Intercept falls on NASH study

Intercept falls after releasing ‘supportive data’ from Phase 3 NASH study

Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT) overnight announced additional “supportive data” from its Phase 3 Regenerate study of obeticholic acid in patients with liver fibrosis due to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

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Intercept falls after releasing ‘supportive data’ from Phase 3 NASH study, Stockwinners

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is liver inflammation and damage caused by a buildup of fat in the liver. It is part of a group of conditions called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. You may be told you have a “fatty liver.”

The new data based on additional analyses show that obeticholic acid “demonstrated robust efficacy across a range of additional histologic and biochemical parameters,” Intercept said in a statement.

The data are being presented today at the International Liver Congress in Vienna, Austria.

The primary efficacy analysis assessed efficacy at 18 months in 931 patients with stage 2 or 3 liver fibrosis due to NASH.

Patients with biopsy proven NASH with fibrosis were randomized 1:1:1 to receive placebo, OCA 10 mg or OCA 25 mg once daily.

A repeat biopsy was conducted after 18 months for histologic endpoint assessment.

Overall, study discontinuations in the primary efficacy analysis population were balanced across treatment groups.

As previously reported, in the primary efficacy analysis, once-daily OCA 25 mg met the primary endpoint of fibrosis improvement with no worsening of NASH in 23.1% of patients compared to 11.9% of placebo patients at the planned 18-month interim analysis, the company said.

In the primary efficacy analysis, a numerically greater proportion of patients in both OCA treatment groups compared to placebo achieved the primary endpoint of NASH resolution with no worsening of liver fibrosis; however, this did not reach statistical significance.

As agreed with the FDA, in order for the primary objective to be met, the study was required to achieve one of the two primary endpoints, it added.

Additional supportive efficacy analyses were conducted using the per protocol population.

Approximately three-fold more patients in the OCA 25 mg group achieved an improvement of fibrosis by greater than or equal to 2 stages compared to placebo, Intercept reported.

ICPT is down 12%, or $14.14, to $106.54.

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Advaxis jumps on its prostate cancer drug data

Advaxis says ADXS-PSA in combination with KEYTRUDA prolonged survival in mCRPC

Advaxis jumps on its prostate cancer drug data, Stockwinners

Advaxis (ADXS) announced updated data from the Phase 1/2 KEYNOTE-046 study in metastatic, castration-resistant prostate cancer.

Castrate-resistant prostate cancer refers to prostate cancer that keeps growing even when the amount of testosterone in the body is reduced to very low levels. Many early-stage prostate cancers need normal levels of testosterone to grow, but castrate-resistant prostate cancers do not. 

Androgens are required for normal growth and function of the prostate. Androgens are also necessary for prostate cancers to grow. Androgens promote the growth of both normal and cancerous prostate cells by binding to and activating the androgen receptor, a protein that is expressed in prostate cells Once activated, the androgen receptor stimulates the expression of specific genes that cause prostate cells to grow .

Early in their development, prostate cancers need relatively high levels of androgens to grow. Such prostate cancers are called castration sensitive, androgen dependent, or androgen sensitive because treatments that decrease androgen levels or block androgen activity can inhibit their growth.

This trial is being conducted in conjunction with Merck (MRK) and is evaluating ADXS-PSA, one of Advaxis’ Listeria monocytogenes-based immunotherapies, alone and in combination with KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy.

Findings will be highlighted in a poster discussion entitled “Effects of ADXS-PSA with or without Pembrolizumab on Survival and Antigen Spreading in Metastatic, Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer Patients” at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting underway in Atlanta.

KEYNOTE-046 is an open-label, multicenter, dose-determining safety and tolerability Phase 1/2 trial of 50 heavily pretreated patients conducted in two parts, with a Phase 2 expansion cohort. The objective of the study is to evaluate ADXS-PSA alone and in combination with KEYTRUDA for primary endpoints that include safety, tolerability and dosing.

Secondary endpoints include anti-tumor activity and progression-free survival, and exploratory endpoints include associations between biomarkers of immunologic response with clinical outcomes.

