FOMC leaves rates unchanged near zero

Fed members project Federal funds rate near zero until end 2023 

There were some important shifts in the statement versus July’s, however, that further support the ZIRP posture.

Indeed, the Fed will “aim” for an inflation rate “moderately above 2% for some time so that inflation averages 2% over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2%.

The Fed reiterated from June that it will in coming months increase its holdings of Treasuries and MBS “to sustain smooth market functioning and help foster accommodative financial conditions.” There were two dissents. Kaplan approved of the current target range, but wanted to retain a “greater policy flexibility.” Kashkari wanted the statement to indicate the current target range on rates will be maintained until core inflation has reached 2% on a sustained basis. The Fed’s SEP reflected an improved outlook on 2020 growth, as expected.

FOMC Chief, Jerome Powell

The Federal Reserve said in today’s statement,

“The Committee seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2 percent over the longer run. With inflation running persistently below this longer-run goal, the Committee will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. The Committee expects to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these outcomes are achieved.

The Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and expects it will be appropriate to maintain this target range until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee’s assessments of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time. In addition, over coming months the Federal Reserve will increase its holdings of Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities at least at the current pace to sustain smooth market functioning and help foster accommodative financial conditions, thereby supporting the flow of credit to households and businesses.”

Feds balance sheet ballons

The Fed released the economic projections of Federal Reserve Board members and Federal Reserve Bank presidents under their individual assessments of projected appropriate monetary policy, which shows that the median projection for Federal funds rate is 0.1% for the end of 2020, the end of 2021, and the end of 2022. The group’s projections in June were also for a Federal funds rate of 0.1% at the end of 2020, the end of 2021 and the end of 2022. The Fed group has extended its projection out to 2023, and still sees a Federal funds rate of 0.1% at the end of 2023.

FOMC will continue to pump money into economy

FOMC Forecast revisions, released with the FOMC statement, show the huge boosts in the official 2020 GDP forecasts that analysts had assumed, followed by a more restrained 2021-23 bounce.

The jobless rate estimates were lowered by much more than expected across the forecast horizon, and inflation was boosted as expected.

The median Fed funds rates sit at 0.1% through 2023, though the range of estimates show expectations of hikes by some starting in 2022.

The 2020 GDP central tendency was boosted sharply to the -4.0% to -3.0% from the prior central tendency of -7.6% to -5.5%, versus our own -2.4% forecast.

Unemployment expected to stay high

Analysts saw a huge trimming the jobless rate central tendency to 7.0%-8.0% from 9.0%-10.0%, versus our own higher 8.2% figure. Analysts saw boosts in the PCE chain price central tendencies to 1.1%-1.3% from 0.6%-1.0% for the headline and to 1.3%-1.5% from 0.9%-1.1% for the core, versus our respective estimates of 1.2% and 1.6%.

The central tendency for the Fed funds rate rises to 0.1%-0.4% in 2023 after unanimous 0.1% figures in 2020 and 2021. The range rises to 0.1%-0.6% in 2022, and to 0.1%-1.4% in 2023. page for a table of assumptions for the Fed’s revised forecasts.

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Altice USA to acquire Cogeco for $7.8B

Altice USA to acquire Cogeco, to sell Cogeco Canadian assets to Rogers

Altice USA (ATUS) announced that it has presented an offer to Cogeco, or CGO, and Cogeco Communications, or CCA, (CGEAF) to acquire 100% of the issued and outstanding shares of Cogeco.

COGECO sold and broken into pieces

Cogeco Inc. is a Canadian telecommunications and media company. The company operates Cogeco Communications Inc. which is structured into three strategic business units; Cogeco Connexion, Atlantic Broadband, and Cogeco Media.

Altice USA buys Cogeco and sells parts to Roger Comm.

Altice USA has also entered into an arrangement to sell all the Canadian assets of Cogeco to the largest long-term shareholder of Cogeco, Rogers Communications (RCI), if its transaction with Cogeco is completed.

Upon completion of the overall transaction, Altice USA would own all the U.S. assets of Cogeco, namely Atlantic Broadband.

The aggregate all-cash consideration offered for all of the outstanding shares of CGO and CCA, including those owned by Rogers, is approximately $7.8B.

This includes approximately $3.6B to be paid by Altice USA for the U.S. assets: All the multiple voting shares of CGO are held in a company controlled by Mr. Louis Audet, the Executive Chairman of Cogeco, and members of the Audet family.

Given the position of the controlling shareholder, its support is necessary to complete a transaction, and as such the Altice USA offer includes a sizeable premium on those shares.

Altice USA ends up with Atlantic Broadband

Specifically, the offer includes $612M to the Audet family for their ownership interests, which include 100% of the multiple voting shares of CGO, or CGO MVS, and approximately 0.9% of total outstanding CGO subordinate voting shares, or CGO SVS.

The offer also includes C$106.53 per share for the remaining CGO SVS and C$134.22 per share for each CCA subordinate voting share, or CCA SVS.

These offer prices represent a significant premium of 30% to each stock’s 1-month volume weighted average price, or VWAP, on the Toronto Stock Exchange (the offer prices also represent a 36% premium for CGO SVS and 37% premium for CCA SVS to the August 31 closing prices).

This offer is in line with Altice USA’s previously stated objective to opportunistically grow through value-accretive acquisitions.

