Not in the Moody’s: China Gets a Downgrade; Tiffany & Co. Fails to Shine; Can’t Contain The Container Store’s Earnings

Awkward…

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Look like Moody’s wont be getting a warm reception from China in the near – and probably far – future. It took thirty years, but the investor service downgraded China’s sovereign credit rating. Moody’s is more than a bit skeptical that the country can get its debt issues under control while at the same time trying to maintain economic growth. Hence, it bumped China’s rating down a smidgen from a respectable A1 to a not-as-respectable Aa3.  On the bright side – though I highly doubt China sees it that way – Moody’s did upgrade its outlook for the country from negative to stable. That’s gotta count for something, right? Well, maybe not to the Chinese. In any case, even though China has enjoyed pretty fast growth rates that easily surpassed 6%, it is apparently due in large part to its mounting pile of debt, and Moody’s said that it expects that rate to soon come down closer to 5%. As for China, the Finance Ministry is, shall we say, unhappy about this downgrade and called the move “inappropriate”  and “absolutely groundless.” Oh well. So much for diplomacy.

Not so Gaga for Tiffany…

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All is not bling-y for Tiffany & Co. as the luxury jeweler took a nasty 4% hit on its comparable sales, even during the fiscal quarter that brings us Valentine’s Day. Of course, with that ugly bit of news came an even uglier hit to its stock, taking it down around 10%. Like with so many other brands, the company just can’t seem to get a hold on that finicky demographic we call millennials.  And that’s even after the luxury brand made Lady Gaga its poster gal while poaching Coach’s Creative Director, Reed Krackoff to add a little millennial-desirability to the the label.  Naturally, some blame also went to that pesky strong dollar of ours which seemed to put a crimp on tourist spending.  Net sales were up close to $900 million. Too bad expectations were for $914 million On the bright side, Tiffany & Co. added 74 cents to its shares, beating analyst estimates by four cents. Last year at this time, the company hauled in over $891 million in revenue with 69 cents added per share.

Can’t contain myself…

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Shares of The Container Store Group surged 37% after announcing it not only beat expectations, but it also has a restructuring plan in the works. If any company knows a thing or two about restructuring and organization, it’s gotta be The Container Store, right? At least when I walk into one of their stores, I always find myself feeling grossly inadequate and disorganized. In any case, the company took in sales of $221 million, easily blowing expectations of $213 million out of the water. The company also took in 17 cents per share which was 140% higher than last year at this time. Yes, you read that correctly. 140%. Analysts expected 11 cents per share. But mind you, the company’s stock had been down around 50% since it hit a one year-high back in December.  As for the restructuring plan, sadly, there will be layoffs. It’s an unfortunate result of trying to combat all the e-commerce competition that has dogged The Container Store and countless other businesses.

Coach Gets Quirky With Kate Spade; Warren Buffett’s Latest Thoughts; It’s Kumbaya for Comcast and Charter Communications

Luxury quirk…

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Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Coach is about to get a whole lot more accessorized now that it announced it will be buying Kate Spade. The $2.4 billion price tag on the deal means Coach will be plunking down $18.50 per share, which ends up being a 9% premium over Kate Spade’s Friday closing price. Analysts are digging the merger, thinking it’s a good fit and news of the deal set Wall Street tongues wagging, subsequently sending shares of both companies up.  In fact, ever since Kate Spade brass decided on a sale back in December, the stock has been on the rise. Which is weird because before that the stock was flagging over increased competition and decreased traffic and sales. Much of the enthusiasm over the sale is because people think Coach will have an opportunity to up its street cred with millennials. After all, Kate Spade’s quirky merchandise tends to resonate with that finicky demographic. And when something actually resonates with millennials, companies want in and are quick to figure out how to make a lot of money in that arena.  In fact, 60% of Kate Spade sales come from millennials while only 15% come from outside the U.S. Go figure.

It’s all about the tapeworm…

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It was that time of year again where one of the wealthiest men in the world imparted his financial wisdom onto his shareholders, and also regular people. Sort of. At the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting held in Omaha this past weekend, Warren Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, shared their isights on several topics including Wells Fargo, Amazon and even the Republican healthcare bill.  On Wells Fargo, Buffett said there were three huge mistakes, but the biggest one was not acting on the problem when they first heard about it. On the Republican healthcare bill, he shared this pearl: “Medical costs are the tapeworm of economic competitiveness.” Got it? Tapeworm. Also,  he messed up royally by not ever owning shares of Amazon.  He admits he never anticipated Jeff Bezos going as far as he did. Apparently Buffett’s oracle skills failed him on that one. On a different note, he said that if he dies tonight, he’s convinced shares of Berkshire Hathaway would go up tomorrow. Warms the heart now, doesn’t it.

