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New Jersey deli owner Hometown International to do Makamer merger

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Your Hometown Deli in Paulsboro, N.J.

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Hometown International — that odd, publicly traded company with a market capitalization of more than $100 million despite owning just one small New Jersey deli — has announced plans to merge with Makamer, a private bioplastics start-up firm.

The money-losing Your Hometown Deli in Paulsboro, N.J., which is owned by Hometown International, will not be operated by the company that will result from the merger with the Los Angeles-based Makamer. It is unclear whether the deli will close or continue selling sandwiches, soda, chips and other fare.

The announcement of the tie-up of Makamer and Hometown International comes nearly a year after hedge fund manager David Einhorn in a client letter noted the bizarre disparity between the deli’s extremely modest sales, which were $25,004 for all of 2021, and Hometown’s sky-high stock market valuation.

“The pastrami must be amazing,” Einhorn quipped in the most-quoted line from that April 2021 letter.

On the heels of that letter, CNBC detailed the tangled business relationships and controversial history of a number of people connected to Hometown International, whose CEO at the time was Paul Morina, the high school principal and head wrestling coach in Paulsboro.

Morina is still listed as owning 31.5 million shares of Hometown International.

In its annual report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 18, Hometown International disclosed that “the Company has identified a potential target company and is currently engaged in discussions regarding a possible business combination.”

Makamer CEO talks to CNBC

Alex Mond, the head of Makamer, told CNBC in an interview Friday that he expects the merger with Hometown International, which was disclosed in an SEC filing on the eve of April Fool’s Day, to be completed “in a few weeks.”

After that, Mond said, he plans to soon after transfer what will be the bioplastics company’s new stock trading symbol to Nasdaq from the over-the-counter markets.

Mond said Los Angeles-based Makamer considered Hometown an attractive merger candidate even after the headlines about the deli owner because of its status as a publicly traded company.

“We have investors who pushed us to go public,” he said.

Mond said that going public will make it easier for Makamer to get much-needed money to grow its business, which launched more than three years ago, by issuing debt.

Mond said Makamer is in discussions with “major companies interested in selling our product,” which is designed to replace petroleum-based plastics, and to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and land.

“We’re anticipating purchase orders,” Mond said.

“We use 45 different blends, mainly hemp,” Mond said about the firm’s bioplastics.

“Hemp is the best replacement” for plastics, he said, noting that “it uses the least amount of energy, and it’s easy to grow,” is renewable, and “also cleans up the soil” of pollutants.

Stock price hits $14 a share

The SEC filing announcing the intended merger, which was made by Hometown International under the new name Makamer Holdings, did not reveal how Hometown International and Makamer were each being valued in the merger, or how the 60 or so shareholders in Hometown International will make out in the deal.

HWIN, the current symbol of Hometown International, trades in very low volume, if at all, on the Pink platform of OTC Markets, an over-the-counter listing service.

OTC Markets in April 2021delisted HWIN from its OTCQB platform, shifted the stock to the less prestigious Pink market, and slapped a “buyer beware” warning on the deli owner “for not complying with the rules” of OTC Markets.

As of Friday, Hometown International’s stock price was $14 per share, giving it a market capitalization of $109.2 million, just based on outstanding shares alone.

The last recorded trades of the stock were for 100 shares on March 8. Before that, the last recorded trades of the stock were for the same number of shares on Dec. 31.

‘More details will follow shortly’

Peter Coker Jr., the Hong Kong-based investor who is Hometown International’s CEO, in an email response to being asked about the merger said, “Everything that is available to discuss has been Disclosed in the SEC Form 8K.”

“More details will follow shortly,” wrote Coker Jr.

Manoj Jain, the founder of Maso Capital in Hong Kong, which is a major investor in Hometown International, declined to comment through a spokesman.

Maso Capital for more than a year had positioned Hometown International and another related publicly traded shell company, formerly known as E-Waste, as vehicles for private companies to merge with and become publicly traded themselves.

E-Waste last year entered into a reverse merger with EZRaider Global Inc., a privately held electric vehicle corporation. E-Waste itself before the merger had a market capitalization of $110 million despite having no business operations.

On the heels of CNBC reports about Hometown International and E-Waste, both firms, in highly unusual filings with the SEC, disavowed their stock’s publicly quoted stock process, saying they were aware of no basis to support their companies’ high market capitalizations.

Other major investors in Hometown International include the investment funds of two U.S. universities, Duke and Vanderbilt, with those funds having mailing addresses in the same building as Maso Capital.

