Russia? What About Russia? Facebook Earnings Seem to Be So Much Bigger Than Russia; Major Chink in Under Armour; All Night Long: It’s Party Time at Walmart

It’s good to be Facebook…

ID-100531843

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s another quarter of rainbows and unicorns for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The social media mega-monster blew expectations out of the water with its daily active users growing to almost 1.4 billion, an increase of 50 million users. Revenue increased 47% and came in at over $10 billion. I won’t even bother boring you with what analysts expected. In the meantime, shares picked up an additional $1.59, which was a swift kick in the rear to predictions of $1.28 per share and a majorly impressive 77% increase over last year at this time. Apparently, all this talk about Russia using propaganda on Facebook to influence the presidential election seems to be having a nominal effect on the company.  Amid all this glorious earnings news, Facebook’s general counsel was hanging out in our nation’s capital, taking a beating because some folks in Congress just aren’t down with the way Facebook has this uncanny knack for effectively targeting digital ads to users simply based on their likes. I guess politicians are worried that those targeted ads might be – and have been – too effective in getting their opponents elected.  But Wall Street just laughed away sending shares all the way up to almost $183 per share.

Over Armour?

ID-100137

Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Under Armour released its quarterly profits and it seemed like there was carnage all around.  The big bad ugly issue, aside from the actual numbers, is that the company is slashing forecasts for 2017. If that’s not a fiscal kiss of death, I don’t know what is. As for revenue, it fell. A lot. To about $1.4 billion, an almost 5% drop year over year. However, if we’re just looking at what happened just in the U.S., Under Armour revenue fell a whopping 12%. That’s a huge problem because it was the first time that ever happened since the company made its super-hyped Wall Street debut. Of course, you can’t have bad news on Wall Street without shares of the company in question going south. Which is precisely what happened as shares of Under Armour tanked 24% today. Add that to the fact that since September of 2015, shares have fallen around 85%. The carnage, unfortunately, doesn’t end there. Profit was down to just over $54 million and 12 cents per share, which was about half of what it was last year at this time. To add insult to injury, expectations were for $75 million. Of course, some would say those dismal figures are partly the result of the company’s $85 million restructuring charge. But I guess that’s the kind of money you have to spend when you are trying to keep a multi-billion dollar company like Under Armour from hemorrhaging more money. And true to CEO fashion, Under Armour’s own Kevin Plank made sure to blame, among other factors, businesses that went bankrupt since those other businesses, like sporting good stores, sold Under Armour merchandise. The bad news seemed to be contagious as shares of both Nike and Adidas took a nasty dip as well.

Par-tay!!!!!

ID-100284617

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Walmart wants to win the holidays. And it’s training hardcore for the finish. Sure, that means sales. And promos. And all the rest of the gimmicks and sales. But Walmart’s also throwing in some partying. I’m totes serious here.  Starting this Saturday, Walmart will hold 20,000 parties in its Super Centers with the first one being called, “Toys that Rock.” Not to be outdone by toys, the retailer will also have parties called “Gifts that Rock” and “Parties that Rock.” Are you sensing a theme here? Of course, no party is complete without a decent goody bag or giveaway, so for you, the shopper, that means a curated gift guide and catalog. See how nicely that works out for Walmart. And you, maybe. Sort of. Walmart is also adding lots more “holiday helpers” to help guide shoppers to cashiers, open more registers and grab things from all over the store…and beyond. And demos, We mustn’t forget the demos. Apparently, there will be 165,000 of them spread all through Walmart’s gazillion stores. Laugh all you want, but Wall Street’s digging Walmart’s latest initiatives and overall drive, sending shares of the company up today by almost 1%.

Swooshed Out: Nike Losing Ground?; Starbucks Perks Up Hiring Goals; Is the End Near for Sears?

