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.

 

In: Charter Spectrum, Out: Time Warner Cable; So Over-time; Has the Fed Finally Made Up its Mind?

Thanks for the memories…

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Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As the Charter Communications $55.1 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable comes to a close, we can now bid a final adieu to the latter. And that’s no great loss since Time Warner Cable had the dubious distinction of earning the worst customer service score according to a survey done by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Yet, strangely enough, TWC still managed to pick up some 32,000 video subscribers and another million high-speed internet users in 2015. In any case, this acquisition joins Charter’s other recent acquisition of Bright House Networks LLC to the tune of $10.4 billion. Charter will scrap the Time Warner Cable name, which nobody is likely to miss, and the newly formed company will be named “Charter” while its products and services will be sold under the name “Spectrum.” Catchy, no?  With that, Charter Spectrum becomes the second largest cable operator in the country, picking up 27.5 million new customers and playing second to Comcast Corp. As for Time Warner Cable’s outgoing CEO, Rob Marcus, he can wipe away his tears with his $92 million severance package, while trying to polish up his LinkedIn profile.

Laboring on…

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Image courtesy of saphatthachat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Labor Department’s got some new rules headed your way, but you might not want to try breaking these, particularly if you find yourself working plenty of overtime. Because if you earn less than $47,476 a year, then congrats…sort of. You will now qualify for overtime and a half if you work more than forty hours a week. That’s a far cry from the $23,660 that served as the previous threshold. The reason for nearly doubling that threshold, by the way, is that the Labor Department hadn’t changed the rules since 2004. So I guess it’s kind of making up for lost time.and now has plans to change the numbers up every three years. In any case,  4.2 million workers will be positively affected by these new changes, with a big chunk of that being the millennial demographic. The new rules, however, could have unintended negative consequences. For instance, employers might decide to limit the amount of hours employees can work in order to avoid having to pay them overtime. Employers also might wish to start giving out raises. That might, at first, seem like a very good thing. However, it would be so that they can pay employees more than the $47,476 in order to, once again, avoid paying overtime. But then there are the “highly compensated employees” who may become eligible for overtime as well. By highly compensated, I mean getting paid at least $134, 004. In order for these highly compensated employees to get their overtime paid,  they must pass a “minimal duties test.” Problem is the Labor Department isn’t entirely clear about that part and is leaving it to the discretion of the employers. And before you start slaving away on all those extra hours, know that these rules wont take effect until December 1.

To hike or not to hike…

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It’s official. Or not. The minutes of April’s Fed meeting were released and the would-be experts think there will indeed be a rate hike in June of .25%-.50%. Members of the Fed were pinning their hopes and dreams on finding some hard-core data that the economy is growing. It seems they got it. For one, inflation is headed in the right direction towards that 2% target rate the Fed has its sights on. And unlike George Soros, the Fed is not as freaked out by the prospects of an economic slowdown. Throw in a good labor market, respectable consumer spending and even more respectable manufacturing output numbers and you just might be witness to a June rate hike. News of the likely hike sent the dollar to a seven week high and had markets all over the place. But there is that little issue about April’s disappointing jobs data which came out so inconveniently after the Fed had its meeting. Despite the fact that the labor market is looking fairly decent, those April digits can spook even the most optimistic of economists. So it’s still entirely possible that a rate hike might also get nixed.

Comcast: Streaming Video is so Last Year; Holy-Moly Guacamole, Chipotle is Losing Dinero; The Ultimate Biz Perks List

Who-lu?

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If online streaming video services are phasing out cable, you’d never know it judging by Comcast’s latest earnings. The company actually picked up 89,000 new subscribers – more than any other quarter in the last eight years. It was a particularly remarkable feat considering that last year at this time, the largest U.S. cable operator in the country only gained 6,000 subscribers. This means that for the year, Comcast only lost 36,000 subscribers. And yeah, that’s really good news. It’s really good because in 2014 Comcast lost over 194,000 subscribers. Time Warner Cable also announced it had picked up new subscribers. But Comcast did so well that it decided to raise it’s dividend by 10% to $1.10 – which was awfully generous of them. The nation’s leading high-speed internet operator managed to give a decent beating to analysts expectations earning $19.25 billion in revenue- an 8.5% increase over last year – instead of the projected $18.76 billion.  Comcast’s profits were up 5.2%, coming in at $2 billion, and adding 81 cents per share – just a teeny tiny penny below predictions. Oh well, maybe next time. Knowing that it’s future is/was on the line, Comcast has been trying to stay relevant in an age where streaming online video is all the rage. The company has been whipping out its fiscal A-game, offering better customer service, set-top box enhancements and smaller, more enticing bundles for current and prospective subscribers. Apparently it’s working.

The plot thickens…

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the fiscal Chipotle waters, along comes a subpoena, courtesy of a federal criminal probe stemming from a noro-virus outbreak in sunny California. Chipotle now needs to cough up documents going all the way back to January of 2013 and that’s not all. While Chipotle thought the worst was behind it, following the incredibly brutal E.Coli outbreak in some of its restaurants, the company announced that this year will be muy mal for investors. With huge marketing efforts in the wings, along with Herculean efforts to become the gold standard in food safety, Chipotle should be able to stay afloat. But it wont be pretty. The company’s fourth quarter earnings were pretty dismal with sales down more than a third and a whopping $10 billion shaved off its market cap. Apple and Alphabet  it is not. And with any bad news on Wall Street, particularly where there’s a subpoena involved, shares tumbled almost 3% and closed at 461.92.

