Where Have All the PC’s Gone?; Chipotle Ready for Big Return; Lego’s New Policy is Awesome

Click away…

ID-100378516

Image courtesy of TAW4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

PC’s did not have a very merry Christmas. Or fiscal quarter for that matter. In fact, this marks the fifth consecutive quarter of disappointing PC sales. For the fourth quarter, those sales tanked by a very un-jolly 8.3%. We’re talking Lenovo, HP and Dell. But it was Acer that did the absolute worst with a 15% decline for all of 2015. Shipments of PC’s, for the first time since 2008, fell under 300 million to a very disappointing 276.2 million, more than a 10% decline since 2014. There’s just too much competition from tablet and smartphones that consumers don’t feel the need the rush to upgrade their machines. However, analysts seem to think that sales will pick up later in the year as Windows 10 gets commercialized. The one bright spot, according to the International Data Corporation, were “detachable” PC’s that seem to be all the rage right now. That segment of the industry posted some impressive growth. But then it gets weird. You see Apple, seen as a premium brand in the United States and Europe, actually saw growth – 3% for the quarter and 6% for the year – selling 20.7 million machines. It’s weird, if only because Lenovo, HP and Dell still sold more computers separately than Apple did. So it’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose.

All wrapped up?

ID-100178263

Image courtesy of TAW4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All is not lost for Chipotle after analysts decided that the chain has the potential to get its mojo back. Apparently, none of those analysts suffered from any food-borne illnesses from eating at Chipotle. That may or may not have had to do with why shares of the company rose the most today in more than 5 months. In fact, despite the fact that Chipotle is still slightly reeling from its relatively recent food safety crisis, the chain has plans to open up more than a couple of hundred new restaurants in the coming year. Execs say that the company is implementing new food safety protocols and believe it will make Chipotle an industry leader when it comes to food safety. Go Chipotle! The restaurant chain took a heady 15% sales hit in the fourth quarter following a multi-state E.Coli outbreak at several of its locations. As a result, the company expects to see negative sales posted until at least 2017.  However, shares today went up as high as $432.30 Bear in mind that the company experienced a major 40% slump from the high it hit back in August to the tune of $757. 77 and lost about $10 billion of its market value. There are currently several lawsuits against the chain over its past food-safety practices. But hey, good news: Chipotle execs say that the CDC is just about done with its own investigation into the food chain. Yay. Just don’t confuse that with the separate federal investigation of Chipotle following a norovirus outbreak in California.

Everything is awesome…

ID-10030533

Image courtesy of TAW4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will now get to play with all the Lego his political artwork requires. The fuss all started when Weiwei requested a large bulk order for some artwork. It was intended for an exhibition in Australia featuring 20 portraits of pro-freedom figures – to be done in Lego. But Lego wouldn’t allow him to order the amount of bricks needed for the “art” because, at the time, Lego’s policy stipulated that it did not endorse the use of its plastic bricks for projects that carry a “political agenda.” Never mind that my own father is convinced that The Lego Movie had a major political agenda subtly woven into the script. But we’ll leave it at that. In any case, when Ai Weiwei aired his grievance with the toymaker, supporters in several countries began sending in their own Lego stockpiles to the artist. Weiwei ended up using plastic bricks from a Chinese company that were similar to Legos and considerably cheaper too. Lego decided to change its policy and will officially forego asking details about such projects. However, artists must clearly display that Lego does not support or endorse the theme, message  or politics of the Lego artwork in question. Voila!

