Snapchat-ting all the Way to the Bank; HSBC Is In Big Trouble, Yet Again; Virgin America’s Soarin Good Earnings

And just like that it disappears…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hindsight is 20/20 but in Snapachat’s case it’s more like 19 – as in billions of dollars. The social media and messaging app, which very presciently declined Facebook’s offer to buy them for a paltry $3 billion back in 2013, is rumored to be adding an additional $500 million to its coffers. This will now peg the company at between $16-$19 billion and could make it the second most valuable privately held company behind Über technologies and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi. Started in 2011 and helmed by CEO Evan Spiegel, the app allows users to post pictures and messages that disappear within a few seconds after being opened. Snapchat boasts 100 million users and it should come as no surprise that 57% of its users are under the age of 25. Of course, its disappearing act is not the app’s only trick as it now has deals with, among others, Yahoo, CNN, ESPN…the list goes on, tailoring content just for you. Even movie studios are getting in on the Snapchat action and before long you’ll see Snapchat’s very own superhero series. If that doesn’t scream street cred, then I don’t know what does.

Don’t bank on it…

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s nothing like a little money laundering investigation to put a downer on your week. Well in HSBC’s case it’s “aggravated money laundering” which sounds so much more sinister than just plain old “money laundering.” This latest criminal investigation comes a week after the revelation that it helped some of its super wealthy clients and their 1,100 bank accounts, evade taxes. HSBC is on a roll, I tell you. Investigators suspected that if HSBC was helping its clients avoid paying taxes, then what else might it be helping their clients do? Hence, we have the money-laundering investigation.  A Swiss public prosecutor launched a criminal probe into the matter and has since raided the picturesque offices of HSBC. Good thing that former HSBC IT employee, Herve Falciani, very thoughtfully collected all those files pointing investigators into launching an investigation. Too bad he tried to sell the information first, though. That kind of looked bad for him. But probably not as bas as how it’s looking for HSBC right now. Of course, HSBC is said to be cooperating. Whatever that means. Do banks ever not cooperate?  HSBC did, however, sort of acknowledge it messed up on the tax evasion end blaming the fact that stringent standards weren’t in place as they should have been. You don’t say.

Flyin’ high…

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’ve ever flown Virgin America, then it might come as no surprise (or maybe it will) that the airline just whipped Wall Street expectations with a little help from cheaper oil prices and fully booked planes. The airline only made its Wall Street IPO debut back in November but so far it has not disappointed as the airline took in $1.16 per share – a far cry from the 80 cents Wall Street expected it would earn. Revenue for the fourth quarter was $372.2 – a 3.4% increase over last year at this time, impressively taking down analyst estimates of $370.8 million. Started by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, the airline just announced big plans to give Southwest Airlines a very unwelcome run for its money by offering non-stop flights to Austin. Let’s just hope this little battle pays off for the passengers too.

HSBC’s Bankers Were Not Being “Franc”; No Toying With Hasbro’s Earnings; Netflix Says ¡Hola! to Cuba

Oops! Did I do that?

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What do arms dealers and popstars have in common? They have bank accounts at HSBC. The British-based bank’s Swiss subsidiary now stands accused of the unthinkable: Helping some of its wealthy clients avoid paying taxes (cue audible gasp). So what’s HSBC’s excuse, because let’s face it, there’s always an excuse. HSBC blames it on the fact that even though the Swiss division was picked up by HSBC back in 1999, it hadn’t been fully integrated into the rest of the company and thus didn’t abide by the highest standards it could have. And by highest of standards I mean “significantly lower” standards. HSBC clients were able to walk out of the bank with “bricks” (their word) of cash – just like what you see criminals carrying in briefcases in the movies. Swiss bankers didn’t much care because those “bricks” were in foreign currency and not in francs . Also, bankers structured accounts in fiscally creative ways in order to help all these super-wealthy clients save tons of money by not paying all those irritating European taxes. See where I’m going with this? Talk about customer service.  And who must HSBC thank for all this embarrassing publicity? Enter Herve Falciani, a self-proclaimed whistle-blower and former HSBC IT employee, who graciously gathered all the juicy data and supplied it to officials, and of course, the media too – but that’s after he tried to first sell the information (a whole other blog entry). About 100,00 clients are on these lists with over $100 billion in assets swirling around. Names like Phil Collins, David Bowie, and Tina Turner turned up. John Malkovich’s name also made an appearance but he said he had no knowledge of the account and it may have been something done by Bernie Madoff who once handled some his assets.

