Month: May 2017

30 May 2017

Q1 2017 Investment Grade Commentary

After a very volatile end to the year in 2016, the first quarter of 2017 saw a much more benign movement in interest rates and corporate bond yields as most fixed income markets stabilized after a difficult fourth quarter. During the first quarter of 2017, Treasury yields traded within a fairly narrow, 24 bps range. The movements in Treasury yields were generally lower as the 10 Year Treasury yield began the quarter at 2.45% and ended it at 2.39%. Accompanying the lower yields in Treasuries, corporate credit spreads continued their persistent grind tighter that began in mid‐ February of 2016 and ended the quarter near the tightest levels of the past 13 months. Specifically, the A Rated Corporate credit spread tightened from 1.01% to 0.97% (down 4 basis points (bps)) and the BBB Rated Corporate credit spread tightened from 1.60% to 1.51% (down 9bps)i. When looking at the movement of interest rates and credit spreads together, the decline in Treasury yields and slightly tighter corporate credit spreads helped Investment Grade corporate bond yields end the quarter slightly lower than where they started. While both US Treasuries and Investment Grade corporate bonds both ended the quarter with lower yields, thus both achieving positive performance, Investment Grade corporate bonds outperformed Treasuries due to the tightening of credit spreads and higher coupon income collected. The Barclays US Investment Grade Corporate Index returned +1.22% for the quarter, outperforming the Barclays US Treasury 5‐10 year index return of +0.89%ii. The CAM Investment Grade Corporate Bond composite provided a gross total return of +1.37% which outperformed both of the above mentioned indices.

The beginning of the year saw robust demand for US Investment Grade corporate bonds which allowed for a record setting new issuance in the quarter. During the quarter there was $413B of new issuance across 565 issues which represented a 14% increase from Q1 2016iii. A large portion of the new issuance were bonds with 5 and 10 year maturities ‐ an area of interest for CAM. As an institutional investor who participates in the primary (new issuance) marketplace, we were able to be fairly active in Q1, which has benefits to our clients. According to CreditSights, the average yield pickup in the new issue market for 10yr Investment Grade Corporate Bonds in the first quarter was 10bps, or 0.10% in additional yield, versus comparable bonds of the same issuer in the secondary marketiv. We will continue to participate in the primary market when there are attractive opportunities in credits we like.

The first quarter was also marked by policy action by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) at their March meeting. While CAM has always considered itself interest rate agnostic in its investment process, we think it makes sense to clarify what the FOMC has been doing and its effects on the yield curve as it relates to our portfolios. The FOMC sets interest rate policy for very short‐term interest rates by influencing the Federal Funds rate, the overnight lending rate between banks. One way this is done is through adjusting the reserve requirements of member banks with The Federal Reserve. The FOMC sets a target rate that is, effectively, what most think of when one hears that the Fed “raised rates” or “lowered rates”. This in no way directly affects interest rates for other, longer dated maturity bonds. Those interest rates are determined by investors’ inflation forecasts, which can be impacted by FOMC activities. So, interest rate policy indirectly affects yields on longer dated fixed income securities. It may be surprising what this impact has been since the FOMC has been hiking the target Federal Funds rate in this cycle. As an investor in the intermediate portion of the yield curve (5 – 10 year maturities), we will examine the 10 year part of the Treasury curve to analyze those interest rate movements around the recent FOMC policy actions.

The FOMC began their recent increase in monetary policy on December 16, 2015 by hiking the Federal Funds target rate by 25 bps or 0.25%v. This was their first “rate hike” in over a decade. The day they made this policy announcement the yield on the 10yr US Treasury was 2.30% (see graph)vi. The immediate effect on this yield was opposite of what most market commentators and investors thought as it began a sharp decline all the way to a low of 1.37% on July 5, 2016.

The next FOMC policy action came a year later on 12/14/16 when they announced a hike in the target rate by another 25bpsvii. At the time of this announcement the yield on the 10yr US Treasury was back up to 2.54%. The reaction to this policy move was again a decline in yield to a low on 2/24/17 of 2.31%. The FOMC’s most recent move, their third “rate hike” of 25bps saw the 10yr US Treasury yield at 2.51% which has since declined to 2.18% (as of 4/18/17)viii. In summary, since the FOMC began moving up their target range on the Federal Funds rate in December 2015 by a total of 75bps or 0.75%, the yield on the 10yr US Treasury has moved down from 2.30% to 2.18% with more downside volatility in between. We are not suggesting that this pattern will continue or that it is indicative of any future direction of interest rates. In fact if the FOMC were to begin unwinding their $4.5trillion balance sheet, as has been recently discussed by Janet Yellenix, they may directly affect this part of the yield curve by selling treasury and mortgage securities in the open market. Prior unconventional FOMC actions of quantitative easing (QE) directly affected longer term interest rates by lowering them through open market purchases of treasuries and mortgages. If any future unconventional FOMC policies were to unfold we will address those issues in future quarterly commentary or white papers available at The point is that while investors are sometimes focused on the short term noise of the FOMC policy actions, the long term outcome can be different from what one expects. In addition to this decline in yields on 10yr US Treasuries, credit spreads have tightened considerably during this time, giving a boost to the performance of US Investment Grade Corporate Bonds. During this period of FOMC policy action of “rate hikes” the total return of US Investment Grade Corporate Bonds as measured by the Barclays IG Corporate Bond index has been in excess of +7.0%x. Clearly this type of return was not expected by many when the FOMC embarked on this “rate hike” cycle, and should not be expected to continue in the future, but has rewarded those investors who stayed the course and were not led to exit corporate bonds because the FOMC was “raising rates”.

