(Bloomberg) — Richard Branson is the latest billionaire to join the blank-check listing party after he sold his space tourism business to one.
VG Acquisition Corp. filed Wednesday to raise $400 million in a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The company plans to sell 40 million units at $10 apiece, according to its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company said it would look at a host of businesses to target for a merger. The possibilities could be as varied as travel, financial services, music and renewable energy. it said.
Branson, founder of the VG Acquisition, sold Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. in October to a blank-check company started by Chamath Palihapitiya and venture capital firm Hedosophia in a deal that set off this year’s SPAC listing spree.
Branson and the management of VG Acquisition bought 11.5 million shares or 20% of the shares outstanding for $25,000 in a common payout known as founder shares or promote — a compensation to sponsors for finding a deal.
Investment heavyweights like Bill Ackman have since set up their own SPACs. The $4 billion initial public offering by Ackman’s SPAC in July is the largest ever by a blank-check company.
Buyout firm Apollo Global Management Inc. also filed Wednesday to raise $750 million through a blank-check company, Apollo Strategic Growth Capital.
Credit Suisse Group AG is leading the offering by VG Acquisition. The company plans to list its units, consisting of one Class A ordinary share and one-third of a redeemable warrant, on the New York stock exchange under the symbol VGAC.U.
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‘He doesn’t tell the truth’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has once again said she does not think former Vice President Joe Biden should debate President Donald Trump ahead of the November election, telling CBS on Friday morning: “Why bother? He [Trump] doesn’t tell the truth.”
The Democratic leader weighed into the race this week after having already previously said she was against the former vice president debating Mr Trump.
The House speaker has been an outspoken critic of the president, warning Americans to “ignore the lies” and “insist on the truth” as he began leading White House coronavirus press briefings earlier this year.
On Friday, she reignited those calls while slamming the president in an interview with Gayle King.
“Not that I don’t think [Mr Biden] would be excellent, I just think that the president has no fidelity to fact or truth, and actually in his comments the last few days, no fidelity to the Constitution of the United States,” she said. “He and his henchmen are a danger, but their comments are a danger to our democracy.”
She added: “Why bother? He doesn’t tell the truth, he isn’t committed to our constitution.”
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3 ‘Strong Buy’ Stocks With Over 7% Dividend Yield
Markets are volatile, there can be no doubt. So far this month, the S&P 500 has fallen 9% from its peak. The tech-heavy NASDAQ, which had led the gainers all summer, is now leading the on the fall, having lost 11% since September 2. The three-week tumble has investors worried that we may be on the brink of another bear market.The headwinds are strong. The usual September swoon, the upcoming election, doubts about another round of economic stimulus – all are putting downward pressure on the stock markets.Which doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. As the old saw goes, “Bulls and bears can both make money, while the pigs get slaughtered.” A falling market may worry investors, but a smart strategy can prevent the portfolio from losing too much long-term value while maintaining a steady income. Dividend stocks, which feed into the income stream, can be a key part of such a strategy.Using the data available in the TipRanks database, we’ve pulled up three stocks with high yields – from 7% to 11%, or up to 6 times the average dividend found on the S&P 500 index. Even better, these stocks are seen as Strong Buys by Wall Street’s analysts. Let’s find out why.Williams Companies (WMB)We start with Williams Companies, an Oklahoma-based energy company. Williams controls pipelines connecting Rocky Mountain natural gas fields with the Pacific Northwest region, and Appalachian and Texan fields with users in the Northeast and transport terminals on the Gulf Coast. The company’s primary operations are the processing and transport of natural gas, with additional ops in crude oil and energy generation. Williams handles nearly one-third of all US commercial and residential natural gas use.The essential nature of Williams’ business – really, modern society simply cannot get along without reliable energy sources – has insulated the company from some of the economic turndown in 1H20. Quarterly revenues slid from $2.1 billion at the end of last year to $1.9 billion in Q1 and $1.7 billion in Q2. EPS in the first half was 26 cents for Q1 and 25 cents for Q2 – but this was consistent with EPS results for the previous three quarters. The generally sound financial base supported the company’s reliable dividend. Williams has been raising that payment for the past four years, and even the corona crisis could not derail it. At 40 cents per common share, the dividend annualizes to $1.60 and yields an impressive 7.7%. The next payment is scheduled for September 28.Truist analyst Tristan Richardson sees Williams as one of the midstream sector’s best positioned companies.