Staple’D: FTC Wants to Quash Merger; Keurig Coffee Wants Privacy; Chipotle Earnings Not Coming Up Fresh

Deja vu…

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Nothing like a pesky lawsuit to put a crimp in your $6.3 billion proposed takeover plans. Which is exactly what happened to Staples Inc. when the FTC voted unanimously, in a 4-0 vote, to try and put the kibosh on the office supply retailer’s’ attempted takeover of Office Depot by filing a suit to block the deal. The deal, which was expected to generate $39 billion in revenue, has the FTC concerned that the merger would create just one mammoth national office supply retailer that would yield too much power to raise prices, whether it be private consumers or commercial entities, many of which have big vendor contracts. This is not the first time that Staples has tried to pick up Office Depot. Back in 1997, the company attempted to do the same thing but was blocked from doing so even back then. Because the office supply marketplace has changed so much, given the availability of office supplies via e-commerce, Staples was certain this time there would be no issue. Besides, in 2012 the FTC approved a merger between Office Depot and Office Max merged on the basis that there was enough competition from Amazon, Wal-Mart and other outfits that allowed for a healthy amount of competition. Instead, of a merger today, however,  shares of Staples Inc. fell 14%, the most in 18 months, while shares of Office Depot fell 18% on news of the FTC lawsuit.

Perky…

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Big news in the single-serve coffee pod marketplace – yeah that’s a real thing: Keuring Green Mountain Inc. is going private to the tune of $13.9 billion and getting $92 per share. For real. In fact, that price is a 78% premium over Friday’s closing price. For real again. So what would make a company like that want to go private? Well it was an offer the coffee maker couldn’t refuse. That’s part of it anyway. The company posted some disappointing numbers and is down 60% just this year. Besides the ever-increasing competition in the single-serve pod market, Keuring also struck out with its KOLD product. Enter German company JAB who wants to be the numero uno North American coffee purveyor. And why not? It’s a $6.1 billion industry there alone and makes $15 billion globally. Did I mention that North America drinks up a big 40% of that global market share? JAB already picked up Peet’s Coffee and Tea and Caribou Coffee as it attempts to compete with Nestle. So far, JAB has the upper hand. By a lot. Indeed, news of the deal sent Keurig stock up 74%, which is especially good for Coca Cola since it owns 25.87 million shares, a 17.4% stake that adds up to about $2.4 billion. That’s even more good news for Coke since that’s how much it can expect to get from JAB for its shares. Of course, with any major deal, it is subject to shareholder approval. But assuming the deal’s approved, it will likely close by April.

No más

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Even millenials can’t help Chipotle with this one. The fresh-food restaurant chain saw its shares hit its lowest point in eighteen months, all the way down to $515 per share. Never mind that the stock is currently trading at around $543 a share. But I digress. Much of that slide can be blamed on the e. coli outbreak that had the chain closing a number of its locations since most of the 52 people who picked up the virus said they had eaten at Chipotle. The company is expecting a drop in same store sales between 8% – 11% for its fourth quarter. Chipotle also now expects earnings per share from $2.45 – $2.88. That’s especially brutal when you consider that analysts were expecting about $4.06 to be added, not to mention the fact that at this time last year the company pulled in $3.85 per share. The stock has been on a downward slide since news of the e. coli outbreak was first reported back in October. The stock has fallen 22% since then and is down 18% for the year.

No-GoPro on Earnings; Could a Pfizer/Allergan Merger Become the Next Big Thing?; Wal-Mart Offers NO Free Shipping (limitations apply)

Worst. Day. Ever….

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

GoPro released its earnings yesterday only to tell us that it did not nail them. This came as a surprise to…no one.  Wall Street echoed its disappointment by sending shares down. Very down. So down, in fact, that the stock is hovering too close to its IPO price of $24 from back in 2014. GoPro miraculously managed to score $400 million in revenue, adding 25 cents per share. Too bad predictions called for almost $434 million and 29 cents per share. Meanwhile, the stock is down 67% for the year and the company is looking to buy back company shares, hoping to increase their value. While GoPro saw second quarter sales kick up by 72%, third quarter sales only increased by 43%. And the picture only gets grimmer as the company actually thinks sales will shrink during the ever-fiscally critical holiday season.  Part of GoPro’s problem is that it can’t seem to figure out how to transform itself from a product for a niche market to a product that spews mass appeal. Then we turn to GoPro’s Hero4Session. Besides the fact that the company initially charged too much for the product, GoPro also insists that the marketing budget for the already too-high priced product wasn’t large enough. Analysts aren’t too optimistic that they are gong to see much, if any, growth in GoPro’s camera unit in 2017. However, they are forecasting $500 million worth of revenue for GoPro’s other products. Go figure.

