Luck O’ the Apple’s Alleged Transfer Pricing; eBay and PayPal Headed for Splitsville; Confidence Bruiser

An Apple away…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

There are some very complicated things going on with Apple on the other side of the Atlantic. Except Apple probably won’t get in too much trouble for any of it. Well, maybe a little. It depends on whom you ask. As for Ireland? Well, the Emerald Isle just might be in a whole vat of hot water. At issue is whether or not Apple did something called transfer pricing, the details of which I will gladly spare you. Though some would argue all the trouble has to do with whether or not Apple was getting illegal tax breaks from Ireland – a very major no-no, in the eyes of the EU anyways. In any case, there is a report coming out from an EU commission and, in keeping with the spirit of all things that involve government, it’s all very convoluted.  If anyone or any entity, for that matter, gets fined, it will likely be Ireland, that very corporate-hospitable country, who some people argue was a little too friendly to Apple and whose allegedly generous tax-breaks amounted to, I kid you not, nothing short of “state aid,” according to the Commission. And if you were wondering how any of this affects you, then rest assured – it doesn’t, really.

Breaking up is not so hard to do…

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Carl Icahn wants, Carl Icahn gets. Eventually, anyways. For instance, activist investor Carl Icahn wanted eBay and PayPal to march head first into splitsville hoping for a “tax-free” spin-off. And wouldn’t you know it, the two companies did just that. How convenient. It helps that Icahn owns about 30 million shares of eBay and scored about $100 million today from the move. EBay, by the way, pulled in revenues of almost $10 billion this year, while PayPal pulled in $7.2 billion. Before you scoff at PayPal, know that PayPal grew at a 20% rate compared to eBay’s 10% rate. So now who’re you gonna scoff at? Huh? This move frees up PayPal to pursue a whole bunch of opportunities that might have held it back if it was still tied to eBay. Staying together would have proved “less advantageous” for both. Ah! What a break-up story. I wonder which studio is going buy the rights to this corporate tearjerker.

Speaking of self-esteem…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like consumers aka you, me, us aren’t feeling very fiscally confident these days, that is, according to an informative index that actually gauges our collective confidence level. Which, by the way, weighs in at at disconcerting 86. It’s disconcerting in that last month our collective confidence level was over a 93 – a seven year high, mind you. Quite the tumble, I’ll say. So what exactly is shaking our confidence lately? Not so minor things like job growth that hasn’t been growing quite as quickly as we’d like. And if that isn’t enough of a confidence deflater then how about the fact that Americans also don’t much care for the slow-ish economic growth. But some really intelligent economists out there find that this months “86” index reading is but a minor hiccup in an otherwise positive, albeit, slow economic recovery. So fear not, oh faithful consumer, as falling gas prices and job growth (even though slow, at times) are all within reach.

Forbes-ulous 400; International (FREE) Coffee Day; Getting Fee’d On

Rank’d…

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Forbes 33rd Annual Forbes 400 rankings of 2014 has at last descended upon us to rub our noses in it. The combined wealth of the lucky 400 who made the list totals a staggering $2.29 trillion (note the “t”). For his 21st straight year in a row, Bill Gates leads the pack with $81 billion in his bank account. Warren Buffet is nipping at his heels in the number two spot with only $67 billion. Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg fills in the #11 spot. As for the rookies, there’s WhatsApp’s Jan Koum rounding out the #62 spot and Uber Technologies very own Travis Kalanick who is comfortably perched at the #190 spot. At just thirty years old, Elizabeth Holmes is the youngest of the 47 women on the list at #110. She is the founder of a company called Theranos which apparently does something super complicated and impressive in blood testing. We’ll leave it at that. And in case you were wondering -and it’s okay of you weren’t – Oprah Winfrey comes in at the #190 spot. You can catch up on your billionaire rankings  at: http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400?

 Buzzzzzz…

Image courtesy of amenic181/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of amenic181/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, September 29, marks International Coffee Day. And no I did not make that up. If you don’t believe me you can just walk in to your local Dunkin’ Donuts and pick up you FREE MEDIUM-sized cup of joe in honor of the momentous. Incidentally, Dunkin’ Donuts is eagerly touting its latest and greatest dark roast. If you’re feeling frisky, then whip out just a dollar and get yourself a mocha or latte. The idea behind International Coffee Day is to promote awareness for free-trade coffee and raise awareness about coffee growers around the world. Hey, works for me. McDonalds and Krispy Kreme, among others, are also offering some java gratis. But you might want to skip Starbucks today as it’s only offering samples – until 12:00. Whatever.