“We continue to look to WMB as a defensive component of midstream and favor its 2H prospects as broader midstream grasps at recovery… Beyond 2020 we see the value proposition as a stable footprint with free cash flow generation even in the current environment. We also see room for incremental leverage reduction throughout our forecast period on scaled back capital plans and even with the stable dividend. We look for modestly lower capex in 2021, however unlike more G&P oriented midstream firms, we see a project backlog in downstream that should support very modest growth,” Richardson noted.Accordingly, Richardson rates WMB shares as a Buy, and his $26 price target implies a 30% upside potential from current levels. (To watch Richardson’s track record, click here)Overall, the Strong Buy analyst consensus rating on WMB is based on 11 Buy reviews against just a single Hold. The stock’s current share price is $19.91 and the average price target is $24.58, making the one-year upside potential 23%. (See WMB stock analysis on TipRanks)Magellan Midstream (MMP)The second stock on our list is another midstream energy company, Magellan. This is another Oklahoma-based firm, with a network of assets across much of the US from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi Valley, and into the Southeast. Magellan’s network transports crude oil and refined products, and includes Gulf Coast export shipping terminals.Magellan’s total revenues rose sequentially to $782.8 in Q1, and EPS came in at $1.28, well above the forecast. These numbers turned down drastically in Q2, as revenue fell to $460.4 million and EPS collapsed to 65 cents. The outlook for Q3 predicts a modest recovery, with EPS forecast at 85 cents. The company strengthened its position in the second quarter with an issue of 10-year senior notes, totaling $500 million, at 3.25%. This reduced the company’s debt service payments, and shored up liquidity, making possible the maintenance of the dividend.The dividend was kept steady at $1.0275 per common share quarterly. Annualized, this comes to $4.11, a good absolute return, and gives a yield of 11.1%, giving MMP a far higher return than Treasury bonds or the average S&P-listed stock.Well Fargo analyst Praneeth Satish believes that MMP has strong prospects for recovery. “[We] view near-term weakness in refined products demand as temporary and recovering. In the interim, MMP remains well positioned given its strong balance sheet and liquidity position, and ratable cash flow stream…” Satish goes on to note that the dividend appears secure for the near-term: “The company plans to maintain the current quarterly distribution for the rest of the year.”In line with this generally upbeat outlook, Satish gives MMP an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and a $54 price target that implies 57% growth in the coming year. (To watch Satish’s track record, click here)Net net, MMP shares have a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, a show of confidence by Wall Street’s analyst corps. The stock is selling for $33.44, and the average price target of $51.13 implies 53% growth in the year ahead. (See MMP stock analysis on TipRanks)Ready Capital Corporation (RC)The second stock on our list is a real estate investment trust. No surprise finding one of these in a list of strong dividend payers – REITs have long been known for their high dividend payments. Ready Capital, which focuses on the commercial mortgage niche of the REIT sector, has a portfolio of loans in real estate securities and multi-family dwellings. RC has provided more than $3 billion in capital to its loan customers.In the first quarter of this year, when the coronavirus hit, the economy turned south, and business came to a standstill, Ready Capital took a heavy blow. Revenues fell by 58%, and Q1 EPS came in at just one penny. Things turned around in Q2, however, after the company took measures – including increasing liquidity, reducing liabilities, and increasing involvement in government-sponsored lending – to shore up business. Revenues rose to $87 million and EPS rebounded to 70 cents.In the wake of the strong Q2 results, RC also started restoring its dividend. In Q1 the company had slashed the payment from 40 cents to 25 cents; in the most recent declaration, for an October 30 payment, the new dividend is set at 30 cents per share. This annualizes to $1.20 and gives a strong yield of 9.9%.Crispin Love, writing from Piper Sandler, notes the company’s success in getting back on track.“Given low interest rates, Ready Capital had a record $1.2B in residential mortgage originations versus our $1.1B estimate. Gain on sale margins were also at record levels. We are calculating gain on sale margins of 3.7%, up from 2.4% in 1Q20,” Love wrote.In a separate note, written after the dividend declaration, Love added, “We believe that the Board’s actions show an increased confidence for the company to get back to its pre-pandemic $0.40 dividend. In recent earnings calls, management has commented that its goal is to get back to stabilized earnings above $0.40, which would support a dividend more in-line with pre-pandemic levels.”To this end, Love rates RC an Overweight (i.e. Buy) along with a $12 price target, suggesting an upside of 14%. (To watch Love’s track record, click here)All in all, Ready Capital has a unanimous Strong Buy analyst consensus rating, based on 4 recent positive reviews. The stock has an average price target of $11.50, which gives a 9% upside from the current share price of $10.51. (See RC stock analysis on TipRanks)To find good ideas for dividend stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
US military increasingly using drone missile with flying blades in Syria
The US military is making increasing use in Syria of a gruesome and secretive non-explosive drone missile that deploys flying blades to kill its targets.