Erin Go Bragh…

Image courtesy of Pansa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Pansa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today’s latest tax inversion plans are brought to us by Pfizer and Allergan Plc who are in “friendly talks” to create the world’s largest drug maker.  While no actual agreement has been reached, the deal would have Pfizer heading towards Ireland where corporate tax laws are far more favorable there than they are here. Can’t you just smell the politics that are about to invade this deal? Tax inversions happen when huge companies set up shop overseas in countries where they don’t get as brutally taxed as they do here. For instance, while Pfizer has the pleasure of shelling out a 25% tax rate to Uncle Sam, Ireland-based Allergan only has to deal with a 15% tax rate. The prohibitive tax rate can put many U.S. companies at an unfair advantage, they argue. Democrats think these companies should just suck it up and stay put. They also think drug companies should simply slash their high prices. However, these drug companies say they can’t do that with such high tax rates imposed. Republicans want those tax laws changed to make them more favorable for these big companies so that they’ll stay put because they want to. Not because they are being forced to. If any deal goes through, it will likely be the biggest deal. Ever. Estimates for Pfizer to buy Allergan range from about $113 billion to $157 billion. But isn’t it worth every cent if it means adding everybody’s favorite aesthetic filler into your drug fold?

No such thing as ‘free shipping?’

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Image courtesy of SundayMorning/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you can’t beat ’em…well do something they can’t do.  And that’s exactly why Wal-Mart is scrapping free shipping this holiday season on items that are less than $50. The idea is to instead offer free shipping – for in-store pick up. After all, there are approximately 4,600 Wal-Mart stores from which to choose. Besides, Wal-Mart’s hoping that while you’re picking up an ordered item, you’ll impulsively pick up some other items.  And companies love impulse shoppers.  To entice you to use this method, Wal-Mart is even allowing you to check-in at the store with your smart phone for expedited service. Wal-Mart’s hoping that this new shipping policy will help its profit margins, which have taken a bit of a hit, in part, because of shipping costs. And with 210 million consumers expected to use Wal-Mart’s mobile app, the giant retailer is banking that in-store pick-up will reverse those hits.

Is a Fiscal Greek Tragedy Looming?; American Apparel’s Un-Trendy Legal Woes; Curing the Black Friday Blues

What would Socrates say?

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Greeks let its creditors know exactly how they feel about their austerity measures and voted resoundingly against them. But at least Greece’s Foreign Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned announcing via his blog “Minister No More,” much to the delight and merriment of many a Eurozone finance minister. This resignation has even got some folks mildly optimistic that the financial crisis in Greece isn’t completely unsalvageable. But these very same finance ministers are all still in a tailspin about how to avoid a fiscal disaster as Greece already defaulted on a 1.5 billion euro payment to the International Monetary Fund while another payment is due to the European Central Bank for 3.5 billion euros on July 20. If a sovereign, in this case Greece, defaults on its loans, well then, bad things will just get worse as the banks become insolvent – as in, tapped out, dry etc – and then get nationalized. Once they get nationalized a brand new currency is introduced – a change which would be very bad for so many reasons. As for those Greek banks which are staring down the wrong end of nationalization and insolvency, they’re likely to run out of cash by the weekend.  In case you haven’t noticed, Greece’s fiscal turmoil has been causing even more turmoil in the global markets. So yeah, it’s in everybody’s best interest that Greece gets its fiscal act up and economically running.

Clearance…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things are looking pretty ugly for embattled clothing retailer American Apparel. The company has a $30 million cost-cutting plan in the works and that could mean an under-performing American Apparel store near you might be closing its doors forever.  The chain has 239 stores and 10,000 employees whose heads are currently on the chopping block. American Apparel is also undergoing an image makeover after ousting founder and CEO Dov Charney. New CEO Paula Schneider would like to see the company sell actual clothes, as opposed to body parts. Sounds fair. This $30 million plan will hopefully rectify some of the other problems afflicting the clothing line and reverse those “steep losses.” However, many think it’s going to take a lot more cash than that. Some of that might have to do with the over 20 lawsuits looming courtesy of the booted Dov Charney and his associates. Of course, the brass at American Apparel has called the lawsuits “meritless.” The stock, which is down over 55% for the year and is currently hovering at a dismal 45 cents per share, has a market value of about $90 million. That’s a far cry from its $540 million market value it enjoyed just five years ago.

Prime deal…

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Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are eagerly pining away for the chaos that comes with Black Friday that is still an endless five months away, then you’re gong to love this next one. Amazon is throwing its very own birthday party on July 15, dubbed “Prime Day,” and has invited you to come. Amazon wants presents. It wants you to spend your hard-earned money on deals that will be featured on Amazon – deals that you usually only see on Black Friday, and as the case may be, cyber-Monday. And while you don’t necessarily need to rsvp, you won’t walk away with any ridiculously-reduced items unless you subscribe to Amazon Prime – which by the way, will set you back $99 a year. But hey, at least you’ll get instant video streaming, free two-day shipping, Prime music and maybe even some really great bargains.

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.