Well isn’t this precious…

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Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comcast and Charter Communications are joining hands in the spirit of fighting against the dreaded and unflagging power of wireless carriers. Apparently when it comes to fighting wireless carriers, there is an inherent safety in numbers. So together the two companies will join hands and tackle such things as customer billing and device ordering systems. Also, they made a deal with each other that neither one would attempt to buy any other wireless companies and to consult one another before either one would make related deals,. They want to avoid increasing competition between the two companies. A move like this allows them to develop wireless services for their own companies without worrying over competition from each other. So its’s a little kumbaya and a little self-preservation.  And bonus: The two companies have said the plan could have the potential of lowering costs for its customers. However, that remains to be seen so don’t hold your breath.

 

Snap to it! Snap Inc. Banks on IPO; Canada Goose Wants to Keep NYSE Warm and Cozy; How Much Is That Handbag Company In the Window? Kate Spade Puts Itself On the Market

Next big thing?

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Image courtesy of zirconicusso/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Snap Inc., the company that gave us Snapchat, is gearing up to be Wall Street’s next big IPO darling. Come March 1, the company is hoping to get an IPO valuation of between $19.5 – $22.2 billion, and is offering about 200 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol…wait for it…SNAP. You saw that one coming, didn’t you. It plans on pricing those shares between $14 to $16, which should bring in over $3 billion. The company already boasts 158 million active users and most of Snapchat’s money comes from advertisers. Revenues for the company came in this year at $404.4 million –  a far cry from 2015’s $58.6 million. However, one hurdle Snapchat might have to overcome is the perennial question of how it plans to make a profit. Sure it took in over $400 million in revenue last year, but it still also posted a $514 million loss.  In any case, before Snap Inc. makes its big Wall Street debut, top brass, including CEO Evan Spiegel, are set to hit the road, for a “road show,” – which is not as cool as it sounds – to visit investors in hopes of whetting their fiscal appetites on the potential of Snap Inc. stock. One hitch – and apparently there are more than a few – is that new shareholders won’t have any voting powers and instead will have to trust the board to know what they are doing in order to make tons of cash for the company.

What’s good for the goose…

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You don’t have to be Canadian to notice the swarms of people sporting the Canada Goose brand of winter gear. Chances are, if you’ve ever thought about buying one of those coats, you might have reconsidered after looking at the price tag.  But apparently more than enough people are buying the brand’s merchandise to warrant a $100 million IPO filing, and Canada Goose will list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol…wait for it…GOOS. Didn’t see that one coming, did ya? Okay, you probably did. While that $100 million isn’t exactly screaming: “SNAPCHAT!” the fact is Canada Goose’s revenue grew close to 40% between 2014 and 216, with just its online sales hitting $33 million in 2016. By 2016, revenue for the company came in at over $290 million. You may not have bought one of their jackets, but chances are, with figures like, that you know someone who did. In fact, in the last three years in the United States, sales grew by 76%, and 33% in the last year, to total over $103 million. In Canada those numbers only grew by 15%. Go figure.  While Canada Goose still scored a $27 million profit on that $291 million revenue, it does still have a wee bit of debt to the tune of $278 million. So yeah, a few extra bucks from an IPO would do wonders.  Of course, you can’t file for an IPO just on the basis of a few jackets. With that in mind, Canada Goose has big plans to expand its product offerings from footwear to bedding and everything in between.

Up for grabs…

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It was just a matter of time, I suppose, before Kate Spade threw in the fiscal towel and decided to put itself up for sale. Except, at Kate Spade, they’re calling it “exploring strategic alternatives.” However the company wants to spin it, it still heartened Wall Street which sent shares of the company up more than 13% for a change. To be fair, Kate Spade’s recent quarterly earnings weren’t even horrible.  In fact, the company took in a 39% increase in profit of $86 million on $471 million in revenues, missing estimates by just one million measly dollars. The handbag company even added 41 cents per share when just 34 cents were expected.  Shares are up over 20% for the year and sales of its merchandise in its own stores increased by over 9% . Its rivals, including Michael Kors  and Coach would have loved to see similar results themselves. But alas, for Kate Spade, China just wasn’t feeling the love while a strong dollar kept plenty of tourist shoppers at bay. And in our neck of the woods, consumers just aren’t buying handbags as much as in the past, which is quite the problem when your core product is just that.

