Alaska Airlines Giving the Boot to Virgin America Brand; So Not Cool-atta: Frozen Drink Going Away; Disney Can’t Shake Iger. And it Doesn’t Seem to Want to

So long…

ID-100124602

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re anything you’re like me, then I bet you look forward to those fun safety videos played on Virgin America flights. But alas, come 2019, those videos might just become a sweet memory as Alaska Airlines plans to retire the Virgin America brand at that time. Apparently, extensive accounting research was done to arrive at this conclusion. That conclusion being that if Alaska Airlines wants to be successful on the West Coast after throwing down $2.6 million to merge/acquire Virgin America, then it would be prudent to stick with one name. And considering that Alaska Airlines is the one paying all that money, it’s only fair, I suppose, that it should get to stick with its own name. Alaska Airlines, however, has promised to keep the mood lighting, music and other features that made Virgin America more fun than other airlines. Virgin America will be joining the not-so-distinguished-anymore ranks of Continental Airlines and US Airways, whose names also used to grace airports all over the country. Once the merger is finalized, Alaska Airlines will have the dubious distinction of being the fifth largest airline in the country.

Just not good enough…

ID-100380460

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After much soul-searching and presumably a lot of accounting research – Dunkin’ Donuts is ditching the Coolatta drink that refreshed so many parched palates over the years. The official word on why Dunkin’ Donuts is ditching the beverage is because it “…isn’t good enough.” It doesn’t get more scientific than that. But fear not Dunkin’-lovers, as the donut chain will not leave you empty-handed and un-caffeinated. Enter the “Frozen Dunkin’ Coffee.” Sure the name lacks the “cool” vibe of its predecessor, but its rumored to have a lot more coffee in it. In fact, part of the push for the new beverage has to do with the fact that special new brews are all the rage right now. And naturally Dunkin’ wants to cash in on that momentum. Also be on the lookout for the Dunkin’ Energy Punch and the Caramel Shaved Ice Espresso, among other new offerings. As for social media, plenty of Dunkin devotees didn’t take too kindly to the announcement with one disgruntled Coolatta drinker writing: “@DunkinDonuts getting rid of the coffee coolatta? Are you insane?” Nuff’ said.

So hard to say goodbye…

ID-100531147

Image courtesy of dfrsce/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently Disney is super pleased with Bob Iger’s performance since the House of Mouse just extended the CEO’s contract until 2019 (when the Virgin America name will be retired. Coincidence? I think not. Really. I don’t) Actually it’s because Disney still hasn’t found a suitable replacement for Iger. The plan was for Iger to only stay on in his post until 2018. But since there’s no heir in the wings just yet, it was thought best to hold onto him until that could be determined. Former Disney COO Tom Staggs was rumored to be the one to fill that role, but then he left, leaving Disney to go back to the drawing board. This is the third time an extension was added to Iger’s contract. And who can blame Disney. Whoever replaces Iger is going to have some massive shoes to fill and will constantly find themselves being compared to a CEO whose leadership the board calls “outstanding.” In fact, under this outstanding leadership for the last ten years, Disney became the first movie studio to hit the $7 billion ceiling for global box office receipts. News of this latest extension sent the company stock up. Which makes perfect sense since during Iger’s tenure, investors took in a 448% return on Disney shares.

Advertisements

Bugging Out Over VW Settlement; Trump Thinks He Can Do It All; Time to Buy a Keurig?

Buggin’ out…

id-100139570

Image courtesy of emptyglass/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

VW is getting set to pony up some $4 billion in settlement money after agreeing to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and obstruct a federal investigation. To break it down, the company will cough up $2.8 billion in criminal fines and another $1.5 billion in civil penalties. With that settlement, the company achieves the dubious distinction of having the largest penalty ever levied by the U.S. government against an automaker. Pretty classy for Europe’s largest car manufacturer. But I guess that’s what happens when you get busted for trying to cheat on emissions tests. VW had initially insisted that the scheme was the work of a few isolated employees. But now, lo and behold, six German execs are now facing charges, and the arrests probably won’t stop there. While Oliver Schmidt was already arrested in Florida this week, the others are still biding their time in Germany, with no guarantee that they’ll meet with justice courtesy of the United States judicial system. And even though VW swears it’s changed its naughty ways and is cooperating fully with authorities, it’ll still be watched for the next three years – just to be sure. Shares of the company rose as much as 4% today, it’s highest price since the scandal first erupted. But that doesn’t mean that this unfortunate episode has come to an end as there are still plenty of other countries that could also very well pursue action against Volkswagen.