The acquisition of Atlantic Broadband, if consummated, would allow Altice USA to build on its success with prior cable acquisitions in the United States and expand its operations across 11 states on the east coast of the United States, adjacent to its existing Optimum and Suddenlink footprints.

Altice USA’s share repurchase and net leverage targets for 2020 remain unchanged from this transaction.”

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Mohawk shares tumble on investors lawsuit

Mississippi Retirement System sues the carpet maker

In January, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi filed a lawsuit claiming accounting fraud at Mohawk (MHK). The suit did not get a lot of attention at the time, but new filings submitted in late June add significant details about the allegations.

According to analysts, the filing includes testimony from a former Mohawk employee who claims the company has used fictitious sales to artificially boost revenue since 2017.

JPMorgan

JPMorgan analyst Michael Rehaut noted earlier that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi, as part of a consolidated class action complaint filing dated June 29, gave “significant incremental details” regarding claims that Mohawk engaged in channel stuffing at the end of the quarter and intentionally overproduced product.

MPERS sues Mohawk Industries

While “the veracity of these accusations will likely not be determined until after an extended legal process” of several months if not longer, Rehaut sees the lawsuit as likely to remain an overhang on the stock until this matter concludes.

He also sees the “fairly granular level of detail across the allegations” and quotes from interviews with several former employees creating a higher level of risk for the company from this lawsuit, added the analyst, who keeps a Neutral rating on Mohawk shares.

SunTrust

A shareholder lawsuit filed earlier this year has recently added new court filings that allege multiple issues inside Mohawk Industries, the most damaging allegation being its revenue recognition practices which included shipping goods on the last day of the quarter and then having those as returns in the following quarter, SunTrust analyst Keith Hughes tells investors in a research note.

The allegations being made during the company’s quiet period “have hamstrung any response,” says Hughes, who admits “it is hard to say as an outsider whether these have merit at this point.” However, given the size of Mohawk, it would need “widespread practices to boost revenues via the method” alleged, adds the analyst, who keeps a Buy rating on Mohawk with a $119 price target.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo analyst Truman Patterson notes that the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi has filed a Class Action Complaint against Mohawk and CEO Jeff Lorberbaum, claiming the company engaged in a “fraudulent scheme to fabricate revenues through fictitious ‘sales’ of products that were not delivered to customers and to conceal from investors the true reasons for the company’s ballooning inventory,” damaging shareholders between April 2017 and July 2019.

While Mohawk stakeholders have known about the lawsuit since early January, filings have only recently become publicly available, which the analyst believes drove shares down on Wednesday. Patterson expresses no opinion on the validity of the allegations against the company, but acknowledges that they would clearly be a negative if proven to be true, likely damaging shareholder confidence in management. The analyst has an Underweight rating and an $80 price target on the stock.

The stock is down 19% to $74.10. The question now shifts to whether the allegations will result in a full SEC investigation.

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AMC Theatres to open in July

AMC to reopen 450 U.S. theaters on July 15

Beginning July 15, AMC will resume operations of 450 U.S. theatres as part of a phased plan that is expected to bring the 600-plus U.S. theatre circuit to nearly full operation leading into the opening of MULAN on July 24 and TENET on July 31.

Adam Aron, CEO & President, AMC Theatres, said, “After a painful almost four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus, we are delighted to announce that movies are coming back to the big screen at AMC.

Our next 100 years of making smiles happen officially begin at approximately 450 theatres across the United States on July 15. I cannot emphasize enough how much care and attention to detail we have taken in developing AMC Safe & Clean, our absolute commitment to optimizing the health and safety of our theatres for our guests and associates.

Remember that there is a rumor that Amazon may buy AMC

Developed along with The Clorox Company, and current and former faculty of Harvard University’s School of Public Health, AMC Safe & Clean represents a comprehensive commitment with a broad array of tools being used in sanitizing our theatres.

Social distancing, reduced seat capacity, greatly intensified cleaning regimens, new employee health protocols, contactless ticketing and mobile food & beverage ordering are all part of AMC Safe & Clean.

So too is a new multimillion-dollar commitment to implementing high tech solutions in making AMC theatres safe, including deploying electrostatic sprayers, HEPA vacuums and upgraded MERV 13 ventilation filters.

All this is being put into motion because at AMC our single highest priority is the health and safety of our guests and associates. Both personally and professionally, I couldn’t be more excited for what this means for movie lovers.”

Disney’s Mulan to open July 24th

In the coming weeks, theatre teams will begin returning to their theatres for training on AMC’s new, enhanced cleaning and safety procedures.

AMC expects that almost all its 600-plus U.S. locations will be open and in operation for the launch of MULAN on July 24 and TENET on July 31.

The resumption of AMC operations may be adjusted if there are changes to the current theatrical release schedule, or as needed in response to local or regional conditions.

To facilitate proper social distancing within theatre auditoriums, AMC will approach seat capacity limitations in four distinct phases. But AMC will always follow all federal, state and local directives, including those that mandate a maximum capacity if lower than those envisioned in AMC’s four phases as now planned.

Tenet is scheduled for July 31 opening

The reopening schedule for specific theatres will be communicated in early July. During the weeks leading up to new major theatrical releases, AMC will be showing popular repertory titles made available from its studio partners. Those titles and ticket price information will be announced prior to reopening.

AMC closed at $5.63.