We remind our clients that corporate bond investors are compensated for two risks; interest rate risk and credit risk. The first, interest rate risk, is approximated by US Treasury yields as described above. The second, credit risk, is the remuneration for the business risk of the underlying company; this remuneration is expressed as the premium received in excess of the US Treasury yield, more commonly known as the credit spread. In our experience, investors spend a large portion of their time focusing on the risk they can’t control ‐ interest rate risk, and very little time on the risk that can be controlled – credit risk. We as a manager believe that we can provide the most value in terms of assessing credit risk. In our view, the key to earning a positive return over the long‐term
is not dependent on the path of interest rates but a function of: (1) time (a horizon of at least 5 years), (2) an upward sloping yield curve ‐ to roll down the yield curve, and (3) avoiding credit events that result in permanent impairment of capital. Following this philosophy over time can help investors to ignore the short term noise of any FOMC policy actions and focus on what is truly important.

This information is intended solely to report on investment strategies identified by Cincinnati Asset Management. Opinions and estimates offered constitute our judgment and are subject to change without notice, as are statements of financial market trends, which are based on current market conditions. This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any financial instrument. Fixed income securities may be sensitive to prevailing interest rates. When rates rise the value generally declines. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Gross of advisory fee performance does not reflect the deduction of investment advisory fees. Our advisory fees are disclosed in Form ADV Part 2A. Accounts managed through brokerage firm programs usually will include additional fees. Returns are calculated monthly in U.S. dollars and include reinvestment of dividends and interest. The index is unmanaged and does not take into account fees, expenses, and transaction costs. It is shown for comparative purposes and is based on information generally available to the public from sources believed to be reliable. No representation is made to its accuracy or completeness.

i Barclay’s Credit Research: Daily Credit Call
ii Bloomberg Barclay’s Indices: Global Family of Indices March 2017
iii Dealogic & CreditSights, Strategy Analysis April 2017: US IG Issuance: Concessions Still Exist
iv Dealogic & CreditSights, Strategy Analysis April 2017: US IG Issuance: Concessions Still Exist
v FOMC statement dated 12/16/15
vi FRED database
vii FOMC statement dated 12/14/16
viii FOMC statement dated 3/15/17
ix Bloomberg News April 30, 2017: “Fed’s Cut in Bond Holdings May Be Messier Than Yellen Hopes” x Bloomberg Barclay’s Indices: Global Family of Indices March 2017

26 May 2017

CAM High Yield Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, flows week to date were -$0.2 billion and year to date flows stand at -$4.3 billion. New issuance for the week was $6.0 billion and year to date HY is at $116 billion.

(Bloomberg) Clariant to Buy Huntsman for $6.4 Billion as M&A Surges

  • Clariant AG agreed to buy Huntsman Corp. in an all-stock deal valuing the U.S. company at about $6.4 billion, extending a record run in transactions in the global chemicals industry.
  • The chances another offer for Clariant emerges are “high,” given it’s the No. 1 target in the sector, a Baader Helvea analyst said in a note, adding that the planned combination with Huntsman comes across as a defensive move.
  • An agreement between Huntsman and Clariant adds to an already historic level of deals in the industry as CEOs seek to bolster tepid sales growth. Global chemical companies have more than $300 billion in M&A planned, according to a report by AT Kearney published in March. That level is more than twice the previous all-time high set at the end of 2015, according to the management consulting firm.
  • “We never felt or saw ourselves as a takeover candidate,” Clariant CEO Hariolf Kottmann said on the call. “It would be very surprising to me if there were another company who could match or even top the value we are creating by merging these two companies together or that could tell a more convincing story to the market.”

(Modern Healthcare) Trump budget proposal would slash Medicaid

  • President Donald Trump’s budget proposal reflects the same $800 billion cut to Medicaid over a decade that was in the bill which last month passed the House. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that could lead to 10 million people losing healthcare insurance over 10 years.
  • According to the Associated Press, the White House will also implement a federal order that allows states to impose work requirements on people who receive Medicaid and food stamps.
  • By cutting Medicaid, Trump is rejecting the calls of some Senate Republicans who asked him not to stop expansion of Medicaid, which funneled billions into cash-strapped states. Even the most ardent opponents of the Affordable Care Act held out their hands when the federal government offered to subsidize the cost of expanding eligibility for Medicaid.
  • “I would think that the health care bill is our best policy statement on Medicaid going forward,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the program.

(Bloomberg) Shale Is Just a Scapegoat for Weaker Oil Prices

  • When the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries gathers in Vienna this week, members and non-OPEC oil producers are likely to extend the production cuts put in place in November as a way to shore up prices, which have been choppy this month. Whatever the final details look like, a mix of oil-bullish policy and jawboning are likely to be on the menu.
  • Oil prices have risen on trend since April 2016, but came under pressure in early May, and analysts once again pointed to U.S. shale oil production as the culprit. And while shale is a big deal, there wasn’t a major change in output that triggered the significant oil market selloff starting May 2. After all, the shale story has been playing out for some time, and oil rig counts are up around 125 percent since May 2016.
  • The focus on the supply side of the market to explain this recent selloff was misguided because this time, it was demand that engendered concerns: The April Chinese Manufacturing Caixin PMI, which was released late on May 1, fell to the slowest pace in seven months.
  • China is the critical marginal swing player for oil demand growth and consumption, and the weak Chinese manufacturing PMI — and its implications for oil demand growth — initiated the selloff in WTI crude oil prices that started with a close below a critical trendline that had been in place since April 2016. Although oil prices have risen since the early May selloff, they remain under pressure — and traders will be taking their cues from the action in Vienna this week.

