Avon and Wall Street Get Punk’d But Ashton Kutcher’s Not Behind This One; Shake Shack Nails Some Juicy Earnings; Kohl’s is Just Not Good Enough

It’s not the Avon Lady…

Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So here’s a weird thing that happened on Wall Street today. Trading for the Avon company, based in the U.K. (no that’s not the weird thing) was halted three times all because of a prank filing. It’s like a prank call. Only incredibly stupider and much more serious. Like the kind of serious that is going to require legal representation once the moron who did it is caught. Some person/entity group, calling itself PTG Capital Partners, filed an $8 billion takeover bid with Federal regulators for the company, once famous for its now defunct door to door sales ladies. If you thought $8 billion seems like a lot for Avon, you aren’t the only one, because that comes out to more than triple its stock value. When the SEC posted this filing to its website, shares became volatile and trading stopped – more than a couple of times. Beside the fact that the filing was one big grammatical mess – a major red flag – calls made to the phone number listed went unanswered – another major red flag. A Texas address for the firm’s attorney, Michael Trose, was also listed and while the address is real, the building’s manager said there was never any tenant by that name – yes, red flag number three. Even though Avon has had three straight years of losses, the stock was a bit higher, presumably from all the drama surrounding it today.

Would you like fries with that?

Image courtesy of rakvatchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakvatchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After brutally beating its earnings, Shake Shack shares (alliteration, anyone?) are up today and at one point took a 10% leap. The burger un-joint pulled down revenues of $37.8 million, a 56% increase with a 4 cent per share profit, when analysts only expected the company to pull in 3 cents per share and $34 million in revenue. Maybe those “analysts” should start taking their lunches at Shake Shack and see for themselves. If you recall, the Shake Shack IPO was priced at $21 and as of today, the stock is more than triple that, coming in close to $70. While the naysayers scoff at the high value of the stock, its earnings seem to justify the price of the shares. So there. Even diners outside of New York City are digging the grub at the eatery as evidenced by a 12% increase in same store sales. But it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t mention how some of those impressive earnings were helped by the fact that Shake Shack raised its prices on a few “select” items. Expect to see more “Shacks” as the company has plans to open up 15 more locations, with five of those outside of the U.S. So I guess you could say Shake Shack nailed it. This quarter anyway.

On the other hand…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kohl’s took a Wall Street beating today on the news of its earnings miss. Shares of the retailer tumbled all the way down 10% at one point.  The company, which has over 1,100 stores, actually made a lot of money this quarter. Way more money than Shake Shack, in fact. The company pulled down $4.12 billion in sales and took home a $127 million profit at 63 cents per share when analysts only called for a 55 cent profit. Sounds impressive, right. But for those finicky analysts, those numbers, like my grades in high school, were just not good enough. You see, all those billions and millions that Kohl’s raked in were not enough to offset the fact that its sales were up only 1.3%. The harsh reality is that those very same finicky analysts expected the company to earn sales of $4.19 billion. Hence, the drop in price of shares.

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CEO’s Paychecks Getting the AFL-CIO Mad; Americans Didn’t Whip Out Their Wallets Much in April; In: DuPont Proxy War, Out: Boxing

So what’s the problem?

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The AFL-CIO is all worked up about CEO salaries and just how disproportionately higher they are than everybody else’s. The organization came out with a new report detailing all the juicy numbers found in an average CEO’s salary and the insane wage inequality crisis that goes along with it. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “America faces an income inequality crisis because corporate CEOs have taken the raising wages agenda and applied it only to themselves.”  CEO’s apparently rake in an average of $13.5 million a year, about $37,000 a day and a whopping 373 times more than the average worker, who gets a very average $36,000 a year. That $13.5 million figure is, by the way, a 16% increase over the previous year. But when a company starts increasing wages, it decreases profit for the company, which poses quite the dilemma for a company like say, Wal-Mart, with whom the AFL-CIO took particular issue. Wal-Mart’s CEO, Doug McMillon, gets about $20 million a year, according to the AFL-CIO’s report. However, Wal-Mart adamantly disputes that number since 75% of his paycheck is based on reaching his performance goals – which he did not – and hence, received less. Like maybe a couple of million less. According to other statistics, of the 250,000 CEO’s in the nation, the average pay is closer to $180,000.