Key findings from the combination arm of KEYNOTE-046 include the following: The majority of treatment-related adverse events consisted of transient and reversible Grade 1-2 chills/rigors, fever, hypotension, nausea and fatigue.

The combination of ADXS-PSA and pembrolizumab has been well-tolerated, to date, with no additive toxicity observed. Median overall survival was 21.1 months at data cutoff in this dataset of 37 patients.

Correlative immune analyses showed T-cell responses against PSA in 75% of subjects and antigen spreading in 85% of subjects. Broader immune stimulation, including B-cell activation, was observed in the combination arm than in the ADXS-PSA monotherapy arm.

ADXS closed at $5.91, it last traded at $8.15. MRK closed at $83.17.

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Tribune to buy nineteen stations from Nexstar

Nexstar enters agreements to divest nineteen stations for $1.32B

Nexstar to sell 19 stations, Stockwinners

Nexstar Media Group (NXST) and Tribune Media Company (TRCO) announced that Nexstar has entered into definitive agreements to sell a total of nineteen stations in fifteen markets for an aggregate $1.32B in cash following the acquisition of Tribune Media by Nexstar.

Under the terms of the agreements, TEGNA Inc. (TGNA) will acquire eleven stations in eight markets for $740M and The E.W. Scripps Company (SSP) will acquire eight stations in seven markets for $580M.

Separately, Nexstar remains engaged in active negotiations to divest two stations in Indianapolis, Indiana. On December 3, 2018, Nexstar and Tribune Media entered into a definitive merger agreement whereby Nexstar will acquire all outstanding shares of Tribune Media.

Nexstar agrees to acquire Tribune Media, Stockwinners
Nexstar agrees to sell stations from Tribune, Stockwinners

The planned divestiture of nineteen stations reflects Nexstar’s stated intention to divest certain television stations in order to comply with the FCC local and national television ownership rules and to obtain FCC and Department of Justice approval of the proposed Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction.

Nexstar intends to use the net proceeds from the divestitures to fund the Tribune acquisition and to reduce debt.

Given that the net proceeds from the divestitures exceed those initially estimated at the time the transaction was announced, Nexstar now estimates that net leverage at the closing of the transaction will be reduced to approximately 5.1x.

The planned divestiture of the nineteen stations is subject to FCC approval, other regulatory approvals, the closing of the Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction and other customary closing conditions and is expected to be completed on, or about the time of, the closing of the Nexstar / Tribune Media transaction, which is expected later this year.

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ExxonMobil to increase its Permian Basin output

Exxon Mobil to increase Permian output to 1M barrels per day by 2024

ExxonMobil to increase its Permian Basin output, Stockwinners

ExxonMobil (XOM) said it has revised its Permian Basin growth plans to produce more than 1 million oil-equivalent barrels per day by as early as 2024 – an increase of nearly 80 percent and a significant acceleration of value.

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ExxonMobil expects to make 10% return on its Permian Basin fields at $35 per barrel oil, Stockwinners

The size of the company’s resource base in the Permian is approximately 10 billion oil-equivalent barrels and is likely to grow further as analysis and development activities continue.

ExxonMobil’s investments in the Permian Basin are expected to produce double-digit returns, even at low oil prices.

At a $35 per barrel oil price, for example, Permian production will have an average return of more than 10 percent.

The anticipated increase in production will be supported by further evaluation of ExxonMobil’s Delaware Basin’s increased resource size, infrastructure development plans, and secured capacity to transport oil and gas to ExxonMobil’s Gulf Coast refineries and petrochemical operations through the Wink-to-Webster, Permian Highway and Double E pipelines.

Among the company’s key advantages in the Permian, is its acreage position.

The company has large, contiguous acreage that enables multi-well pads in large development corridors connecting to efficient gathering systems, reducing development costs and accelerating production growth.

ExxonMobil’s scale, financial capacity and technical capabilities enable the company to maximize the value of the resource. ExxonMobil is actively building infrastructure to support volume growth.