(Bloomberg) MGM Said to Drop $1.3 Billion Bid for Sands Pennsylvania Casino

  • MGM Resorts International dropped its $1.3 billion bid to acquire a casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, according to a person familiar with the situation.
  • The parties appeared close to a deal just weeks ago. MGM approached casino owner Las Vegas Sands Corp. in March and was performing due diligence on the property, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private. Sands sent a letter to employees of the casino informing them of the possible sale and halted work on an expansion.
  • It wasn’t immediately clear what derailed the sale, but lawmakers in Pennsylvania are considering legislation that would allow slot machines in bars, an expansion that has eaten into the business of traditional casinos in other states such as Illinois.
  • The deal would have allowed Las Vegas-based MGM to accelerate its expansion in the eastern U.S. through the company’s publicly traded real estate investment trust, MGM Growth Properties, which made the initial approach. Last year, MGM bought out its 50 percent partner in the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and opened a resort in Maryland. Another casino is planned for Massachusetts next year.
  • Las Vegas-based Sands, the world’s largest casino company, would have parted with an asset that doesn’t fit its focus on large international meeting and convention destinations.
26 May 2017

CAM Investment Grade Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: Fund flows remain positive but final data for the week is not yet available as we go to print. Issuance was strong ahead of the holiday shortened week which saw $48.775bn in investment grade corporate primary issuance. Through the end of this week, YTD total corporate bond issuance was $621.145bn. As we near the close of the week, the BofAML US Corporate IG Index is at +118 vs +117, tying the tight YTD and the tightest level since Sept. 2014, was also seen May 15-16 (Source: Bloomberg).

(Bloomberg Intelligence, CAM notes from conference call) Broad-Based Demand Fuels Toll’s Volume Gains, Prices Slip on Mix

  • Toll Brothers’ 2017 homebuilding revenue may top the midpoint of revenue guidance calling for an 11% gain. Closings are likely to skew toward the high end of the range, signaling growth of more than 20%, while average selling prices fall about 6% (driven solely by mix). Volume growth is being fueled by broad-based demand, particularly in California, where Toll will open 18 communities in 2017 as part of its 7% community count growth target. In addition, Toll’s lower-priced products should support faster turnover.
  • Regions: Toll Brothers’ homebuilding operations are divided into five regions and City Living. As of fiscal 2016, California accounted for 28% of revenue, followed by the West (18%), Mid-Atlantic (17%), South (16%), North (16%) and City Living (5%).
    • 2017 Outlook per conference call & investor presentation:
      • 9500 – 7,450 home closings (Previously 6,700-7,500)
      • ASP of $775-825k (unchanged)
      • Revenue of $5.4-6.1bn (Previously $5.19-6.19bn)
      • Community count growth similar to 2016 (unchanged)
      • Gross margins of 24.8% – 25.3% (unchanged)
      • SG&A Margin of 10.6% of revenues (unchanged)
      • JV income between $160-200mm (unchanged)

(CNET) Sports-free digital TV for $10 a month? Viacom may be trying

  • Hunting for a streaming TV option that doesn’t make you pay for ESPN? Viacom may be aiming to deliver.
  • The TV company, which owns networks like Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, is talking with rival programmers AMC and Discovery about a possible digital-TV bundle that could cost as little as $10 a month, according to a report late Monday in the New York Post.
  • Scripps, which operates channels like HGTV, is also a possible partner.
  • It would add a fresh option in the ballooning marketplace for live, online TV options. In the past year, YouTube, Hulu and DirecTV have rolled out livestreaming television subscriptions that go up against traditional cable as well as existing digital competitors like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue.
  • But Viacom’s potential bundle would be unique from all the rest in a major way: You wouldn’t be paying for the most expensive kind of TV out there, like sports on ESPN.

(PR Newswire) Vulcan Announces Agreement to Acquire Aggregates USA LLC

  • Vulcan Materials Company (NYSE:VMC), the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates, today announced that it has reached a definitive agreement with SPO Partners to acquire its aggregates business, Aggregates USA LLC for $900 million in cash. Aggregates USA LLC operates 31 facilities serving high growth markets in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia.
  • “We are pleased to have reached agreement with SPO Partners for these strategic assets, which enhance our ability to serve high growth markets throughout the southeastern U.S.,” said Vulcan’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Hill. “With the addition of these quarries and related assets, Vulcan will be able to capitalize on continuing increases in state highway funding programs in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and on the continued private sector growth across the region. This transaction will provide Vulcan with long-term high quality reserves across the entire portfolio. Aggregates USA operates efficient, high productivity facilities run by strong teams, and we welcome them to our Company.”
  • The acquisition complements and expands Vulcan’s service offerings in Georgia with three granite quarries – two of which have rail capabilities extending the Company’s reach into important markets – along with 16 rail distribution yards in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. In addition, the acquisition includes 12 limestone quarries in eastern Tennessee and southwest Virginia. Vulcan may divest several quarries in Tennessee to a third party in order to expedite the regulatory approval process.

(FitchRatings) Fitch Affirms Albemarle Corp.’s IDR at ‘BBB-‘; Outlook Revised to Positive

  • Fitch Ratings has affirmed the long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of Albemarle Corp. (NYSE: ALB) at ‘BBB-‘. The Rating Outlook is revised to Positive from Stable. Albemarle’s ratings reflect its exposure to the growing lithium industry, the relative stability of its bromine and catalysts businesses, strong FCF generation and increased financial flexibility.
  • Albemarle’s credit metrics have improved considerably since the Rockwood transaction was finalized in early 2015 due primarily to strong growth in the company’s lithium business and the repayment of greater than $2 billion of debt using proceeds from several divestitures including the sale of its Chemetall business in 2016. Fitch projects Albemarle’s FFO Adjust Leverage will stay within the 2.5x-3.0x range through 2019 and forecasts strong FCF generation that should average between $150 million to 200 million on a normalized basis. Albemarle plans to spend greater than $2 billion in CapEx through 2021 with the bulk of that spending used to increase capacity in its lithium business. While Fitch projects the company should be able to comfortably self-fund these expenditures, Albemarle has also stated its intent to utilize its strengthened balance sheet to pursue acquisitions in the lithium space and return cash to its shareholders in the form of growing dividends and/or share repurchases. However, Fitch believes the company will balance such priorities against its goal of maintaining a net leverage ratio in the 2.0-2.5x range.
  • The Positive Outlook reflects Fitch’s view that Albemarle’s positive operating momentum and strengthened balance sheet paired with a demonstrated track record of adhering to a credit conscious capital allocation policy as the company pursues its strategic goals would likely lead to a positive rating action in the coming 12-18 months.
19 May 2017

CAM Investment Grade Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Lipper, for the week ended May 17, investment grade funds posted a net inflow of $3.101bn. Per Lipper data, the year-to-date net inflow into investment grade funds was $54.889bn. Per Bloomberg, with one deal pending on Friday morning, investment grade corporate issuance through Thursday of this week was $25.3bn. Qualcomm is pending and could print up to $10-12bn on Friday, which would up this total substantially. Through Thursday, YTD total corporate bond issuance now trails 2016 at $573.87bn, which is down 4% year over year.