Not so sure about this…

id-100279802

Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Trump’s not going anywhere. Not even away from his business empire. The President-elect, in a news conference today, discussed that he will not be selling off his global empire and put his liquid assets in a blind trust. However, his assets will still be placed into a different type of trust that will keep him from making decisions that would personally benefit him.  According to Trump’s flack, a blind trust wasn’t even a realistic option for Trump anyway since real estate can’t just be sold off so easily as stocks and other assets can.  Instead, he will remove himself from all business dealings, resign from all his positions and hand-off control to his two sons. It’s just not clear when he’ll actually stick to that plan since just this weekend he turned down a $2 billion development deal in Dubai. Speaking of which, his company will not enter into any new business deals abroad until after his term ends. How gallant of him. Domestic deals, however, are a whole other story. They’ll be permitted as long as they are met with approval from an ethics adviser hired to work specifically for the Trump organization. See how that works out? Ethics watchdogs aren’t down with Trump’s plan since they feel it will do little – if nothing – to prevent conflicts of interest. But ethics or not, the fact is, a President is not required by law to even avoid conflicts of interest. Donald Trump also stated that he could run both the White House and his business except that he won’t because it doesn’t look nice. Ya think?

Are you ready for this jelly?

id-100464441

Image courtesy of nalinratphi/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Savor that cup of coffee now because it’s about to get a bit more expensive. Well, that’s assuming it’s packaged coffee. The biggest coffee roaster in the U.S., J.M. Smucker Co – yes, the one that makes jelly – decided to raise the prices on its packaged coffees, including its Folgers, Dunkin’ Donuts and Cafe Bustelo brands. I did say a bit because that increase, on average, will only be about 6%, since the costs involved in producing green coffee have gone up as well.  But don’t bother blaming the jelly company execs. Blame Arabica coffee futures. Or rather, Mother Nature, since coffee futures have gone up 30% in the last year due to drought conditions in several coffee-producing regions. In all fairness, J.M. Smucker Co. actually decreased the price of its coffee last May courtesy of a Brazil oversupply. So I suppose things are just kind of even-ing out. Incidentally, K-cup pods are excluded from the price increase. So if you haven’t bought one of those nifty machines yet, now might be a good time to scoop one up.

The Hits Keep on Coming for Wells Fargo; Janet Yellen Gets a Grilling; Perk Up! Thursday is National Coffee Day

Smacked…

id-100262448

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The hits just keep on coming for Wells Fargo as the great state of California gave the bank a major diss in the form of a year-long suspension of its business relationships. The bank is officially barred from underwriting debt and handling bank transactions for the Golden State. And if Wells Fargo still can’t get its act together, it can expect a “complete and permanent severance.” Yikes. I guess that’s what happens when you open up 2 million fraudulent accounts and according to State Treasurer John Chiang, promote “a culture which actively promotes wanton greed.” More yikes. Since Chiang oversees $2 trillion worth of banking transactions, besides managing a $75 billion investment pool, he’s probably a bit sensitive about the way banking institutions handle all that money. In the meantime, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf will kiss goodbye his $41 million in unvested stock awards.  Carrie Tolstedt, who oversaw the division that was responsible for green lighting the fraudulent accounts, loses all of her unvested awards and gets no further retirement benefits.  Other than the really good ones she already received.

Awkward…

id-100125063

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen took a beating today from Congressman Scott Garrett over Lael Brainard’s chummy relationship with Hillary Clinton. Brainard, in case you might not know, is the governor of the Fed and is rumored to be the top pic for Treasury Secretary. She also gave $2,700 to the Clinton campaign. Congressman Garrett doesn’t take too kindly to this appearance of impropriety and asked the Chairwoman if this doesn’t pose a conflict of interest for the Fed, seeing as how Brainard is in talks with the Clinton campaign. After all, the Fed is supposed to be non-partisan. Yellen, said she was’t aware that there was, in fact, a conflict while also maintaining that the Central Bank has no biases as far as politics are concerned. Of course, Donald Trump disagreed vehemently with that assessment during Monday night’s presidential debate when he insisted that the Fed is keeping rates low to make Obama look good.  Incidentally, Janet Yellen chaired President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. Besides all that, there apparently is no issue with Fed officials giving money to campaigns. Who knew.

