Cerberus to combine Safeway with Albertsons in $9.4B deal. Supermarket chain owner Albertsons, which is controlled by an investor group led by private-equity firm Cerberus, has agreed to acquire Safeway (NYSE:SWY) in a deal worth $9.4B. The offer price is $40 a share, or a premium of 1.3% to Safeway's close of $39.47 yesterday. The deal will create a grocery network of over 2,400 stores and 250,000 workers, and one that will be dominant on the West Coast. Safeway's share fell 3.6% in AH trading.
Global stocks mixed ahead of U.S. jobs report. Asian shares were mixed while Europe was mostly down and American stock futures were flat-to-higher ahead of the U.S. jobs report, which is due out this morning. Non-farm payrolls are estimated to have risen by 149,000 in February vs 113,000 in January, although soft ADP private-sector jobs data this week may have dampened expectations. Fed policy maker Charles Plosser will take the non-farm reading "with a pinch of salt," because of the severe winter weather.
Novartis' Jakavi on course for blockbuster status after trial. Novartis' (NYSE:NVS) Jakavi treatment has achieved the main goal in a Phase III trial of maintaining red-blood cell volume in certain patients with polycythemia vera, an incurable cancer associated with the overproduction of the cells. Jakavi was tested against the best available therapy. Jakavi is already approved for myelofibrosis, another form of blood cancer. Expanding the drug's use could turn it into a blockbuster with sales of $1B+.
Top Stock News
Report: Rio Tinto mulls bid for rest of Turquoise Hill. Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) is preparing to bid around $8 a share for the 49.2% of Turquoise Hill Resources (NYSE:TRQ) it doesn't already own, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reports. Billionaire Robert Friedland, who holds 3% of Turquoise Hill, was against selling to Rio but seems to have changed his mind. Turquoise Hill, which has a market cap of $8.33B, holds 66% of the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine in Mongolia. The company's shares were +1.45% at $4.20 premarket.
Amcol sets Imerys deadline to match Minerals offer. Amcol International (NYSE:ACO) has told Paris-based Imerys (OTC:IMYSF) that it has four working days to match Minerals Technologies' (NYSE:MTX) increased rival offer of $1.48B, which Amcol's board has said is superior to that of Imerys. Minerals' proposal is worth $45.75 a share, 50 cents above Imerys' latest bid on Tuesday. One of the attractions of Amcol is that it has large reserves of bentonite, an important material for the construction and energy sectors.
Pimco divorce appears to be getting messy. Bill Gross has accused departing Pimco (NYSEARCA:BOND) CEO Mohamed El-Erian of "trying to undermine" him, telling Reuters that he has evidence that El-Erian "wrote" a recent WSJ article that described the breakdown in the men's relationship and didn't portray Gross in a particularly flattering light. When asked what the evidence was, Gross replied: "You're on his side. Great, he's got you, too, wrapped around his charming right finger." Gross also indicated that he has monitored El-Erian's phone calls. Pimco later denied the Reuters report.
Mexico takes steps to increase TV, telecom competition. Mexico's Federal Telecommunications Institute ((NYSE:IFT)) is moving to boost competition in the telecom and broadcasting sectors and is notifying companies that it considers to be dominant. In a statement, the IFT didn't mention names but it was most likely referring to America Movil (NASDAQ:AMOV) in the telecom market and Televisa (NYSE:TV) in the broadcasting sector. The classification is important, as the IFT can break up dominant players, although such a move would probably be a last resort.
Disney to work with Shanghai Media on films for Chinese market. Disney (NYSE:DIS) has deepened its relationship with Shanghai Media Group Pictures, with the companies agreeing to collaborate on films that will incorporate Chinese themes. The U.S. company already has a partnership with Shanghai Media digital unit BesTV New Media. The expanded co-operation marks the latest attempt by a U.S. studio to increase its presence in a market that is forecast to grow to $148B by 2015 from $120B in 2013.
GE raises $3B in bonds. General Electric (NYSE:GE) has taken advantage of continued low rates with a $3B bond sale comprising $2.25B of 30-year notes and $750M in 10-year paper. The auction attracted strong demand, mainly due to the opportunity to buy debt from the parent company rather than GE Capital. The last time the parent sold bonds was in October 2012. GE is rated at AA+ by S&P.
Top Economic & Other News
China suffers first corporate-bond default. As expected, China's corporate-bond market has suffered its first ever domestic default, with Shanghai Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology failing to fully pay 89.8M yuan ($14.7M) in interest that was due today. Until now, China had bailed out distressed companies. Moody's believes that the development will help the growth of China's bond market. It will "signal regulators' higher tolerance for corporate-bond defaults amid financial-market reforms, which is in line with the current central administration's shift to adopt more market-oriented policies," Moody's says.
Japan grapples with Bitcoin. Japan has decreed that Bitcoin is not a currency and that there are no laws to define it, although the government said in a statement it can tax transactions. The country's banks can't broker Bitcoin deals or create customer accounts to hold digital assets. The comments come after the collapse of leading Tokyo-based exchange Mt. Gox and after Newsweek yesterday "outed" 64-year-old Japanese-American physicist Dorian S. Nakamoto as the creator of Bitcoin. However, Nakamoto denied involvement in the digital "currency."
Top Ideas: Movers and Great Calls
1) On February 26, Mike Arnold called online vitamin retailer Vitacost.com (NASDAQ:VITC) a strong buy ahead of earnings, with activist investors providing a potential longer-term catalyst as well. Aided by a Q4 beat, shares are +17.4% since. Read article »
2) Amit Ghate recommended betting against Osiris Therapeutics (NASDAQ:OSIR) in August, arguing that a short squeeze and an overly optimistic view of the company's potential had driven shares well above fair value. The stock is -35.2% to date. Read article »
Top Ideas To Watch
1) With ancillary brands divested, a focus on the namesake brand should drive returns for retailer Kate Spade & Company (NYSE:KATE), writes Helix Investment Research. Read article »
2) Mike Arnold sees value in Ascent Capital (NASDAQ:ASCMA), as its ownership of security company Monitronics creates stable free cash flow and growth possibilities that are undervalued by the market. Read article »
Top Ideas are the best long and short ideas on Seeking Alpha. SA PRO subscribers receive early access to these Top Ideas, which often move markets. For more information about SA PRO and becoming a subscriber, click here.
In Asia, Japan +0.9% to 15274. Hong Kong -0.2% to 22660. China -0.1% to 2058. India +1.9% to 21920.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.3%. Paris -0.3%. Frankfurt -0.8%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.05%. S&P +0.05%. Nasdaq flat. Crude +0.1% to $101.66. Gold -0.2% to $1348.60.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -1 bps at 2.73%.
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