Plans include construction at 30 sites to enhance oil and gas processing, water handling and ensure takeaway capacity from the basin. Construction activities include central delivery facilities designed to handle up to 600,000 barrels of oil and 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day and enhanced water-handling capacity through 350 miles of already-constructed pipeline.

The investment plans will also bring great benefits to the local area. ExxonMobil’s expansion in the region will benefit communities in West Texas and southeast New Mexico through billions in property tax revenue, economic development and the creation of high-paying jobs.

ExxonMobil remains one of the most active operators in the Permian Basin and has 48 drilling rigs currently in operation and plans to increase its rig count to approximately 55 by the end of the year.

Increased use of technology, including enhanced subsurface characterization, subsurface modeling and advanced data analytics to support optimization and automation, will help the company reduce costs, improve its development plan and increase resource recovery.

Crude oil is up 5 cents to $56.64 per barrel. XOM last traded at $80.22.

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Kraft Heinz shares tumble 28 percent

Kraft Heinz says SEC probing procurement accounting policies

The company (KHC) said in a filing it received a subpoena in October 2018 from the SEC associated with an investigation into the company’s procurement area, more specifically the company’s accounting policies, procedures, and internal controls related to its procurement function, including, but not limited to, agreements, side agreements, and changes or modifications to its agreements with its vendors.

Kraft Heinz shares tumble 28% on SEC investigation, Dividends cut, Stockwinners

Kraft Heinz confirms quarterly dividend cut to 40c from 62.5c per share

The Board of Directors of The Kraft Heinz Company declared a regular quarterly dividend of 40c per share of common stock payable on March 22 to stockholders of record as of March 8.

This represents a reduction of 22.5c from the company’s previous quarterly dividend of 62.5c.

“We believe this action will help us accelerate our deleveraging plan, provide us strategic advantage through a stronger balance sheet, support commercial investments and set a payout level that can both grow over time and accommodate additional divestitures.

By doing this we can improve our growth and returns over time,” said Kraft Heinz CEO Bernardo Hees.

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Buffett loses $4.4billion on Friday, See Stockwinners

Warren’s Loss

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owned 325,634,818 shares of Kraft Heinz as of Dec. 31, according to the latest 13-F filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That represented about 26.7% of the shares outstanding, while the value of the holding was just under 8% of Berkshire’s total equity holdings.

If Berkshire’s stake remained intact, it would be worth about $4.4 billion less than it was the day before. And you thought you had a bad day in the market?!?

Berkshire’s stake in Kraft Heinz has been the same since the third quarter of 2015, according to SEC filings.

Before that, filings showed ownership of just 192,666 shares of Kraft Foods Group Inc. and 578,000 shares of Mondelez.

Since Sept. 30, 2015, the stock has now plummeted 50.9%. That indicates Berkshire’s investment has lost $11.7 billion in principal value since then, including an $11.3 billion loss in 2018 alone.

KHC is down 28% to $34.75.

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Achieve Life Sciences higher on smoking data

Achieve Life Sciences announces final data from cytisinicline study

Achieve Life Sciences (ACHV) announced final data from their Phase I/II multi-dose, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics, or PK/PD, clinical study of cytisinicline in smokers.

The study evaluated the repeat-dose PK and PD effects of 1.5 mg and 3 mg cytisinicline in 26 healthy volunteer smokers when administered over the standard 25-day course of treatment.

Smokers in the study had a mean age of 39 years, smoked on average 17.2 cigarettes a day, and were not required to quit smoking or have a predetermined quit date while on study.

All subjects had a significant and immediate reduction in cigarettes smoked within 2 days of initiating cytisinicline treatment.

By Day 26, subjects had an average 80% reduction in cigarettes smoked, 82% reduction in expired carbon monoxide, and 46% had stopped smoking.

The biochemically verified smoking cessation rates were 39% and 54% in the 1.5 mg and 3.0 mg cytisinicline treated groups, respectively.

The PK results indicated expected increases in plasma concentration between the standard 1.5 mg and higher 3.0 mg doses of cytisinicline with no evidence of drug accumulation.

