CEO Daily: Friday, June 17
Revlon announced after the markets closed yesterday that it is buying rival beauty firm Elizabeth Arden in an all-cash deal that values Arden at about $870 million.
The deal is just the latest, and certainly nowhere near the largest, of a string of mergers and acquisitions announced in recent days and months. Technology leads the way, with $267.6 billion in deals announced so far this year, according to Dealogic. Microsoft’s deal to acquire LinkedIn was this week’s big news; yesterday, we learned that Salesforce was also in the LinkedIn bidding.
What’s driving all this activity? It’s an unusual mix of economic circumstances, including sluggish economic growth, interest rates near zero, a sideways moving stock market, private equity eager for exits, and abundant corporate cash. When we surveyed Fortune 500 CEOs last month, 76% reported that “my company has all the cash it needs to fund investments in the future,” while only 24% said they “need to borrow money to fund investment.” That’s created an environment where big companies are eager to spend, smaller ones are eager to sell, and investment bankers are having a hard time getting to the Hamptons on weekends.
Speaking at a Bloomberg technology conference this week, investor Marc Andreesen said the trend will continue, particularly in tech. “We see more M&A in the pipeline – meaning companies in consideration or negotiation – than we have in the last four years.” He expects “a run of M&A the rest of this year and next.” Investors seem to believe Twitter is next on the auction block.
More news below. Enjoy the weekend.
• Redstone ousts 5 board members
Sumner Redstone on Thursday moved to seize control of Viacom by replacing five board members of the public company's board, including Philippe Dauman, its embattled CEO and executive chairman. And if the action withstands an expected court challenge, it virtually assured the ousting of Dauman in a matter of weeks. Until earlier this year, Redstone, 93, had staunchly supported his longtime protégé, whom he’d named CEO in 2006. Importantly, by replacing the directors – who presumably would side with Dauman – Redstone and his daughter Shari, who serves as Viacom's vice-chair, have given themselves a solid majority of the company's 11-member board, aimed at withstanding even a challenge to Redstone's mental capacity. Fortune
• Brexit campaign halted after lawmaker murder
Campaigning over whether the U.K. should quit the European Union was suspended for a second day on Friday after the murder of Labour lawmaker Jo Cox, an advocate for voting to stay in next week’s referendum. Events planned by the two main campaigns were canceled, while publication of some related reports were delayed until the weekend as tributes were paid to Cox. Cox, 41, was shot dead in a northern England town in the early afternoon on Thursday. She had been a fervent supporter of Britain remaining in the EU, as well as a champion of the poor and of Syrian refugees. Her murder followed an increasingly acrimonious debate over the referendum, with opinion polls putting “Vote Leave” ahead by several percentage points. Bloomberg
• Revlon is buying Elizabeth Arden
Beauty products maker Revlon has agreed to buy rival Elizabeth Arden in an all-cash deal for $14 per share, giving its struggling peer an enterprise value of $870 million including debt. The acquisition news sent shares soaring 50%, boosting Elizabeth Arden’s waning stock price. Elizabeth Arden had tried to execute a turnaround on its own for years, but it struggled to reposition its namesake brand as an upscale line of fragrance and skincare. Bets on celebrity perfumes by Taylor Swift and others failed to pay off. Revlon, meanwhile, is hoping Arden’s portfolio will help augment its own portfolio and provide helpful scale when working with suppliers. Fortune
• Tie-up to combine wind turbine makers
Spain's Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica SA said on Friday it agreed to combine the company's wind power business with those of the German engineering group Siemens AG, a deal that will create the world's largest producer of wind turbines. The final terms of the deal must be finalized, though Gamesa said it has already been given the "necessary corporate approval" for the merger. The parties had come close to combining their wind businesses in February but the tie-up was delayed because Gamesa needed to renegotiate part of an offshore wind joint venture with French nuclear-engineering firm Areva. The new entity will have a market capitalization of about 10 billion euros and remain listed on the Madrid Stock Exchange. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• PIMCO is cutting 3% of workforce
Pacific Investment Management Co. plans to cut about 3% of its workforce in the wake of a drop in assets under management since the 2014 departure of co-founder Bill Gross, according to an internal document obtained by Reuters. The memo said headcount will be reduced by 68 people at the company, which had about 2,300 employees at the end of the first quarter. Pimco built its reputation largely through its management of fixed-income assets, but in recent years it has tried to diversify its investor base to include those buying equity products. According to Thomson Reuters Lipper data, Pimco had $11.5 billion of outflows in the first five months of this year across a variety of strategies. Reuters
Around the Water Cooler
• 'Finding Dory' Could be Huge for Pixar
Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo – an animated blockbuster in its own right with $936 million in global box office sales – could end up as one of the biggest animated films of all-time. Analysts are predicting the new film's debut in U.S. theaters could reach $120 million during the opening weekend, which would be the best performance ever for a movie made by Walt Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios, surpassing the $110 million debut for 2010's Toy Story 3. Toy Story 3 went on to gross $415 million in North America six years ago and $1.06 billion globally, both of which are records for Pixar and set a high bar for Dory. Disney's Frozen is the highest-grossing animated film ever, with nearly $1.3 billion. Fortune
• Philadelphia passes soda tax
Philadelphia has passed a tax on sodas and other sugar-added and artificially sweetened soft drinks, becoming the first major American city to pass such a levy. The city will impose a 1.5-cent tax per ounce for soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages include fruit drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, and energy drinks. The tax goes into effect at the beginning of next year. Investors shrugged off the news, as shares of PepsiCo, Coca Cola, and Dr Pepper Snapple were unchanged when the news broke, though the implementation of this tax suggests the soda industry has become an easier target for governments looking to raise more money. It remains to be seen how many other big cities could make a similar move, which could result in a modest change of behavior as the cost of buying soda would increase. Fortune
• Microsoft gets into the marijuana business
Microsoft has dived into the burgeoning marijuana business, through a partnership with cannabis-industry-focused financial technology firm Kind Financial. On Thursday, Kind announced a new service for government agencies and regulators that enables so-called “seed to sale” tracking. Kind will use Microsoft’s Azure cloud to collect and monitor the data that’s needed for ensuring compliance with the patchwork of U.S. laws relating to marijuana production. While there are similar services already out in the market, this is the first case of a major tech company openly attaching its name to this market in search of new business. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level in the U.S., but many states permit its use for medical purposes, and some allow its recreational use. Fortune