(Bloomberg) PG&E Issuer Credit Ratings Raised to A- From BBB+ by S&P

  • The higher ratings are based on reduced business risk stemming from the company’s long-term efforts to regain the confidence of its regulators and manage the financial fallout the 2010 San Bruno gas transmission explosion, S&P says.
    • CPUC approved multi-year rate increases: S&P
    • Outlook stable

(Bloomberg Intelligence) Vulcan’s Growth Is Tied to U.S. Highway Bill and M&A

  • Vulcan Materials is sensitive to variations in the U.S. economic cycle, with a strategy to extend its domestic reach across key states. The U.S. highway bill is a key driver for the construction aggregates company, given its road-building focus. President Donald Trump’s proposal for infrastructure investments of about $1 trillion adds to Vulcan’s sharp rise in demand since the end of 2013, resulting from growth in residential and commercial construction. Vulcan can probably increase acquisitions in 2017-18.
  • The company may be able to target not only small caps, but eventually bigger fish, management said on its 1Q earnings call. Since the last financial crisis, Vulcan has acquired about 20 small and medium companies in the U.S.
  • In 2017, Vulcan Materials’ margins may expand further on growing demand for aggregates accompanied by a forecast 5-7% increase in selling prices. The focus on discipline over efficiency in operating areas to maximize per-hour productivity has contributed to continued margin improvement. Its Ebitda margin has widened in the past two years as the U.S. economy recovered. In 2016, the overall business delivered adjusted Ebitda margin of 26.8%. This represents an improvement of 275 bps over the prior year.

(NYT) With Amazon In Cross Hairs, Walmart Posts Gains Online

  • Walmart has always excelled at selling products in its cavernous stores. It appears to be getting its head around selling online, too.
  • On Thursday, the company said e-commerce sales had grown 63 percent in the United States in the latest quarter. The unexpected leap offered the strongest evidence yet that Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, is making headway in its effort to be as prominent online as it is across the American landscape.
  • “This is extraordinary growth, and we’re pleased with the traction we’re generating across our e-commerce offerings,” said Brett Biggs, Walmart’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.
  • Walmart completed its purchase of Jet in September. Smaller digital acquisitions followed, including ModCloth, a women’s clothing retailer, and the outdoor apparel site Moosejaw.
  • The deal for Jet was also widely seen as a play for its founder, Marc Lore, a serial digital entrepreneur who could help fix Walmart’s online strategy. Mr. Lore was put in charge of running after the acquisition, spearheading the face-off between the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer and its biggest online competitor.
  • There is no doubt, though, that the company still has a ways to go before coming close to Amazon in e-commerce. Activity on Amazon, which recorded about $136 billion in annual sales last year, accounts for more than half of all online shopping in the United States.
  • Walmart provides a growth figure only for its online business, and does not specify revenue.

(TheStreet) As Apple Battles Qualcomm, Don’t Overlook its Patent Dispute With Nokia

  • Apple’s royalty dispute with Qualcomm has been a distraction from the 10th anniversary edition of the iPhone due out later this year.
  • Qualcomm ratcheted up the litigation this week when it filed suit against Apple contract manufacturers Foxconn, Pegatron, Wistron, and Compal, for skipping royalty payments. The chipmaker said in April that Apple is withholding payments to its contract manufacturers to cover the royalties they owe Qualcomm. Moreover, Qualcomm alleges that Apple ordered the companies to withhold the funds, and has indemnified them.
  • Messy as the fight with Qualcomm has become, Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um suggests that Apple’s dispute with Nokia is a bigger near-term concern. Nokia filed suit in two German venues, a U.S. District Court in Texas and other venues in December, alleging patent violations.
  • “While most of the focus has been on [Qualcomm] given the recent headlines, we believe the Nokia litigation is more important with the potential for initial news flow as early as the end of calendar 2017,” Um wrote.
  • Nokia has filed complaints in Munich and Mannheim, Germany that could have rulings this year this year. Other disputes, such as a complaint in the Netherlands, could reach outcomes soon after.
  • Um estimates that Nokia previously received just 0.2% of the price of the device in which Apple uses its technology. Nokia is unlikely to score the 2.7% rate that Qualcomm receives, Um suggested. If Nokia could obtain a 1.5% rate, it could reduce Apple’s earnings per share by 20 cents.
19 May 2017

CAM High Yield Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, flows week to date were $0.4 billion and year to date flows stand at -$4.1 billion. New issuance for the week was $2.4 billion and year to date HY is at $110 billion.

(Reuters) Oil rises after Saudi and Russia back longer supply cut

  • Oil jumped more than 2 percent to its highest in more than three weeks, topping $52 a barrel after Saudi Arabia and Russia said that supply cuts need to last into 2018, a step toward extending an OPEC-led deal to support prices for longer than first agreed.
  • Energy ministers from the world’s two top producers said that supply cuts should be prolonged for nine months, until March 2018. That is longer than the optional six-month extension specified in the deal.
  • Oil traders were surprised by the strong wording of the announcement, though it remained to be seen whether all countries participating in the deal would agree with the Saudi-Russian stance. Some analysts said that U.S. production could still threaten to disrupt the market balance unless the cuts were deepened.

