Awesome Intel; Who is America’s Favorite CEO?; Marriott’s Letting Guests Stream it Up;

Friggin’ awesome…

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“There are plenty of women- and minority-led startup companies, and we want to work with them,”  Lisa Lambert, vice president and managing director at Intel Capital. So why did she say that? Because Intel super-graciously – and presciently – announced its Capital Diversity Fund, specifically set up for women and minority-led start-ups in an effort to mix things up in Silicon Valley. It would seem that the locale already has a rather large presence of white, male CEO’s and Intel would like to make it a little bit more…colorful.  Intel CEO Brian Krzanich would even like to have Intel’s work force, which is currently 24% female and 12% black and Hispanic, come to resemble the U.S. workforce, which is 47% women and 26% black and Hispanic, by 2020. To qualify for some of this cash, the founder of the company must be a woman or minority, and the company must have at least three executives who are women and/or minorities.  There are already a few companies who are getting funding including cyber-security firm Venafi, CareCloud and MarkOne – which makes smart cups. If you’re curious about how smart those cup are, you’ll have to find out yourself. As Mr. Krzanich put it, “…as you seek out diverse points of view, you’re going to produce better returns.” And who doesn’t like better returns?

Did your boss make the list?

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If your boss didn’t make the list, maybe consider taking your skills and LinkedIn endorsements elsewhere. You might consider finding gainful employment at Google since Larry Page takes the top spot with a 97% approval rating, according to online job and salary review site Glassdoor.com.  Nike’s Mark Parker, took second just barely missing the top spot by a few thousandths percentage points. Charles Butt, owner of the Texas grocery chain HEB  takes third, with help form a company philosophy that values the welfare of its workforce. And because of that awesome culture you are forbidden to make fun of his last name.  Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg came in fourth  while the aforementioned Brian M. Krzanich, who just announced Intel’s incredible new fund for women and minority-run startups, only came in at number 39. But he still had a 90% approval rating. Oddly enough, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner rocked first place back in 2014 with an approval rating of 100%, yet this year his ranking plunged to number 12. However, even with that big drop, Weiner still scored a 93% approval rating. The question is: what exactly did Jeff Weiner do to tick off that other 7%? Hmmm. Something to think about.

Everyone’s a winner…

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Supertrooper/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently, Marriott discovered that those super awesome televisions daintily mounted on the walls of the guest rooms weren’t getting much use, as more and more guests were using their tablet, laptops and phones (oh my) to access streaming entertainment. And with those handy, entertaining devices, guests found that that they didn’t have to go through the annoying process of acquainting themselves with a new remote and channel guide. Ugh. So what do? You can’t just chuck those state of the art electronics to the curb. Or can you? Well, no you can’t. Instead, Marriott is teaming up with streaming entertainment service Netflix that will allow Marriott guests to access their Netflix accounts or even sign up for new ones. So next time you need to choose between a Marriott Hotel and some other place to rest your head for the night, now you can take into consideration which hotel has the better in-room entertainment – and mini bar.

Advertisements

Lululemon-ade?; Sir Richard Branson’s Got Some Cool Punk Plastic for You; Campbell Soup Freshens Up

Making lemonade…

Image courtesy of Pixomar/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Pixomar/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like there’s something to be said for quitting…from the board that is. Since founder and former CEO Chip Wilson sort of graciously stepped down from the Lululemon board, the yoga apparel-making company seems to be turning over a new fiscal leaf. The company managed to beat the street following several quarters that had the company reeling from design-flawed see-through yoga pants, not to mention, some very un-zen-like comments from Mr. Wilson. This quarter, Lululemon pulled in revenues of $423.5 million, a nice little increase from last year’s  $418.6 million when the company seemed to be in the midst of all its issues. The company also managed to score $47.8 million in profits with 34 cents per share added, beating estimates by one cent. That profit was almost three times what Lululemon Athletica pulled down last year at this time, again, when it was dealing with all its troubles. And bonus, the company even raised its outlook predicting it will earn between $1.86 – $1.91 per share from a previously estimated from $1.85 to $1.90. In keeping with Wall Street tradition, shares of the stock went up on the news of the earnings beat.