The largest shareholders in the deli owner are a group of opaque entities in Macao, China, whose mailing addresses are located on the same floor in the same office building there.

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Concern about management

Mond, in the interview, said that he and his current management at Makamer will be in charge of the merged company, despite the initial desire of people currently involved with Hometown to have management roles in the company when merger discussions started last year.

“They weren’t OK with it, but that was our condition,” Mond said. “It was all my management, or I’m not taking the deal.”

Mond said that he knew of the legal and regulatory controversies surrounding people involved in Hometown before he was approached by two “Wall Street guys” whom he knew, who suggested merger discussions.

“I was concerned” about those controversies, Mond said. “That’s why I made sure that our management takes over and not the old management.”

Mond said that during negotiations about the merger he only spoke only “very briefly” with Coker Jr., Hometown International’s president.

“Maybe three or four minutes,” Mond said, referring to the length of his discussions with Coker Jr. on the phone.

Mond said that his main point of contact in negotiations was with Hometown International’s lawyers, and “also James Patten.”

CNBC last year reported that Patten was working at the time as a financial analyst at Tryon Capital Ventures, a North Carolina investment company owned by Coker Jr.’s father, Peter Coker Sr.

Patten also had wrestled in high school with Morina, the major Hometown International shareholder and its former CEO. His LinkedIn profile lists him as manager of the Mantua Creek Group, a partnership in which Morina is a member, and which leases space to the Paulsboro deli.

Patten also is barred by FINRA, the broker-dealer regulator, from acting as a stockbroker or associating with broker-dealers, according to the regulator’s database.

He previously was the subject of repeated disciplinary actions by FINRA, which included not complying with an arbitration award of more than $753,000 for violating securities laws, unauthorized trading and churning a client’s account.

Coker Jr.’s father, Peter Coker Sr., is listed as owning 1.3 million shares of Hometown International. Coker Sr. and his business partner in Tryon Capital, Peter Reichard, control another entity, Europa Capital Investments, which is listed as owning nearly 2 million shares of the deli owner.

Coker Sr. previously has been sued for allegedly hiding money from creditors and alleged business-related fraud. He has denied wrongdoing in those cases, one of which was settled out of court in recent years in North Carolina.

Peter Lee Coker mugshot from the Raleigh/Wake City-County Bureau of Identification (CCBI).

Source: Raleigh/Wake City-County Bureau of Identification

In August 1992, the then-49-year-old Coker Sr. was arrested in Allentown, Pa. and charged “with prostitution and other offenses after he allegedly exposed himself” to three underage girls as he drove around Central School,” The Morning Call reported at the time. Records detailing the outcome of that case are not publicly available.

Coker Sr. was arrested in North Carolina in 2010, on a charge of soliciting a prostitute.

Reichard in 2011 entered a plea in a criminal case that led to his conviction for a scheme to illegally contribute thousands of dollars to the successful 2008 campaign for North Carolina governor of Bev Perdue, a Democrat.

The scheme involved the use of a bogus consulting contract between Tryon Capital Ventures and a fast-food franchisee who wanted to support Perdue. Coker Sr. was not charged in that case.

CNBC last year detailed that Tryon Capital was being paid thousands of dollars per month for consulting by both Hometown International and the related shell company, E-Waste. Both of those companies terminated those consulting contracts on the heels of that reporting.



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Boeing to slash about 2,000 white-collar jobs in finance and HR, report says

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Boeing expects to slash about 2,000 white-collar jobs this year in finance and human resources through a combination of attrition and layoffs, the planemaker confirmed to Seattle Times newspaper on Monday.

Last month, the Virginia-based company announced it would hire 10,000 workers in 2023, but some support positions would be cut.

Back then Boeing acknowledged it will “lower staffing within some support functions” – a move meant to enable it to better align resources to support current products and technology development.

“Over time, some of our corporate functions have grown quite large. And with that growth tends to come bureaucracy or disparate systems that are inefficient,” the newspaper quoted Mike Friedman, a senior director of communications at Boeing as saying. “So we’re streamlining.”

Boeing did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment. 

Last year, Boeing said it plans to cut about 150 finance jobs in the United States to simplify its corporate structure and focus more resources into manufacturing and product development.

Watch CNBC's full interview with Boeing's Dave Calhoun



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Trump appeals sanctions for ‘frivolous’ suit against Hillary Clinton

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presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton attend campaign rallies in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, October 10, 2016 and Manchester, New Hampshire U.S., October 24, 2016 in a combination of file photos.