Just not doing it…

ID-100149927

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like consumers aren’t doing it for Nike as the athletic apparel company posted some pretty unimpressive numbers for its third quarter. To be clear, Nike didn’t lose money. It just didn’t make as much money as analysts wanted it to. For instance, even though Nike took in $8.43 billion in revenue, a 5% increase over last year, analysts were expecting $8.47 billion this time around. The collective disappointment on Wall Street sent shares down because investors are apparently wondering if the company behind the iconic swoosh can withstand some fierce competition from Under Armour and Adidas. But that wasn’t the only bad news sending shares down today. Nike also said that it expects future orders to be down 4%. Nike did score a profit of over $1.1 billion with 68 cents added to shares, a figure that easily beat analysts’ expectations of 53 cents per share. Last year at this time, Nike took in $950 million with 55 cents added per share, illustrating a very respectable increase. Unfortunately, the bit about the decline on future orders didn’t stop from putting a damper on the fiscal mood on Wall Street.

Well done…

ID-100377964

Image courtesy of pixtawan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Starbucks is making headlines today after announcing that it not only hit its goal of hiring 10,000 army veterans and military spouses, but now plans to hire another 15,000. Starbucks had hoped it would achieve that milestone by 2018, but lo and behold, it hit its mark well ahead of schedule and the glowing news was announced during its annual shareholders meeting, much to the delight of…everyone. If you recall, back in February, CEO Howard Schultz – who is stepping down at the beginning of April – managed to annoy more than a few of his coffee drinkers when he announced plans to hire 10,000 refugees globally.  Apparently some folks thought those refugee hirings were in place of hiring veterans and thus began a social media campaign urging people to #BoycottStarbucks.  But alas, that was not exactly accurate and the coffee chain found itself explaining that it intended to hire employees from both groups. And that’s not all. The purveyor of premium coffee also plans on creating another 240,000 jobs worldwide by 2021. Because if you were worried that there weren’t enough Starbucks, the company is planning to open 3,400 new stores, just in the United States. So yeah, it’ll definitely need a few extra baristas.

Throwing in the towel?

ID-10069341

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It might just be the end of an era as the 130 year old Sears announced in an SEC filing that “substantial doubts” exist with regard to its future. In other words, the department store is staring at the prospect of bankruptcy, and will end up bringing Kmart with it. What’s a little weird about that news though, is that the company’s fourth quarter results were actually better than expected, albeit, dismal. “Better than expected” here basically means that the retailer didn’t lose as much money in its fourth quarter as it was expected to, at least compared to last year’s fourth quarter. The fact remains, however, that according to eMarketer, of the top 250 retailers, Sears is dead last in terms of performance, as it just can’t compete with the offerings of online retailers. In fact, Sears ate over $5 billion in losses just in the last three years and has already been closing plenty of stores, selling off some of its brands and taken other measures just to stay afloat. Besides that, Sears is having too much trouble with its pension plan obligations which has been also eating up a lot of its cash – $4 billion just in the last twelve years. Add to that its more than $13 billion in liabilities and Sears’ future is looking positively grim.

Nike’s Sales Bruised By Yeezy; McDonald’s Gets Busted for Over-Valuing Value-Meal; Lookout! There’s A Lot More Walgreens/RiteAid Coming Your Way

Yeezy breezy…

id-100114864

Image courtesy of John Kasawa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nike’s quarterly profit might be up 7% thanks to strong demand in China and the United States, but that doesn’t mean everything is coming up roses at the athletic apparel company. Fierce competition from Under Armour and Adidas have been hammering away at Nike’s sales, partly because Adidas knocked it out of the park this year, thanks to Kanye West (it’s okay, I cringed too) and his Yeezy line, which saw sales go up 62%. Under Armour’s Stephan Curry’s shoe and apparel line definitely stole plenty of Nike’s mojo too. So Nike has been in quest mode to find all sort of ways to boost sales from, improving online sales features to cutting prices on some of its more popular offerings. One of Nike’s divisions that took a beating this quarter and fell short of expectations was its ever-important basketball division.  Apparently, consumers weren’t feeling the love for LeBron James and Kevin Durant sneakers when they were sporting a $200 price tag. Nike is banking that a $150 price tag will have people biting a little more. The company is also working on a faster supply chain dubbed “express lane” to bring products to market within weeks instead of months. In an effort to set itself apart from the competition, Nike’s come out with self-tying lace-up shoes. If you’re that lazy, they might actually be worth the $720 price tag. Profit from Nike came in at $842 million, with revenue of $8.18 billion and 50 cents added per share. That’s especially good since Nike’s stock has fallen 17% in the last year and Wall Street only expected $8.1 billion and 43 cents per share. Last year at this time the company posted $785 million  in profit and added 45 cents per share.