Speaking of money…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Americans didn’t show the money in April, according to the Commerce Department, at least for cars, furniture, department stores…well, you see where I’m going with this. Some find this a bit unnerving since spending accounts for 70% of the economy. In fact April’s spending flatline is surprising considering all the steady hiring gains we’ve been seeing in the last twelve months, not to mention the 3 million jobs added that pay people money which they presumably were not inclined to spend. Even March saw a 1.1% increase in spending. April’s digits might have been worse had it not been for gains in restaurants, apparel and online spending offsetting those decreases in other areas. So what gives? Analysts aren’t too concerned since finding gainful employment hasn’t been a problem, a fact which tends to calm everybody’s nerves. Except paychecks don’t seem to be getting fat enough (see previous item) which does put a crimp on those spending figures.

Them’s fightin’words…

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Boxing is so over. But some real fighting took place in the Delaware boardroom at DuPont where a months long proxy war took center stage and made Pacquiao vs. Mayweather look like a “Golden Girls” rerun. A clear and decisive winner emerged and it was NOT Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management Fund. The activist investor had four nominees up for board positions but not even one scored a coveted spot. Ouch. Trian started it all back in January, with activist investor Nelson Peltz’s big dreams, and real plans too, to split DuPont into two different parts. CEO Ellen Kullman, along with many other in DuPont’s management, did not particularly care for Mr. Peltz’s idea, feeling it would basically destroy shareholder value. Apparently, they weren’t the only ones who shared this sentiment and hence won the war. This time, anyway. But Trian still has a 2.7% stake in the company which is worth about $1.8 billion so despite the epic loss, Nelson Peltz probably won’t be going away too quickly. In a statement, the company said “We are proud of the role we played as a positive change agent at DuPont. The vote was close. … We will continue to closely monitor DuPont’s performance.” Awkward.

Volvo’s Heads for U.S. Shores; Etsy’s Coming Unglued; Apple Looks for Greener Pastures…in China?

They’re boxy…but safe…

Image courtesy of  Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Volvo’s got big news. Yes. Volvo. Big. News. The car once known for its safety record, not to mention, its boxy style, is setting up shop on American shores. The Swedish auto manufacturer, which is now owned by Chinese company Geely Holding Group, will be plunking down $500 million for a facility in South Carolina.  Apparently, the master plan to is to rekindle the love Americans once had for the car, which has seen its market share in the US dwindle steadily. In fact, the new American Volvo plant is expected to be able to roll out some 100,000 cars a year – which seems a bit high considering the car maker only managed to sell about 56,000 of them in the last year. The new plant is expected to create some 2,000 jobs and you can start driving your American-made Volvo by 2018. But the move has got a lot of people scratching their heads as to why Volvo opted to go to South Carolina as opposed to Mexico where it’s so much cheaper to produce…well, everything. But South Carolina doesn’t seem to be complaining about it and apparently it’s the place to be as the state is home to some 250 car makers. So welcome to America, Volvo.

Not so crafty after all…

Image courtesy of  franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It made for a bedazzling IPO, but Etsy’s glitter is not gold as a Wall Street analyst said that as many as 5% of goods on the crafty website could be fakes. So just how many items is that exactly? About 5 million, give or take. Can you guess where the stock went after that damning little analysis? The stock made its much-heralded IPO opened last month at around $30. As I write this, the stock is hovering at $20.67, down about 9% just from today.  Researchers over at Wedbush say that NFL, Louis Vuitton, Disney and Chanel (to name, but a few) could theoretically make some very ugly copyright infringement cases against the online retailer. That’s more than enough to send investors running. Even though analysts say there’s a chance Etsy could avoid getting directly blamed, the issue of fakes could still make big, bad, fiscal problems by causing reduced fees, the big Etsy money generator. As for that stock price, which had many wondering if it wasn’t just a bit too high to begin with, well Wedbush seems to think that the stock is going to come down a lot and settle in to a more realistic price point of $14 per share.

Cupertino, it ain’t…

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apple is teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund and has plunked down an undisclosed amount of money for…forests…in China. As part of an environmental initiative on Apple’s part  – not necessarily China’s – the company behind the iPhone and iWatch wants to “power all its operations worldwide on 100 per cent renewable energy.” That is so friggin’ noble.  As you sit there playing Candy Crush on your iPad, the powerhouses behind that electronic marvel will be busy protecting about 1 million acres of forest in an effort to responsibly manage a geographical area that houses all kinds of useful natural materials that everyone needs.  And it’s all so ironic considering that China isn’t exactly a beacon of light for environmental causes. In fact, it holds the dubious distinction of being the number one environmental offender in the world. But since most of Apple’s products are manufactured there anyway, it made sense to take part in such an endeavor. Well, sort of.