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DOJ issues guideline for online content

DOJ issues recommendations for Section 230 reform

The Department of Justice has released a set of reform proposals to update the outdated immunity for online platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

Responding to bipartisan concerns about the scope of 230 immunity, the department identified a set of concrete reform proposals to provide stronger incentives for online platforms to address illicit material on their services while continuing to foster innovation and free speech.

The department’s review of Section 230 over the last ten months arose in the context of its broader review of market-leading online platforms and their practices, which were announced in July 2019.

The department held a large public workshop and expert roundtable in February 2020, as well as dozens of listening sessions with industry, thought leaders, and policy makers, to gain a better understanding of the uses and problems surrounding Section 230.

The first category of recommendations is aimed at incentivizing platforms to address the growing amount of illicit content online, while preserving the core of Section 230’s immunity for defamation claims.

These reforms include a carve-out for bad actors who purposefully facilitate or solicit content that violates federal criminal law or are willfully blind to criminal content on their own services.

Additionally, the department recommends a case-specific carve out where a platform has actual knowledge that content violated federal criminal law and does not act on it within a reasonable time, or where a platform was provided with a court judgment that the content is unlawful, and does not take appropriate action.

A second category of proposed reforms is intended to clarify the text and revive the original purpose of the statute in order to promote free and open discourse online and encourage greater transparency between platforms and users.

One of these recommended reforms is to provide a statutory definition of “good faith” to clarify its original purpose.

The new statutory definition would limit immunity for content moderation decisions to those done in accordance with plain and particular terms of service and consistent with public representations. These measures would encourage platforms to be more transparent and accountable to their users.

The third category of recommendations would increase the ability of the government to protect citizens from unlawful conduct, by making it clear that Section 230 does not apply to civil enforcement actions brought by the federal government.

A fourth category of reform is to make clear that federal antitrust claims are not, and were never intended to be, covered by Section 230 immunity.

Over time, the avenues for engaging in both online commerce and speech have concentrated in the hands of a few key players.

It makes little sense to enable large online platforms (particularly dominant ones) to invoke Section 230 immunity in antitrust cases, where liability is based on harm to competition, not on third-party speech.

The action follows President Trump’s executive order seeking to weaken broad immunity enjoyed by Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and Google (GOOGL).

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Boeing fires 6,770 U.S. workers

Boeing starts involuntary layoffs with 6,770 U.S. workers losing jobs

Boeing (BA) President and CEO Dave Calhoun issued a letter to employees today providing an update on workforce actions, which stated in part, “Following the reduction-in-force announcement we made last month, we have concluded our voluntary layoff program.

And now we have come to the unfortunate moment of having to start involuntary layoffs. We’re notifying the first 6,770 of our U.S. team members this week that they will be affected.

Boeing beings involuntary layoffs

We will provide all the support we can to those of you impacted by the ILOs – including severance pay, COBRA health care coverage for U.S. employees and career transition services.

Covid19 related layoffs are adding up

Our international locations also are working through workforce reductions that will be communicated locally on their own timelines in accordance with local laws and benefit terms.

Boeing plans to cut 10% of it’s workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on the airline industry means a deep cut in the number of commercial jets and services our customers will need over the next few years, which in turn means fewer jobs on our lines and in our offices.

We have done our very best to project the needs of our commercial airline customers over the next several years as they begin their path to recovery. I wish there were some other way.”

Green Shoots

In another announcement, Dave Calhoun stated “We are seeing some green shoots. Some of our customers are reporting that reservations are outpacing cancellations on their flights for the first time since the pandemic started. Some countries and U.S. states are starting cautiously to open their economies again.

And some parts of our business, most notably on the defense side, will continue hiring to meet customer commitments and fill critical skill positions.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun

The Defense, Space & Security and defense services teams have achieved a number of milestones recently, including the successful return to orbit of the reusable and autonomous X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

We’re moving forward with our plan to restart 737 MAX production in Renton, Washington, as our return-to-service efforts continue.

And our Global Services team is changing its organization to ensure it is lean and focused on the post-COVID needs of its customers. But these signs of eventual recovery do not mean the global health and economic crisis is over. Our industry will come back, but it will take some years to return to what it was just two months ago.”

Company executives said last month that Boeing planned to cut about 10% of its global workforce this year as it reduces jetliner production, and union officials say the initial wave of layoffs was focused on Boeing’s Seattle-area commercial airplanes operation.

BA last traded at $146.47, up 1.2%.

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Chesapeake Energy may file for bankruptcy

Chesapeake Energy slides as company considers bankruptcy, strategic alternatives

Shares of Chesapeake Energy (CHK) are tumbling after the company warned that it might not be able to stay in business amid low commodity prices caused by a global price war and depressed demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chesapeake is near bankruptcy

EVALUATING STRATEGIC ALTERNATIVES:

On Monday, Chesapeake Energy announced that it filed its Form 10-Q for the three-month period ended March 31, 2020 and, in light of the unprecedented market environment, has withdrawn the financial outlook it previously provided on February 26, 2020.

The company also reinstated a “going concern” warning. “Fluctuations in oil and natural gas prices have a material impact on our financial position, results of operations, cash flows and quantities of oil, natural gas and NGL reserves that may be economically produced.