Un-happy meal…

id-100406659

Image courtesy of Areeya/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

McDonald’s is staring at the wrong end of a lawsuit for 41 cents. 41 cents. Turns out the value meal is anything but since it would be 41 cents cheaper to buy the items individually than to buy the bundled package for $5.90 in certain locations. Enter plaintiff James Gertie who discovered this mathematical irregularity at two McDonald’s restaurants in the Chicago area.  The restaurants in question are operated by Karis Management and Gertie wants the suit to get class-action status for consumer fraud and deceptive practices. He says the lawsuit is about principle and is seeking a refund for any customer who purchased the meal at a McDonald’s restaurant operated by Karis. Those 41 cent refunds could add up to a lot of cash as Karis operates ten restaurants in and around Chicago. In the meantime, Karis has yet to comment on the case or the price discrepancy.  As for other McDonald’s all over the world, well, you’re just going to have to do your due diligence to see if their numbers add up or not.

Urge to merge…

id-100367226

Image courtesy of Pansa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Walgreens Boots Alliance and RiteAid will finally get their way now that they sold off some 865 RiteAid stores to retail chain Fred’s. That’s what the two companies had to in order to appease the Federal Trade Commission so that it could go ahead with its $9.4 billion merger. Together, the new entity will still have over 12,000 locations from which to choose and will effectively become the largest drug store chain in the United States, effectively taking up 46% of the market. Fred’s currently has almost 650 discounted general merchandise stores and is looking to become the third largest drug store chain in the United States.  It’s also trying to reinvent itself by ditching its former name of Fred’s Super Dollar.  Fred’s had to borrow a whopping $1.65 billion in order to get those 865 stores, but it also had to pledge, as collateral, just about everything it has in the form of assets, and maybe even throw in a few bodily organs as well, to secure that loan.  The stores actually cost $950 million but other expenses, operating and otherwise, necessitated the full $1.65 billion. It should prove to be well worth it, however, as the deal will more than double Fred’s size.  Plus, the deal sent shares of Fred’s surging a mind-blowing 85% to $20.75. And who doesn’t like an 85% surge in shares, right?

Apple Bites Back at EU; IMF Chief Found Guilty But She’s Still Allright; Lands’ End Going for New Beginning with Latest CEO

An inconvenient target…

id-100352872

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The EU might be demanding a whopping $14 billion from Apple, but it’s not going to happen so quickly. Or easily. Or at all, if Apple has its way. Back in 2014, the EU accused Ireland of skirting international tax laws when it let Apple park tens of billions of dollars there in order to keep it from getting into the grubby hands of pesky tax collectors. Apparently, Apple only paid a corporate tax rate of 3.8% on $200 billion of overseas profits. In exchange for keeping its profits there, Apple kept jobs there, all safe and secure. The EU said the tax deal amounted to illegal state aid and Apple needs to cough up the record setting fine. Both Apple and Ireland deny that they did anything wrong and think the EU needs to get its stories straight.  Apple says it was singled out by the EU because of its massive success – “a convenient target” as its lawyer so eloquently put it, and that the EU commission conveniently blew off tax experts that were brought in special by authorities in Ireland.  In the meantime, Ireland says that other countries should close their own loopholes and is accusing the EU of overstepping its boundaries as it interferes in member states’ sovereign affairs.

