a sale

A group of shareholders of Avon Products (AVP) led by Shah Capital, Barington Capital Group, L.P., and NuOrion Partners that collectively beneficially owns approximately 3.5% of the outstanding common stock announced that it has sent a letter to the board of Avon calling on the board to promptly retain a financial advisor to explore all strategic alternatives to maximize shareholder value, including a sale of the company in whole or in parts.

The Shareholder Group is extremely disappointed with the deteriorating operating and share price performance that has occurred under the stewardship of the current board.

The Shareholder Group is also dismayed by the Board’s failure to act quickly and decisively on the past recommendations its members have made to improve the long-term performance of the company, including promptly hiring a new chief executive officer – a step that has been long overdue and members of the Shareholder Group recommended over two years ago.

As a result, the Shareholder Group has lost confidence in the ability of Avon’s current Board to create meaningful long-term value for its public shareholders, and sees no reason why shareholders should continue to wait for a turnaround from a Board that has overseen a tremendous destruction of shareholder value.

The Shareholder Group therefore believes that the best course of action is for the Board to retain a financial advisor to explore the sale of the company.

The Shareholder Group believes that Avon would be highly attractive to a range of buyers due to its many positive attributes, including its well-known 130-year old brand; its vast product offering generating over $5.7 billion in sales; its strong market positions in developing countries such as Brazil, Russia and Mexico; its owned manufacturing operations; and its six million direct sales representatives.

In addition, a multinational acquirer would immediately benefit from its ability to improve Avon’s capital structure and the tax efficiency of its operations.

The Shareholder Group is convinced that a better capitalized strategic buyer would do a much better job of unlocking Avon’s tremendous value potential than the company’s current Board.

AVP closed at $2.43. The stock has a 52 weeks trading range of $1.85 – $6.03.


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PTC Therapeutics reports positive Spinal Muscular Atrophy data

PTC Therapeutics reports preliminary data from FIREFISH trial in Type 1 SMA

PTC Therapeutics reports positive Spinal muscular atrophy data

PTC Therapeutics (PTCT) announced the presentation of early interim data from Part 1, the dose-finding portion of the FIREFISH study.

#FIREFISH is a two-part seamless, open-label, multi-center study to investigate the safety and efficacy of RG7916 in infants and babies with Type 1 SMA.

RG7916 has been safe and well tolerated at all doses and there have been no drug-related safety findings leading to withdrawal.

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disease affecting the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement.

Most of the nerve cells that control muscles are located in the spinal cord, which accounts for the word spinal in the name of the disease. SMA is muscular because its primary effect is on muscles, which don’t receive signals from these nerve cells. Atrophy is the medical term for getting smaller, which is what generally happens to muscles when they’re not active.

SMA involves the loss of nerve cells called motor neurons in the spinal cord and is classified as a motor neuron disease.

In addition, data on the ability to swallow and requirements for tracheostomy or permanent ventilation, together with overall survival were also presented.

Previously published natural history data indicate that in a comparable historic cohort the median age of event-free survival for SMA Type 1 infants to be between 8 and 10.5 months.

In addition to the oral presentation, three posters were on display during the Congress: updated pharmacodynamic and safety data from SUNFISH Part 1, preliminary evidence for pharmacodynamic effects of RG7916 in JEWELFISH, and preclinical data demonstrating the relationship between central and peripheral SMN protein increase upon treatment with RG7916.

The data presented demonstrate systemic and dose-dependent increase of SMN protein levels.

The data from mice and other species suggest that SMN protein level increases seen in the blood of patients following RG7916 treatment reflect SMN protein level increases in the CNS, muscle and other key issues affected in SMA.

In addition, RG7916 has been safe and well tolerated at all doses and there have been no drug-related safety findings leading to withdrawal.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted orphan drug designation to RG7916 for the treatment of patients with SMA.