Historically, oil and natural gas prices have been volatile; however, the volatility in the prices for these commodities has substantially increased as a result of COVID-19 and the OPEC+ decisions […]

Historical oil prices represented in 2020 dollar, Stockwinners

If the current depressed prices persist, combined with the scheduled reductions in the leverage ratio covenant and an expected significant reduction in our borrowing base in our scheduled determination, then our liquidity and our ability to comply with our financial covenants during the next 12 months will be adversely affected,” Chesapeake said in the filing.

Boom to bust for CHK

“Based on our current forecast, we do not expect to be in compliance with our financial covenants beginning in the fourth quarter of 2020. Failure to comply with these covenants, if not waived, would result in an event of default under our revolving credit facility, the potential acceleration of outstanding debt thereunder and the potential foreclosure on the collateral securing such debt, and could cause a cross-default under our other outstanding indebtedness.

As a result of the impacts to the company’s financial position resulting from declining industry conditions and in consideration of the substantial amount of long-term debt outstanding, the company has engaged advisors to assist with the evaluation of strategic alternatives, which may include, but not be limited to, seeking a restructuring, amendment or refinancing of existing debt through a private restructuring or reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

However, there can be no assurances that the company will be able to successfully restructure its indebtedness, improve its financial position or complete any strategic transactions. As a result of these uncertainties and the likelihood of a restructuring or reorganization, management has concluded that there is substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

REVERSE STOCK SPLITs NEVER WORK:

Chesapeake stock has lost about 50% of it’s value since a 1-for-200 reverse stock split took effect after the close of trading on April 14, 2020.

The company had implemented the reverse split to raise its share price enough to regain compliance with listing standards, but it was viewed as validation of investor concerns as the company struggled with falling commodities prices, high debt levels and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the author added.

The company lost its way after Aubrey McClendon, a founder and former chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, died in a fiery car crash in 2016, a day after he was charged with conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases. Many believe he committed suicide.

Aubrey McClendon

McClendon — a key player in the U.S. shale boom — co-founded Chesapeake in 1989 and stepped down from the company in 2013. Chesapeake used to be the second-largest natural gas producer in the United States.

PRICE ACTION: In afternoon trading on Tuesday, shares of Chesapeake have dropped almost 22% to $10.13.

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Amazon may buy AMC Movie Theatres

As AMC considers bankruptcy, Amazon may snap up the company

Amazon.com (AMZN) has held talks to acquire the troubled movie chain AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC), but it is unclear if the discussions are still active, Jamie Nimmo of Daily Mail reports, citing sources.

The companies are thought to have held talks about a potential takeover of AMC by Amazon, the sources said.

Amazon may buy AMC

Buying a cinema chain would enable Amazon to control the screening of films, giving it greater dominance of the industry. Amazon’s interest in cinemas is not new. 

In 2018, Amazon looked at buying American arthouse cinema chain Landmark Theatres, but lost out to the eventual buyer, Cohen Media Group. Netflix was also reportedly in the running to buy Landmark.

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Amazon.com is in talks to buy AMC, Stockwinners

However, a takeover of AMC would be on a different scale as Landmark only had about 250 screens in the US, while AMC has about 1,000 around the world.

Amazon certainly has the means to buy AMC, whose stock market value has collapsed in recent years to just $420million.

In a sign of bad times in the movie business, earlier this month AMC Theatres (AMC) sent a letter to Universal Studios (CMCSA) chairman Donna Langley, saying that, going forward, AMC will not license any Universal films in any of its 1,000 globally effective immediately.

Amazon bought supermarket chain Whole Foods Market in 2017 in a sign that the company was willing to spend money buying non-web-based companies. 

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Amazon bought Wholefoods in 2017

AMC was bought by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda for $2.6 billion in 2012, but it bought back $600 million worth of shares in 2018 after Beijing cracked down on overseas investments by Chinese companies.

Under Wanda, AMC launched a major expansion plan, and in 2016 bought Odeon in the UK for £920 million from British financier Guy Hands’ private equity firm, Terra Firma, and US group Carmike Cinemas for $1.1 billion.

The deals turned AMC into the world’s largest cinema company, with 1,000 outlets and 10,000 screens around the world.

However, the expansion plan backfired and left AMC saddled with debts that are now close to $ 5billion. Last month, AMC raised $500 million from bond investors in an effort to stay afloat during the crisis. 

However, investors still questioned whether AMC could avoid bankruptcy, given its parlous financial state.

A group of AMC’s lenders reportedly hired lawyers to advise on restructuring options last month, underlining AMC’s financial strife. 

In Monday’s pre-market trading, AMC shares are up 70% to $7.00. AMZN closed at $2379.61.

Read our blog about AMC.

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Unisys Federal sold for $1.2 billion

SAIC to acquire Unisys Federal for $1.2B in cash

Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Unisys Federal (UIS), in an all-cash transaction valued at $1.2B, in a highly strategic and value creating transaction, the company said.

This represents a transaction multiple of approximately 10.5x CY2020 adjusted EBITDA, adjusted for the net present value of tax assets.

SAIC buys Uinsys Federal, Stockwinners

Unisys Federal, an operating unit of Unisys (UIS), is a provider of infrastructure modernization, cloud migration, managed services, and enterprise IT-as-a-service through scalable and repeatable solutions to U.S. federal civilian agencies and the Department of Defense.