Cytisinicline at either dose was well tolerated with only transient, mild-to-moderate headache as the most common adverse event, which was not treatment limiting. No adverse events were severe, serious, or led to withdrawal from the study.

Cindy Jacobs, CMO at Achieve commented, “Given the short 25-day treatment period, the abstinence rates observed are impressive, particularly since subjects were not required to commit to quitting and received minimal behavioral support during the study. These results continue to support our belief that cytisinicline could be a well-tolerated and effective potential treatment option for the millions of people who are battling nicotine addiction.”

ACHV closed at $1.81, it last traded at $2.88.

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Tribune Media sold for $6.4 billion

Nexstar to acquire Tribune Media for $46.50 per share

Nexstar agrees to acquire Tribune Media, Stockwinners
Nexstar agrees to acquire Tribune Media, Stockwinners

Nexstar Media Group (NXST) and Tribune Media (TRCO) announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement whereby Nexstar will acquire all outstanding shares of Tribune Media for $46.50 per share in a cash transaction that is valued at $6.4B including the assumption of Tribune Media’s outstanding debt.
The transaction reflects a 15.5% premium for Tribune Media shareholders based on its closing price on November 30, 2018, and a 45% premium to Tribune Media’s closing price on July 16, 2018, the day the FCC Chairman issued a public statement regarding his intention to circulate a Hearing Designation Order for Tribune Media’s previously announced transaction with a third party.
Tribune Media shareholders will be entitled to additional cash consideration of approximately 30c per month if the transaction has not closed by August 31, 2019, pro-rated for partial months and less an adjustment for any dividends declared on or after September 1, 2019.
The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is expected to close late in the third quarter of 2019, subject to receipt of required regulatory approvals and satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.
Upon closing, the transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to Nexstar’s operating results inclusive of expected operating synergies of approximately $160M in the first year following the completion of the transaction and planned divestitures.
The proposed transaction will combine two leading local media companies with complementary national coverage and will reach approximately 39% of U.S. television households pro-forma for anticipated divestitures and reflecting the FCC’s UHF discount.
The transaction is not subject to any financing condition and Nexstar has received committed financing for the transaction from BofA Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. Completion of the transaction is subject to approval by Tribune’s shareholders, as well as customary closing conditions, including approval by the FCC, and satisfaction of antitrust conditions.

Nexstar intends to divest certain television stations necessary to comply with regulatory ownership limits and may also divest other assets which it deems to be non-core. All after-tax proceeds from such asset sales are expected to be applied to leverage reduction.


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Cinedigm to acquire ComicBlitz 

Cinedigm to acquire ComicBlitz 

 

Cinedigm to acquire ComicBlitz , Stockwinners
Cinedigm to acquire ComicBlitz , Stockwinners

Cinedigm (CIDM) announced an agreement to acquire the digital comic book service ComicBlitz, which will provide access to approximately 10,000 digital comic books, with more than 175,000 pages of content from a growing network of 30 or more publishers.

#ComicBlitz content will be distributed globally as a licensed offering for mobile carriers, OTT providers and other media companies.

It will also be integrated with Cinedigm’s existing and planned OTT services, including the fandom lifestyle network CONtv.

Cinedigm expects that the acquisition will close before the end of the year. Cinedigm plans on rapidly enhancing ComicBlitz’s content and services offering by leveraging Cinedigm’s forthcoming, next-generation technology platform and expects to service global distribution of the ComicBlitz content and platform offerings alongside Cinedigm’s existing footprint of nine OTT channel offerings.

From a business perspective, the transaction is expected to generate revenues through content licensing, subscription and advertising revenues, new distribution platform partnerships and by accelerating global expansion of Cinedigm’s OTT business.

Cinedigm expects the acquisition will be accretive within the first quarter following closing, pending certain license deals currently in negotiation. The deal could be expected to generate more than $5M in incremental annual digital revenues within 18-24 months after closing, if new platform and licensing agreements related to this acquisition are consummated.

This deal will support Cinedigm’s strategy to provide high quality turn-key offerings to third party platforms on a global scale through acquisition and partnerships.