But can I get an upgrade with it?

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may not be earning any miles with it, but it’ll definitely be the coolest item in your wallet. I am talking about Sir Richard Branson’s latest offering from Virgin Money – a credit card that features the Sex Pistols on it.  Slapping the Sex Pistols on plastic was no accident either.  It was Branson who signed the group to his label, Virgin Records, back in 1977. So clearly there’s a bias towards the band. Led by Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, the band was arguably one of the most influential punk rock bands – that is until they broke up a year later. The Sex Pistols seem like a good fit for a credit card that wants to market itself to consumers as a way ” to put a little bit of rebellion in their pocket.” However, to my untrained ear, that sounds like it has the words “debt” and “collections” written all over it. But hey, whatever works. Bonus: if your card gets declined, imagine how cool you’ll look as you embarrassingly sneak the card back into your wallet. Okay, maybe not.

Is it mmm mmm good?

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Campbell Soup may indeed be “good food” but apparently hummus and salsa is even better these days. The iconic soup maker announced plans to buy fresh food company Garden Fresh Gourmet for $231 million. Garden Fresh Gourmet scored $100 million in sales for 2014 so clearly there’s something to be said for fresher fare. Campbell Soup,which also owns Prego sauces and Pepperidge Farm cookies, has been noticing, fiscally speaking, that consumers aren’t as interested in its canned soups and other offerings that sport a lengthy shelf life. So it’s been trying to shift gears towards trendier, money-earning items like fresh(er) food and the ever popular organic category. Of course, the company is also hoping it will reel in that ever elusive group we call millennials who seem to be dictating many food trends in the last few years.

Deutsche Bank CEO’s are Leaving Early and No One is Shedding Tears; McDonald’s Numbers Not Totally Horrible; Smack Talk at the G7 Summit

You’re Fitschen kidding me…

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case you were wondering how Wall Street feels about Deutsche Bank’s outgoing co-CEO’s Anshu Jain and Juergen Fitschen, then just look at the company’s stock price. Shares of Deustche Bank gleefully shot up over 8% at one point, on the news that the two men would be ditching their digs even earlier than planned. However, those gains weren’t just from the sheer joy of those early departures but also because investors totally dig their replacement, British banker John Cryan, who also happens to have a pretty decent track record. Cryan is what the cool kids call a “takeover specialist” which is something Deutsche Bank could use now more than ever seeing as how Jain and Fitschen couldn’t seem to stem the tide of legal issues that have been plaguing the bank, including a massive $2.5 settlement claim the bank had to fork over after some traders very rudely – and illegally, I might add – rigged some benchmark interest rates. In fact, most of Deutsche Bank’s troubles and scandals seemed to to come out of its investment bank, which coincidentally, was/is under Jain’s watch. The question remains as to whether or not Cryan can pull the largest German bank out of its funk. Except, first he’s got to come up with a plan. At least he speaks German. So score one for Cryan.

You deserve a break today…

Image courtesy of  atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things at McDonald’s weren’t nearly as bad as everyone thought they were going to be. They weren’t great but we’ll get to that. The Golden Arches saw same store sales drop .3% , which is definitely not good. However, at least those sales didn’t drop by .9%, the figure expected by all those super-educated analysts. To that I say booyah.  And then there was Europe. While everywhere else on the planet McDonald’s saw sales fall, McDonald’s needs to give much danke to Germany, France and the UK who showed the burger chain some major love in the form of a 2.3% gain. Analysts only expected Europe to bring in a tres  modest .6% gain. So you see, Chipotle, Panera and Shake Shack haven’t taken over the fast-food world. Yet. McDonald’s is in the midst of bringing about a “turnaround plan” which apparently includes offering breakfast all day. Except that’s only in – where else? – Southern California. Also, as part of the plan to reclaim its rightful place in the fast-food kingdom, CEO and President Steve Easterbrook has big lofty plans to rebrand McDonald’s as “a modern, progressive burger company.” Did you get all that?