Advertisements

Obama Plans, Republicans Laugh; Lululemon Not Sour that Chip Wilson’s Out; Meg Whitman’s Salary Goes Up While HP Headcount Goes Down

Dude, where’s my iPad?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Obama may not be getting his complimentary iPad any time soon. Plans for his ambitious $4 trillion budget have been unveiled, much to the chagrin of everyone, but especially the tech titans of Silicon Valley. Obama’s plan, he says, is “designed to bring middle class economics into the 21st century.” Aw. Sweet. But to do that, Obama’s plan requires higher taxes on the wealthy, but hey, screw the wealthy, right? This $4 trillion plan calls for all sorts of nifty tax credits and education initiatives, child care, paid leave, and even a $478 billion public works program. Why, even the Pentagon gets about $534 billion. This pricey little plan would also smack a one-time 14% tax on off-shore earnings in addition to a 19% tax on future off shore corporate earnings. So where does Silicon Valley come in? Some of the money Obama would like to use to finance his little project would come from his tech friends and their overseas earnings. About $2 trillion in foreign earnings are currently wafting happily along all over the world, carefully avoiding Uncle Sam’s coffers and the President’s eager to get his claws on them through these taxes. Companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Pfizer would lose a bunch cash – in some cases roughly $10 billion – if Obama gets his way.  But he probably won’t because Republicans are not down with his plan, and since they control the House and the Senate, it’s safe to say they’ll do their very best from letting it become reality.

Lemonade…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alas, the unfiltered founder of Lululemon Athletica, Chip Wilson, has finally thrown in his see-through Yoga towel and resigned as board member of the apparel company, much to the delight of…well…probably everyone. Perhaps it was the lasting effects of his unappreciated comments about how Lululemon Athletica’s apparel was not suited for women who had a little more…shall we say, bass. Perhaps it was the ongoing jokes about the accidental see-through yoga pants, (again, blaming a more full-figured clientele) and other design flaws in the pricey yoga wear that finally did him in. Or perhaps it is true that the man who founded the brand back in 1998, and saw it grow into over 250 stores all over the world, really is stepping down so that he can devote more time to the new luxury line he founded, Kit & Ace. Wilson won’t be completely out of the picture as he still owns 7.8% of the company with about a $650 million value attached to that. Now if he could just learn to think before he speaks…

What’s in a number?

Image courtesy of nongpimmy/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nongpimmy/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just because 15,500 Hewlett-Packard employees lost their jobs this past year does not mean that Chairman and CEO Meg Whitman shouldn’t get an 11% compensation raise. I mean helloooo? The fact that HP’s earnings and revenues are also down, compared with last year’s numbers, should also have no bearing on Meg Whitman’s pay going up from $17.6 million to $19.6 million. Of course, that pay includes her salary, stock options and other benefits – hmm, I’m sensing a private jet and maybe even health insurance. Those 15,500 people really needed to go if HP’s much-touted five-year “turn-around plan” is going to work. Part of that turn-around will split HP into two separate publicly traded companies, HP Enterprise and HP Inc. Thankfully, Whitman’s paycheck was not affected by this “turn-around plan.” Phew. To be fair, Ms. Whitman only received a measly one dollar salary back in 2012 – and over fifteen million measly dollars in compensation, as well. The board over at HP feels her efforts are, in fact, paying off and she deserves all that (and more), especially when you consider that HP stock is up around 38% this year.

Oui Oui Disney; Bitcoin’s Being a Downer; HP is Happily Doing the Splits

Who needs Versailles anyways?

Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnnic]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnnic]/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently going to Disneyland in France is tres outré as the theme park is seeing less and less people coming to strut their stuff at the happiest place on earth…in Europe. But if you were just thinking that a walk along the Seine and a visit to the Eiffel Tower would not be complete without a trip to EuroDisney then fear not mon ami. Disney has decided to whip out $1.25 billion to help save EuroDisney…from itself. The park hasn’t exactly been the Disney epicenter of the world since it opened its doors in 1992, yet Disney alleges that it is the number one tourist destination in Europe. Who knew?