Guilty but not…

id-100437142

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalOhotos.net

She may have been found guilty of negligence over a payout that happened back in 2008, but it’s not entirely clear if IMF Chief Christine Lagarde is actually guilty of anything.  The trouble started when Lagarde was France’s Finance Minister. Her boss was none other than President Nicholas Sarkozy (half-brother-in-law to Mary-Kate Olsen, fyi). President Sarkozy’s good buddy was this tycoon named Bernard Tapie who got really angry with the French government and then sued it. You see, Tapie sold his stake in athletic company, Adidas, to French bank Credit Lyonnais, which as luck would have it, was state owned. The bank then went ahead and sold that very same stake for a whole lot more money than what Tapie was paid. Tapie cried fraud on the government and became embroiled in a fifteen year legal battle. Enter Lagarde, who against official advice, recommended private arbitration in lieu of continuing to pursue the expensive legal battle. Tapie was awarded an outrageously high 400 million euros (roughly $417 million), and for this Lagarde was found guilty because she didn’t contest the award (which came from public funds, mind you). Incidentally, investigators suspected that the arbitration process was not kosher and was actually rigged in Tapie’s favor. He has since been ordered to pay the award back. In the meantime, Lagarde isn’t even facing any jail time, much less a fine. That’s because the state, according to its own opinion, had a weak case, while Lagarde has an excellent reputation and is in good international standing. Boom.

Canvas is so last year…

id-100247328

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lands’ End is going luxe again. After dumping its posh CEO, Federica Marchionni – after less than two years –  the company just announced it hired Jerome Griffith, formerly of Tumi, who just this year wrapped up selling the company to Samsonite Luggage to the tune of $1.8 billion. Griffith also held posts at Gap Inc. and Tommy Hilfiger and has a solid reputation for turning companies around. It was only three months ago that the company booted Marchionni, who previously held posts at Dolce & Gabbana and Ferrari. But alas, she couldn’t make it past the two year mark, as her vision for making Lands’ End an upscale brand, via the Canvas line, did not resonate with a customer bas that wasn’t even looking for upscale. Hence, she went the way of acid wash and parachute pants. Her vision was, in fact, so at odds with the Lands’ End customer base that the company had to eat a $4.4 million loss from the line.  The company also didn’t care for the fact that she stayed put in New York while Lands’ End offices were already comfortably situated in Wisconsin. Geography won’t be an issue for Griffith who is gearing up to set up house and home in the in the state. Lands’s End is counting on Griffith’s business acumen. During his run at Tumi, he saw revenues increase from $196 million in 2009 to $547 million in 2015.  And Lands’ End needs all the help it can get after watching its sales take in a loss last year of close to $20 million.

Walmart Bums Out Wall Street; Puma Deals a Mighty Blow to Yeezy; Is IBM Back in the Game?

Fall-mart…

ID-100206910

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Walmart announced earnings and, in the process, managed to put a damper on Wall Street’s day. The company posted .6% growth and while nobody argues that growth is bad , the company still missed expectations of 1% growth. It’s now expected that Walmart will post a very boring flat line to illustrate its net sales even though previous forecasts called for 3% to 4% growth. Profits for Walmart fell almost 8% to $4.57 billion and posted revenues of $129.7 billion. While that may seem like a nice beefy number, analysts still expected $131 billion in revenue. The numbers weren’t helped by Walmart’s decision to close 269 stores worldwide, including 154 just in the United States. Then there were those wage increases and investments into its digital commerce that ate a bit into those profits. But Walmart is banking on the fact that those investments will yield big returns, even if it does mean a little wait. After all, if it’s gonna compete with Amazon, it’s gotta put in the time and money. Of course, mother-nature gets some of the blame too, seeing as how warm weather put a crimp in sales of cold weather merchandise. But don’t rule out the strong dollar, which also deserves plenty of the blame. At least shares are up over 6% in the last three months and the retailer is raising its dividend by 4 cents to generous $2 per share. Woohoo.

