President Obama has announced new targeted sanctions against Russia that will hit more individuals and companies after the G7 concluded that the country hasn't met its pledge to "de-escalate" the conflict with Ukraine. However, any moves won't target broad sections of Russia's economy. While the U.S. and EU have made noises about wider-ranging action, individual EU countries fear the consequences for their economies.
Japanese retail sales jumped at the fastest level in 17 years in March, climbing an expected 11% on year after growing 3.6% in February. The reason for the large gain is that consumers rushed to purchase goods before a rise in sales tax to 8% from 5% went into effect on April 1. The upshot is that sales are expected to fall this month but then recover in May.
Pfizer offered to purchase AstraZeneca in January for £46.61 ($76.62) a share in cash and stock, with the proposal representing a 30% premium on AstraZeneca's (NYSE:AZN) shares at the time. The U.K. company turned the offer down, explaining that it "significantly undervalued AstraZeneca and its prospects." Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) again approached AstraZeneca on Saturday and was rebuffed a second time, and is now "considering its options." AstraZeneca's shares were +15% premarket at $78.54.
Comcast has reached a deal with Charter that involves Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) divesting 3.9M video customers if it buys Time Warner Cable (TWC). Charter will acquire 1.4M existing TWC customers, giving it 5.7M in total and making it the second-largest cable operator in the U.S. Charter and Comcast will also each transfer approximately 1.6M subs respectively, and Charter will acquire 33% in a new publicly traded cable provider to be spun-off by Comcast serving 2.5M customers.
Siemens has reportedly offered to swap its train business with Alstom's (OTCPK:ALSMY) energy operations and make an additional cash payment. Backed by the French government, Siemens is also willing to meet or even top an offer from GE (NYSE:GE) for Alstom's energy assets that values the French group at $13B, and the German conglomerate has made guarantees about jobs, management positions and locations.
Apple is making preparations to raise $17B in international and domestic bonds in order to help finance its stock-repurchase program, which the company has increased to $90B from $60B. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has a cash pile of $150B, but $130B is held overseas, and repatriating it would incur a tax rate of 35%. A debt sale would add to the $17B that Apple raised a year ago, when demand topped $50B.
Sanofi's vaccine for Dengue fever met the primary goal of a Phase III study by reducing incidence of the illness by 56% in a trial involving over 10,000 children in Southeast Asia. Dengue affects up to 100M people a year, mainly in tropical areas, and is caused by a virus that is carried by mosquitoes. Symptoms include severe fever and intense joint and muscle pain, and it can be fatal. Sanofi's (NYSE:SNY) shares were +1.9% premarket.
Sweden's Meda has rejected Mylan's increased bid of 145 kroner ($22.01) per share, which values the Swedish pharmaceuticals company at $6.7B. Meda (OTC:MDABF) explained that Mylan's (NASDAQ:MYL) offer "lacks sufficient support" from its largest shareholder, while its board also has a "strong belief in the continued potential of Meda as a stand-alone company."
Merck could reach a deal to sell its consumer healthcare operations this week for almost $14B, Reuters reports, with Germany's Bayer (OTCPK:BAYRY) and U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser (OTCPK:RBGLY) the frontrunners to buy the unit. Other healthcare consumer giants have also shown interest in the business, including Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Novartis (NYSE:NVS) and Sanofi (SNY). Merck (NYSE:MRK) is looking to sell the operations as it only holds around 1% of the market.
Former Xstrata boss Mick Davis, who has set up a new venture called X2, is believed to have made an offer to acquire BHP Billiton's (NYSE:BHP) thermal coal division. X2 has raised $3.7B (£2.2B) from investors and is understood to have appointed JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) to provide as much as $8B in debt. Earnings at BHP's thermal-coal operations have plummeted by two-thirds in the past three years.
Bayer is considering selling its plastics business Bayer Material Science in order to focus on its health operations, Bloomberg reports, adding that a deal could bring in over €7.8B ($10.8B), including net debt. Meanwhile, Bayer's (OTCPK:BAYZF) Q1 net profit climbed 23% to €1.42B ($1.96B) as sales rose 2.8% to €10.56B. Healthcare revenue grew 2.9% and CropScience 4.9%.
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In Asia, Japan -1% to 14288. Hong Kong -0.4% to 22133. China -1.6% to 2003. India -0.25% to 22632.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.3%. Paris +0.4%. Frankfurt +0.9%.
Futures at 6:20: Dow +0.4%. S&P +0.3%. Nasdaq +0.35%. Crude +0.65% to $101.25. Gold +0.1% to $1301.90.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +2 bps to 2.68%.
Notable earnings after today's close: ADVS, AGNC, AMKR, AMP, BLDP, BWLD, CBL, CLGX, CMP, CR, DCO, DENN, EXR, FTK, GGP, HELE, HIG, HLF, HLS, JEC, KAMN, LMNX, MERU, N, NCLH, OMI, PCL, PRE, QCOR, RKT, RRC, RTEC, RUTH, SIMO, SSW, STAA, STM, SU, TCS, UCTT, VLRS, WNC
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