It appears that the money managers at Los Angeles-based Hotchkiss and Wiley saw the springtime dip in Noranda Aluminum shares as a chance to add to their stake. The firm on Thursday said it now owns almost 7.1 million shares of Noranda, which amounts to 10.3 percent of the Franklin-based company. At the end of March, that stake was a little more than 9 percent. Noranda shares (Ticker: NOR) ended Thursday trading at $4.06 and are up more than 20 percent year to date.
Shares of Dollar General jumped nearly 5 percent in after-hours action Friday following word that high-profile investor Carl Icahn has snapped up more than 9 percent of the stock of rival Family Dollar. Icahn says he wants to talk about Family Dollar's operations and possible strategic alternatives, which got a lot of investors thinking (one more time) about a potential Dollar General acquisition of the company.
The Family Dollar board is open to conversations but there remain many reasons why Dollar General Chairman, President and CEO Rick Dreiling and his team would shy away from a big deal. Dreiling last week said Dollar General's performance is improving and Icahn has shown up at Family Dollar's door in large part because the company has yet to escape what local analyst Mark Montagna early this year called an "operational quagmire." We're betting the rumblings about a big buyout fade away only to resurface sometime this fall.
Healthways CEO Ben Leedle on Tuesday passed on to his employees word of the wellness company's ceasefire with activist investment fund North Tide Capital. Calling the deal to give North Tide three board seats a "positive outcome," he also took time to point out that he — a prime target of North Tide manager Conan Laughlin — and other senior executives will stay in their jobs.
In addition, Leedle described the Strategic Review Committee that will soon be formed as having the goal "to assure that the board and management remain aligned on the company strategy." That's an interesting — and, given Laughlin's calls for big changes, perhaps somewhat optimistic — spin on the language contained in the standstill agreement, which says "the purpose of the Strategic Review Committee shall be to review, evaluate and make recommendations to the Board regarding the Company's business strategy."
Here's a copy of Leedle's email:
North Tide Capital, the hedge fund taking aim at the Healthways board of directors, has updated its presentation to investors. The new version is beefed up with more questions about the company's investments in (and revenues from) initiatives such as MeYou Health, the Dean Ornish lifestyle management program and the Blue Zones partnership with Gallup. The new presentation — view it here and compare it to the old one here — strikes a tone that is softer at times but as strident as before in other places, especially in terms of the Healthways board's unconditional backing of CEO Ben Leedle and his strategies.
Some items that caught our eye:
• Addressing the company's insistence that its Silver Sneakers senior fitness program is a way to leverage costs across the company, North Tide manager Conan Laughlin says "Silver Sneakers funds a giant, money-losing science experiment."
• Tipping his hat to the board for disclosing that Healthways' international business posted a 2013 EBITDA of $3 million, Laughlin then turns around to say that means "the non-Silver Sneakers business loses more money than we had thought."
• North Tide quotes a note from Dougherty & Co. analyst Brooks O'Neil that thinks out loud about director candidate Mac Crawford becoming not just executive chairman if elected, but also filling the CEO seat now held by Leedle.
Delek US Holdings has a new 5 percent owner in the form of Point72 Asset Management, the firm formerly called SAC Capital and run by Steven Cohen, who late last year pleaded guilty to securities fraud. Point72 on Wednesday filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying it ended last week owning almost 3.7 million shares, or 6.2 percent, of Brentwood-based Delek. That was up from just 1.1 million on March 31 and makes Point72 the largest owner of Delek US (Ticker: DK) that is not affiliated with Israel-based Delek Group. (Not coincidentally, Delek Group last week sold more than 10 million Delek US shares.)
Chad McCurdy has been booking some nice paper gains of late on his and his Marlin Capital Partners' stakes in Diversicare Healthcare Services, but that didn't stop him last week from spending almost $500,000 to snap up another 78,000 shares for various personal accounts. Combined, McCurdy's direct and indirect professional and personal holdings now total 22.7 percent of Diversicare. Shares of the Brentwood-based company (Ticker: DVCR) are up more than 40 percent so far this year.
The investment banks handling the latest sale of Delek US Holdings shares by the Israeli holding company Delek Group drummed up enough investor interest to add another 1.4 million shares to the offering. That has pushed down Delek Group's stake in Brentwood-based Delek US — which was 30 percent last summer — to 7.5 percent. Shares of Delek US (Ticker: DK) recovered a bit Friday from earlier losses to close at $30.42. Year to date, they're down 11 percent.