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Novavax higher on its promising vaccine

Analyst quadruples Novavax target after sign that RSV vaccine works

Novavax target quadrupled Novavax  on signs that RSV vaccine works. Stockwinners.com
Novavax target quadrupled Novavax on signs that RSV vaccine works

This morning, B. Riley FBR analyst George Zavoico raised his price target for Novavax (NVAX) nearly five-fold to $10 after the company announced more details about an informational analysis of Prepare, an ongoing Phase 3 trial of an RSV F vaccine for maternal immunization to protect newborn infants.

This target hike comes just five days after #Zavoico started coverage of the stock with a Buy rating and a $2.25 price target.

PREPARE UPDATE

In slides accompanying a presentation by the company at the 36th annual JPMorgan Healthcare conference, Novavax provided an update on the status of its Phase 3 Respiratory Syncytial Virus vaccine for Infants Via Maternal Immunization clinical trial, dubbed the “Prepare” trial.

Novavax pointed out that an informational analysis was performed in the fourth quarter of 2017, and targeted an efficacy threshold against the primary endpoint at day 90 of more than 40%.

In December, the Data Safety Monitoring Board statistician performed an unblinded analysis and communicated that the RSV F vaccine “successfully met” the criteria, the company highlighted in the slides.

Importantly, Novavax stated that the informational analysis indicated that its RSV F Vaccine is efficacious, and that Phase 3 enrollment should yield pivotal efficacy data by the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019.

The company expects it to be the first licensed RSV vaccine, with an estimated global peak revenue of over $1.5B.

INCREASING CONFIDENCE IN PREPARE TRIAL

Just five days after initiating coverage of the stock, B. Riley FBR analyst George Zavoico raised his price target for Novavax to $10 from $2.25, while reiterating a Buy rating on the shares.

The target increase comes after the company announced more details about the informational analysis of #Prepare.

The analyst noted that he has learned that the objective of the analysis allowed by the FDA was to determine if the trial vaccine efficacy was greater than 45%, a threshold that he thinks will translate into a successful Phase 3 trial and a commercially viable vaccine.

Overall, Zavoico told investors that the results increase his confidence in a successful outcome of the Prepare trial.

WHAT’S NOTABLE

The company’s maternal immunization program is supported by an $89M grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and has also been granted Fast Track designation by the U.S. FDA.

PRICE ACTION:

In late Wednesday’s morning trading, shares of Novavax (NVAX) have jumped 53c, or almost 40%, to $1.86.


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ANZ’s life insurance businesses sold for $2.14 billion

Zurich enters agreement to acquire ANZ’s life insurance businesses in Australia 

ANZ's life insurance businesses sold for $2.14B. See Stockwinners.com
ANZ’s life insurance businesses sold for $2.14B

Zurich Insurance Group (ZURVY) yesterday announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of ANZ’s (ANZBY) life insurance businesses, OnePath Life, in Australia for A$2.85B, or $2.14B.

Both parties expect the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, to be completed by the end of 2018.

The transaction price comprises A$1B of upfront reinsurance commissions, expected to be paid subject to regulatory approval in May 2018 with the remaining balance paid on completion.

The acquisition is expected to contribute to the Group’s profitability from day one, generating strong cash flows which will support future dividend growth.

The transaction will also increase the proportion of stable life protection-based earnings, reducing overall Group earnings volatility and increasing the proportion of life earnings remitted as cash back to the Group.

In view of these earnings benefits, Zurich expects to raise its current BOPAT ROE target by 50 basis points by 2019.

The transaction is also expected to increase the level of overall cash remittances over the 2017-2019 planning period by A$300M.

As part of the transaction, Zurich will enter into a 20-year distribution agreement with ANZ in Australia to distribute life insurance products through bank channels.

The acquisition is expected to be funded through a mixture of Zurich’s internal cash resources and senior debt, and is expected to reduce Zurich’s capital position only modestly.

ZURVY closed at $30. ANZBY closed at $21.53.


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