Where Has All the Farfegnugen Gone?; Amazon’s Getting Crafty With It; Lumber Liquidators Liquidating to DOJ

Have you driven a Ford lately?

Image courtesy of emptyglass/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of emptyglass/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Execs at GM must be having a very good day as the recent auto industry-related scandal has nothing to do with them. The same can’t be said of Volkswagen and its U.S. CEO, Michael Horn, who had the dubious distinction of testifying before Congress in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. His testimony was basically one big long apology over his company’s “emission’s scandal.” But he also said that he truly believes that American workers did not know a thing about it. Which seems kind of weird because would you now consider buying a car from a company whose workers didn’t know what was going on with the cars they presumably work on? Just wondering. But anyways, Horn said Volkwagen would fix the approximate 500,000 affected cars. So if you happen to have one of them, don’t expect a buyback. There’s no time-frame either so don’t hold your breath as the fix could take a couple of years. Horn did say that Volkswagen would take full responsibility and that responsibility could result in an $18 billion fine. And while that seems awfully steep, even for a car company, then consider that the affected cars were emitting pollutants at a rate that was 40 times more than the acceptable U.S. standards. So boo hoo for Volkwagen.

Craft cheese…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because e-commerce dominance just isn’t enough, Amazon is even going after the little-er guys. This time the target is recent IPO’er, Etsy, who continues its rocky relationship with Wall Street. Today, Amazon unleashed Amazon Handmade a marketplace for artisans to peddle their wares. Translate: no factories allowed. And indeed, that is one of the reasons why it distinguishes itself from Etsy and might prove to be a big lure for those artisans irritated by fellow crafters who choose to outsource their manufacturing. Amazon thinks it has way more to offer the fiscally-driven yet crafty-inspired peddler than Etsy has. A much much bigger customer base, free phone and email support and a host of other tools are just some of the benefits of being an Amazon Handmade seller. But, first you have to qualify. Again: No factories! No major manufacturing. Check out Amazon’s site If you’re really curious to see if you’ve got what it takes (or what it doesn’t) to sell your crafty goods. But know this, fearless artisan, Amazon takes a 12% cut and, starting August 2016, a $40 monthly fee if you’re industrious enough to sell more than 40 items a month. If all that doesn’t scare you away, then come join the approximately 5,000 sellers, in 60 countries, who have already begun hawking their more than 80,000 items.

Unsettling…

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lumber Liquidators has finally reached a $10 million settlement with the Department of Justice. Except, this settlement has nothing to do with the still ongoing investigations into Lumber Liquidators’ formaldehyde-laced laminate flooring scandal. That’s a whole other fairly recent mess. This settlement is from allegations stemming from 2013 where Lumber Liquidators was accused of violating the Lacey Act. This U.S. conservation law basically protects plants, fish and wildlife and forbids companies, corporations etc. from hogging more than their share of mother nature’s not-so-abundant resources. Lumber Liquidators did just that when it was busted importing more than the permitted amount of timber from foreign countries. As part of the settlement, Lumber Liquidators is on probation for 5 years and must make generous donations to conservation charities. If the company violates the terms of its probation, then its toast. Heck, the company’s already is toast. However, shares of the company went up a smidge today on the news of the settlement. Of course that increase does nothing to mask the fact that the stock is down 75% over the last year

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Volvo’s Heads for U.S. Shores; Etsy’s Coming Unglued; Apple Looks for Greener Pastures…in China?

