(Bloomberg) -- The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block Intercontinental Exchange Inc’s $13 billion acquisition of Black Knight Inc., but some traders are still betting that the companies will get the deal done.
Black Knight shares dropped 2.6% to $59.42 on Thursday, remaining below ICE’s $75 offer but higher than its estimated standalone value, which is around $50, according to a Bloomberg News survey of merger arbitrage specialists and analysts. That means, the market is still pricing in a roughly 40% chance that the troubled merger, which is now expected to head to the court, will succeed.
“The market appears to think the companies have a decent shot of prevailing in court,” said Brett Buckley, at WallachBeth Capital. “I think the divestiture package, as well as its buyer, is credible.”
FTC Votes to Block ICE-Black Knight Deal Over Price-Hike Concern
The FTC voted unanimously to file the complaint in the agency’s in-house court, alleging the proposed tie-up would raise prices for mortgage lenders and homebuyers. Earlier this week, ICE agreed to sell Black Knight’s loan origination business Empower to Constellation Software Inc., saying it’s committed to litigating with the FTC to get the merger approved.
ICE stands a “good chance of winning” in the court, according to Jefferies. The key is whether the company can successfully argue that loan originations and loan servicing are two different markets. There appears to be no court precedent to the regulator’s theory of vertical integration harm, analysts including Surinder Thind wrote in a note to clients earlier this week.
Wall Street pros are also emboldened by the success of UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s takeover of Change Healthcare last year. The companies prevailed after a lengthy court fight against the Justice Department, a rewarding result for traders who stuck with their merger arbitrage bet.
“We like the chances for this deal to ultimately cross the finish line,” according to a note from Stephens analyst John Campbell, citing ICE’s public assurance that it intends to litigate and Epower already finding a suitor.
To be sure, investors and analysts have various estimates on the so-called downside value in Black Knight, a price the stock will fall to if the deal breaks depending their views on the disruptions in the mortgage software industry. In the Thursday survey of 10 merger arbitrage specialists, responses ranged from $45 to $55.
(Updated with stock move and chart at close)
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