Macy’s Mixed Up Day; Uber Pumped for Some IPO Magic; Madoff Victims Rejoice. Well, Maybe Not.

It could have been worse…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s good news. And there’s bad news. Well, for Macy’s anyway. So let’s start with the bad because, why not. The department store chain just released its third-quarter earnings and very unhappily reported that comparable same-store sales fell 3.6%. That’s not even the bad part. What’s worse is that analysts expected those sales to fall, but only by 2.6%. This latest quarter marks Macy’s 12th consecutive quarter of straight declines and these dismal results come smack in the middle of Macy’s turnaround plan called “North Star.” To be fair, however, it was expected that this turnaround plan wasn’t going to change numbers overnight. As for the good news, Macy’s profit rate went up, helped by cost-cutting measures and store closures. That helped the retailer take in $36 million, almost double what it took in last year at this time. Online sales also went up by so much, that it almost took the sting out of the fall in comparable sales. Almost. So naturally, shares went up today, as well. A smidge. But those shares were at the highest point they had been in nine months. Too bad, though, they are still down more than 50% in the last twelve months.

IPWhoa!

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Uber is almost ready to make its big Wall Street debut.  Almost. The company’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, wants to make that happen by 2019. With a $70 billion valuation, Uber is the most highly-valued private company in the world. According to Khosrowshahi, “We have all of the disadvantages of being a public company, as far as the spotlight on us, without any of the advantages of being a public company.” Even Travis Kalanick, the ousted CEO but current board member, agrees. As for Kalanick, he’s not really gone and you can bet he won’t be forgotten. Not if he can help it anyway. IPO’s weren’t the only thing Khosrowshahi’s been discussing lately. Earlier this week, the CEO unveiled his own “cultural norms” for the company, and one of them goes a little something like this: “We do the right thing. Period.” A far cry from the climate under Kalanick that had a former employee write a scathing blog post detailing allegations of sexual harassment.  Which brings us to the much-discussed Soft Bank deal, where Uber is poised to give a very hefty 20% stake to the Japanese bank. For the right price, of course. Khosrowshahi insists the deal is really, truly going to happen. For real. It. Will. Happen. The primary issue being the price, because isn’t it always?

It’s about time…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thousands of victims of Ponzi Schemer Bernie Madoff are set to receive over $770 million in compesation for the money they lost. The $770 million is part of a $4 billion fund set up to compensate victims. And sure, that’s good news. Except for the fact that it took nine years to happen and much of those funds will only cover about 25% of the losses.  But guess what? It still counts as “the largest restoration of forfeited property in history.” Close to 25,000 checks will be mailed to victims, ranging from institutions to individuals in 49 states and 119 countries.  If you recall, Bernie Madoff was accused and found guilty of perpetrating a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. These days, the schemer of the century is chillaxin’ in Club Fed for the next 150 years.

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Harley’s Rough Ride on Wall Street; Madoff Victims Pay Day; Amazon Wants You. Really.

Rough riding…

Image courtesy of sritangphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sritangphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Harley-Davidson is no match for Wall Street as the all-American bike gets whipped by yet another rough quarter.  With sales down 2.5% in the U.S. and another 1% worldwide, Harley-Davidson brass have made a brutal decision to cut a bunch of jobs and ship out 11,000 less bikes next year. Instead, the company will dish out $70 million to increase its 2016 marketing budget. The company is hoping (and presumably praying) that it can increase product and brand awareness. And get people to buy more bike, of course. But how is it even possible that a brand as iconic as Harley would need to do such a thing? While there’s no disputing that there’s nothing like a Harley, the company is facing increased competition from European and Asian bike makers, like Ducati, Royal Enfield and Triumph. Those companies are putting out some fierce machines, and in some cases, for a lot less money than a “hog.” The proof is that in the first nine months of the year, the number of registered bikes has surged 6.6%. Net income for Harley-Davidson came in at $140.3 million, a 6.5% decrease over last year’s $150 million. Harley added 69 cent per share when analysts predicted 78 cents instead. In fact, shares fell the most that they have in six years.  But that isn’t stopping Harley-Davidson from plans to open up 200 more dealerships abroad.

Lost and found…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s been seven years since Bernie Madoff’s evil Ponzi scheme unraveled. But today, more than 1,200 of his victims (there were way more than that) can sort of rejoice and look forward to recouping at least some of their lost funds. Irving Picard, the trustee who has been hard at working recouping money on behalf of the victims of the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, has managed to release $1.5 billion from legal reserves. Victims who invested up to $1,161,000 can expect to get back about $1 million. Those who unfortunately invested more can expect to recoup 61 cents on the dollar.  Much of this money is coming from the widow of Madoff’s deceased alleged co-conspirator Jeffery Picower.  She agreed to turn over $7.2 billion of her late husband’s ill-gotten stash. Of course, some of that cash, approximately $1 billion, will also go towards covering all those enormous legal fees of the law firm handling this case. U.S officials have so far recovered about $11 billion from the $17 billion that was lost. As for Bernie Madoff, he’s hitting year 7 of a 150 year prison sentence.