Described as less likely to kill non-combatants, the so-called ninja bomb – whose development was first disclosed last year – has been used a number of times in the last year to kill militants in Syria, including those linked to aal-Qaida, most recently earlier this month.
Officially designated as the Hellfire AGM-114R9X – usually shortened to R9X and sometimes know as the “Flying Ginsu” – the weapon has been increasingly deployed in targeted assassinations by the US Joint Special Operations Command.
The missile, believed to have been first used in 2017 to kill al-Qaida’s then No 2 leader, Abu Khayr al Masri, in Idlib province, first came to wider attention when its existence was disclosed by an article in the Wall Street Journal last year.
The weapon uses a combination of the force of 100lb of dense material flying at high speed and six attached blades which deploy before impact to crush and slice its victims.
Video that emerged in June this year, posted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, appeared to show the remains of one of the missiles used in a strike on a vehicle, also in Syria’s Idlib that killed a Jordanian and Yemen, both reportedly members of Hurras al-Din, a group affiliated with aal-Qaida.
The weapon is believed to have been developed during the administration of Barack Obama at a time when the US policy of targeted drone assassinations attracted considerable criticism for the number of civilian casualties caused by the strikes.
Since its deployment it has been used sparingly, apparently most often in Syria.
According to the New York Times the most recent use of the missile was on 14 September, when it was reportedly used to kill Sayyaf al-Tunsi, a Tunisian.
Observers have speculated that the increasing use of the weapon in Syria – which increasingly has targeted leadership members of al-Qaida’s affiliates – has been driven by the complexities of operations in Syria where the US is required to work around a large Russian engagement.
Related: Deadly clash in Syria a vivid reminder of US troops’ ill-defined mission
The bladed, non-explosive version of the Hellfire missile is the latest iteration of a weapon that has undergone several variations since it was used to weaponize previously unarmed Predator drones in around 2000.
The first Hellfires were designed as tank busters with a powerful shaped charge, used in Afghanistan for which they were regarded as not entirely suitable.
A later version was developed that carried a heavier explosive warhead , but which led in turn to issues with civilian casualties, leading to the development of the R9X.
Up until May last year, it is believed that the weapon had been used no more than half a dozen times. But since then it appears to have been used increasingly more often.
The new missile appears designed for use in circumstances where a more conventional explosive missile might not be considered for fears of killing non-combatants.
While conceding that the weapon appeared to be less dangerous to civilians, Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence warned against the impression that it was a “more humanitarian weapon”.
“This weapon, whilst only used only a handful of times, does appear to have less wide-area effects than other air-dropped explosive weapons.
“However, the vast majority of the US explosive arsenal does, all too often, cause terrible collateral damage. Given Trump’s administration also authorised the use of the largest non-nuclear explosion in the history of the world in Afghanistan, it’s important to be wary of the PR optics that the US military is now using ‘humanitarian’ weapons.”
Overton also underlined issues with a targeted assassination campaign – using any weapons – that had little oversight.
“This new weapon, framed as an alternative to larger bombs, might be sold as almost ethical, but if it side-steps due judicial process, and is as susceptible to wrong targeting as other strikes, it is no more than an assassin’s blade wielded by a state rarely held to account for its actions.”
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