SAIC expects to fund the $1.2B cash transaction through a combination of cash on hand and incremental debt.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of SAIC’s first quarter of fiscal year 2021, ending May 1, 2020, following customary closing conditions, including HSR regulatory clearance.

Unisys Federal sold to SAIC, Stockwinners

The transaction has been unanimously approved by SAIC’s Board of Directors. The businesses will continue to operate independently until the transaction closes.

“With the addition of Unisys Federal, SAIC will be a leading provider of digital transformation services and solutions to the federal government.

This exciting opportunity advances our strategy by building on our modernization capabilities, increasing customer access, accelerating growth and enhancing shareholder value,” said SAIC CEO Nazzic Keene.

“The financial benefits of acquiring Unisys Federal are compelling, including accretion of adjusted EBITDA margins, non-GAAP earnings per share, and cash generation.”

The transaction multiple of approximately 13x LTM 9/30/19 Adjusted EBITDA represents a significant premium to Unisys’ trading multiple.

Net proceeds are largely expected to be used to pay down debt and reduce pension obligations, thereby significantly improving Unisys’ balance sheet, its U.S. pension funded status and overall financial flexibility.

The transaction was unanimously approved by the Unisys board and is expected to close in the first half of 2020, subject to customary closing conditions. Unisys’ U.S. Federal business represents more than 1,900 associates, with approximately $689 million in revenue for the LTM period ended September 30, 2019. 

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Anixter sold for $4.5 billion

Wesco to acquire Anixter in cash, stock deal valued at $4.5B

WESCO (WCC) and Anixter (AXE) announced that their boards of directors have unanimously approved a definitive merger agreement under which WESCO will acquire Anixter in a transaction valued at approximately $4.5 billion.

Anixter’s prior agreement to be acquired by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, has been terminated, following CD&R’s waiver of its matching rights under the agreement.

Under the terms of the agreement, each share of Anixter common stock will be converted into the right to receive $70.00 in cash, 0.2397 shares of WESCO common stock and preferred stock consideration valued at $15.89, based on the value of its liquidation preference.

Based on the closing price of WESCO’s common stock on January 10 and the liquidation preference of the WESCO preferred stock consideration, the total consideration represents approximately $100 per Anixter share, giving effect to the downside protection described below.

Based on transaction structure and the number of shares of WESCO and Anixter common stock currently outstanding, it is anticipated that WESCO stockholders will own 84%, and Anixter stockholders 16%, of the combined company.

The combined company will have pro forma 2019 revenues of approximately $17 billion.

With an extensive global reach and increased international exposure, approximately 12% of revenues will be generated outside of North America.

Anixter sold to Wesco, Stockwinners

The increased scale will enable the combined company to accelerate digitization strategies and provide a platform for growth in attractive emerging markets.

WESCO expects to realize annualized run-rate cost synergies of over $200 million by the end of year three through efficiencies in corporate and regional overhead, including duplicative public company costs, branch and distribution center optimization, and productivity in procurement, field operations, and supply chain. In addition, WESCO expects incremental sales growth opportunities to result by cross-selling the companies’ complementary product and services offerings to an expanded customer base and capitalizing on the enhanced capabilities across both networks.

The combination is expected to be accretive to WESCO’s earnings in the first full year of ownership and, with the realization of synergies, substantially accretive thereafter.

WESCO also expects the transaction to generate significant margin expansion and EPS growth.

The combined company will have strong free cash flow generation, supporting continued investments in the business and enabling a return of capital to stockholders in the future.

Wesco to buy Anixter, Stockwinners

At closing, WESCO estimates that its pro forma leverage on a net debt to EBITDA basis will be approximately 4.5x.

WESCO intends to utilize the strength of the combined company’s cash flows, including significant synergies, to reduce its leverage quickly and ultimately intends to be within its long-term target leverage range of 2.0x to 3.5x within 24 months post-close.

Under the terms of the agreement, each share of Anixter common stock will be converted into the right to receive $70.00 in cash, 0.2397 shares of WESCO common stock, and preferred stock consideration consisting of 0.6356 depositary shares, each whole share representing a fractional interest in a newly created series of WESCO perpetual preferred stock.

The common stock consideration is subject to downside protection, such that if the average market value of WESCO common stock prior to closing is between $47.10 per share and $58.88 per share, then the cash consideration paid at closing will be increased commensurately by up to $2.82 per share, such that the reduction in value of the WESCO common stock is offset by an increase in the cash consideration within that range. $2.82 per share will also be paid if the value of WESCO stock is below $47.10.

The preferred stock consideration consists of 0.6356 depositary shares, with each whole depositary share representing a 1/1,000th interest in a share of WESCO Series A cumulative perpetual preferred stock, with a liquidation preference of $25,000 per preferred share and a fixed dividend rate calculated based on a spread of 325 basis points over the prevailing unsecured notes to be issued to effect the transaction.

The fixed dividend rate will be subject to reset and the Series A preferred stock will have a five year non-call feature.

WESCO has agreed to list the depositary shares representing the newly created series of preferred stock on the NYSE, and the security is expected to receive equity treatment from the rating agencies.

The 0.6356 depositary share to be issued in the merger per share of Anixter common stock is valued at $15.89 based on the liquidation preference of the underlying interest in the Series A preferred stock represented thereby.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, WESCO may elect to substitute additional cash consideration to reduce the amount of the preferred stock consideration on a dollar-for-dollar basis based on the value of the liquidation preference of the preferred stock consideration. WESCO and Anixter currently anticipate completing the transaction during the second or third quarter of 2020.