Swift karma…

ID-100308209

Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Puma had a very good quarter and much of the credit for that can go to Rihanna. Yes, that Rihanna. As the brand’s creative director, the pop star is helping shape the female future, as Puma refers to this endeavor. The company had higher than expected sales growth for its fourth quarter, just as Rihanna launched her first full goth-inspred line for the athletic apparel retailer. Back in the fall, RiRi’s remake of Puma’s classic suede kicks sold out within hours of going on sale. Puma’s profits were up 2.6% to 10.9 million euros, easily beating forecasts of 6.5 million euros. Sales rose 11.5% to 979 million euros when analysts expected just 839 million euros in sales. And maybe Kanye West should take to Twitter to hit up his sister-in-law, Kylie Jenner, for some cash, instead of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. She’s been named as the company’s brand ambassador, contrary to his hopes that she would be on his Team Yeezy Adidas line.

Have patients…

ID-100395628

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

IBM. Remember that name? The company just whipped out $2.6 billion for its latest acquisition, Truven Health Analytics. Under CEO Ginny Rometty, IBM has so far spent $4 billion in acquisitions in the last 12 months but this latest one is IBM’s biggest purchase in three years. Wall Street reacted kindly by giving shares of IBM their biggest jump since 2013, and sending them all the way up to $134. That’s especially reassuring for IBM since it posted 15 straight quarters of declining sales. Truven was acquired since IBM brass thought it would fit nicely into its Watson Health biz unit. FYI, Watson is IBM’s fabulous collection of artificial intelligence technologies that does all kinds of super fun stuff like taking data apart to analyze it, interpret it and see if any patterns can be predicted.  With this acquisition, IBM will have health info on 300 million patients and employ 5,000 people worldwide.

 

 

 

Is it Formally Formaldehyde From Lumber Liquidators; Adidas Who? Carrie Underwood Kicking the Right Game for Dick’s; Best Buy’s Electricfying Earnings

Wood you mind?

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just a day after a scathing “60 Minutes” report that accused Lumber Liquidators of selling products containing excessively high amounts of formaldehyde, the stock rallied today. Just not as much as the 25% hit it took yesterday. The company stands accused, by “60 Minutes” anyway, of selling Chinese-made flooring containing formaldehyde at much higher levels than what is acceptable and, for that matter, legal. The company, however, said the claims are “overblown” and went on to cast doubt on the “60 Minutes” report, pointing out that no victims were “highlighted,” no feedback was provided from regulators and the piece “relied on anonymous Chinese factory workers making accusatory statements.” Hence, analysts were able to send the stock rallying today. Lumber Liquidators has 318 stores in the U.S. and Canada. Incidentally (or not), the Department of Justice may also be filing criminal charges against the company for violating import laws.  Naturally, Lumber Liquidators said, “We stand by every single plank of wood and laminate we sell around the country.” Aw. Now if we could just know for sure if those planks are gonna kill us or not.

Losing your stripes…

Image courtesy of woravit.w/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of woravit.w/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some big changes are in store for Dick’s Sporting Goods come Thursday and they’ve got Carrie Underwood’s name written all over them. Literally. The American Idol winner and country music superstar is launching her very own “athleisure” brand, “Calia by Carrie Underwood.” And yes, “athleisure” is a real thing. However, in order to give the athletic apparel line the attention it deserves, Dick’s will be chucking its Adidas and Reebok lines (remember that one? Adidas owns it). While sales of women’s athletic apparel has been outpacing men’s, Adidas’ sales have been taking a big hit in the United States for some time now. People just aren’t digging the brand’s traditional looks that it keeps churning out. So goodbye Adidas. Hello Carrie! Or Calia!

Take that Amazon!