(Globe Newswire) Avis Budget Group Announces Resignation of David Wyshner, President and CFO

  • Avis Budget Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:CAR) today announced the resignation of David B. Wyshner, President and Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Wyshner, who has served as the Company’s chief financial officer since 2006 and its president since January 2016, will leave the Company in June to pursue other opportunities.
  • “During his tenure at the Company, David consistently delivered results, and was instrumental in growing our global footprint and deploying our cash flow to enhance shareholder value,” said Larry De Shon, Avis Budget Group Chief Executive Officer. “We thank David for the work he has done and his dedication to our Company, which have positively impacted our strategies and contributed to our success, and wish him all the best in the future.”
  • “I am proud of what the Company has done to drive its evolution as a leading global player in its industry,” said Mr. Wyshner. “I look forward to moving on to new opportunities. At the same time, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have played a role in Avis Budget Group’s development and to have worked with so many talented colleagues.”
  • The Company intends to appoint Martyn Smith, who previously served as finance director of the Company’s Avis Budget EMEA subsidiary and of Avis Europe plc, to serve as interim chief financial officer and is conducting a search to fill the CFO position on a permanent basis.

(Business Wire) Thomas J. Aaron Named Chief Financial Officer of Community Health Systems

  • Aaron joined Community Health Systems in November 2016 following a 32-year career at Deloitte & Touche LLP where he retired as Tennessee Managing Partner. He led teams for many of the firm’s largest national healthcare provider and payer clients, including Community Health Systems, most recently in 2013.
  • Aaron succeeds W. Larry Cash, who retired May 16, 2017, after 20 years of service as the Company’s Chief Financial Officer.

(Benzinga) Signs A Sprint, T-Mobile Tie-Up Is Gaining Momentum

  • A long awaited Sprint Corp merger may be closer to completion than previously anticipated.
  • Sprint’s parent company SoftBank may be starting informal deal discussions with Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s parent company, according to several recent press reports.
  • Softbank Group CEO Masayoshi Son previously stated that the preferred option of a Sprint merger was with T-Mobile.
  • According to Barclays’ analyst Amir Rozwadowski, the deal will ultimately come down to whether both parent companies can close a complicated and wide bid-ask spread.
  • Based on recent Barclays’ meetings with company management, T-Mobile has expressed it wants clear operational ownership in order to make sure a potential deal does not disrupt its three-year growth plan.
  • Rozwadowski believes Softbank is more flexible to get the deal done, especially after expressing a clear preference for a deal with T-Mobile. “We believe core considerations for Sprint would include value attribution to its expected margin expansion/and cash flow improvement, and significant 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings. Given its admission that it would be a willing buyer or seller, we believe the company seems more flexible on ownership structure.”

(The Hill) Sinclair deal puts heat on FCC

  • The proposed acquisition by Sinclair Broadcasting Group of Tribune Media Company is inflaming criticism of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which helped pave the way for the deal by relaxing media ownership restrictions.
  • Sinclair announced earlier this month that it had reached an agreement to buy Tribune for $3.9 billion. The announcement came several weeks after the FCC voted to ease restrictions on the amount of local television stations that broadcasters can own.
  • Broadcasters are now limited to serving 39 percent of the country’s households. Last month, the FCC reinstated what’s known as the UHF discount, which makes stations that used to broadcast on ultra-high frequency count less toward the 39 percent ownership limit.
  • Without the discount, Sinclair already reaches 38 percent of U.S. households, according to an analysis from Fitch Ratings. Once the discount goes into effect, the Fitch study finds, Sinclair’s share will drop to 25 percent — giving the company more room to buy local television stations.
  • The deal with Tribune is still likely to push Sinclair over the media limit, and the company has said that it will explore ways to avoid exceeding the cap.
12 May 2017

CAM High Yield Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, flows week to date were -$1.6 billion and year to date flows stand at -$2.4 billion. New issuance for the week was $7.1 billion and year to date HY is at $108 billion.

(Variety) AMC Entertainment Quarterly Revenues Beat Estimates, but Buying Spree Takes Bite Out of Profits

  • Earnings at the world’s largest exhibition chain fell more than 70% to $8.4 million, which the company attributed to costs associated with its purchase of Odeon Cinemas Group and Carmike Cinemas, two deals that expanded its presence in Europe and the United States. Revenue for the three-month period ending in March rose 67.6% to $1.28 billion. Analysts had projected that the company would do $1.25 billion in sales.
  • Excluding merger and acquisition costs, AMC said its net earnings increased 7.5% to $34.6 million. Box office hits such as “Beauty and the Beast” and “Logan” helped goose attendance at the chain, with admissions revenues climbing nearly 70% to $817.3 million. AMC has invested heavily in updating its menu and moving beyond popcorn and soda. It has added alcoholic beverages and more inventive snacks at many locations. The strategy appears to be working — food and beverage revenues at the chain rose 63% to $397.9 million.
  • In a statement, AMC CEO Adam Aron said the company will continue to invest in sprucing up its food offerings and in outfitting theaters with recliner seats. He also predicted that the theater chain’s acquisitions would result in certain cost synergies.
  • “We are only just beginning to unlock the growth potential of our recent acquisitions,” Aron said. “The initial integration efforts of creating a transformed AMC have been done quickly and have been very smooth.”

(CNBC) Mortgage applications rise 2% as more buyers hit the spring market

  • Total mortgage application volume increased 2.4 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis last week from the previous week. Volume is still nearly 14 percent below year-ago levels because of weaker refinancing, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association .
  • Even as buyers complain of high home prices and limited listings, mortgage applications to purchase a home gained 2 percent for the week and are 6 percent higher than a year ago.
  • “Continuing strength in the job market and improving consumer confidence drove overall purchase applications to increase last week,” said MBA economist Joel Kan. “The index for purchase applications reached its highest level since the beginning of October 2015, which was the week prior to the implementation of the federal government’s ‘know before you owe’ rule.”