A bitcoin of a drag…

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bitcoin has reached yet another milestone but its nothing of which to be proud as the crypto-currency just hit a new low. In fact the virtual coins have been experiencing a steady decline since December of 2013 when its high reached an impressive $1,147.00 per coin. There is nothing impressive about the $290.00 mark it saw this weekend. Some experts think the drop in value has a “bit” to do with the fact that because more businesses have begun to accept the currency, more bitcoins are being generated and circulated. Of course, the more something becomes the available, the less valuable it becomes. Then there are those pesky regulatory hurdles that are also cramping bit coin’s style, but mostly its value. Others feel there are other more complicated reasons and explanations – the details of which I will gladly spare you. One of those “others” is Garrick Hileman, an economic historian with the pish-posh London School of Economics, who graciously informs us that “approximately 3,600 new bit coins” are welcomed into the world each day.

It’s not you, it’s me… 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s splitsville yet again in the magical realm of corporate as HP has now decided to break up…with itself. It’s no secret (especially since it’s a publicly traded company) that HP’s computer and printer divisions were no match for its corporate hardware and services division. I can attest to this on a personal level for having recently junked out of an HP laptop that had a litany of “issues” which a six month old computer should not possess. But I digress. It’s true the corporate and hardware services division was/is growing a lot quicker and when that happens in a company, at least lately, companies decide to split ’em up. Case in point, last week’s not surprising announcement by eBay and its plans to bid adieu to PayPal. As for the shareholders, well now they’ll own shares of two companies. How very lucky for them. Not lucky, however, for the additional 5,000 employees who will need to brush up on their LinkedIn skills. The company employs over 300,000 people and rakes in $110 billion in revenue. Oh and by the way, HP is currently in year four of its five year turn around plan, in case you were wondering.

BofA Boffo Payout; Nyet to Big Macs; and HP’s Big Little Surprise

Would you like that in small bills?

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bank of America just set a new record but they probably wont be bragging about this particular accomplishment. The bank officially (as of tomorrow, anyways) holds the dubious distinction of having to pay the largest settlement ever to settle a number of allegations brought by Federal and state authorities over its sales of mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. That magical number weighs in at a monstrous $17 billion easily surpassing the paltry $13 billion that JP Morgan Chase had to pay to settle similar allegations. The money will be divided with $7 billion going towards consumer relief and the rest going towards paying back Uncle Sam for all the misery it caused. But that’s not all. As part of the deal, BofA actually has to admit – ADMIT – wrongdoing. Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch will also be held to the task as the bulk of bad mortgages came courtesy of them when BofA acquired them in 2008. Of course no actual heads will roll. Or will they? One Los Angeles US attorney filed a civil suit against Countrywide co-founder Angelo Mozilo. While BofA must not have been too happy about the settlement, Wall Street sure was as shares of the bank took a little climb following the news.

No need to supersize that just yet…

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know Russia is royally ticked off at the US when McDonalds starts to suffer. Of course that wasn’t the official line coming out of the Kremlin, mind you. But it is true that four McDonald’s in Moscow were just shuttered for “sanitary reasons.”  One of the “temporarily” shuttered eateries happens to have been one of the most frequented McD’s in the world. In fact, Russia is one of the biggest markets for McDonalds. When asked if the closures had anything to do with the sanctions, officials referred to the “sanitary” statement without actually answering the question. Hmmm. However, there are still well over 430 McDonalds in Russia. For now, anyways.

Surprise surprise…

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

HP surprised everyone today, perhaps even itself, as it reported increased revenue in its earnings. While it was a modest 1% gain, it was nothing to scoff at. The increase was due in large part to its personal computer division which took in a plump 12% increase. The company is currently undergoing a major overhaul. Which is kind of ironic as my brand new HP laptop (I purchased it in February) is also undergoing a major overhaul at Geek Squad headquarters –  that is after already spending lots of quality phone time with several Geek Squad technicians over the last few months – but I digress. Profits came in at just under a billion which might seem impressive. But it’s not since last year at this time the HP reported $1.4 billion in profits.