WESCO International, Inc. distributes electrical, industrial, and communications maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) and original equipment manufacturers products and construction materials in North America and internationally. 

Anixter International Inc. distributes enterprise cabling and security solutions, electrical and electronic wire and cable solutions, and utility power solutions worldwide. 

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Axsome Therapeutics reports positive migraine data

Axsome Therapeutics announces AXS-07 met primary, secondary endpoints

Axsome Therapeutics (AXSM) announced that AXS-07, Axsome’s novel, oral, multi-mechanistic investigational medicine for the acute treatment of migraine, met the two regulatory co-primary endpoints and significantly improved migraine pain and most bothersome symptoms as compared to placebo in the MOMENTUM Phase 3 trial.

Axsome reports positive migraine data, Stockwinners

AXS-07 also met the key secondary endpoint, demonstrating statistically significant superiority to the active comparator rizatriptan on sustained freedom from migraine pain.

MOMENTUM was a randomized, double-blind, placebo- and active-controlled trial which enrolled only patients with a history of inadequate response to prior acute migraine treatments, assessed using the Migraine Treatment Optimization Questionnaire, or mTOQ-4.

A total of 1,594 patients were randomized in a 2:2:2:1 ratio to AXS-07, rizatriptan, MoSEIC, meloxicam, or placebo, to treat a single migraine attack of moderate or severe intensity.

In addition to a history of inadequate response, enrolled patients exhibited a high rate of characteristics that are strongly associated with poor treatment outcomes including cutaneous allodynia, severe migraine pain intensity, obesity and morning migraine.

The study was conducted pursuant to a FDA special protocol assessment, or SPA.

AXS-07 met the two regulatory co-primary endpoints by demonstrating, with high statistical significance, a greater percentage of patients as compared to placebo achieving pain freedom and absence of most bothersome symptom two hours after dosing.

Superiority of AXS-07 to rizatriptan and MoSEIC meloxicam was established as specified in the SPA, by demonstration of a greater percentage of AXS-07 patients achieving sustained pain freedom from two to 24 hours after dosing, compared to rizatriptan and MoSEIC meloxicam, as well as to placebo.

The positive results on both co-primary endpoints along with the demonstration of component contribution support the filing of an NDA for AXS-07 in the acute treatment of migraine.

AXS-07 provided greater and more sustained migraine pain relief compared to placebo and rizatriptan, which translated to a significant reduction in rescue medication use for AXS-07 compared to placebo and rizatriptan.

The percentage of patients experiencing sustained pain relief from two to 24 hours after dosing was 53.3% for AXS-07, compared to 33.5% for placebo and 43.9% for rizatriptan.

Sustained pain relief from two to 48 hours was also experienced by a statistically significantly greater proportion of AXS-07 patients, compared to placebo and rizatriptan patients.

Rescue medication was used by 23.0% of AXS-07 patients, compared to 43.5% of placebo and 34.7% of rizatriptan patients. AXS-07 provided rapid relief of migraine pain with the percentage of patients achieving pain relief with AXS-07 being numerically greater than with rizatriptan at every time point measured starting at 15 minutes, and statistically significantly greater than with rizatriptan by 60 minutes.

The proportions of patients experiencing pain relief 1.5 hours after dosing were 60.5% for AXS-07 compared to 52.5% for rizatriptan and 48.3% for placebo.

AXS-07 was statistically significantly superior to rizatriptan on several other secondary endpoints including Patient Global Impression of Change and return to normal functioning at 24 hours.

AXS-07 was safe and well tolerated in the trial.

The most commonly reported adverse events with AXS-07 were nausea, dizziness and somnolence, none of which occurred at a rate greater than placebo or greater than 3%.

There was one serious adverse event in the AXS-07 arm which was deemed by the investigator not to be related to study drug.

The MOMENTUM study was conducted pursuant to an SPA with the FDA.

The SPA provides agreement that the overall MOMENTUM trial design and planned analysis adequately address objectives that, if met, will support the regulatory submission for approval of AXS-07 for the indication of acute treatment of migraine in adults with or without aura.

Based on FDA feedback, Axsome believes that MOMENTUM will be the only efficacy trial required to support an NDA filing for AXS-07 for the acute treatment of migraine.

Axsome plans to file the NDA in the second half of 2020. AXS-07 is a novel, oral, rapidly absorbed, multi-mechanistic investigational medicine for the acute treatment of migraine, consisting of MoSEIC meloxicam and rizatriptan.

AXS-07 is thought to act by inhibiting CGRP release, reversing CGRP-mediated vasodilation, and inhibiting neuro-inflammation, pain signal transmission, and central sensitization.

Axsome’s MoSEIC technology significantly increases the speed of absorption of the meloxicam component after oral administration while maintaining a long plasma half-life.

AXS-07 is covered by 21 issued U.S. and international patents providing protection out to 2036, and Axsome maintains worldwide rights.

Detailed study results, including additional secondary endpoints, will be submitted for presentation at upcoming medical meetings and for publication.

AXS-07 is also being evaluated in the INTERCEPT Phase 3 trial which is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the early treatment of migraine with AXS-07.