(Business Wire) AES Reports First Quarter 2017 Financial Results; Reaffirms 2017 Guidance and Long-Term Expectations

  • AES reported financial results for the three months ended March 31, 2017. Compared with last year, these results primarily reflect higher margins at the Company’s: Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (MCAC) Strategic Business Unit (SBU). The positive contributions were partially offset by lower margins at the Company’s Europe SBU, due to the restructuring of the Power Purchase Agreement at Maritza in Bulgaria in the second quarter of 2016.
  • Consolidated Net Cash Provided by Operating Activities for the first quarter of 2017 was $703 million, an increase of $63 million compared to the first quarter of 2016. The increase was primarily driven by higher margins, as well as lower tax. First quarter 2017 Consolidated Free Cash Flow increased $56 million to $546 million compared to the first quarter of 2016.
  • “During the first quarter we made meaningful progress on our objectives for 2017, including restructuring our 531 MW Alto Maipo hydroelectric project in Chile, prepaying $300 million in Parent debt and reshaping our portfolio by exiting 3.7 GW of merchant coal-fired generation in Kazakhstan and Ohio,” said Andrés Gluski, AES President and Chief Executive Officer. “We secured final permits for our 1.4 GW Southland repowering project in California and agreed to acquire 386 MW of wind generation in Brazil. Along with our 3.4 GW currently under construction and expected to come on-line through 2019, we expect these projects to be significant contributors to our future growth.”
  • “Based on our first quarter results and our future outlook, we are reaffirming our 2017 guidance for all metrics, as well as our 8% to 10% average annual growth rate through 2020,” said Tom O’Flynn, AES Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. “Our strong cash flow and continued Parent debt paydown keep us on track to achieve investment grade credit statistics.”

(Houston Business Journal) Calpine Corp. reportedly considers selling itself

  • People familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that the company is working with investment bankers at Lazard Ltd. (NYSE: LAZ). A variety of private equity firms have expressed interest in Calpine, per the WSJ. However, the process is in the early stages, and there’s no guarantee a deal will be reached.
05 May 2017

CAM Investment Grade Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Lipper, for the week ended May 3, investment grade funds posted a net inflow of $1.051bn. Per Lipper data, the year-to-date net inflow into investment grade funds was $49.087bn. Per Bloomberg, with one deal pending on Friday morning, investment grade corporate issuance for the week is expected to come in at $37.525bn, while YTD volume has now topped $514bn. IG corporate bond issuance is now up 5% year over year.

(Bloomberg) U.S. Job Gains Rebound; Unemployment Falls to Pre-Crisis Low

  • U.S. payroll gains rebounded in April by more than forecast and the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 4.4 percent, signaling that the labor market remains healthy and should support continued increases in consumer spending.
  • The 211,000 increase followed a 79,000 advance in March that was lower than previously estimated, a Labor Department report showed Friday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 190,000 gain. While the unemployment rate is now the lowest since May 2007, wages were a soft spot in the report, climbing 2.5 percent from a year earlier.
  • The brighter figures follow a weaker-than-expected reading in March, when payrolls were partly depressed by a snowstorm that slammed the Northeast during the survey week. Strengthening business sentiment might be translating into hiring, and the data should keep Federal Reserve policy makers on track to raise interest rates in the coming months after officials declared the first-quarter slowdown to be temporary.

(Fitch Ratings) Fitch Rates Eli Lilly’s Notes Offering ‘A’; Outlook Stable

  • Fitch Ratings has assigned an ‘A’ rating to Eli Lilly & Co. Inc.’s (Lilly) senior unsecured notes offering. The company intends to use the net proceeds for general corporate purposes including the refinancing of existing borrowings. The Rating Outlook is Stable. Lilly had roughly $10.2 billion of debt outstanding at March 31, 2017.
    • –Lilly is facing increasing but relatively manageable patent expiries, with roughly 26% of total sales at risk through 2019, excluding Alimta. Nearly 30% of those sales comes from Forteo, a biologic, which is expected to experience relatively lesser sales decline than a traditional small molecule drug once its patent expires in December 2018.
    • –Fitch expects Lilly will generate low- to mid-single-digit organic revenue growth during 2017-2019 with the patent expiries offset by continued strength in established and new products.
    • –Lilly needs to rebuild its late-stage pipeline following recent approvals and a few setbacks in development. We think this is achievable through advancing mid-stage development candidates and rolling in acquired/partnered products.
    • –Lilly’s leaner cost structure and improving product sales mix should support margin expansion in 2017.
    • –Fitch forecasts that Lilly will generate solid free cash flow of $1 billion (FCF; cash flow from operations minus capital expenditures and dividend payments) in 2017.
    • –The ‘A’ rating incorporates moderate share repurchases, targeted acquisitions and incremental dividend increases through the forecast period.

(TheStreet) Apple Can Return $300 Billion to Shareholders Even Without a Tax Holiday

  • As a sign of Apple’s “strong confidence in our future,” CEO Tim Cook pledged to boost its capital returns to shareholders through March 2019 from the previously-announced $250 billion to $300 billion, during the company’s first-quarter earnings call after the close Tuesday.
  • Apple reported $256.8 billion in cash and equivalents in the quarter, with $239.6 billion of it outside the U.S.
  • “With Apple’s cash pile growing to over $250 billion, questions regarding repatriation tax policies and buybacks return,” said Moody’s Investors Service analyst Gerald Granovsky in an emailed statement about Apple’s cash dilemma. “Expansion of the shareholder return program by $50 billion puts more pressure on the company to raise debt absent repatriation.”
  • For Apple and other blue chip tech companies, paying low single-digit interest on debt to fund moves is much cheaper than repatriating cash at a 35% corporate tax rate.
  • The company has increased its leverage in recent years to cover shareholder returns and other expenses, even as its cash balance has topped a quarter of a trillion dollars.
  • Apple issued $11 billion in debt during the second fiscal quarter, and reported long-term debt of $84.5 billion. The growth in debt over the last half decade is noteworthy. In the second fiscal quarter of 2015, Apple’s long term debt was $40.1 billion — less than half its current total. In the second fiscal quarter of 2013, according to FactSet, Apple had no long-term debt.
  • President Trump supports a 15% corporate tax rate, and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in late April that the administration is in talks on a proposal. “We’re working with the House and Senate on that, but I will say it will be a very competitive rate that will bring back trillions of dollars,” Mnuchin said at a White House briefing.