Oh the perks…

id-100290556

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Consider this next bit a public service announcement:  Thursday September 29 marks National Coffee Day. Yes, that’s a real thing. And before you whip out your wallet, you might want to know which eating establishments wont be charging you for your java fix. If you happen to be near a Krispy Kreme store, then I urge you to step inside. Rumor has it you’ll score a free coffee and glazed donut just for showing up. But be sure to say thank you! Manners are key. If you’re a fan of Wawa coffee, then you’re in luck as that chain is also offering free cups of its brew. Particpating 7-Elevens are also giving out free coffee. Just make sure you have their smartphone app and register for its 7Rewards program. Dunkin’ Donuts will offer medium-sized cups of coffee for just 66 cents in honor of the company’s 66th birthday. As for Starbucks, don’t expect any freebies. Ever. However, the company is affording you the opportunity to be charitable. For every brewed cup of Mexico Chiapas Starbucks sells, the company will donate a coffee tree to Latin American growers whose crops have been destroyed by fungus.

France Says Non Vive La Uber; Smuckers Jells Up Some Tasty Earnings; Is Larry Page Channeling George Jetson?

Let them eat cake…

ID-100213706

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Uber, the multi-billion dollar company that operates in 60 countries and can’t seem to stay out of legal trouble is making headlines, yet again. The ride-sharing app just got slapped with an almost million dollar fine – half of which was suspended – for running an illegal taxi service in France. But that fine is the least of Uber’s problems considering it just raised another $3.5 billion in funding. The French court took aim at Uber POP, an app that connects riders with nonprofessional drivers who use their own cars to transport passengers. Licensed taxi drivers in France took exception to the app and put pressure on French officials to bid adieu to Uber POP by getting the service suspended there last year. Last week, a German court also gave a big nein to Uber, upholding a previous ruling that banned Uber POP there for violating local transport laws. Besides Uber getting slapped with a big fine, two Uber execs also got hit to the tune of 50,000 euros, which is nothing compared to the five years of jail time and million dollar fine that they could have received. This case marks the first time that actual executives from the company had to stand trial. The employees were found guilty of deceptive commercial practices, acting as accomplices in operating an illegal transportation service and, just for good measure, violating privacy laws. That’s in addition to being held responsible for inciting others to break the law by employing them, causing riots and taxi strikes. However, this latest ruling is far from the company’s first legal tussle since it was founded in 2009. The company continues to grapple with numerous regulatory issues in Europe and Africa and there is a long road ahead. And in case you didn’t see it coming, Uber is appealing the French court’s ruling.

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly…

ID-100150130

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s just jelly to you but to its shareholders, it’s a profit of $191 million. I am talking about J.M. Smucker Co., whose latest earnings positively dazzled Wall Street, sending shares jumping 25% today, to a record high of $142.27. Of course, it wasn’t just an increased urge for PB&J’s, with Smucker’s Jif peanut butter, that sent those sales soaring. Dunkin’ Donuts Brand Coffee, Folgers Coffee and…wait for it…pet food figured prominently in Smucker’s epic 39% profit surge. Smucker’s coffee products account for the company’s biggest market and pulled down a 9% increase in the fourth quarter, while its pet foods, that include Meow Mix and Milk-Bone, accounted for a third of all sales. It helped that the company offered up plenty of promotions to drive demand for its K-cup offerings. The company’s acquisition of Big Heart Pet Brands last year also helped a lot to drive up the impressive earnings. Revenue surged 25% to $1.81 billion when analysts only expected $1.75 billion and Smucker’s added $1.44 to its shares when predictions were only for $1.20. Those earnings were especially welcome since last year at this time, the company posted a 41% profit loss.

Just because he can…

ID-100390747

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alphabet CEO, Larry Page is into cars. Especially if they can fly. These days, the Google co-founder is funding two companies that are currently building and tweaking prototypes of small, all electric planes that can take off and land similar to helicopters. Just like the flying saucers you saw on the Jetsons. Page has already plunked down $100 million into Zee.Aero, a start-up launched in 2010, that has been testing two prototypes in Hollister, California. But why fund just one company when you have the means to fund two? That’s why Larry Page has also poured money into Zee.Aero competitor, Kitty Hawk, led by Sebastian Thrun, the Google X founder who is also behind Google’s self-driving car program. Coincidence? I think not. But it’s sure to be a crowded race to the finish as there are at least a dozen other companies around the world that are hoping to churn out a similar prototype, well before Larry Page’s darlings.