They’re boxy…but safe…

Image courtesy of  Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Volvo’s got big news. Yes. Volvo. Big. News. The car once known for its safety record, not to mention, its boxy style, is setting up shop on American shores. The Swedish auto manufacturer, which is now owned by Chinese company Geely Holding Group, will be plunking down $500 million for a facility in South Carolina.  Apparently, the master plan to is to rekindle the love Americans once had for the car, which has seen its market share in the US dwindle steadily. In fact, the new American Volvo plant is expected to be able to roll out some 100,000 cars a year – which seems a bit high considering the car maker only managed to sell about 56,000 of them in the last year. The new plant is expected to create some 2,000 jobs and you can start driving your American-made Volvo by 2018. But the move has got a lot of people scratching their heads as to why Volvo opted to go to South Carolina as opposed to Mexico where it’s so much cheaper to produce…well, everything. But South Carolina doesn’t seem to be complaining about it and apparently it’s the place to be as the state is home to some 250 car makers. So welcome to America, Volvo.

Not so crafty after all…

Image courtesy of  franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It made for a bedazzling IPO, but Etsy’s glitter is not gold as a Wall Street analyst said that as many as 5% of goods on the crafty website could be fakes. So just how many items is that exactly? About 5 million, give or take. Can you guess where the stock went after that damning little analysis? The stock made its much-heralded IPO opened last month at around $30. As I write this, the stock is hovering at $20.67, down about 9% just from today.  Researchers over at Wedbush say that NFL, Louis Vuitton, Disney and Chanel (to name, but a few) could theoretically make some very ugly copyright infringement cases against the online retailer. That’s more than enough to send investors running. Even though analysts say there’s a chance Etsy could avoid getting directly blamed, the issue of fakes could still make big, bad, fiscal problems by causing reduced fees, the big Etsy money generator. As for that stock price, which had many wondering if it wasn’t just a bit too high to begin with, well Wedbush seems to think that the stock is going to come down a lot and settle in to a more realistic price point of $14 per share.

Cupertino, it ain’t…

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apple is teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund and has plunked down an undisclosed amount of money for…forests…in China. As part of an environmental initiative on Apple’s part  – not necessarily China’s – the company behind the iPhone and iWatch wants to “power all its operations worldwide on 100 per cent renewable energy.” That is so friggin’ noble.  As you sit there playing Candy Crush on your iPad, the powerhouses behind that electronic marvel will be busy protecting about 1 million acres of forest in an effort to responsibly manage a geographical area that houses all kinds of useful natural materials that everyone needs.  And it’s all so ironic considering that China isn’t exactly a beacon of light for environmental causes. In fact, it holds the dubious distinction of being the number one environmental offender in the world. But since most of Apple’s products are manufactured there anyway, it made sense to take part in such an endeavor. Well, sort of.

Etsy is Full of Surprises on Wall Street; Party City’s Reason to Celebrate; Netflix Wants to do the Splits of

Profit shmofit!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what if Esty hasn’t made a profit. Why should that minor detail keep it from doubling its IPO? Wednesday night, the company was all set to make its big Wall Street debut with shares priced at $16 a pop. Many considered that to be at the high end of its range, but Esty offered up 16.7 million shares. Then, wouldn’t ya know it, the shares opens up at a whopping $31, giving the company a very robust $1.8 billion valuation. With that kind of money floating around you’d think there’d be some profit in there somewhere but…nah. The Brooklyn-based company pulled in some very crafty revenues, though, of $195.6 million in 2014, a 56% increase over the previous year. Too bad that came with a  $15.2 million loss. Some wonder about the company’s ability to pull in those big Wall Street-pleasing numbers considering its B-Corp status. That basically means it’s a company that truly cares about and promotes social and environmental business practices and causes. But shareholders tend to get a little worried that money-making takes a back seat to such practices. Potatoes puh-tatoes. In any case, the crafty company has about 1.4 million sellers with about 20 million active buyers. Esty makes its cash by charging their craft sellers a fee for all the nifty items they sell.