(WSJ) Southern Seeks $3.7 Billion From Toshiba for Georgia Nuclear Plant

  • The chief executive of Southern Co. SO on Wednesday said the utility will need $3.7 billion and cooperation from Toshiba Corp. to complete a nuclear power plant in Georgia that was being built by bankrupt Toshiba unit Westinghouse Electric Co.
  • But even if it obtains those commitments, Southern isn’t sure it can finish the half-built Georgia reactors, Thomas A. Fanning, Southern’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
  • “We are working with Toshiba to receive complete assurance as to the $3.7 billion guarantee that they owe us, whether we finish the project or not,” said Mr. Fanning.
  • Toshiba has said it has about 650 billion yen ($5.8 billion) in parent-company guarantees made on Westinghouse’s behalf, including guarantees to make payments that would be required if Westinghouse can’t complete the nuclear-reactor projects. Toshiba has said it plans to take write-downs to account for these guarantees when it reports results for the year ended March 2017. It hasn’t released those results yet but says it is likely to report a net loss of about ¥1 trillion for that year.

(Conference Call, CAM Notes) Union Pacific 2017Q1 Recap

  • Union Pacific reported results that beat consensus estimates across the board. The operating environment saw an improvement this quarter as Agricultural products, Coal, Industrial Products, and Intermodal saw positive volume with Coal seeing a 16% increase in carloads over Q1 2016. With these improved results and expected U.S. growth, 2017 is shaping up to be a better year than 2016; however, many of the industries showing strength are vulnerable to market conditions. UNP is expecting single digit volume growth, pricing slightly above inflation, and productivity savings of $350-400mm to help lead the company to a solid year (unchanged). Politically, the company could see a significant boast by a lowering of the corporate tax rate as railroads tend to be among the largest tax payers, and they have a possible headwind if the US were to withdraw from NAFTA.
  • The company reiterated their “less than 2.0x” leverage target. With dividends and share repurchases outpacing FCF, UNP is expecting EBITDA growth to help them remain below this target.

(Bloomberg) Pay-TV Users Are Bailing Faster Than Ever, Clouding Media Stocks

  • U.S. cable and satellite-TV providers suffered their worst first quarter of subscriber losses in history, raising fresh concerns that cord-cutting will accelerate and drag down media stocks.
  • Charter Communications Inc., Dish Network Corp., AT&T Inc.’s DirecTV and Verizon Communications Inc. combined to lose almost half a million video subscribers in the period, as more consumers spurned the cost and clutter of traditional pay-TV packages for cheaper online alternatives. Only Comcast Corp. added customers.
  • The results indicate that consumers may be growing more aware of on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Amazon and the increased depth their content offerings — and that may be spurring more cord-cutting in 2017. Major pay-TV operators lost 1.4 million subscribers last year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
  • Consumers are also getting more knowledgeable about online live-TV services as well. At least a half dozen companies, including Hulu, AT&T, Dish, Sony Corp. and Google’s YouTube are convinced they can lure people back to live TV packages by offering a slimmer selection of channels at a lower cost than the average cable package. They’ve also all tried to improve upon the presentation of on-demand programs.
  • At Charter, which has been busy working to integrate the acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, executives are seeing a shift in market share from satellite providers DirecTV to Dish to cable operators, according to Chief Executive Officer Tom Rutledge.
  • “There is a general decline in the marketplace that is mostly price-driven, and I think that those trends are unlikely to change in the near term but not to particularly accelerate,” Rutledge said on a conference call Tuesday. Shares of Charter fell as much as 3.2 percent to $333.20 in New York Tuesday, the biggest intraday decline in three months.
  • The Stamford, Connecticut-based company, backed by billionaire John Malone, is expected to rebound as customers sign up for new packages at new prices. Rutledge also said he’s confident that Charter can also differentiate its service offerings from over-the-top video providers that have become so popular with consumers.
  • “None of them have a product that is better than ours that we can see in the marketplace,” said Rutledge. “So, we expect to succeed in the marketplace going forward.”
  • One bright spot for Charter in the first quarter was its internet business. After all, to subscribe to online video services that have become increasingly popular around the world, you need fast a broadband connection.
  • The company added 428,000 residential internet subscribers in the quarter on a pro forma basis, compared with 520,000 a year earlier. Three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg predicted a gain of 388,000 customers, on average.
  • The company is also planning to integrate Netflix Inc.’s service into its user interface and is in talks with YouTube to do the same, just as Comcast has done recently.

(Bloomberg) Here’s Why Skinny TV is Still an Experiment for Companies

  • Companies like Dish Network Corp., Sling TV LLC, AT&T Inc., YouTube and Verizon Communications Inc. have been trying to pull together “skinny” cable packages that would charge a reasonable price for just the channels customers really watch, without all the niche programming. Hulu LLC is the latest to offer a “skinny” package, unveiling plans for a $40-a-month service, Hulu with Live TV, on Wednesday. That makes at least seven contenders on the market or planning to enter, but providers are still trying to figure out how to streamline their offerings while making a profit.
  • Take AT&T’s DirecTV Now package, introduced late last year and starting at $35 a month. The basic package, called “Live a Little,” features 19 television networks that regularly average at least 1 million viewers—a pretty big audience on cable. Network owners traditionally charge distributors a monthly fee for each subscriber—depending on the size and demographics of their audiences. If you added up the monthly charges for those 19 networks, you’d get $23 a month, according to estimates from JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • So AT&T should be able to make a pretty good profit with a $35 subscription, right? Wrong. An additional $11 a month goes to pay for 33 more channels that you may or may not want but that network owners push distributors to include in the bundle. If AT&T wants to offer Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN in its streaming package, Disney offers discounts to ensure it also buys the streaming rights for ESPN2, Disney XD and Disney Junior. The list of channels start to pile up pretty quickly.
  • When you add that $11 to the $23 AT&T pays for more popular channels, AT&T walks away with less than $1 in profit. This puts companies that want to offer a “skinny bundle” in a bind. Raise prices much more than $35 and their streaming services won’t be that competitive against traditional cable. On the other hand, if they leave out some networks to pad profits or cut prices, they may not be as attractive to viewers who want to be able to watch ESPN, TNT, FX and HGTV. DirecTV Now made one big sacrifice, introducing its service without CBS—the most-watched network—after failing to come to terms on a price.
  • That’s why companies continue to tinker with new “skinny” bundle packages. The right channels at the right price point make a big difference to the bottom line.
05 May 2017

CAM High Yield Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, flows week to date were -$0.3 billion and year to date flows stand at -$0.8 billion. New issuance for the week was $3.9 billion and year to date HY is at $101 billion.