 

Wall Street Sours on Lululemon; Goldman Sachs Goes for the Resell; Krispy Gets Kreme’d by Wall Street

Soured…

Image courtesy of  Suat Eman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The mood is sour today at Lululemon Athletica as shares of the athletic apparel company tanked over 9%. Which is kind of weird since the company pulled in some rock-solid second quarter earnings. Revenue was up 16% to $453 million when analysts were only pulling for $446 million. Profits did fall to $47.7 million, earning 34 cents per share but it was still a beat, if even by just a penny. The problem was that Lulelemon’s outlook is not looking too hot, see-through yoga pants or not. For the current quarter, Wall Street had big hopes and dreams that the company would nail down earnings per share of around 43 cents. However, the number Lululemon has in mind is between 35 – 37 cents. And that’s got Wall Street thinking thoughts that are anything but…zen.  The problem is margins are shrinking because the company is spending all sorts of cash on things like its international expansion, building up its online presence and tackling its menswear. All this while Lululemon still attempts to recover from its see-through yoga pants debacle and some impolite comments from its founder, Chip Wilson.

Who wore it best?

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Goldman Sachs just plunked down $81 million into six year-old San Francisco-based start-up thredUP. ThredUP, in case you were wondering, is an online website for buying and selling secondhand clothing and accessories for women and children. And it’s nothing like eBay. Because I know that’s what you were thinking. Instead thredUP sends sellers a pre-paid bag which they fill up with delicately used items they want to unload. If an item is priced south of $59.99, the seller gets paid upfront; if an item gets listed north of $60, then it qualifies for consignment. Sellers typically see 10%-40% of the anticipated selling price from their gently used items. While no actual sales numbers have been revealed, and thredUP has yet to churn out a profit, the company does process about a million items a month from about 25,000 brands. How much of that actually gets sold is still a mystery. Rumor has it, however, that secondhand clothing company Twice, which happens to be owned by eBay, isn’t doing so hot. Then there’s all the other secondhand competition from companies like Poshmark and The Real Real, to name but a few. ThredUP plans on using this funding infusion to expand by opening some new processing centers and hiring more employees. Who knew other people’s clothes was such a hot trend? Actually, I think eBay did. But anyways…

Kreme’d…

Image courtesy of artemisphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artemisphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Krispy Kreme just released their earnings and they were anything but sweet. On revenues of $127.3 million, the company earned 15 cents per share, which seems pretty good except that Wall Street was counting on revenues of $132 million and 19 cents earned per share. That seems like an awful lot of pressure to put on a doughnut, no? The problem is that rival Dunkin’ Donuts actually gained 12%. Are Dunkin’s donuts any better? Hmmm. The problem, interestingly enough, lies not in the doughnut, but in the other products the company sells, outside of the doughnut shops. Pre-packaged Krispy Kreme products are not doing too hot in supermarkets and putting a crimp in the doughnut maker’s digits.  In fact, sales were down 12% and the stock is down 20% for the year.  So now, Krispy Kreme is going to focus on opening more stores, including international shops, and scaling back on promotions. There are even ten shops slated to open in Myanmar. That is not a joke. Myanmar. Who knew? One promotion that’s still going to happen is “Talk Like a Pirate Day” on September 19. Do your best pirate impersonation and you might just be the recipient of a free doughnut. If you decide to really channel Captain Jack Sparrow or one of his colleagues, expect to walk a way with a complimentary dozen, matey.

GM Earnings Not So Revved Up; Wall Street Goes Dunkin’ DoNUTS ; Its Girl Scout Cookie Time – All the Time

Unstoppable?

Image courtesy of olovedog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of olovedog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

General Motors came out with its quarterly earnings and you’d hardly know all the fiscal trouble it was dealing with just a year ago. Except for the fact that it reported a glaring $1.7 billion drop in revenue, not to mention all those charges to compensate victims of the recall debacle. The auto company earned $945 million and 86 cents a share this quarter when a year ago GM was staring down the wrong end of a $1.2 billion recall and a paltry profit of just $125 million. GM, incidentally, missed expectations by 11 cents. Try not to get too worked up over that. The automaker did pretty well in the U.S. as fuel prices continued their downward trend sending subliminal messages to consumers that it’s okay to buy all those hunky trucks and SUV’s. But those numbers would have been much higher were it not for a pesky higher tax rate and a strong U.S. dollar. Of course, it wouldn’t be right not to mention Russia and all the fiscal problems it has been causing GM in that part of the world. So there, I mentioned it.