Back at the G7 Summit…

Image courtesy of bplanet/Freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/Freedigitalphotos.net

There seems to be a bit of confusion coming from the G7 Summit. A French official told reporters that President Obama said the strong dollar is a “problem.” Then, the dollar slid against the euro. However, President Obama insists, “I did not say that.” But, still, the dollar still slipped, for the first time in three days, against the euro. In any case, other important stuff was presumably discussed at the conference where world leaders from the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and even Canada talked about fiscal issues that are plaguing the world. But who doesn’t love a good “he said, he said,”  especially during a super important meeting between the world’s most powerful people. I could really see this one playing out on South Park.

Subway Follows the Crowd; Sale Away: Cheap Southwest Fares Extended; SEC Wants to Take Down the Avon Pranker

Namaste no more…

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Subway doesn’t just want you to eat fresh. The sandwich chain now wants you to eat au natural. The company jumped on the healthy ingredients bandwagon finally announcing that it will be unceremoniously dumping yellow number 5, and other ingredients you have come to love and rely upon for all your unhealthy needs. McDonald’s, Taco Bell and a host of other fast-food chains already announced their plans to ditch the edible offenders that also include artificial flavoring and preservatives. But Chipotle reigns supreme boasting cuisine that is non-GMO, a tough act to beat in the fast-food universe. Oh well, they can’t all be king – of fast food, that is. It’s a wonder Subway waited this long to make the switch seeing as how it took a 3.3% sales hit last year. The sandwich maker also had to deal with a smear campaign over its use of azodicarboamide, an ingredient that Subway used to make its tasty bread, but one that is also found in…yoga mats. How anyone even discovered that azodicarbonamide would be a great bread ingredient is beyond me, but I digress. If you’re dreading the day when artificial ingredients make their hasty retreat from Subway’s 27,000 U.S. locations, then fear not. The complete changeover is expected to take eighteen months.

Who doesn’t love a sale?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some sales are just better than others, especially when there are airplanes involved. So, what was supposed to be a 72 hour sale over at Southwest Airlines, has now been extended another 24 hours to give would be trippers more time to book some wallet-friendly travel. Apparently the airline couldn’t handle the volume of traffic that flocked to its website for the sale, hoping to score some cheap fares for flights all over the country. Many enthusiastic travelers, eager to score these thrifty seats were receiving error messages when attempting to book their tickets while other bargain hunters had to deal with a slow moving site. But Southwest has beefed up their tech resources to handle the sale traffic so you still have until the end of day Friday to score a $49 (one) way trip…to somewhere.

Faking it…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Perhaps you recall the phony bid for Avon several weeks ago where a “company”  that went by the name PTG Capital filed a bid with the SEC to buy Avon? The “bid” was for more than three times the price of its stock and news of the offer sent shares up more than 20%. Turns out that the credit for the incredibly stupid prank goes to Nedko Nedev, possibly one of Bulgaria’s most embarrassing residents. Except it wasn’t so much a prank but rather a scheme that allowed Nedev to sell off his shares of Avon at a much higher price than he might have gotten for them had he done so legally. This scheme was nothing new for Nedev, who along with some other conniving associates, pulled this shtick with a few other companies including Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Even though Nedev probably made a few extra bucks, he probably won’t get to spend any of it seeing as how the SEC intends to get its hands on the proceeds, not to mention, slapping Nedev with a few extra fines. However, the scheme also exposed flaws (gasp) in the SEC’s filing system which companies can actually access following certain procedures. So in a way it’s a good thing. Sort of. Okay maybe not.

Do You Have a Bit-License to Thrive; PillPack Gets $50 Million RX; Tasty Voting: Will Heinz Eat Up Kraft?

