Using Wallets to Fight Terrorism; Marriott Hotels Gains More Hospitality; Urban Outfitters Now Satisfies Pizza Cravings

Insult to injury…

Image courtesy of basketman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of basketman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because terrorists are pure evil on so many levels, they’ve likely calculated that besides causing devastating loss of life, they can also harm an economy as well. And thus, as the holiday season is upon us, while the French are still in the midst of mourning the tragedy that befell its people just days ago, they are likely to endure yet more damage and fallout as businesses, both big and small, see less traffic and sales in the days ahead. In fact, hospitality chains and airlines have been seeing little activity in major markets and indexes, and several shops, cafes and markets remain closed. American performers Papa Roach and Marilyn Manson had to cancel shows this week and artist Prince canceled performances scheduled for December. As the sixth largest economy in the world, and the second in the eurozone, these losses could have a ripple effect on several other economies as well. However, economists and investors all tend to agree that the economic fallout will be minor and brief. Already today, European indexes either remained flat or rebounded from the dips they took before the markets opened. Unfortunately, tourism might not be as fortunate. Back in 2013, France saw almost 85 million tourists who brought in 42 billion euros in revenue with them. With almost 8% of France’s gross domestic product coming from the tourism industry, it might be the one area to suffer most, as major tourist destinations like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre lost two days of business and other places, like EuroDisney, still have their doors closed.  But as President George W. Bush urged American following the September 11, 2001 attacks “go out shopping more.” And if that’s one way to defeat those terrorist, then I’m happy to travel to Paris to do so.

Do not disturb…

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The “Deal of the Day” award goes to Marriott International, as in the hotel chain that has over 5,500 properties and 1.1.million rooms, which just scooped up its rival, Starwood, to the handsome sum of $12.2 billion. The deal, in which Marriott will pay approximately $72.08 per share, means it becomes the world’s biggest hotel chain, leaving the second largest chain, Hilton Worldwide and its 4,500 properties, in the dust. This deal also gives Marriott some nice new brands, including the push-posh St. Regis. And who doesn’t like a little pish-posh? According to research firm STR, 67% of available hotel rooms were filled in the first nine months of the year by occupants who shelled out an average of $120.35 a night. However, there are many watching, from investors to travelers alike, to see how this merger is going to affect the various partnerships on both sides. Marriott has partnerships with Chase and United Airlines, while Starwood has deals with American Express, Delta and Über. Wall Street seems to think this is the start of a new trend of hotel chain mergers, as companies like Airbnb, have been eating up a chunk of the industry. Sit tight and you might just see another deal coming ’round the Wall Street bend.

Cheesy…

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because nothing says trendy like tomatoes and cheese, Urban Outfitters is getting into the pizza business. I’m serious. The company, whose apparel tends to attract millennials, is plunking down an undisclosed sum to buy the Vetri Family Group of restaurants, which includes the Pizzeria Vetri chain. You’re not the only one who finds this acquisition…strange. Investors think so too and sent the stock down 10%. But it’s not like Urban Outfitters has anything to lose. The retail sector has been hitting the fiscal skids with companies like Nordstrom and Macy’s reporting sales that are nothing short of disappointing. It’s also got many wondering if the brick and mortar model is passé. Urban Outfitters has 240 locations, in addition to the Anthropologie and Free People brands (and more than a couple of them already have food establishments in them). And while other retail companies are looking to amp up their e-commerce and tweak their brands in an attempt to improve those sales, Urban Outfitters is taking an entirely different approach by acquiring a business in an industry that is making tons of money at the moment. Marc Vetri of the Vetri Family Group likes the deal and calls it “a perfect match.” It means his company gets to focus more on the food it serves, while Urban Outfitters has to figure out how to help those restaurants expand. Now if only Urban Outfitters can figure out how to grow and expand its own business instead of losing money…

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Microsoft Cuts Even More Jobs; Greece Banking on Another Bailout; Barclays Boots its Chie

NO-kia…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s not exactly a good day at Microsoft today  (or Greece, for that matter but we’ll get to that a bit later). The tech firm just announced that 7,800 more layoffs are coming down the pike, on top of the 18,000 layoffs the company announced last year. It seems the Windows maker just isn’t at the forefront of the latest tech era and its hitting the company in its portfolio. Microsoft had already sold off its online advertising business to AOL but a lot of their latest ills are courtesy of its $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia. As luck would have it, that not-so-little purchase to make headway into the smartphone market wasn’t all that smart. Microsoft now has plans to write down $7.6 billion on the Nokia unit. The company just couldn’t seem to make strides against the reigning competition from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Microsoft’s smartphone market share was just an abysmal 3% – a major letdown from a company who had so often dominated tech realms.