Sweet tooth…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dunkin’ Donuts also released earnings which were positively scrumptious. Well, duh. Have you been in one of their stores lately. I have. This morning, as a matter of fact. And, as usual, I had to wait on a long line. So there. Anybody who patronizes their donuts shops could have told you those donuts were gonna pull off some impressive earnings. So what were those magical numbers, you might be wondering. Dunkin’ Donuts pulled in 40 cents per share, easily topping analysts’ estimates of 35 cents per share. Not bad for a company that sells donuts for a little over a dollar each. As for revenues, well those sugary confections pulled down close to $186 million, once again beating predictions of $180.65 million. Apparently, much of that success was attributed to the wildly caloric and ridiculously tasty croissant donuts.  Dunkin’ Donuts Chief Nigel Travis said the chain managed to pull off these impressive digits despite a nasty winter. But I suspect, in my most humble, unprofessional opinion, that perhaps, those numbers were because of it. Think about it: a hot beverage and a sweet treat. What better way to spend a wintery morning? Well, flying to Hawaii is one way, but I digress. If its earnings weren’t sweet enough for you, then how about the fact that the donut chain also raised its outlook on revenue growth from a previously estimated 5% – 7% to a revised 6% – 8%. Can we say sprinkles on top?

Sweeter tooth…

Image courtesy of  pupunkkop/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pupunkkop/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No need to wait anymore for one of your co-workers to hit you up to buy Girl Scout cookies from their daughters on the same day you start your diet. Now you can sabotage your diet goals all year round as the Girl Scout Organization has announced it will be offering a Do-It-Yourself version, easily accessible from your local Wal-Mart, Target or Toys R Us stores beginning this summer.  In fact, it’s so easy, 8 year olds can do it. By themselves. Literally. The Easy-Bake Oven it is not, as Hasbro has the licensing deal for that one. But this new toy is sure to give Hasbro a run for its money as the Girl Scouts of America teamed up with Wicked Cool Toys to offer the latest way for small children to learn the fine art of capitalism. And baking And just eating cookies. The oven toy will sell for about $60 a pop and and comes with one pack of cookies. But just how this new enterprise will affect the 200 million boxes of cookies sold each year remains to be seen.

Forbes-ulous 400; International (FREE) Coffee Day; Getting Fee’d On

Rank’d…

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Forbes 33rd Annual Forbes 400 rankings of 2014 has at last descended upon us to rub our noses in it. The combined wealth of the lucky 400 who made the list totals a staggering $2.29 trillion (note the “t”). For his 21st straight year in a row, Bill Gates leads the pack with $81 billion in his bank account. Warren Buffet is nipping at his heels in the number two spot with only $67 billion. Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg fills in the #11 spot. As for the rookies, there’s WhatsApp’s Jan Koum rounding out the #62 spot and Uber Technologies very own Travis Kalanick who is comfortably perched at the #190 spot. At just thirty years old, Elizabeth Holmes is the youngest of the 47 women on the list at #110. She is the founder of a company called Theranos which apparently does something super complicated and impressive in blood testing. We’ll leave it at that. And in case you were wondering -and it’s okay of you weren’t – Oprah Winfrey comes in at the #190 spot. You can catch up on your billionaire rankings  at: http://www.forbes.com/forbes-400?

 Buzzzzzz…

Image courtesy of amenic181/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of amenic181/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, September 29, marks International Coffee Day. And no I did not make that up. If you don’t believe me you can just walk in to your local Dunkin’ Donuts and pick up you FREE MEDIUM-sized cup of joe in honor of the momentous. Incidentally, Dunkin’ Donuts is eagerly touting its latest and greatest dark roast. If you’re feeling frisky, then whip out just a dollar and get yourself a mocha or latte. The idea behind International Coffee Day is to promote awareness for free-trade coffee and raise awareness about coffee growers around the world. Hey, works for me. McDonalds and Krispy Kreme, among others, are also offering some java gratis. But you might want to skip Starbucks today as it’s only offering samples – until 12:00. Whatever.

Fee’d…

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just in case you weren’t paying attention, penalties for using ATM’s NOT associated with your bank have very rudely risen by 5% over this past year and more than 20% in the last five years. The average fee has stealthily climbed to $4.35 per transaction. There are actually two fees involved – one from your bank, punishing you for being so inconsiderate as to dare use another’s ATM. The other fee comes from the owner of the ATM from whose coffers you, once again, so inconsiderately, dared to withdraw funds. The average penalty for overdraft fees also increased to $32.75 per transaction. Following the 2008 financial crisis, banks had to follow a few new rules and regulations that put limits for what they could and could not penalize you. But, of course, they made up for it by making sure those penalties for which they could charge you went up. A lot. If these fees are really getting to you, check out credit unions, smaller local banks and online banks which tend to have less fees – and less (or no) strings attached.