Kate Spade Shares Stylin’ on Latest Reports; Sears Has a Fiscal Guardian Angel; Amazon Dismisses Gravity With Latest Patent

I’m so fancy…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kate Spade wants to put itself up for grabs and that news sent its shares up 23%, giving Wall Street plenty of cause to celebrate. And the Street will take whatever it can get, especially since Kate Spade was down 9% just in the last six months. In fact, similar companies including Michael Kors and Coach have also experienced declines during the same time period. But the kicker is that both of those companies, along with four others, are being bandied about as potential buyers of Kate Spade. Talk of a potential sale is just what hedge fund Caerus Investors wants to hear. While the firm, which entered the picture back in 2009, hasn’t disclosed its exact stake in the company, it did send a letter to Kate Spade’s board back in November urging it to put itself on the auction block. And that’s exactly what’s planned for next month. With a market cap of $2.3 billion, Caerus thinks Kate Spade could get picked up for a nifty premium – between $21 to $23 per share -and naturally, Caerus stands to profit from that. But that wasn’t the only story to come out of Kate Spade today. Apparently, an options trader purchased 2,000 calls for Kate Spade shares just minutes before it was reported that it’s exploring a sale. A call, by the way, allows a buyer to score shares at a pre-agreed upon price. Not only was one very lucky buyer involved, but it also netted a very shrewd trader a cool $320,000 within minutes. Insider info? Hmmm. I’m sure the SEC would like to know. Because that would be so bad. Just ask Martha Stewart. As for Kate Spade, she hasn’t been part of the company since 2006.

On a another note…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Even though its stock just went up 9% – the most in two months – Wall Street definitely does not feel the same amount of love for Sears as it does for Kate Spade. The stock closed at a 52 week low just yesterday and its planning to close 30 more Sears and Kmart stores in early 2017. But there is someone who seems to love the embattled retailer unconditionally: CEO Eddie Lampert, who said he’s going to get a $200 million letter of credit for the troubled company. In fact, he has so much faith in the company  – and apparently he’s the only one who does – that he thinks that letter of credit could grow to $500 million. This is not Lampert’s first “loan” to Sears. In the last two years he’s shelled out over $800 million to the company.  Talk about faith.  At least this loan comes with guarantees that if Sears goes bust, its suppliers will still get paid. I wonder if the rest of his hedge fund buds over at ESL Investments feel the same, even as the firm continues to back Sears? For some inexplicable reason, Lampert is devoted to Sears, despite the fact that its sales are constantly going down and it has already lost billions. Most investors think the time has come to throw in the retail towel.  But not Lampert, who in addition to being Sears’s CEO and biggest cheerleader for the last four years, also happens to be its biggest investor.  However, others only see red flags and are wondering why Lampert is the only one eager to throw money at a company which has been losing so much of it in so little time.  Sears’s last quarter lost $750 million, so much worse than last year at this time when it only lost $454 million. Revenue fell a whopping 13% to $5 billion. In fact, in the last eight years, Sears has lost around $9 billion. Also, with the seeming exception of Lampert, everyone is wondering why Sears would need money right after the holiday season, which is supposed to be the most lucrative quarter out of the whole year.

Yeah, they thought of that too…

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Because fulfillment centers weren’t enough, now the e-commerce giant is looking to do away with gravity – besides logistics companies – with its latest patent for an airborne fulfillment center (AFC). It’s exactly what it sounds like – a warehouse in the sky. Flying at a lofty 45,000 feet, drones would basically zoom into the warehouse, pick up items that were ordered and then deliver them.  The company’s ramped up its drone tech efforts and this latest project fits in nicely with that initiative.  Right now Amazon drone delivery requires that Amazon build warehouses in specific areas, on land, where drones can happily roam free and deliver items to customers. Some of the uses mentioned in the filing include fulfilling orders during football games. The AFC would be stocked ahead of time with certain game “essentials” that could be easily delivered as you cheer for your favorite team. Another idea would be to allow customers to order right from a giant ad board and have their items delivered “within minutes.” But before you start having nightmares of flying robotic insects whizzing all around you, Amazon is going to need to get major regulatory approval from aviation authorities before launching any airships.