Hire cause…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re looking to score some extra cash this holiday season then don’t let the New York Times get in your way and  dissuade you from applying for a job at Amazon. I bet Amazon is hoping the NYT doesn’t dissuade you either since the company is looking to hire 25,000 full-time employees and 100,000 part-time employees for the holiday season. While the company has always hired more people for this time of year, this time the digits are pretty epic in that they’ve never been this high. It should be duly noted that plenty of people who had been hired specifically for the holiday season were subsequently kept on as permanent employees.  The jobs will be primarily in the sorting and fulfillment facilities across the country.  But Amazon’s not the only game in town as Target, Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Kohl’s and a slew of other companies are also looking to amp up their workforces this holiday season. Just be sure not to ask Bo Olsen for a reference.

HSBC’s Bankers Were Not Being “Franc”; No Toying With Hasbro’s Earnings; Netflix Says ¡Hola! to Cuba

Oops! Did I do that?

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What do arms dealers and popstars have in common? They have bank accounts at HSBC. The British-based bank’s Swiss subsidiary now stands accused of the unthinkable: Helping some of its wealthy clients avoid paying taxes (cue audible gasp). So what’s HSBC’s excuse, because let’s face it, there’s always an excuse. HSBC blames it on the fact that even though the Swiss division was picked up by HSBC back in 1999, it hadn’t been fully integrated into the rest of the company and thus didn’t abide by the highest standards it could have. And by highest of standards I mean “significantly lower” standards. HSBC clients were able to walk out of the bank with “bricks” (their word) of cash – just like what you see criminals carrying in briefcases in the movies. Swiss bankers didn’t much care because those “bricks” were in foreign currency and not in francs . Also, bankers structured accounts in fiscally creative ways in order to help all these super-wealthy clients save tons of money by not paying all those irritating European taxes. See where I’m going with this? Talk about customer service.  And who must HSBC thank for all this embarrassing publicity? Enter Herve Falciani, a self-proclaimed whistle-blower and former HSBC IT employee, who graciously gathered all the juicy data and supplied it to officials, and of course, the media too – but that’s after he tried to first sell the information (a whole other blog entry). About 100,00 clients are on these lists with over $100 billion in assets swirling around. Names like Phil Collins, David Bowie, and Tina Turner turned up. John Malkovich’s name also made an appearance but he said he had no knowledge of the account and it may have been something done by Bernie Madoff who once handled some his assets.

Toy Score…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hasbro, the second largest toymaker, just posted its fourth quarter earnings much to the delight of well…everyone. The company topped analysts’ expectations with more than a little help from the forces of Nerf and Transformer toys. No joke. Sales of those products and other selections geared toward the junior male consumer increased 21% and there’s nothing Frozen about it. Strangely enough, sales of its girl-focused toys, including My Little Pony and Nerf Rebelle, didn’t fare as well. And by “well” I mean sales slid down 10%. But the company did score a profit that was up 31% to close to $170 million adding about $1.22 to each share. Sales were also up 1.3% to $1.3 billion (nifty how those numbers matched up). However, analysts expected revenue to be $1.33 billion and Hasbro was very quick to blame that strong dollar of ours against other foreign currencies. Stupid dollar! Just kidding.  And bonus: The Hasbro board is even upping its dividend to $0.46 per share, which shareholders get to cash in on May 15 – provided they have those shares on record by May 1.

Bienvenido….

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nothing says diplomacy quite like Kevin Spacey.  Online video subscription service Netflix is seizing upon the easing of restrictions on Cuba to bring its premium entertainment to the shores of the Island Nation. Muy bien! Netflix has been in Latin America since 2011 and it already has 5 million subscribers there. While it’s still not clear just how involved the government will be in this new endeavor, with a little help from some broadband internet, international payment methods and a rate of $7.99 a month, “Orange Is the New Black” is set to make its way over to Cuba in no time – provided  subscribers are of the select 5% who have unfiltered access to the internet.

 

Why Is This Coin Different From All Other Coins, It Was the Cover-Up, Stupid and Literacy Literally Pays Off

All is not certain in bitcoin EXCEPT taxes…

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bitcoin, the hottest most talked about virtual currency since..well, ever, has been officially deemed NOT a currency. According to the taxman, bitcoins are property, for tax purposes anyway, and will be treated as such. Instead, the IRS defines crypto-currency as “convertible currency” which probably sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. Got a virtual stash of coins? You could – if you really wanted to – exchange them for US dollars and you wouldn’t have to worry about them being taxed as a foreign currency gain or loss. If you trade the coins, expect a capital gains tax. If your paycheck is being paid with bitcoins (I guess that’s a thing now), that information needs to be reported on your W-2.  And if your accountant is not bitcoin savvy, then get a new accountant.

In the grand Ponzi scheme of things…

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It comes as no great surprise that Bernie Madoff did not single-handedly pull off one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history. Yesterday five of his former employees were finally convicted of a very very very long list of offenses, including conspiracy to commit fraud. US Attorney Preet Bharara said “These defendants each played an important role in carrying out the charade, propping it up and concealing it from regulators, auditors, taxing authorities, lenders and investors.” Now it’s up to a judge to determine their prison sentences which could last decades. Something tells me they wont be missed.

It pay$ to read…

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Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There was a reason why you were always encouraged to READ READ READ and today that mantra might literally pay off for you – but only if you are a regular e-book subscriber. Turns out a court ruled that publishers were a tad bit greedy by inflating prices and taking advantage of avid e-readers like you. So to make it up to you, or rather reimburse you, you can expect a credit. Are you one of the lucky recipients of the $166 million settlement? Check your account and details of the settlement at www.sagsettlements.com.