In contrast to the ongoing MOMENTUM trial in which patients with a history of inadequate response treated migraine attacks once they have become of moderate or severe intensity, in the INTERCEPT trial, patients are to administer AXS-07 at the earliest sign of migraine pain.

AXSM closed at $101.98.

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Synthorx sold for $2.5 billion

Sanofi to acquire Synthorx for $68 per share in cash

Sanofi (SNY) and Synthorx (THOR) entered into a definitive agreement under which Sanofi will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Synthorx for $68 per share in cash, which represents an aggregate equity value of approximately $2.5B, on a fully diluted basis.

Synthorx sold for $2.5 billion, Stockwinners

The transaction was unanimously approved by both the Sanofi and Synthorx boards.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Sanofi will commence a cash tender offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Synthorx common stock for $68 per share in cash.

The $68 per share acquisition price represents a 172% premium to Synthorx’s closing price on December 6.

Following the successful completion of the tender offer, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sanofi will merge with Synthorx and the outstanding Synthorx shares not tendered in the tender offer will be converted into the right to receive the same $68 per share in cash paid in the tender offer.

The tender offer is expected to commence in December.

Sanofi plans to finance the transaction with cash on hand. Subject to the satisfaction or waiver of customary closing conditions, Sanofi expects to complete the acquisition in the first quarter of 2020.

“Synthorx’s Expanded Genetic Alphabet platform is expected to be a source for developing a differentiated therapeutic pipeline. Alone and in combination with other existing Sanofi platforms, including the Nanobody technology, it will enable the company to develop a wide range of novel biologics, including drug conjugates, protein fusions, and multi-specific biologics, with applications beyond oncology and extending to other therapeutic areas… The addition of THOR-707 and Synthorx’s other earlier-stage cytokine programs to Sanofi’s pipeline will enhance Sanofi’s position in oncology, and in immuno-oncology. We expect IL-2 to become a foundation of future IO-IO combinations as well as offering multiple combination opportunities with Sanofi’s clinical and pre-clinical oncology assets, including with PD-1, CD-38, and molecules that modulate effector T-cells and natural killer cells.”

THOR closed at $25.04, it last traded at $67.43. SNY closed at $46.03.

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Tech Data sold for $5.4 billion

Tech Data to be acquired by Apollo Global for $130 per share in cash

Tech Data (TECD) announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management (APO).

Tech Data is taken private at $130 per share, Stockwinners

Through the agreement, the affiliate of the Apollo Funds will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Tech Data common stock for $130 per share in a transaction with an enterprise value of approximately $5.4B.

Apollo buys Tech Data for $5.4B, Stockwinners

The purchase price represents a 24.5% premium to the unaffected 30-day volume weighted average closing share price of Tech Data’s common stock ended October 15, the last trading day prior to published market speculation regarding a potential transaction involving the company.

The Tech Data Board of Directors has unanimously approved the transaction and recommends that Tech Data shareholders vote in favor of the transaction.

The transaction is not subject to a financing condition and is expected to close in the first half of calendar year 2020, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions including expiration or termination of the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, foreign regulatory approvals and approval by the holders of a majority of the outstanding Tech Data shares.

Tech Data expects to hold a Special Meeting of Shareholders to consider and vote on the transaction agreement as soon as feasible after the mailing of the proxy statement to shareholders.

Consistent with the Board’s commitment to maximizing shareholder value, the terms of the agreement provide that Tech Data will be permitted to actively solicit alternative acquisition proposals from third parties during a “go-shop” period from the date of the agreement until December 9.

There is no guarantee that this process will result in a superior proposal. Following the close of the transaction, Rich Hume will continue to lead Tech Data as CEO, and the company will continue to be headquartered in Clearwater, Florida.

Tech Data will become a privately held company, and Tech Data’s common shares will no longer be publicly listed.

Tech Data Corporation operates as an IT distribution and solutions company. The company offers endpoint portfolio solutions, including personal computer systems, mobile phones and accessories, printers, peripherals, supplies, endpoint technology software, and consumer electronics. It also provides advanced portfolio solutions, such as data center technologies comprising storage, networking, servers, advanced technology software, and converged and hyper-converged infrastructure, as well as specialized solutions. 

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Amag Pharma announces publication of PROLONG trial in journal

AMAG Pharmaceuticals (AMAG) announced that the results of the PROLONG trial were published online in the American Journal of Perinatology.

Amag Pharma shares rise ahead of FDA meeting, Stockwinners

AMAG Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (AMAG) announced that the results of PROLONG (Progestin’s Role in Optimizing Neonatal Gestation) were published online in the American Journal of Perinatology. PROLONG was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluating 17-OHPC (17-α-hydroxyprogesterone caproate or Makena®) in patients with a history of a prior spontaneous singleton preterm delivery. The PROLONG trial was conducted as part of an approval commitment under the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) “Subpart H” accelerated approval process. 

As previously announced, the PROLONG trial did not meet the two pre-specified co-primary endpoints of a reduction of preterm birth and a reduction in the neonatal morbidity and mortality index, in contrast to the original Meis trial results published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

PROLONG reaffirmed that the 17-OHPC safety profile is comparable to placebo, the company said.

Amag Pharma (AMAG) shares rise ahead of FDA meeting, Stockwinners

Makena is a progestin indicated to reduce the risk of preterm birth in women pregnant with a single baby who have a history of singleton spontaneous preterm birth.