Michael Kors Department Store Diss; Disney Swims to Great 3Q; Ralph Lauren Hits and Misses and Hits

More bag for your buck…

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Michael Kors is biting back at the hand that feeds it: department stores. The accessories company is blaming them for its recent losses, fed up with the constant discounts department stores are putting on Michael Kors merchandise. In case you haven’t noticed there is nary a moment when Michael Kors products are not discounted. I dare you to prove that one wrong. The fact that consumers can use coupons for Michael Kors products? Ugh. Don’t even get them started. In fact, CEO John Idol is putting the kibosh on them and also chucking those friends and family discounts. Michael Kors reported a 7% drop in its first quarter wholesale business and is planning on shipping less merchandise to the stores in an attempt to reclaim some much-needed pricing power. Michael Kors feels that consumers forgot the value of its products. Seems like a prudent move considering that Macy’s, in particular, brings in the largest chunk of wholesale revenue for Michael Kors.  In any case, it’s a strategy that Coach also is beginning to employ, except that Coach also plans to pull out of about 250 stores completely. Earnings came in at $147 million and 88 cents a share on $988 million in revenue. That was a slight change from last year’s $174 million and 87 cents on $986 million. The fact that mall traffic and tourism were down didn’t help matters. Even same stores sales took a 7.4% hit, which was especially brutal since analysts only predicted a 4.2% decline. Still, analysts expected 74 cents on $953 million in revenue, so the earnings weren’t all that bleak in the first place.

It’s Dory’s world after all…

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Disney posted impressive earnings throwing a big shout out to its studio division, who cranked out the incredibly endearing and ridiculously, lucratively marketable “Finding Dory.” Okay, so marine life wasn’t the only reason since “The Jungle Book “and “Captain America: Civil War “also contributed to that success. Just not as much. Not nearly as much. In any case,  Disney particularly relished those 3Q earnings considering that its 2Q earrings missed the mark while this quarter it took in $1.62 per share, beating estimates by one penny. But not everything was coming up roses and clown fish at Disney, all because of ESPN and a future for it that looks more bleak than bright. Taking a beating from “cord-cutting” consumers who are giving the heave-ho to cable subscriptions and bundles, ESPN is, not surprisingly, rapidly losing subscribers. The network signed a $1 billion deal with BAMTech to find a way for ESPN to bring “direct-to-consumer ESPN-branded, multi-sports subscription streaming service.” Two words, ESPN: blue tang.

No medals for you…

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Even Michael Phelps couldn’t help win this one. Of course  I am referring to Ralph Lauren’s recent earnings that had the luxury brand posting a 7% sales loss. Ralph Lauren reported a loss of $22 million with 27 cents per share. That’s a far cry form last year when the company took in a profit of $64 million and 73 cents added per share. Revenue, which came in at $1.55 billion, took a hit, but analysts expected that hit to be closer to $1.77 billion so complaining wasn’t necessary. Shares still went up today so clearly these losses have done little to spook investors. That’s because those losses were expected as part of a strategic comeback plan engineered by Ralph Lauren CEO Stefan Larsson, who took over back in November. His grand plan also includes reducing turnaround times from design to shelves and to focus on Ralph Lauren’s core brands – initiatives that he thinks will generate roughly $180 million to $220 million in annual savings. That and closing about 50 stores should have Ralph Lauren returning to its fiscal glory in no time.

 

Bling it On: Tiffany’s Earnings Shine; Michael Kors Earnings Do Not Shine: Did Someone Say Snapchat IPO? Sort of.

You paid how much?!

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Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shares of Tiffany & Co. shot up over 12% to $95.68 – the most in almost six years and, well, why not? After all the high-end bling company scored some epic digits in its latest earnings report, proving once again that people really do like expensive jewelry. I mean, was it ever even a question? Even though the declining euro against the dollar seems to be messing with everybody else’s earnings Tiffany & Co. seemed to emerge from the quarter virtually unscathed. Sadly, I was not the recipient of any high-end Tiffany & Co. pieces lately, but plenty of other lucky consumers were as it was the high-end collections that drove sales for the luxury retailer this past quarter. Those pricey accessories took in $962.4 million in revenue, with profits of $104.9 million and 81 cents per share. Analysts only predicted 69 cents per share. Sort of impressive, except that last year Tiffany & Co. pulled down $1 billion in revenue with $125.6 million in profits and 97 cents per share. Those shares, by the way, are down 20% for the year. But considering that the company just increased its forecast, those stock prices might be making a comeback.