It will also provide a deep portfolio of quality comic book offerings that significantly broadens the company’s content portfolio for highly sought after fandom audiences worldwide.

The worldwide digital comic book and graphic novel market is estimated at over $1B in annual sales. Launched in 2015, ComicBlitz has a distribution footprint of over 133 countries, with key penetration in North America and major territories including the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Mexico, Brazil and Germany.


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Athenahealth sold for $5.7 billion

Athenahealth to be acquired by Veritas Capital for $135 per share in cash

Athenahealth sold for $5.7 billion, Stockwinners
Athenahealth sold for $5.7 billion, Stockwinners

Athenahealth (ATHN), Veritas Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital, announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which an affiliate of Veritas and Evergreen will acquire athenahealth for approximately $5.7B in cash.

Under the terms of the agreement, athenahealth shareholders will receive $135 in cash per share.

The per share purchase price represents a premium of approximately 12% over the company’s closing stock price on November 9, 2018, the last trading day prior to today’s announcement, and a premium of approximately 27 percent over the company’s closing stock price on May 17, 2017, the day prior to Elliott Management Corporation’s announcement that it had acquired an approximate 9% interest in the company.

Following the closing, Veritas and Evergreen expect to combine athenahealth with Virence Health, the GE Healthcare Value-based Care assets that Veritas acquired earlier this year.

The combined business is expected to be a leading, privately-held healthcare information technology company with an extensive national provider network of customers and world-class products and solutions to help them thrive in an increasingly complex environment.

Following the close of that transaction, the combined company is expected to operate under the athenahealth brand and be headquartered in Watertown, Massachusetts.

The company will be led by Virence Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Segert and an executive leadership team comprised of executives from both companies.

Following the completion of the transaction, Virence’s Workforce Management business will become a separate Veritas portfolio company under the API Healthcare brand.

Athenahealth investor Elliott Management has expressed support for the transaction.

Elliott Partner Jesse Cohn said, “We are pleased to support this transformative transaction combining athenahealth and Virence, which we believe represents an outstanding, value-maximizing outcome for athenahealth shareholders.”

Upon completion of the transaction, Elliott’s private equity subsidiary, Evergreen Coast Capital, will retain a minority investment stake in the combined company.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019, subject to the approval of the holders of a majority of athenahealth’s outstanding shares and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

The athenahealth Board of Directors has unanimously approved the merger agreement and intends to recommend that athenahealth shareholders vote in favor of it at a Special Meeting of Stockholders, to be scheduled as soon as practicable.

The transaction is not subject to a financing condition. In light of today’s announcement and the pending transaction, athenahealth will no longer be hosting its previously announced Q3 2018 earnings call.

ATHN closed at $120.35.


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LSC Communications sold for $1.4 billion

Quad/Graphics to acquire LSC Communications in all-stock deal valued at $1.4B

LSC Communications sold for $1.4 billion, Stockwinners
LSC Communications sold for $1.4 billion, Stockwinners

Quad/Graphics (QUAD) and LSC Communications (LKSD) announced that their boards of directors have approved a definitive agreement whereby Quad will acquire LSC Communications in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $1.4B, including the refinancing of LSC Communications’ debt.

As of September 30, 2018, the combined company would have had annual revenue of approximately $8B.

The deal is expected to close in mid-2019, and be accretive to earnings, excluding non-recurring integration costs.

Net synergies are expected to be approximately $135M, and will be achieved in less than two years and result in substantial additional Free Cash Flow generation.

Under the terms of the agreement, LSC Communications shareholders will receive 0.625 shares of Quad Class A common stock for each LSC Communications share they own, representing approximately 29 percent total economic ownership of the combined company and approximately 11 percent of the vote of the combined company.

Based on the closing share prices of both companies on October 30, 2018, the merger consideration represents a premium of 34 percent to LSC Communications shareholders.

Quad shareholders will continue to own Class A and Class B shares, representing approximately 71 percent total economic ownership of the combined company and approximately 89 percent total voting power of the combined company.