Mike Segar | Carlos Barria | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump and one of his lawyers said Monday they are appealing nearly $1 million in sanctions imposed on them for what a federal judge called their “frivolous” lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and more than two dozen other defendants.

The court filing about the appeal came days after a lawyer for Trump and his attorney Alina Habba told the judge in the case they were willing to put up a bond of $1,031,788 to cover the costs of the sanctions while the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit considered the matter.

In imposing those sanctions Jan. 19, Judge John Middlebrooks said in an order, “We are confronted with a lawsuit that should never have been filed, which was completely frivolous, both factually and legally, and which was brought in bad faith for an improper purpose.”

Trump’s suit, which sought $70 million in damages, accused Clinton, former FBI officials, the Democratic National Committee and others of conspiring to create a “false narrative” that Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign against Clinton were colluding with Russia to try to win the election that year.

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Middlebrooks in September dismissed the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and barred Trump from refiling the complaint.

He later ordered Trump and Habba to pay more than $937,000 in sanctions.

Middlebrooks in his sanctions order called Trump “a mastermind of strategic abuse of the judicial process,” and a “prolific and sophisticated litigant who is repeatedly using the courts to seek revenge on political adversaries.”

A day after Middlebrooks issued that order, Trump voluntarily dropped another lawsuit he had pending before the same judge against New York Attorney General Letitia James. That suit was related to James’ pending $250 million fraud lawsuit against Trump and his company in Manhattan state court.

Jared Roberts, the lawyer for Trump and Habba, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNBC about the appeal.



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Nissan to buy up to 15% stake in Renault EV unit under reshaped alliance

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Pavlo Gonchar | LightRocket | Getty Images

Nissan and Renault on Monday unveiled details of their redesigned alliance, with the Japanese car maker committing to buy a stake of up to 15% in Renault’s electric vehicles unit Ampere.

The alliance junior partner Mitsubishi Motors will also consider investing in Ampere, which Renault aims to list, the companies said in a statement.

“Nissan’s intention is to invest up to 15% in Ampere, Renault Group’s EV & Software entity in Europe, with the aim to become a strategic investor,” the statement said ahead of a presentation in London.

The companies had already announced that under the deal to revive their long-standing alliance the French carmaker would reduce its stake in its Japanese partner to 15% from around 43% now.

Renault will transfer 28.4% of Nissan shares into a French trust, making the two more equal partners in the alliance.

Sources close to the matter said the agreement aimed to make the alliance freer and more balanced for the next 15 years.

The partnership will produce synergies from joint projects in Europe, India and Latin America, and the companies will work together in Renault’s flagship EV business, electronics and solid-state batteries. 

Renault will have flexibility to sell the Nissan shares held in the trust but “it has no obligation to sell the shares within a specific pre-determined period of time,” the statement on Monday said.

When it does sell, “Nissan would benefit from a right of first offer, to its or the benefit of a designated third party.”

The two companies last month announced a sweeping remake of their 24-year-old automaking alliance, which was thrown into disarray by the ouster of its architect and former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, amid financial scandal.

That announcement came after nearly four months of intense talks complicated by concerns about the sharing of intellectual property as Renault sought tie-ups with companies outside their alliance.

Renault’s board approved the deal on Sunday night, according to a source. Nissan’s board also approved it early on Monday, the source said.

Investors and analysts will be looking for more clarity on how the trust in which Renault will place the bulk of its Nissan stake will operate.

“There is absolutely no word about what’s going to happen to those shares in the trust,” said CLSA analyst Christopher Richter. “It seems they’re all avoiding the issue of Nissan buying them back which I think would be the best thing for all parties involved.”

Richter said Renault’s brand is not seen as being a strong brand, so it may be tough for the French carmaker to raise money for Ampere.

“I wonder once this thing goes into the market how much money you would really raise, he said. “That’s why I think they’re going to push Nissan to pay too much.”

The unequal relationship between the two carmakers had long been a source of friction among Nissan executives.

While Renault bailed out Nissan two decades ago, it is the smaller automaker by sales.

CLSA’s Richter said that the revamped alliance could enable Nissan and Renault to work together on R&D, shared costs and a few shared products “with a little bit less rancor and acrimony between them,” but added that Honda and General Motors <GM.N> have built a partnership that includes jointly developing lower-cost EVs together without any need for a capital relationship.

“One almost wonders what’s the point of them having any stake in either one, any stake at all,” Richter said.



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