Very perk-y…

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Image courtesy of cool design/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Glassdoor has served up yet another list to remind you just how badly you need to find a new place to work. This time, the company is ranking other companies according to how friggin’ awesome their employee perks are. For instance, does your current place of employment offer you “Yay Days”? Didn’t think so. But, if you score a position at REI, you get two of ’em – that’s two paid days off to spend on an outdoor activity. Does your boss currently give you $500 to use towards travel? Didn’t think so again. In which case, you ought to check Airbnb’s job board because that company gives you that much money towards travel every quarter so long as that cash is used on Airbnb accommodations (otherwise, no dice).  Burton, purveyor of fine snowboards and accompanying gear, gives its employees season passes to the local slopes. Then there’s software provider Epic Systems that generously gives its employees a four-week paid sabbatical every five years. If you want to feel even worse about where you work, visit Glassdoor for the rest of the list top ranking companies and the amazing perks they offer.

 

 

The Urge to Merge, Targeting a Parachute and Cottage Cheese Sighs

Watch it where?

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Watching television on an actual…television? Ugh. That is like so last year. Well maybe not just yet but AT&T (T) and DirecTV (DTV) are banking on it. They are on a mission to deliver content to all of your devices and not jut that relic of a 96″ HD monitor you’ve been paying off  for the better part of the year. So much so that AT&T just picked up the satellite programming provider from the telecommunications giant for a staggering $48.5 billion. That’s $3.5 billion more than what Comcast (CMCSA) is shelling out for Time Warner Cable (TWC). The merger between AT&T and DirectTV puts their customer base at 26 million while Comcast/Time Warner Cable have slightly more at 30 million subscribers. However, all these companies do face regulatory issues from the FCC and the Department of Justice. But mergers like these are allegedly good for the consumer. Cheaper bundles are headed our way. Though to be fair I’m skeptical after spending my morning live chatting with one of the telecom giants just to switch my cable carrier.

They’re paying you what?!

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Target shareholders felt its recently ousted CEO, Gregg Steinhafel was getting a bit too much of payday. Especially considering he was at the helm of the company as its holiday shopping season hacking fiasco unfolded before his eyes. Steinhafel’s 2013 paycheck was slashed by 37%. Instead of making the $20.6 million he earned in 2012, he now only received $12.9 million. I know you feel for him. Steinhafel has to pay back $5.4 million in retirement benefits also. I know. I know. Your heart goes out to the guy. But not to worry. He can just wipe away his tears with all those $100 bills he’s going to have courtesy of his $54 million golden parachute.

Not so comforting food…

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While Campbell’s Soup (CPB) is good food, its earnings were definitely not. Despite marching out some new products this year, it just wasn’t enough to beat Wall Street’s expectations. The company behind Prego and the snack that smiles back, Goldfish, was not smiling back it its third quarter which saw its revenue pretty much flatline. Analysts pegged their earnings at $2 billion instead of the disappointing $1.97 billion it posted. It was hardly a dent into the $1.96 billion it pulled in last year at this time. On the dairy front, Kraft Foods (KRFT) must have been feeling a bit lactose intolerant today thanks to a cottage cheese recall. 1.2 million cases of the stuff was taken off the shelves. Some of their ingredients were not stored well and this may or may not result in stuff that would gross you out. But not as much as it’s going to gross out Kraft’s revenue.

 

Board Members Smackdown, Darn That Weather and Netflix Has Its Own Drama

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/freedigitalphotos.net

If you’re looking for a good fight today then look no further than Carl Icahn vs. eBay.  The activist investor who owns about 2% in eBay stock said that CEO John Donahoe “was completely asleep, or even worse, either naïve or willfully blind…” Yikes.  Icahn is peeved because he feels that some eBay board members have commitment issues and wants eBay to spin off its PayPal unit.  So what does this mean for you, o’ faithful consumer of online goods and services? Well probably not much.  At least for now…

Maybe it wasn’t that awful tie after all…

The money guys say, chillax.  It’s not your lousy interview skills or your beer-stained tie that (probably) cost you the job.  Blame it on the totally annoying Polar Vortex instead.  Though economic data proved to be much worse than what was originally predicted in both housing and hiring,  the investors are blaming it on Mother Nature and the nasty weather she’s been dumping on us.

Image Courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/freedigitalphotos.net

If that is in fact the case, does this mean we can expect to see some growth in those sectors as the weather warms up (if it ever does)? Hmmm.

Big Netflix fan, are ya?

Well let’s see just how big a fan you really are?  Are you willing to pay even more for the service.  If you answered yes then guess what…it’s entirely possible that you might MIGHT in fact get the opportunity to prove your customer loyalty and fandom now that Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast to stream its content way smoother than in recent months.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net

It’ll all be worth it, wont it?  After all, that means that those pesky little pauses and other snags reported by subscribers are soon to be a thing of the past…it is hoped…