The transaction supports Quad’s long-term strategic vision by preserving the Quadracci Family leadership and voting control in the company. Quad expects the transaction to be accretive to earnings, excluding non-recurring integration costs.

Net synergies are expected to be approximately $135 million, and will be achieved in less than two years, through the elimination of duplicative functions, capacity rationalization, greater operational efficiencies and greater efficiencies in supply chain management that will also benefit our clients.

Joel Quadracci will be Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the combined company.

Quad will expand its board of directors to include two members from LSC Communications’ existing board.

The transaction is expected to close in mid-2019, subject to approval by Quad and LSC Communications shareholders, regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.

The Quadracci Family Voting Trust, holder of approximately 64 percent of the voting power of Quad’s outstanding common stock, has entered into a voting agreement with LSC Communications pursuant to which it will vote in favor of the issuance of shares in connection with the transaction.


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JetPay sold for $184 million

NCR Corp. to acquire JetPay for $5.05 per share

JetPay sold for $184 million, Stockwinners
JetPay sold for $184 million, Stockwinners

NCR Corporation (NCR) announced a definitive agreement to acquire Allentown, PA-based JetPay (JTPY).

The transaction will be a cash tender offer of $5.05 per JetPay share, which represents a multiple of 2.9 times 2018 consensus revenue forecast of $63.4 million.

The purchase price is approximately $184 million and will be financed with a combination of cash on hand and existing capacity under NCR’s revolving credit facility.

The offer has been approved by each company’s board of directors.

This acquisition will enable NCR to integrate a cloud-based payments platform into its enterprise point-of-sale solutions for retail and hospitality industries.

It also accelerates NCR’s strategy of increasing recurring revenue growth and expanding margins by enhancing its mix of software and services.

The transaction is anticipated to close by year-end, subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions. The two companies anticipate a smooth transition for customers, channel partners and employees.

Two of JetPay’s major stockholders, Flexpoint Ford, a private equity investment firm that specializes in the financial services and healthcare industries, and Larry Stone, a longstanding executive in the payment processing industry, have agreed to tender their shares in support of the transaction.


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Canary in the mine, Homebuilders

Homebuilders continue tumble as Credit Suisse downgrades several in space

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Homebuilder shares tumble; Stockwinners

Many believe that housing market is the engine of the economy. If that is the case, we should expect a slow down in the economy. Housing prices have always been one of the first indicators of a slowdown or a coming out of a recession for the economy. We should brace ourselves for lower home prices!

Shares of homebuilders continued their decline after an analyst at Credit Suisse downgraded several companies in the space, saying that she expects more tempered demand and rising affordability concerns to weigh on homebuilding sentiment and broader group valuation, offsetting any near-term earnings beats.

A different analyst at the firm downgraded home improvement retailers Home Depot (HD) and Lowe’s (LOW) this morning, due to his concern that their recent results and stock prices have disconnected from housing.

HOMEBUILDERS DOWNGRADED

Credit Suisse analyst Susan Maklari told investors in a research note this morning that although she believes housing and macro fundamentals remain “intact,” including high consumer confidence and sustained low unemployment, unit gains are likely to moderate.

She sees any near-term earnings beats to be offset by even more tempered demand and rising affordability concerns. She sees average order growth for 2019 of 8%, compared to 11% in 2018 and 12% in 2017, and sees “relative” outperformance from builders who are able to capture above-trend gains due to product mix, like D.R. Horton (DHI), and geographic positioning, like PulteGroup (PHM). Maklari downgraded Lennar (LEN) and Meritage Homes (MTH) to Neutral from Outperform and lowered her respective price targets for the shares to $45 from $55 and to $36 from $50.

The analyst sees more limited upside to Lennar looking ahead as its strategic initiatives, as well as geographic exposure, are reflected in its current valuation.

While Meritage has benefited from efforts to drive improvements in operations in its East region as well as the rollout of its entry level targeted homes, Maklari believes much of the initial gains have been captured and she expects limited upside to the current valuation as comparisons become more difficult.