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Best Buy had a rockin’ good quarter thanks to people shelling out tons of money for big screen televisions and mobile phones. The electronics retailer reported its overall fourth quarter revenue was up 1.3% to $14.2 billion. Analysts were actually expecting $14.34 billion but for that minor failing we look no further than the strong U.S. dollar and some store closures in Canada (almost makes you think of Target, doesnt it?).  So why exactly was it rockin’? The company picked up a 77%  profit increase at $1.47 per share when analysts only expected a $1.35 gain per share. Even better, shareholders get to rake in a 51 cent per share dividend some time in April.  In case you were wondering where that mysterious “installation” charge on your bill came from, well, just take a look at Best Buy’s 3.2% revenue increase in the U.S. alone, not to mention its $519 million profit and voila – your phone bill financed Best Buy’s impressive digits by spreading out your mobile payments. Clearly, Best Buy didn’t have this lucrative little plan in place last year as it only pulled in $293 million. But hey, at least you get an upgrade soon, right?

Anthem Hits a Sour Note With Major Cyber Attack; Under Armour’s Over the Moon Ratings; Sony Executive Amy Pascal Down But Not Out

Cyber-sickening…

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anthem now joins the illustrious list of major companies to get cyber-hacked, although the health insurance company has yet to definitively say how many of its 80 million current and former customers are affected. It can definitively be said that all sorts of personal information was taken, including social security numbers, names, birthdays, employment data etc. – the kinds of details that can facilitate a very rude and inconvenient identity theft. Anthem says no credit card information was taken. Just everything else of significance. Customers can expect to be notified if they haven’t already been, and in keeping with corporate-cyber-attack tradition, affected customers will also get free credit monitoring and identity protection.  Anthem, which just happens to be the second largest health insurance company, with Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Shield, Amerigroup and Healthlink under its wings, just might earn itself the uncoveted distinction of having suffered the largest data breach in the health care industry. Ever. However, it’s still looking to sign up new customers for that pesky February 15 Obamacare deadline. Naturally the Feds are involved and if it’s suspected that information was stolen, the FBI has graciously established the Internet Crime Complaint Center website: www.ic3.gov. Anthem also wanted everyone to know that the data of its associates was also breached if that’s at all reassuring, though I don’t know why it would be. Now go and change your passwords!

Bringing it on…

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t you just love a good athletic apparel smackdown? Today’s  smackdown is brought to you by Under Armour and its CEO Kevin Plank, who not so graciously told Nike and Adidas to get used to being number two during a CNBC interview. Charming, right? But after posting some boffo earnings that boasted 31% revenue growth to $895 million, I guess he earned the right to say that. Except that Under Armour is, in fact, currently the number two fitness apparel maker, behind Nike. Just saying. In any case, CEO Kevin Plank’s numbers were no accident. The company’s profits were up 37% to $88 million coming out to $0.40 per share. That, my virtual pals, was one cent more than what analysts predicted. Plank’s fiscal logic for Under Armour is pure fitness genius: The more people exercise, the more exercise apparel they’ll need. To add to its fitness arsenal, Under Armour picked up not one, but two calorie-counting, fitness-tracking apps: MyFitnessPal for the very robust price of $475 million and Denmark-based Endomondo, for a cool $85 million. MyFitnessPal currently has 80 million users with Endomondo coming in at 20 million users, mostly in Europe, and with those two acquisitions under its svelte belt, Under Armour hopes to become “the world’s largest digital health and fitness community.” How nifty.

Hack Attack Comeback…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sony Pictures Entertainment studio head Amy Pascal may be stepping down from her cushy spot at the top, but she’s not out of the picture. The executive, whose emails figured prominently in the Sony hack attack in December, if only because she made some racist comments about President Obama and called Angelina Jolie a spoiled brat (though she did say sorry), will now get a four year production deal with Sony.  While it’s safe to assume she won’t be working with Jolie, or Adam Sandler, or the President for that matter, she will get distribution rights to the the films she does. Not bad for someone who put her foot in her mouth, via email, subsequently earning herself some of the biggest A-list enemies imaginable. The movie “The Interview,” starring the cuddly duo of Seth Rogen and James Franco, was allegedly the source for all the hacking misery, as it poked fun at North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The scandal cost Sony $15 million which coincidentally is the same amount of money the “The Interview” made from 2 million digital downloads – in its first few days of its release.