In a bitcoin state of mind…

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Cyber-currency is about to get a whole lot more…legit. Well, in New York State anyways, where the head of the New York Department of Financial Services, Ben Lawsky, just announced 44 pages worth of rules and regulations in order to obtain and retain a “BitLicense,” should you decide you want to engage in” bit-commerce.” If the thought of having to go through a long process to apply for such a license is nothing short of irritating to you, then go ahead and blame the litany of criminals who used cyber-currencies in order to perpetrate their crimes. It’s because of them that such a process was necessitated. After you gloss over those riveting 44 pages, get ready to pay a $5,000 fee – though I am not sure if you can pay that fee with bit coins. You’re also going to need a bitcoin monitor, aka “compliance officer,” specific for all your bitcoin needs (and wants). In case you were wondering what was wrong with our current laws dictating money transmission, they aren’t exactly current. In fact, they date back to the Civil War era. So I guess an update was in order.

Pill-popping…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some are calling it the Amazon.com of pharmacies because PillPack’s CEO, TJ Parker, grew up with pharmacist parents in their mom and pop pharmacy shop, and is now said to be revolutionizing the industry. PillPack Inc, a slightly new and very novel approach to dispensing your medicine, just raised some $50 million in its latest funding round. The company doesn’t just send you your prescriptions. It pre-packages them according to the date and time they need to be taken. The pills, from vitamins to prescription to over the counter meds, get sorted by robots and are delivered every two weeks. With robots in place, actual living, breathing human pharmacists can communicate more, whether it be with patients or healthcare providers. So simple, yet so genius. PillPack, besides being super convenient, actually has the potential to chop down on the annual $100 billion worth of medical “non-adherence” i.e. the loss of money resulting from mistakes in taking  – and not taking – medication. The company intends to use the latest $50 million for business growth, more staff and the ever necessary marketing. PillPack accepts most prescription drug plans and most Medicare Part D Plans. The service is available in 47 states. As for Hawaii, sorry dude, but shipping costs to the Aloha State are just too darn expensive.

To sell? Or not to sell?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That is the question, or rather, the vote that stands before the shareholders over at Kraft Foods. The lucky buyer in question is H.J. Heinz Co. which is owned by everybody’s favorite Omaha Oracle, Warren Buffet and his Berkshire Hathaway company, together with Brazilian investment firm, 3G Capital. It’s a rather big  – make that enormous – deal, since selling to Heinz would create the one of the biggest food companies on the planet, with the potential to pull down revenues of $28 billion, give or take. The vote takes place July 1 and if the vote is in favor of selling to Heinz, then Kraft shareholders can rejoice as they get to take home a dividend of $16.50 per share that they own.

Fitbit Fit to be Publicly Traded?; It’s All About the Vice for Dollar General; Start Saving, Health Insurance is on the Rise. Again

Working up a sweat…

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may not own a Fitbit (yet) but perhaps you might be interested in owning shares of the company instead. The fitness monitoring device, which collects data on how much exercise you do – and don’t do – along with how much sleep you get – and don’t get – is now looking to fiscally beef itself up for some IPO action. The company, started by James Park and Eric Friedman, already pulled down $745 million in revenue and $100 million just last year. Fitbit is looking to raise $478 million to put out 29.85 million shares that might just fetch somewhere between $14 – $16 per share. That ought to give Fitbit a hefty $3.3 billion valuation. Of course, with any IPO, Fitbit has its share of detractors who are eager to point out the oodles of competition from, among others, Apple’s Smartwatch, Samsung and Jawbone.  The other issues that have investors skeptical is the tendency of fitness device wearers to ditch the “bits” within months, though I am not pointing any fingers, if only because I don’t have enough. Research found that a third of fitness device wearers ditch them within six months of getting them. Too bad you’ll have to wait until June 17 to find out the exact IPO price. But at least it gives you some time to start saving up.

Can I get a light?