Raise the roof…

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Esty is not the only company to make its big board debut. Party goods retailer Party City joined the New York Stock Exchange today at $20.50. While it wasn’t nearly as impressive as Esty’s debut, it was still 21% higher than its IPO price of $17 a share and the company sold close to 22 million shares. The chain currently has 860 stores in North America with 40 more in Canada. And if that’s not enough partying for you, then look out because Party City has plans to open yet another 350 more superstores.  I guess that explains why Party City is the largest party supply store in the country.  Under the convenient ticker symbol “PRTY” the company has a very impressive valuation of $2 billion. If that’s not cause for celebration then I don’t know what is.

Green is the new black…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And if anyone has a reason to party it’s Netflix whose shares jumped 15% after reporting it added a whopping five million new subscribers in the first quarter, giving the company a grand total of 62.3 million subscribers. Clearly analysts don’t watch House of Cards because they predicted the streaming entertainment subscribing service would only pull in 4 million new subscribers. The company also took in revenues of over $1.57 billion, up 24% from a year ago, while taking 38 cents per share and $23.7 million in profits. Incidentally, profits were down by more than 50% from a year ago when the company pulled in over $53 million at 89 cents per share. But it doesn’t seem like Netflix is too concerned about that since it is looking to do a 30:1 stock split. Got some shares of Netflix? How lucky for you, considering the stock is trading at around $560 a pop.

Nasdaq’s Getting Crafty; Costco’s Earnings Knock it Out of the Warehouse; Labor Market Laboring

How crafty…

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Etsy is looking to join the big kids on Wall Street. The online marketplace for all things crafty is looking to score $100 million for its IPO but that number could go much much higher. Brooklyn-based, Etsy, which would trade on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ETSY (catchy, no?) was founded in 2005 and by 2014 it pulled in $195 million in revenue, a 56% increase over the previous year. Half of that revenue, though, comes from transaction fees. Plenty of that revenue also comes from the services it sells to its sellers, which are basically, payment processing, shipping labels and promoted listings. Impressive numbers definitely, but the company is spooking investors since it also took in a $15 million net loss last year and expects its operating expenses to “increase substantially.” Yikes. So yeah, that little tidbit puts a damper on things. Etsy currently has about 1.4 million sellers with close to 20 million buyers.

Are you even surprised?

Image courtesy of photoraidz/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photoraidz/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Costco came out with its quarterly earnings, easily topping analysts’ predictions and if that is at all shocking to you then clearly you have never stepped foot inside one of its 671 warehouses dotting the world. News of the good earnings sent shares rising today 2.5% and why shouldn’t it? The stock went up 30% during 2014 and is already up 10% this year. And while the strong dollar has been playing some nasty little fiscal tricks with its earnings, the third largest retailer still managed to nail $598 million in profit at $1.35 a share on $27.5 billion in revenue. Analysts were only expecting $1.18 on $27.65 billion in revenue. It should be duly noted that some of that profit came courtesy of a $57 million tax benefit over a special dividend from last month. But it should also be duly noted that same store sales were up 2% and sales up 8%. These earnings come on the heels of Coscto’s AmEx breakup and its new contracts with Citigroup and Visa. Now it even has plans to sell a Kirkland Signature Chevrolet truck – a particularly handy vehicle for your average Costco run.

LinkedOut…

Image courtesy of  winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For some not-so-pleasant news on the labor market we look no further than the Labor Department who just shared with us that the number of people seeking jobless claims for the first time rose to a seasonally adjusted 320,000 for the week ending February 28, adding an unwitting 7,000 applicants. That leaves us with close to 2.5 million people getting jobless benefits and that’s the highest number it’s been since May. Analysts actually expected that number to fall to under 300,000. Some people might even be wondering, “Hmmm. What seems to be going on with this fickle little job market of ours?” Excellent question. Naturally weather always makes a good scapegoat for this sort of thing. But otherwise, the Labor Department couldn’t really pinpoint any one reason why that offensive number reared its ugly unwanted head once again. Last week, that number also rose instead of going back down to a cozy semi-acceptable spot below the 300,000 mark. Experts were hoping that it was just a little labor market hiccup that would correct itself by this week. It didn’t.