 

 

The GameStop’s Here, Uber Excitement and HP Is Shrinking

Dropping Up…

Image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s nothing like a price drop to get consumers to open up their wallets a little quicker. Microsoft may not be all that thrilled to have dropped the price for its Xbox One, but a move like that sure has a way of creating greater demand for the product. But the real winner here is GameStop (GME). Greater demand for the hardware creates greater demand for  the software. Good thing GameStop supplies both. Isn’t that convenient. Revenue for the quarter ending May 3 was $2 billion with a hefty $68 million profit.  Other companies digging the price drop are Take Two and Ubisoft, makers of the highly educational and extremely informative video games, Assassin’s Creed and Grand Theft Auto.

Uber-drama…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Uber, the uber-cool ride sharing app is making some tracks today. It’s looking to score $500 million for its latest funding round which could drive its value up to $12 billion. Not bad for an app that’s practically its own middleman. Of course, not everybody is impressed or excited by the technology and they are going to do whatever it takes to make sure Uber knows that. Boston cabbies are part of the opposition as are taxi drivers in Miami. Across the pond Brussels isn’t pleased either. But it’s London’s black-taxi drivers that are taking their dissatisfaction to a whole new level, apparently staging a massive protest. It should be duly noted that these same London drivers already showed their lack of enthusiasm to Uber’s competition, Hailo, by very impolitely (and presumably illegally) vandalizing its offices. But Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is probably thinking more about the $20 million in gross revenue his company pulls in every week.

Crickets crickets crickets…

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s going to get awfully quiet at HP (HP). Really really quiet. But not because they’re encouraging napping at work like some of those other (cool) companies. And if you sent your resume there, don’t expect a response. CEO Meg Whitman announced, as part of her five year turn around plan, that she will be cutting even more jobs than what she previously decided to cut. A whole lot more. Between 11,000 and 16,000  employees will be asked to leave their staplers at their desks. Bringing the grand total to about 50,000 people who will be spending their new found free time trolling job boards. The 75 year old, Palo Alto based company is losing ground to smart phones and cloud computing and as a result their pc and printers divisions have been taking regular fiscal punches. In fact they have been getting hit for three years running. Here’s hoping its remaining 317,500 employees can help avoid that in the future.

Check This List, Toning Up and Pandora Rocks?

What’s the value of values?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You can feel a whole lot better next time you chow down your Fruit Loops knowing that Kellogg Co. was voted one of the world’s most ethical companies. I swear I did not make this up. The Ethisphere Institute is an independant research institute that promotes and recognizes business ethics. “Companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business ethically and translate those words into action,” according to a statement by Ethisphere, make it onto the list.  This is Kellogg’s sixth time on it. So break out a Pop Tart and celebrate. Some of the other companies that made the list include Google, Petco and Gap Inc. Now if they could only do something about those used car salespeople…

That’s printastic…

Image courtesy of frankie_8/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of frankie_8/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At its annual shareholders meeting, HP CEO Meg Whitman said it’s “like watching ice melt.” Obviously, she was discussing the current batch of 3D printers that could and should be doing oh so much more. Good thing Ms. Whitman thinks she, and HP, of course, have found the solution. Unfortunately that solution won’t be presented until June. Rumor has it, though that HP plans to speed up the printing and improve the quality. To be competitive they will have to price the printers at the $5000 point. That’s great news – as long as your employer is footing the bill.

Not exactly music to your ears…

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re still on the fence about getting that Pandora subscription now would be a really good time to make that decision. A federal judge just ruled that the streaming music service should be subject to a higher royalty rate than radio stations. Pandora One, the premium service from the music streamer, Pandora, is about to raise its price. They’re also scrapping their yearly subscription model. If you are already a subscriber, the price stays at $3.99. For now. Otherwise, procrastinators can expect to fork over another buck for the premium ad-free service. The new rate takes effect in May. Or you could just listen to your favorite music and your not so favorite ads for free.