Fee’d…

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just in case you weren’t paying attention, penalties for using ATM’s NOT associated with your bank have very rudely risen by 5% over this past year and more than 20% in the last five years. The average fee has stealthily climbed to $4.35 per transaction. There are actually two fees involved – one from your bank, punishing you for being so inconsiderate as to dare use another’s ATM. The other fee comes from the owner of the ATM from whose coffers you, once again, so inconsiderately, dared to withdraw funds. The average penalty for overdraft fees also increased to $32.75 per transaction. Following the 2008 financial crisis, banks had to follow a few new rules and regulations that put limits for what they could and could not penalize you. But, of course, they made up for it by making sure those penalties for which they could charge you went up. A lot. If these fees are really getting to you, check out credit unions, smaller local banks and online banks which tend to have less fees – and less (or no) strings attached.

Jimmy Choo: If the IPO Shoe Fits…; Inversions: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly; Soda Vs. the World

I Jimmy Choos you…

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Arguably one of the world’s awesomest shoemakers (understatement of the year), Jimmy Choo, propelled to fame thanks to Carrie Bradshaw and “Sex and the City,” is now looking to put a little “pump” into the stock market by coming out with its own IPO next month. Granted, it will be nothing compared to Alibaba’s meteoric rise to the top of the index. Partly because it will be listed on the London Stock Exchange. The other staggering difference is that Jimmy Choo’s valuation, at about $1 billion, will be a wee bit smaller by about oh, I don’t know, $23 billion, give or take. Jimmy Choo has major plans to expand in Asia where  the shoes are not as easy to come by, yet so very many people there want them. And you know, Asia being a pretty huge place and all, has a lot of shoes to fill (sorry, I had to go for that one). The company has seen double digit growth on that continent, especially in China. Which is good because since you can’t score a new iPhone 6+ there, you can at least console yourself with a $2000 pair of shoes.

An inversion by any other name…

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Inversions. They’re baaack. If you recall (and its okay if you don’t), corporations totally dig inversions as a way to reduce the heavy duty 35% tax burden imposed by sweet old Unlcle Sam. Simply put, companies move overseas. It’s a bit more complicated but I’ll spare you all the gory details. The government, this one anyway, gets really annoyed when companies do inversions, because it thinks money is being taken out and away from the US. Now, just as eight major US corporations, Burger King among them, are getting set to pack up their things and head for fiscally greener pastures, US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew inconveniently announced plans to crackdown on inversions practices and the companies that do them. Lew hopes to “significantly diminish the ability of inverted companies to escape US taxation” and basically make it not worth it for companies to invert. However, Martin Regalia, who just so happens to be the chief economist at the super-important US Chamber of Commerce feels this crackdown is a very very bad idea and says that “the administration just assured that deferred income in the once foreign subsidiary will never come back to the U.S. to help create income, jobs and economic growth here.” Which basically means: “Bad public policy produces bad economic results.”

The skinny on soda…

Image courtesy of artzenter/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artzenter/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your soda is about to get a whole lot skinnier – 20% skinnier. And you can forget Coke vs. Pepsi vs. Dr. Pepper vs. whatever…It’s now soda vs. the world as beverage suppliers are getting their game on to try very hard to get Americans to stop consuming so much sugar,  at least from their beverages. This big unified soda announcement came during the Clinton Global Initiative. Apparently a study was conducted that found how between 2000-2013, the amount of sugar people got from their drinks fell over 12%. Which is all good. Especially because the beverage industry took note of this and will now push water and diet drinks more aggressively. Why, they are even going to market those cute smaller size cans of full calorie soda. Which is a really good thing. Especially because those darling little cans are so much more profitable. More so than the bigger regular-sized cans. Go figure. Oh, and they allegedly help with portion control too.

Is There An iPhone 6+ in the House?; Jack Ma’s Very Good Day; Clorox Says “Adios” to Venezuela

Best. Ever…

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apple had an awesome weekend selling more than 10 million new iPhones in what has turned out to be Apple’s best debut weekend for an iPhone. Ever. There were of course some major movie debuts, as well. But who cares because it seems everybody was standing on line waiting to grab their new iPhones instead. The big mystery, it seems, is which iPhone did people buy? Was it the $199 iPhone 6 or the $299 iPhone 6+ aka “the bigger one.” By September 26, 20 more countries will be afforded the opportunity to purchase the device. Which brings us to another big mystery – namely, that China, undoubtedly one of the largest smartphone markets will not be one of those countries.  In fact, it’s not known, if or when China will ever be launching the iconic devices on its shores because apparently…wait for it…the device still needs “government approval” from the Chinese government, that is.

