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.