Latest Lousy Jobs Report; Wendy’s Is Losing its Buns. Sort of; Are Commercial Drones Finally Taking Flight

Book of jobs…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The private sector added 169,000 new jobs but that’s nothing to celebrate. Well those 169,000 people who will now be collecting paychecks can celebrate but that’s about it. While that number seems significant, and in some ways it is, it is actually the lowest number we’ve seen since January of 2014. Experts expected growth of up to 224,000, as last month’s job growth came in at 175,000. Celebrating occurs only when the numbers go up. Drops like these don’t necessarily mean the economy is about to head south, but it can suggest periods of sluggish growth are on the horizon. This gloomy news is brought to us by ADP, the largest private payrolls processor in the United State and they’ve got the dirt on the digits. But we’re still waiting on the U.S. Labor departments figures, due Friday, which are apparently more detailed and include both the public and private sectors, and may even supply us with better figures. And on the bright side, April’s growth rate wasn’t nearly as abysmal as March’s growth of just 126,000 jobs. So there’s always that heart-warming fact to fall back on.

Where’s the buns? 

Image courtesy of  atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wendy’s restaurants just came out with its earnings and announced it will be selling 640 restaurants. Taking a page from McDonald’s playbook, Wendy’s is hoping that franchising costs will help the chain take in between $400 million to $475 million. The restaurant plans to sell 380 restaurants in this year alone. So if your lifelong dream is to own a Wendy’s, this might be your chance. Wendy’s is definitely having a better quarter than McDonald’s, as the company, famous for its freckle-faced braided redhead, and I guess its food too, took in first quarter earnings of $27.5 million and 7 cents a share, just barely beating analysts expectations of 5 cents a share. However, revenue was down almost 11%. Oh well. Maybe next quarter. Wendy’s also announced that it’s selling its bakery operation in Zanesville, Ohio, which conveniently supplied the chain’s buns. While the folks in Zanesville might not be thrilled, the folks on Wall Street were and sent shares up over 7%. Shares of the company are up over 30% in the last twelve months so clearly someone over there knows what they’re doing.

Droning on and on…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Drone enthusiasts, rejoice! FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced that the FAA is going to figure out how drones and other aircraft can share all that airspace safely. At the Unmanned Systems 2015 Conference, Huerta said, “Integrating unmanned aircraft into our airspace is a big job, but it’s one the FAA is determined to get right.” This exciting mission will be done through the Pathfinder Program, which will study commercial drones and all the great and lucrative ways they can be used. For instance, CNN wants to see how to gather news with drones in heavily populated areas. A company called PrecisionHawk wants to test it out for the agricultural industry to see how drones can help monitor crops. Then there’s Berkshire Hathaway company, BNSF, a railroad company, that wants to use drones to inspect tracks. Such clever usage. Surprisingly mum on these new developments was Amazon, who has long wanted to use drones to make deliveries. Amazon, if you recall, wasn’t too happy about the FAA’s rules that were proposed in February and let the FAA know it. And if you think the use of drones will take jobs away from actual human beings, then check out the reports from the  Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International which estimates that thousands of jobs would be created and  generate hundreds of millions of dollars. And judging by last month’s Labor report, this drone “thing” just keeps sounding better and better.

That’s Sue Bad! Wells Fargo Faces City Lawsuit; Disney’s Enchanted Earnings; Sprint One Step Forward, Two Step Backward

You don’t say…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigital Photos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigital Photos.net

Try not to get too emotional now, but Wells Fargo is getting sued by the city of Los Angeles for…get this...fraudulent business practices. I know. Hard to believe. According to City Attorney Mike Feuer, “The largest California-based bank had a culture of high-pressure sales that pushed employees toward “fraudulent conduct.” Apparently some of the bank’s employees allegedly opened unauthorized accounts, misused confidential information and charged fees all in the name of sales. Wells Fargo is also accused of failing to notify its customers that their information was breached. Customers were charged fees, many of which ended up in collections and damaged their credit reports. Unauthorized accounts were opened using money from existing accounts. Wells Fargo says that it did have a few misbehaving employees in their midst who were either fired or disciplined for engaging in such appalling practices. The lawsuit is seeking $2,500 – $5,000 per violation and an end to these practices. A statement from the bank said, “Wells Fargo’s culture is focused on the best interests of its customers and creating a supportive, caring and ethical environment for our team members.” But when asked directly whether unauthorized accounts were opened, the bank was conveniently mum.