Speaking of China…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s official. After all the hype and hoopla, Alibaba, the New York Stock Exchange’s newest “it” stock, did live up to all the chatter surrounding its debut.  The stock now holds the record for being the biggest IPO. Ever. In the world. Ever. Easily leaving Facebook’s IPO record in the dust. CEO Jack Ma, with minimal effort, raised $25 billion and the stock began trading on Friday at 35% higher than its $68 IPO price. Today, however, shares are down – below $90, still way way way above it’s IPO price. The ticker symbol, by the way, is BABA. Catchy, right? I thought so too.

Adios…

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Venezuela is about to get a whole lot dirtier as Clorox pulls the plug on its operations over there. For the last three years, the price of Clorox products remained frozen, courtesy of the Venezuelan government. Not all of Clorox’s products had a price freeze -but 2/3s of them did, which made it pretty difficult not to operate at a regular staggering loss. But the price freeze alone wasn’t the only problem. Triple digit inflation led to higher prices for raw materials, packaging, wages, transportation, and other very important things necessary to run a company. Of course, the suits at Clorox graciously tried to explain the arithmetic to the Venezulan government officials but they just wouldn’t play ball. Sure they agreed to increase prices, but not enough. In fact, it was nowhere near enough. Wall Street clearly thought the decision to bail on Venezuela to be muy bien and sent shares of company north (no pun intended – okay, well maybe just a little).

Pier 1 Coming Up Short; Pizza Hut Getting Skinny or Skimpy?; Lincoln Logs Makes Its American Re-Debut

Down but not out…

Image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pier 1 Imports took a beating on its second quarter earnings. Not because it didn’t earn a profit, which it did. But because the profit just wasn’t good enough – make that high enough. Net income – or as the simple people like me say, profit, – came in at $9.2 million which amounted to $0.10 per share. That’s nice and all but earnings of $0.13 per share would have been a lot nicer according to those hard to please analysts. Especially since last year the company pulled in a $17.8 million profit. Revenue for the company was $418.6 million. But once again, that figure just wasn’t enough to please those Wall Street analysts who were looking to see numbers closer to $427 million. Shares of the Texas-based chain have been down 32% since the beginning of the year. Not exactly encroaching disastrous Radio Shack territory but still, the company is looking to close some of its 1000 plus stores. Though how many is still not clear. There will also be a little less coupon clipping for the store as those will now be yanked, although perhaps not entirely. The question remains, however: Where have all those shoppers gone who used to grace those stores with their presence and credit cards? Hmmm.

The new skinny…

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pizza Hut has got big plans to make you skinny. Okay that’s a stretch but the chain is unveiling (which sounds so much more dramatic than it actually is) it’s latest plan to gain back some market share in the contentious food turf war that it has been losing as of late. Dubbed the “Skinny Slice,” Pizza Hut’s latest menu addition is, in fact, not sold by the slice. Also, it should be duly noted that this new slice also uses the same exact ingredients as in a regular slice – just less of them. Pizza Hut diners in Ohio and Florida will be among the first who get to sample the new fare. Pizza Hut is hoping to attract those finicky Millenials who seem to prefer chains like Chipotle and Panera bread that apparently serve up healthier, higher quality fare. Go figure.

Quit toying with me… 

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Arguably a classic in the Canon of America toys (I made that up), Lincoln Logs, whose license is owned by another classic-in the making, K’NEX, makes its way back to the shores of the US all the way from China (where else?). Created almost a century ago by John Lloyd Wright, one of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s children, the toy will now, once again, be manufactured in the United States – well 80% of it anyways. Naturally, the other 20% will still be made in China (again, where else?). Pride Manufacturing, located in Burnham, Maine,  the company that will manufacture 80% of the Lincoln Logs, conveniently enough, already makes wooden toys. The new move will create between 5-10 jobs in the US.

 

FedEx-cellent Earnings; Santa’s Not So Little Helpers; New Home Confidence Booster

Can I get that overnight?