Here we go again…

Image courtesy of africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, Greece finally whipped out its big grand plan which definitely loses points for lack of originality. Like a teenager who doesn’t seem to want to learn from his or her mistakes, the cash-strapped, debt-infused country has asked for yet another bailout. This time around, Greece asked for a three year bailout from the annoyed eurozone’s rescue funds. However, Greece is promising to implement pension and tax reforms. To be fair, no real details were actually given. Hmmm. Greek officials said they would map out a “comprehensive and specific reform agenda” by tomorrow. We’ll see about that. Now all those eurozone finance ministers have to decide if they’re going to give in to Greece. And while Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, wants to reach a deal with creditors that needs to be fair on both sides, he also warned that his peeps need to be on board. Otherwise, no dice. What Tsipras and the fine people of Greece don’t dig are austerity measures. Any whiff of austerity and chances are no deal will be reached and more fiscal chaos will ensue. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew finally commented on the situation stressing that Europe ought to help Greece restructure its debt. Which would be super-great because maybe then stocks all over the world will finally cooperate and go up instead of taking bad financial cues from Greece.

The skills to pay the bills…

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Major drama coming out of Barclays today, where Chief Executive Antony Watkins received an unwelcome surprise – he got the boot. Fired. Shown the door. In a statement, Barclays, which has seen its share of scandal in the last few years, said “a new set of skills” was needed for the individual who will take the reins at the company. Ouch. Apparently, officials at the bank thought Watkins wasn’t doing enough to dig Barclays out of its scandal-laden pit. Board chairman, John McFarlane, will serve as interim chief until a more permanent replacement can be found –  one who presumably possesses that much desired skill-set. Barclays, Britain’s biggest bank, is currently staring down the wrong end of fines and investigations over its role and manipulation of London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) as well as its other un-flattering role in foreign exchange rate manipulation. Nice, huh?

Is a Fiscal Greek Tragedy Looming?; American Apparel’s Un-Trendy Legal Woes; Curing the Black Friday Blues

What would Socrates say?

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Greeks let its creditors know exactly how they feel about their austerity measures and voted resoundingly against them. But at least Greece’s Foreign Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned announcing via his blog “Minister No More,” much to the delight and merriment of many a Eurozone finance minister. This resignation has even got some folks mildly optimistic that the financial crisis in Greece isn’t completely unsalvageable. But these very same finance ministers are all still in a tailspin about how to avoid a fiscal disaster as Greece already defaulted on a 1.5 billion euro payment to the International Monetary Fund while another payment is due to the European Central Bank for 3.5 billion euros on July 20. If a sovereign, in this case Greece, defaults on its loans, well then, bad things will just get worse as the banks become insolvent – as in, tapped out, dry etc – and then get nationalized. Once they get nationalized a brand new currency is introduced – a change which would be very bad for so many reasons. As for those Greek banks which are staring down the wrong end of nationalization and insolvency, they’re likely to run out of cash by the weekend.  In case you haven’t noticed, Greece’s fiscal turmoil has been causing even more turmoil in the global markets. So yeah, it’s in everybody’s best interest that Greece gets its fiscal act up and economically running.

Clearance…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things are looking pretty ugly for embattled clothing retailer American Apparel. The company has a $30 million cost-cutting plan in the works and that could mean an under-performing American Apparel store near you might be closing its doors forever.  The chain has 239 stores and 10,000 employees whose heads are currently on the chopping block. American Apparel is also undergoing an image makeover after ousting founder and CEO Dov Charney. New CEO Paula Schneider would like to see the company sell actual clothes, as opposed to body parts. Sounds fair. This $30 million plan will hopefully rectify some of the other problems afflicting the clothing line and reverse those “steep losses.” However, many think it’s going to take a lot more cash than that. Some of that might have to do with the over 20 lawsuits looming courtesy of the booted Dov Charney and his associates. Of course, the brass at American Apparel has called the lawsuits “meritless.” The stock, which is down over 55% for the year and is currently hovering at a dismal 45 cents per share, has a market value of about $90 million. That’s a far cry from its $540 million market value it enjoyed just five years ago.

Prime deal…

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are eagerly pining away for the chaos that comes with Black Friday that is still an endless five months away, then you’re gong to love this next one. Amazon is throwing its very own birthday party on July 15, dubbed “Prime Day,” and has invited you to come. Amazon wants presents. It wants you to spend your hard-earned money on deals that will be featured on Amazon – deals that you usually only see on Black Friday, and as the case may be, cyber-Monday. And while you don’t necessarily need to rsvp, you won’t walk away with any ridiculously-reduced items unless you subscribe to Amazon Prime – which by the way, will set you back $99 a year. But hey, at least you’ll get instant video streaming, free two-day shipping, Prime music and maybe even some really great bargains.