The Hostess with the Mostess is Baaaack; Airlines Take a Fiscal Hit, Yet Consumers Shed No Tears; Starbucks Set to Raise You Up

 

Sugar high…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No need to get all sentimental here, but Hostess has arrived. Again. The Twinkie maker is set to go public in the fall, following a deal with Gores Holdings which picked up a huge stake in the company. It seems like only yesterday when Hostess rode a fiscal roller-coaster that almost had the sweets maker go bust four years ago. But those days are now far behind, as the Ding-Dongs proprietor boasts a $2.3 billion valuation. The folks who bought the company, Metropoulos & Co. together with Apollo Global Management LLC, were the same ones who restored Pabst to its original glory. They picked up Hostess for $185 million and borrowed another $500 million to basically rebuild the company from the ground up. They did just that, but smaller. Much smaller. Almost all union workers were ousted, equipment was upgraded and even robots were brought in for some labor. Just like “The Jetsons.” Sort of.  Before Twinkies disappeared from shelves for those dark seven months, the company employed 19,000 people, most of them union. Now there are closer to 1,200 employees – not including robots, and more than 95% of them are NOT union workers. Top brass also unloaded Wonder Bread and Nature’s Pride, got products into movies theaters and restaurants, launched a new marketing campaign with celebs, including the illustrious Will Ferrell and threw in a countdown clock in New York’s Times Square for New Year’s. Hostess also doubled the shelf life of its products to 65 days. You might not find that especially appetizing, but investors sure did. And in case you were skeptical about the Will Ferrell choice, then consider that Hostess’s market for sweet-baked goods is up over 16% and posted $650 million in revenue for 2015. The company is now poised to hit $772 million in revenue for 2016 and by 2017, profit is expected to grow to $101.8 million.  If you’re still not convinced that the Hostess tide is turning, then look out for frozen fried Twinkies, making their coronary debut in a few weeks. Then we’ll talk.

Karma, I tell you…

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Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like the airlines have taken a hit and I suspect no one feels too sorry for the industry’s top players. Delta,  American Airlines, United Airlines and even Southwest posted declines between 12% and 31%. So sad, no? The demand just wasn’t enough for air travel and that, coupled with some other factors, made for some very unpleasant earnings and share declines. But cry me a river. These are, after all, airlines we are talking about. In my most humble opinion, it sometimes feel that they make a sport out of fleecing travelers. Just saying. Delta shares fell on the news that its revenue per each seat flown one mile dipped by 5%. Despite the wordiness of that calculation, it is how airlines measure their success. It also them helps determine just how much pricing power they have. And wouldn’t ya know it. They currently don’t have as much as they’d like. For now anyway. And that’s welcome news for travelers who aren’t too happy shelling out big bucks for uncomfortable seats. Delta, the second largest airline, actually had been expecting the decrease, but a smaller one of no more than 4.5%. The airline also ate a $450 million loss because they bet against fuel prices. Actually, Delta bet that fuel prices would jump and locked in some fuel purchase contracts called hedge contracts. Prices did, in fact, jump. Just not as much as Delta had hoped they so Delta ditched the contracts and ate a half billion dollars on them. So sad, no?

Nothing to buzz about…

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Image courtesy of zirconicusso/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s July, oh faithful Starbucks drinker and do you know what that means? It means that it’s time for the price of your caffeine fix to go up. After all, it’s tradition. Actually, the tradition is to raise the prices during the first week of July, yet here were are and no increase. But fear not because Starbucks already made a statement that a price increase is on the horizon. Besides, due to a pricing glitch, some loyal drinkers were already charged that increase. Oops. However, those unfortunate consumers could have only been overcharged by, at most, 30 cents. There’s no official word yet on which drinks will be getting pricier, but  the ones that do go up will only go up by as much as – you guessed it – 30 cents. There is one more caveat, though. The amount of money a drink increases varies by region. So perhaps a move might be in order. Just saying. The fact is coffee futures keep going higher and are up over 10% just this year. Even if you are annoyed that your coffee habit is about to eat a bigger chunk out of your bank account, Starbucks knows that you’re still gonna keep whipping out the cash for it. In any case, if you think you did get overcharged on your recent Starbucks purchase, you can call the customer service hotline at 1-800-782-7282 to request your refund.

Über’s But a Hot Global Mess; PetSmart’s New Leash on Life; Who Wants to be a High School Millionaire?

Ügh, Uber…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Über has once again made itself the star of yet another publicity disaster. As the hostage crisis raged in Sydney, Autralia’s central business district, many people fled the city via Über, only to discover that the company’s fares spiked to about four times the usual rate. Classy, huh? Following some epic social media backlash, Über undid the deed, blaming the mishap on the company’s algorithm which automatically increases fares based on demand. And in this particular emergency, you can bet demand increased. Über, however, is graciously offering to refund its users up to $200. But over in France, ÜberPop has been banned. The Inetrior Ministry argues that it’s because there is no required training, background checks and other basic requirements for ÜberPop drivers. Taxi drivers there simply feel that it’s unfair competition. A court still has yet to decide on a final ruling. ÜberX drivers, though, are in the clear since they do require permits. In Rio de Janeiro the service is illegal and you can forget about using it in the Netherlands too. Perhaps things might start to improve in the United States, where the company has apparently enlisted the help of over 160 lobbyists in fifty different cities.

Gone to the dogs…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things are looking up at PetSmart now that a London-based equity firm picked up the Phoenix-based pet supply company for $8.7 billion, or “ruffly” $83.00 per share. That number, by the way, is at a 39% premium – nothing to bark at, mind you. Back in July, activist investor Jana Partners was looking to pick up the company, after all, it had close to a 10% stake in the company. Apollo Global Management was an even more recent contender. But BC Partners emerged as the new owners. PetSmart currently has close to 1,400 stores across the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. The pet industry is expected to be a $59 billion business this year.

Most likely to graduate a multi-millionaire…

Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It seems high school lunch time was getting in the way of Mohammed “Mo” Islam’s career. So he did what any teenage financial whiz kid would do: he parlayed his financial acumen into a rumored $72 million fortune. While that number can’t officially be confirmed, the high-schooler did acknowledge his net worth is in the high eight figures. Not bad for someone who’s not even old enough to vote. The Stuyvesant High Schooler first started trading penny stocks at the age of nine years old, with money he made from tutoring. But he got badly burned in that lesson and took break allowing himself to get more well-versed in the stock market, particularly with crude oil and gold futures. His “studies” paid off and now he has his own apartment, which his parents won’t let him live in, and a new BMW which he is not legally allowed to drive. The only thing that’s standing between him and his broker-dealer license and hedge-fund dreams is his age –  he’s only 17.