The analyst also downgraded KB Home (KBH) to Underperform from Neutral and lowered her price target to $18 from $27, saying that over the last several months her channel checks and Realtor Survey have pointed to slowing demand in higher cost MSAs, including California, which accounted for about 50% of the company’s 2017 revenues.

HOME DEPOT, LOWE’S ALSO DOWNGRADED

Another analyst at Credit Suisse, Seth Sigman, this morning downgraded Home Depot and Lowe’s, both to Neutral from Outperform, citing his concern that their recent results and stock prices have disconnected from housing. In a research note of his own, Sigman said his key concern is that home prices will continue to moderate, at least temporarily, as higher rates weigh on affordability.

Overall, Sigman still sees EPS growing, but sees less upside over the next 12 months relative to current estimates.

The analyst continues to view Home Depot as best-in-class in retail, but struggles to find multiple upside from its current premium level as housing sentiment shifts and some uncertainty arises. While he continues to expect meaningful improvement in sales and operating profit at Lowe’s under new CEO Marvin Ellison, Sigman thinks consensus estimates are baking that in. The analyst cut his price target on Home Depot to $204 from $222 and on Lowe’s to $111 from $115.

PRICE ACTION

Shares of Lennar dropped 3%, while Meritage Homes dropped 6.6% and KB Home declined 4.4%. Other homebuilders were dragged lower, including D.R. Horton, PulteGroup and Toll Brothers (TOL), which are all down over 3%.

Additionally, Home Depot and Lowe’s both declined over 4%. Further, XHB, the homebuilding ETF, is down nearly 3% today and about 10% month-to-date.


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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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Musk’s tweet sends Tesla shares lower

Tesla slides after Elon Musk mocks SEC on Twitter

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Musk’s tweet sends Tesla shares lower

Shares of Tesla (TSLA) dropped in Friday’s trading after Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, mocked the Securities and Exchange Commission in a tweet, calling the agency the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission.”

Last weekend Musk reached an agreement with the SEC to settle fraud charges, and that charge is currently pending approval from a federal judge.

MUSK MOCKS SEC

On Thursday, Musk tweeted, in apparent reference to the SEC, “Just want to [sic] that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!”

Musk’s tweet came just hours after Musk and the SEC were told by U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan, who must approve the deal, to explain why the settlement is “fair and reasonable” by October 11, Bloomberg reported.

Separately, Musk took aim at BlackRock (BLK) and other large fund managers for fueling short sellers.

Musk alleged in a tweet that BlackRock and other firms pocket “excessive profit from short lending while pretending to charge low rates for ‘passive’ index tracking.”

SEC SETTLEMENT

This past weekend, the SEC announced that Musk agreed to settle the securities fraud charge brought against him last week.

The settlement requires that Musk will step down as Tesla’s chairman and will be ineligible to be re-elected chairman for three years.

Additionally, Tesla will appoint two new independent directors to its board and both the CEO and company will each pay $20M penalties to settle allegations that Musk misled investors in August by tweeting that he was considering taking Tesla private and had secured funding for the effort.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Musk’s misleading tweets caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by over 6% on August 7, and led to “significant market disruption.”

Additionally, the SEC is requiring that Musk get approval from the company’s lawyer before tweeting anymore company news, which reports had said could clamp down on Musk’s “headline-grabbing, unpredictable approach to promoting Tesla’s brand.”

Recode’s Teddy Schleifer reported via Twitter after the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission” tweet that the SEC agreement on Musk’s tweets “does not take effect for 90 days from the settlement date, per source. So he still has ~80 days to tweet whatever he wants.”

The SEC declined to comment on Musk’s tweet, Schleifer said.

Additionally, Fox Business Network’s Charlie Gasparino also tweeted, saying that the “@SEC_Enforcement continues to investigate @Tesla over possible misstatements on production/profitability targets-sources focus is on stated targets for Model 3/co profitability.

SEC sources say case is tougher case than @elonmusk ‘funding secured’ tweet.”

PRICE ACTION

In Friday morning trading, shares of Tesla are down 4.2% to $270.17.


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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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