Makena was approved by the FDA in February 2011 and was granted orphan drug exclusivity through February 3, 2018. In February of 2018, AMAG introduced the prefilled Makena auto-injector containing a short, thin, non-visible needle for subcutaneous use, offering patients and providers a new administration option.

The FDA will hold a meeting of the Bone, Reproductive and Urologic Drugs Advisory Committee on October 29 to “better understand and interpret the PROLONG trial data,” AMAG added.

Analysts’ Comments

Piper Jaffray analyst Christoper Raymond said the briefing documents posted this morning ahead of Tuesday’s advisory committee meeting to discuss Makena’s failed confirmatory PROLONG trial “leave the door open” for the continued marketing of the drug.

Draft questions propose pursuing withdrawal of Makena’s approval, leaving Makena on the market but requiring a new confirmatory trial, or leaving it on the market without a new confirmatory trial and he thinks it appears that the FDA “is leaning toward the latter two options.”

However, he also thinks that the detailed PROLONG data that have now been provided for the first time “make a strong argument for the drug’s withdrawal,” Raymond tells investors.

The analyst sees the full PROLONG data having “some chilling effect” on overall use whether the FDA pulls the drug or not and he keeps a Neutral rating on Amag Pharmaceuticals shares.

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Assembly Biosciences reports chronic hepatitis data, shares jump

Assembly Biosciences announces presentation of ABI-H0731, ABI-H2158 data

Assembly Biosciences (ASMB) announced that data on its lead HBV core inhibitor candidates, ABI-H0731 and ABI-H2158 for the treatment of chronic HBV will be featured in a late-breaking poster session during the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases Annual Meeting.

Shares jump on hepatitis data, Stockwinners

A hepatitis B infection can result in either an acute infection or a chronic infection. When a person is first infected with the hepatitis B virus, it is called an “acute infection” (or a new infection). Most healthy adults that are infected do not have any symptoms and are able to get rid of the virus without any problems. Some adults are unable to get rid of the virus after six months and they are diagnosed as having a “chronic infection.”

Title: Continued Therapy with ABI-H0731+Nrtl Results in Sequential Reduction/Loss of HBV DNA, HBV RNA, HBeAg, HBcrAg and HBsAg in HBeAg-Positive Patients.

Abstract Summary: Final results from Phase 2a are reported for HBeAg+ patients with chronic HBV infection treated with 731+Nrtl for 24 weeks.

In Study 202, greater mean log10 declines in HBV DNA and RNA were achieved with 731+Nrtl versus entecavir alone.

In Study 201, the proportion of patients on 731+Nrtl versus Nrtl alone achieving DNA target not detected was 69% vs 0%, and the proportion of patients achieving RNA less than35 U/mL whose RNA was greater than or equal to35 U/mL at baseline was 52% vs 0% respectively.

In Study 211, there are 64 HBeAg+ patients currently on extended treatment beyond 24 weeks. Among the 27 HBeAg+ patients receiving 731+Nrtl in Study 201, 41% have now achieved DNA TND along with RNA less than35 U/mL and HBeAg less than1 IU/mL.

At their last time point, Study 202 patients now in Study 211 have demonstrated mean DNA and RNA declines of 6.1 and 3.0 logs, respectively, with observed mean log changes of greater than or equal to 0.6 for HBeAg, greater than 0.8 log for HBcrAg and greater than or equal to 0.4 log for HBsAg.

731 continues to exhibit a favorable safety and tolerability profile in patients treated for up to 1 year, with only mild/moderate adverse events and lab abnormalities, and only a single discontinuation due to a Grade 1 rash.

The combination of 731+NrtI results in faster and deeper declines in HBV DNA and RNA than NrtI alone, as well as subsequent declines in the surrogate markers of cccDNA predictive of cccDNA pool depletion, and HBsAg.

A Visual Guide to Hepatitis, Stockwinners

The emergent data supports the continued development of 731.

Abstract data are as of the time of submission; the poster is expected to include updated safety and efficacy results. Title: The Second-Generation Hepatitis B Virus Core Inhibitor ABI-H2158 is Associated with Potent Antiviral Activity in a 14-Day Monotherapy Study in HBeAg-positive Patients with Chronic Hepatitis B.

Abstract Summary: The Phase 1b study is enrolling sequential cohorts of 9 patients and each cohort will be randomized to receive 2158 or placebo QD for 14 days in a blinded manner.

Dosing in the 1st cohort has been completed. In patients receiving 2158, mean declines from Baseline to Day 15 in HBV DNA and RNA levels were 2.3 log10 and 2.1 log10 IU/mL respectively.

No serious AEs, dose limiting toxicities or premature discontinuations were reported.

Three patients reported a total of 5 mild, drug-related AEs that recovered without intervention; dizziness, fatigue, rash, headache and upper abdominal pain.

Treatment emergent laboratory abnormalities were infrequent, mild and transient, with no ALT elevations Grade greater than or equal to 1 in severity.

Day 14 plasma 2158 Cmax and AUC0-24hr were 3,390 ng/mL and 46,100 hr*ng/mL, respectively.

Results from the initial 100 mg low dose of ABI-H2158 cohort demonstrated potent antiviral activity, a favourable safety profile when administered for 14 days, and support once daily dosing in CHB patients.

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