Image courtesy of tigger11th/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tigger11th/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may not use FedEx on a regular basis but other people sure do. The shipping company’s earnings toppled Wall Street predictions earning $2.10 per share in its first quarter compared with an expected $1.96 per share. Nothing like giving those predictions a smack down. Those hefty earnings were a 37% increase over the same time last year which took in just $1.53 per share. If you’re in the market for some shares of this very useful company, you’ll need to plunk over approximately $159…again, per share. Revenue for the company came in at $11.7 billion while analysts short changed FedEx for a paltry $11.44 billion. In fact, just between June and August the express shipping company earned a whopping $606 million, which happens to be a not-so-modest 24% increase over the same time last year. Graciously enough, FedEx will be waiting until after the holiday season to raise its rates by almost 5%.

Elves, elves everywhere…

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Speaking of the holiday season (and FedEx, for that matter) which is in fact a lot closer than you may (choose to) realize, FedEx and UPS have big plans to add to their workforces. Following last year’s debacle when the shipping companies received more packages than they could physically handle, with some arriving after the holiday, UPS and FedEx decided they would increase the amount of workers they hired last year so that there will be no doubt – make that little doubt –  that your packages make it on time. FedEx plans to hire 50,000 seasonal employees, as opposed to last year’s 40,000. UPS is pulling out all the stops by bringing in 95,000  extra workers for what they predict will be an epic  – at least as far as shipping needs are concerned – holiday season. But it’s not just shipping companies that are hiring extra staff. Kohl’s just announced its plans to hire approximately 50 associates per store. Considering Kohl’s has over 1,160 stores in 49 states, you just might find yourself at the right end of some decent customer service come December. Expect other stores to follow suit.

Home sweet home…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Which brings us to homebuilders confidence. Well really it doesn’t, but whatever. According to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index (yeah, try saying that five times fast), the sentiment hit 59 in August. Analysts called for about a 55. So ha! Considering anything over a 50 is good news, this number deserves its own party. In fact, US home builder confidence for new single family homes (sorry, old homes)  hasn’t been this well…confident – and high – in nine years. All this seems to suggest sales for homes will rise – which is good, especially if you’re selling. It also helps that the job market is improving and interest rates are low. All things that make buying a new single family home (again, sorry old homes) that much more enticing.

Alibaba Raising the Roof on the Range; Olive Garden’s Breaking Breadsticks; United’s Flight Attendants’ Six-Figure Payout

Oh Ma gosh…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you thought China’s biggest e-commerce site couldn’t get any bigger, it keeps doing just that. While last weeks’ range for its highly anticipated initial public offering was hovering in the $60-$66 range, already an impressive feat, this week the range just grew that much larger. The price now looms in the $66-$68 range. There is just so much ridiculously insane demand for this IPO that CEO Jack Ma, a former school teacher and China’s richest man with a net worth of $21.9 billion, had no problem raising the money for the IPO on his roadshow. And no, this type of roadshow has nothing to do with nosebleed seats and bad beer. When a guy like Jack Ma goes on a roadshow he is trying to raise in interest and money for his company. Something which he had no trouble doing in the last couple of days. The company has raised $21.8 billion…so far.

Dude, lay off the breadsticks…

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It seems Olive Garden needs to lay off the breadsticks and push the alcohol. At least according to Starboard Value LP, a firm that holds an 8.8% stake in Darden restaurants, Olive Garden’s parent company. Starboard is also taking issue with Olive Garden’s unlimited salad offerings. And don’t even get Starboard started on the pasta. “How does the largest Italian dining concept in the world not salt the water for pasta?” Starboard’s words, not mine. If you don’t believe what you’re reading then check out its just released 294 page turnaround plan. Darden rebutted with its own charming little 24 slide presentation challenging the report whose suggestions, Darden feels, are “not based on reality.” Though, to be fair, Darden has already been implementing many of the other suggestions. The question, however, is can you really blame Darden’s poor last quarter earnings on unlimited breadsticks?

Pay day…

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It pays not to be a flight attendant on United Airlines. Literally. The company, which currently has over 23,000 employees, apparently has too many flight attendants. So the airline graciously and, in my humble opinion, generously, reached an agreement with the Association of Flight Attendants to offer up to 2,100 early buyout packages to flight attendants (assuming they meet certain requirements, of course). Some of those packages will be worth up to $100,000. Yes. $100,000 to quit your job. Incidentally, United Airlines was the only major airline to post a loss this past quarter.  Also incidentally, it’s cheaper to employ less experienced flight attendants. I’ve had a few flight attendants  – of varying degrees of experience – who I’d like to see take that package. Of course, I wouldn’t give them $1 much less $100,000. Unfortunately, all the money I’ve plunked down just to have the privilege of traveling on United Airlines doesn’t entitle me to an opinion on the matter.