Toy Score…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hasbro, the second largest toymaker, just posted its fourth quarter earnings much to the delight of well…everyone. The company topped analysts’ expectations with more than a little help from the forces of Nerf and Transformer toys. No joke. Sales of those products and other selections geared toward the junior male consumer increased 21% and there’s nothing Frozen about it. Strangely enough, sales of its girl-focused toys, including My Little Pony and Nerf Rebelle, didn’t fare as well. And by “well” I mean sales slid down 10%. But the company did score a profit that was up 31% to close to $170 million adding about $1.22 to each share. Sales were also up 1.3% to $1.3 billion (nifty how those numbers matched up). However, analysts expected revenue to be $1.33 billion and Hasbro was very quick to blame that strong dollar of ours against other foreign currencies. Stupid dollar! Just kidding.  And bonus: The Hasbro board is even upping its dividend to $0.46 per share, which shareholders get to cash in on May 15 – provided they have those shares on record by May 1.

Bienvenido….

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nothing says diplomacy quite like Kevin Spacey.  Online video subscription service Netflix is seizing upon the easing of restrictions on Cuba to bring its premium entertainment to the shores of the Island Nation. Muy bien! Netflix has been in Latin America since 2011 and it already has 5 million subscribers there. While it’s still not clear just how involved the government will be in this new endeavor, with a little help from some broadband internet, international payment methods and a rate of $7.99 a month, “Orange Is the New Black” is set to make its way over to Cuba in no time – provided  subscribers are of the select 5% who have unfiltered access to the internet.

 

Not So Wholesome Foods, Is There A Nap For That? Banking On Stress

Whole lotta nothing…

Image courtesy of Africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Whole Foods needs to shift its focus from organics to business law now that it was slapped with a very unwholesome $800,000 in penalties and fees for overcharging its customers. Not the best move since the chain is facing increasing competition from other retailers offering organic products for considerably less money. Among the troublesome and illegal practices in which the organic chain engaged include not subtracting the weight of containers and selling prepared food by the item and not by the weight. Yes, those practices are illegal. Who knew? The offending markets are located in California. The Golden State has 74 Whole Foods Markets all of which can now look forward to four random audits a year.  However, it should be duly noted that Whole Foods says its prices were accurate 98% of the time.  And that’s great news as long as you weren’t the one paying the other 2% of the time.

ZZZzzz…

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer got caught napping on the job. The Silicon Valley exec was slated to have a very important meeting with ad execs in a very pish posh Cannes restaurant. She was bit late, though. That is, if you think two hours is a bit late. Some of her guests decided to leave before she arrived. She reportedly told someone at the dinner that she was late because she had fallen asleep. That faux pas was followed with a speech at a later point that was supposed to wow people. Except they were wowed by how un-wow the speech actually was. And the media wasted no time in skewering her for it. Some argue she’s getting more slack for her actions because she’s a woman. Still others feel her actions only mirrored her less-than enthusiastic attitude towards client relationships. Either way it’s a problem if only because Yahoo has been having “issues” with advertising and needs all the help it can get.

Still stressed out?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Citigroup and three other banks just can’t handle the stress…of their inadequate capital plans, anyway. It seems Citigroup, Banco Santander, the US division of HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland were supposed to have their affairs in order. Those affairs include internal controls, risk assessment in global operations and other not so minor details to make their inadequate capital plans a lot more adequate. The Feds want banks to make sure they can make it through economic downturns without needing any government handouts, which ultimately come out of taxpayer dollars. The banks were supposed to have all their action plans last week but the effort proved to be a bit too…stressful, so the they were given another six months to get de-stressed.