Charming…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They don’t call it the happiest place on earth for nothing. Disney came out with its second quarter earnings which were up a very magical 10%. Much of that was from its parks and resorts, which were up 24% alone. It helps that Disney not so charmingly raised its prices on them. Shanghai Disneyland, scheduled to open next year, ought to add a little more drama in the fiscal quarters following its debut. Profit for the company came in at $2.1 billion and $1.23 per share. Analysts only expected $1.11 per share while last year the House of Mouse took in $1.9 billion. There was a downside. Sort of. ESPN’s carrying fees ate into a lot of that profit but because sports games are so insanely popular, Disney still managed to make some cash off of them. But no earnings report since 2014 would be complete without mention of the surprise runway hit movie from the magical kingdom of Arendelle. “Frozen” continues to be a constant source of fiscal joy as toys from the film keep flying off the shelves. Even though Disney has yet to repeat the magical quarter from whence “Frozen” was released, it is hoping “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will facilitate that, as its release of “Cinderella,” while taking in a charming $495 million, was no “Frozen.” But then again, what is?

Are you listening?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Perhaps you recall Sprint’s recent promotions to get customers to switch over from Verizon and AT&T? One involved cutting bills from other carriers in half. I recall chainsaws being used in these commercials. Then there was the promotion where Sprint even offered to eat the cost of customers’ early termination fees from the aforementioned carriers. Well, those tactics almost paid off. Sprint picked up 1.2 million new subscribers in its fourth quarter, bringing its total subscribers to 57 million, and keeping it comfortably perched at the number three spot amongst wireless carries. It just barely beat T-Mobile. But the math didn’t quite work out so nicely and Sprint also took a loss of $224 million losing 6 cents per share. It’s particularly harsh since Wall Street was only expecting a loss of about 4 cents. Revenue was down $8.28 billion when analysts expected $8.5 billion and was a 7% drop from last year. So I guess the promotions are over. Or will be.

McDonald’s Turnaround Plan Needs Salt; Warren Buffet Likes His Sugar; Chevy Volt Wants to Electrify

Would you like to supersize that?

Image courtesy of pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook finally revealed to all who were maybe mildly interested about his big plan is to steer McDonald’s back towards fiscal awesomeness, all in the course of a 23 minute video. The world’s biggest burger chain wants to re-franchise 3,500 of its stores. Because franchising offers “stable and predictable cash flow” from collecting fees, it will supposedly save the company about $300 million a year.  And who doesn’t like saving $300 million. Then, Easterbrook wants to make the company’s corporate structure and bureaucracy less “cumbersome” by dividing the company up into four neat little parts. Well, maybe not little. But certainly neater.  The first part is all about U.S. stores. International markets like, Australia and the U.K make up part number two. The third part is labeled high growth markets  – think China and Russia. Then, all those other countries in the world make up the fourth group.  Of course, no master revival plan would be complete without incorporating a customer-focused approach and the ever-menacing prospect of…accountability. But hey whatever works. And something needs to after the company posted a 2.3% drop in sales and revenue that was way too short of its target. Despite detailing this new plan Mc Donald’s couldn’t get Wall Street excited enough to send shares up, even a little.

Enjoy a Coke with Warren Buffet…

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case you couldn’t make it to the the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting this weekend, also known as Woodstock for Capitalists, here are but a few of the pearls from that auspicious event. Wells Fargo, Coke, IBM and AmEx rock, at least according to the Oracle of Omaha. Mr. Buffet clearly knows a thing or two of what he speaks since his company has a market value of a staggering $350 billion. When he discussed Coca Cola and the $16 billion stake his company owns in it, the debate about the adverse health effects of sugar didn’t seem to concern him. He feels that people enjoy Coke and thus, it apparently makes them happy. Unlike Whole Foods, which he said, “I don’t see smiles on the faces of people at Whole Foods.” No doubt Whole Foods was not happy about that comment. He was also asked about his involvement with 3G Capital with whom he is now buying Kraft Foods. People have taken issue with 3G over its practice of buying companies and then laying off many of its employees. Mr. Buffet, however, said, “I don’t know of any company that has a policy that says we’re going to have a lot more people than they need.”  How charming. As for naming a successor, well, he didn’t.

Low-voltage…

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Even though gas prices are pretty low, making gas-guzzling SUV’s that much more appealing, that’s not stopping car companies, like GM, from parading out its latest eco-friendly models. The 2016 Chevy Volt model is making its debut and what is supposed to be so electrifying about it is that it’ll be around $1,500 less than the 2015 model. It’ll also get 30% more mileage from a single charge than the 2015 model. It’s a bit redesigned and there’s even a $7,500 federal income tax credit. But to be fair, it’s not a fully electric vehicle because if you find yourself coasting along  the highway – or any road, for that matter – and the battery juice runs out, the Volt becomes just another regular gas guzzler.  If that doesn’t bother you – and why should it – then consider that Chevy is offering 0% financing for 72 months for qualified buyers. Unqualified buyers should take the bus. California’s even offering a $1,500 rebate which pretty much means that GM doesn’t think there’s going to be a waiting list for this particular automobile. Because let’s face it, a Tesla it’s not.