(New York Post) Almost 500K drop pay TV in Q1

  • Almost half a million subscribers stopped paying for cable, satellite and other pay TV formats in the first quarter
  • Charter Communications, which is integrating Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, lost 100,000 TV subscribers in the first quarter, on top of 105,000 in the prior quarter.
  • Charter, backed by John Malone’s Liberty Broadband, has said new pricing has led to customer departures, though it added 428,000 broadband subscribers.
  • The picture at Charlie Ergen’s satellite service Dish is even bleaker. The satellite provider lost 143,000 TV subscribers versus Street estimates for a loss of 72,000.
  • AT&T, which operates DirecTV and U-Verse, said its satellite TV service DirecTV was flat, while its U-Verse service lost 233,000.
  • Only Comcast managed to eke out subscriber growth, adding 32,000 TV accounts.

(Business Wire) Frontier Communications Reports 2017 First Quarter Results

  • Frontier Communications Corporation reported its first quarter 2017 results, and announced that the Board of Directors has revised the Company’s capital allocation strategy, which includes a reduction in the quarterly dividend to $0.04 per share, to enhance financial flexibility and achieve a targeted leverage ratio of 3.5x by year-end 2021, down from the current ratio of 4.39x.
  • Dan McCarthy, President and CEO, stated, “During the quarter, we continued to realize our targeted efficiencies and synergies, and I am also pleased to have achieved our third consecutive quarter of improved FiOS gross additions in the California, Texas and Florida (CTF) markets. We are executing on a number of initiatives with the goal of enhancing customer experience, reducing churn, stabilizing revenues and generating cash flow.
  • “Our Board regularly reviews the Company’s long-term capital allocation strategy, and it has determined to reduce the dividend at this time to provide additional financial flexibility, while still returning a meaningful cash dividend to shareholders. As we continue to execute on our strategy to deliver on the full potential of our strong assets and generate additional cash flow, we will optimize our capital allocation to ensure we strike a balance between investing in the business, paying down debt and returning capital to shareholders,” said McCarthy.

(Business Wire) Community Health Systems, Inc. Announces First Quarter 2017 Results

  • Net operating revenues for the three months ended March 31, 2017, totaled $4.486 billion, a 10.3 percent decrease, compared with $4.999 billion for the same period in 2016.
  • During the three months ended March 31, 2017, the Company recorded a non-cash expense totaling $250 million related to impairment charges to reduce the value of long-lived assets, primarily allocated goodwill, at hospitals that the Company has identified for sale. The impairment charges do not have an impact on the calculation of the Company’s financial covenants under the Company’s Credit Facility.
  • Commenting on the results, Wayne T. Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Community Health Systems, Inc., said, “We continue to make good progress on our strategic and operational initiatives, and we are pleased to see these efforts reflected in our first quarter results. We are focused on performance improvements that we believe will yield additional efficiencies as we move through 2017. At the same time, we are making progress with our portfolio rationalization strategy as we work to create a stronger, more sustainable company for the future and further reduce our debt.”

(Globe Newswire) Avis Budget Group Reports First Quarter 2017 Results

  • For the quarter, the Company reported revenue of $1.8 billion and a net loss of $107 million, or $1.25 per share. The Company reported an Adjusted EBITDA loss of $27 million and an adjusted net loss of $81 million, or $0.94 per diluted share, in the quarter.
  • “Our first quarter results reflect higher-than-expected fleet costs, continued pricing pressures and a shift of Easter traffic to the second quarter,” said Larry De Shon, Avis Budget Group Chief Executive Officer. “We have taken meaningful actions to reduce costs by more than $50 million to mitigate the effects of weak vehicle residual values. We are optimistic that our results will be stronger over the balance of the year as used-car values began to improve near the end of the quarter and our strategic initiatives continue to gain momentum.”
  • Revenue declined 2% in first quarter 2017 primarily due to a 5% decline in pricing partially offset by a 3% increase in rental days. Our first quarter net loss was $107 million, and our Adjusted EBITDA loss was $27 million. Results were impacted by lower pricing and higher per-unit fleet costs in the Americas, and by the shift in Easter from March last year to April this year.

(Business Wire) The GEO Group Reports First Quarter 2017 Results

  • GEO reported first quarter 2017 Normalized Funds From Operations of $58.1 million compared to $48.7 million for the first quarter 2016. GEO reported first quarter 2017 Net Operating Income of $142.4 million compared to $136.3 million for the first quarter 2016.
  • George C. Zoley, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GEO, said, “We are pleased with our strong first quarter results, which were driven by robust financial and operational performance across our diversified platform of real estate, management and programmatic services. Our diversified platform has allowed us to provide cost-effective, high quality services for our government partners while delivering industry-leading, evidence-based rehabilitation programs to the men and women who have been entrusted to our care. We’re also pleased to have been able to confirm our split-adjusted Normalized FFO and AFFO guidance for the full-year despite our recent equity offering of 10.4 million split-adjusted shares in March of this year. We remain focused on expanding the delivery of our services and programs and on the effective allocation of capital to continue to enhance value for our shareholders.”
  • GEO reported total revenues for the first quarter 2017 of $550.6 million up from $510.2 million for the first quarter 2016. First quarter 2017 revenues reflect $57.2 million in construction revenues associated with the development of the 1,300-bed Ravenhall Facility in Australia compared to $40.8 million in construction revenues for the first quarter 2016.