ID-100163125

Dollar General sells a lot of useful stuff for dirt cheap and who doesn’t like that. But it was the not so useful stuff that helped the chain boost its sales this quarter. And by “not useful” I am actually referring to a little category dubbed “vice spending.” Yes, sales from tobacco and candy generated a greater portion of sales, in addition to its less vice-ful, or vice-free merchandise. Dollar General managed to rake in $4.92 billion in revenue. While that number just barely missed expectations, Wall Street didn’t seem to mind as it was still an almost 9% increase over last year and and that came with a very satisfactory profit of $253.2 million adding 84 cents per share. Analysts only expected 82 cents per share, by the way.  Even though same store sales grew 3.7% as opposed to the 4.1% expected by analysts, Wall Street still wasn’t upset and instead sent the stock up about 5%. Apparently, the stores were still seeing a lot more traffic i.e. customers who were shelling out a lot more cash. And if “vice” spending takes the credit for that, then so be it.

Stick out your tongue and say argh…

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If the cost of your health insurance doesn’t suck enough, then get ready for 2016. Many many many health insurance companies have big expensive plans to ask state regulators to allow them to hike premiums on individual policies, whether they’re on the Obamacare exchange or not. We’re talking double digit increases. Apparently, these companies didn’t anticipate an increase in the amount of people going for doctor’s visits and getting prescriptions filled. Which is kind of weird because, don’t insurance companies pay people big salaries to anticipate such expenses? Just asking. Even though insurance commissioners and regulators can deny insurance companies their proposed rate hikes, it’s likely they’ll get approved for some type of increase, just maybe not as much as the insurers would have liked. So maybe you should start saving up to pay for your health insurance rate hike instead of those Fitbit shares.

Intel’s Feeling “Chipper”; Hey Big Spender…Where Have You Gone?; BlackBerry: Buh-Bye Seacrest

Just because you don’t care, doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you…

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s some big juicy merger news coming down the fiscal/tech pipeline. Intel announced it’s plunking down $16.7 billion for fellow chipmaker, Altera. In case you were wondering – because I know you were, that comes out to $54 per share. Last year Altera pulled down revenues of close to $2 billion. So it stands to reason that Intel knows what it’s doing. It should be duly noted, my dear reader, that these are not just any personal computer chips we’re talking about either, but rather, programmable chips that can be used in smart cars, clothes and other everyday use items. Pretty rad, huh? Of course, like any multi-gazillion dollar deal, regulatory approval is still needed and shareholders also need to give their thumbs up. But at least Wall Street seems to be showing its enthusiasm in its own special fiscal way.

Spendthrift?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

April was a wash and I am not talking showers here. According to the Commerce Department, there was no rise in spending for April. Nor was there any decrease  – which I guess is a positive too. Consumer spending flat-lined and gave us the worst showing in three months. Gee, thanks April. While personal income was up a whopping 0.4%, Americans are choosing to save save save all that cash that they didn’t have to shell out for gas lately, much to the chagrin of economists who were certain Americans would be whipping out their wallets and just buy buy buy. Wages also didn’t increase that much which definitely helped spoil some much-needed spending fun. In fact, the personal savings rate (yes, that is a real thing) jumped to 5.6%, the highest rate since December of 2012. Burned by that awful fiscal nightmare of 2008, would-be consumers are discovering the joys of saving, in addition to paying down the odious burden of debt. Economists are expecting – and very much hoping (because it would be embarrassing for them if they were wrong) – that spending will pick up in the coming months and put some much needed oomph back into the economy, since spending does account for 70% of it. Here’s hoping they get it right.

So random…

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Remember BlackBerry? Not the fruit but the device? Just admit it that you had one right before you unceremoniously ditched it for a first generation iPhone. Well the once-beloved device actually kicked the iPhone’s tush today. And Ryan Seacrest’s tush too. Sort of. The company, whose products are still quite the rage in other parts of the world, finally settled some “outstanding legal disputes” with a company called Typo Products, which happens to be backed by everyone’s favorite karaoke host, Ryan Seacrest. Typo was making iPhone cases with a QWERTY keyboard that bore a striking resemblance to a BlackBerry design. Talk about “F” for lack of creativity. In any (iPhone) case, Typo ponied up some settlement cash, tweaked the design and presumably found a way to, as they say on American Idol, make it their own.