Going down down down…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unfortunately for Michael Kors, his fashion company took a nasty beating over the declining euro. But it wouldn’t be right to blame all the company’s bad earnings on the strong dollar as other factors also caused the company’s stock to plunge. While it may be hard to believe, it was just a few months ago that the stock hit an all time high of $97.60. Today, however, the stock is teetering at just under $46, its lowest point since December 2012 when it first made its IPO. Besides the strong dollar, same store sales were down a very uncool 6%. That may not seem like such a big deal but for Michael Kors it’s huge, especially when you take into consideration that the retailer also reduced its earrings outlook. Coach and Kate Spade are definitely giving Michael Kors an unwelcome run for its money, as well. When the dismal earnings for Michael Kors were announced, though, those two companies also saw their shares take a beating, as investors wondered whether bad earnings for fashion companies would be trending. Another culprit behind Kors’ earnings was Apple. No joke. While accessories tend to be hot sellers and profit drivers for companies like Michael Kors, the Apple watch is putting a major chink in those sales. After all, if you’re already spending that kind of cash on your wrist, why not have an Apple watch perched there?

Bubble burster…

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Image courtesy of arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is there an IPO on the horizon for messaging app Snapchat? Maybe. Except CEO Evan Spiegel declined to elaborate on some key details during an interview with Re/code’s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. For instance, the 24 year old founder wouldn’t even drop an itty bitty hint as to when Snapchat might make its big ticker debut. Speigel also dished out his thoughts on several other topics including his feelings that our current tech bubble is going to burst. Which is informative and all but really, when’s this Snapchat IPO coming at us? With 100 million users sending out around 700 million pics a day, the company has picked up funding and is valued at around $10 billion to $15 billion – depending on whom you ask, of course. But about that Snapchat IPO…

Nothing Luxurious About Coach’s Earnings; Just Ship It; Can It Get Any Better for Apple?

Not on trend…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Consumers just aren’t feeling the love for Coach, at least in the United States, as evidenced by its third quarter earnings. Those earnings can best be described as short on style and long on disappointment, as sales here took a nasty 24% dive to $493 million. Last year at this time sales hit $648 million in the U.S. As for the rest of the world, the company saw sales plunge 15% to $929 million, a far cry from the $949 million analysts were predicting. It wouldn’t be right not to put some of the blame on the strong U.S. dollar. After all, it’s the thing to do these days. But that excuse can only go so far. At least Coach managed to beat Wall Street’s profit expectations by a whole penny. Yeah you read that right. Coach’s net income came in at $81.1 million and 36 cents per share. That figure might have been somewhat impressive if not for the fact that last year at this time Coach saw a profit that was more than double at $191 million and 68 cents per share. The leather goods company better hope its $547 million Stuart Weitzman acquisition pays off as Coach has some very unflattering plans to shut down 43 shops and twelve outlets.

Brown paper packages tied up with string…

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Image courtesy of tigger11th/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know whose earnings didn’t suck? Hint: Brown delivery trucks. Indeed, UPS delivered some very impressive digits, which is especially awesome considering the hit it took during the holiday season. Just how impressive were these earnings? Well, the company took in $14 billion worth of revenue, a 1.4% increase from last year. That’s a lot of packages. Actually, it’s about 1.1 billion packages, 2.8% more than last year, to be precise. Unfortunately, Wall Street analysts actually expected more from the shipping company and hoped it would reach $14.3 billion. But, oh well. No one seems to be too upset since UPS managed to score $1 billion in profits at $1.12 per share, easily taking down analyst estimates of $1.09 per share. Last year at this time UPS saw a profit of $911 million with 98 cents per share. The tricky part, however, is that even though the stock is up 14% from a year ago, it is still down 11% for the year. Strange how that works out.

Keeps getting better and better and…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apple has done it again. Yawn. The iPhone/iPad/Master of the Universe reported another epic quarter of earnings that leave just about every single other company – in the world – green with envy. With $58 billion in sales, Apple scored $13.8 billion in profits adding a very plump $2.33 per share. I guess that’s what happens when you sell 61 million iPhones. For those lucky enough to own shares of the company, their dividends went up too. The company is oozing money  – like, $194 billion of it – with $33 billion of it just in cold hard cash and the rest in investments, which, knowing Apple, will pay off handsomely. Oh, and did I mention the stock hit a new high? Well, I just did. All this, and the Apple watch barely hit the market. Have you ordered yours yet? They’re going for between $349 – $17,000. That ought to make Apple’s next earnings report a bit more interesting.