Ford Looks to Boost Profits With Layoffs; Twitter Sequel: The Return of Biz; Avocados Will Not Make You Rich!

Slash and burn…

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Today’s job-slashing news is brought to us by Ford Motors. The automotive company, which employs about 200,000 people worldwide, plans to cut about 10% of its salaried workforce. Apparently, the job cutting efforts are simply part of a $3 billion cost cutting program. What Ford is really hoping to accomplish is to keep its stock from from getting too close to a five-year low and boost profits at the same time. Ford released an official statement today and made sure to talk a lot about priorities, profit and growth. Curiously enough, however, no mention was made about job cuts. Wonder what that’s all about. If it’s any consolation, rumor has it that Ford is offering generous early retirement incentives to some of the aforementioned salaried workers. However what generous and incentives actually mean remains to be seen. In any case, CEO Mark Fields, who came on board back in July, wants people to know that the folks over at Ford “are as frustrated as you are by the stock price.” Fields in particular must be awfully frustrated considering that the stock has dropped over 35% since he took the CEO reins.

Let’s get Biz-y with it…

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Amidst a throng of high-level departures comes a potential bright spot for Twitter – the return of co-founder Biz Stone, six years after he left. In a Medium post he wrote that he’s returning to the embattled social media company for the purpose of “filling the ‘Biz-shaped hole.'” Yup. He said that. He went on to say, “You might even say the job description includes being Biz Stone.” Yup. He said that too. Biz wants to guide company culture, feeling and energy, and Twitter could definitely use help in all three of those categories. Besides, it’s not like Biz had anything else going on these days since he just sold his latest start-up to Pinterest for an undisclosed sum. You got that? An undisclosed sum. (I have no definitive idea of what that means.) As for Jack Dorsey, another co-founder and current Twitter CEO, Biz counts him as “his closest friend.” At Twitter anyway. Wall Street seems to be thrilled about Biz Stone’s return as well, sending the stock up over 2%. Twitter’s stock will take any boost it can get these days. And according to Stone, and presumably President Trump, “The world needs Twitter, and it’s here to stay.”

It’s the pits…

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Today is not a good day for the avocado industry. It seems Australian millionaire Tim Gurner said during an interview on Australia’s “60 Minutes” to ditch the avocados if you want to buy a house. It’s not that Gurner has anything against the green-fleshed delicacy. Only that Millennials should focus on saving their money towards purchasing a home and accumulating wealth instead of spending $19 on pricey avocado sandwiches. See the connection? Neither did plenty of Twitter users.  On Twitter @kalebhorton wrote: “Alright, I did the math. If I stopped eating avocado toast every day, I would be able to afford a bad house in Los Angeles in 642 years.” Foghorn Greghorn tweeted: “Avocado Toast $6.50 Data $150 House $650,000 Utility $150 someone who is good at the economy please help me budget this my family is dying.” But maybe Gurner’s onto something. After all, he is a real estate tycoon with an estimated $460 million. And I bet he owns lots of homes.

Trump Does Nothing for Twitter; Take That Trump! Tequila Goes Public; Whole Foods Whole Lotta Trouble

(Sigh…)

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The good news from Twitter’s latest earnings report is that its monthly active users increased by 2 million to 319 million accounts.  Although forecasts were for 319.6 million. Just saying.   Revenue also grew 10% to 717.2 million. However, that’s about all the good news there was, because the company missed estimates for revenues of $740.1 million, as ad revenues were lower, falling about .5% from last year’s $710 million to $638 million. In fact, Twitter experienced its slowest quarterly revenue growth since its IPO in 2013. To make matters infinitely worse, shares fell almost 12% on the news, and Twitter can’t afford to lose any more value from its shares. But CEO Jack Dorsey asked for patience, as the company he heads is making some investments into machine learning and figuring out exactly how to engage its advetisers. Seems like a prudent plan. But the bigger story is that President Trump’s tweeting did absolutely nothing for the company. Zero. Nil. Nada. Sure, the world got to see the kind of havoc that can be wreaked with just 140 characters. Unfortunately, that’s about all it did as his tweeting as Twitter reported that it actually experienced slower growth in the quarter that included the election.  According to Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer, Anthony Noto, you can’t expect a “single person to drive sustained growth.” Meaning, Trump had no effect, President or not. The one bright spot – if you can call it that – is that Twitter earned 16 cents a share when estimates for 12 cents.

 Mas tequila, por favor!

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Mexico had its first IPO since President Trump won the election back in November. The lucky IPO was tequila maker Jose Cuervo. The world’s biggest tequila company raised $900 million, with shares priced toward the top of the range at 34 pesos. That translates to roughly $1.67 per share. It’s pesos. What did you expect? The IPO had actually been put on hold twice, thanks to Trump, because his anti-NAFTA ambitions and wall-building enthusiasm kept weakening the peso. Interestingly enough, unlike other products, demand for tequila is not based on price. However, its price could get higher if Trump gets his way by slapping some major tariffs on the lime-friendly beverage. A move like that could put a major dent into Jose Cuervo, which gets 64% of its’s $1.165 billion in sales from the United States and Canada. At least Jose Cuervo always had the luxury of enjoying strong dollar-base earnings. That’s got to count for something, right? Problem is that the new expected U.S. protectionist measures could end up hurting that $1.165 billion. But maybe not. Because, after all, this is tequila we’re talking about. So maybe Americans will be willing shell out a few extra dollars.

 

A Whole lotta nothing…

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Whole Foods is looking anything but with its announcement that it will be closing nine stores. It’s the first time in almost a decade that the company had to resort to such measures as this quarter saw sales drop 2.4% when analysts only predicted a drop of 1.7%. Yikes. Whole Foods initially had a plan to open over 1,200 stores, but alas it was not meant to be as increasing competition and higher food prices led to the company’s sixth straight quarter of decreasing same store sales. The chain gained 39 cents per share which is was about what analysts expected, but as for its forecast, things aren’t exactly looking up. Whole Foods still operates 440 stores and believe it or not, six new stores are still expected to open, with another 80 stores in the planning stages.

Tesla Banks a Profit. Finally; Twitter’s Getting Rid of Employees Despite a Beat; Latest IPO Fails to Wow Wall Street

Booyah!

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Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk is super-pleased with himself after his electric car company posted a quarterly profit for the second time since the company went public. The first time that happened was waaaaay back in 2013. And Musk is banking on the fact that he can pull it off again next quarter. The news was particularly welcome to Musk since he is eager to merge Tesla with his other company, SolarCity. Except investors aren’t as enthusiastic about the prospect or presumably the $2.6 billion cost of the merger. But come November 17 Musk is going to find out if shareholders will have a change of heart and are willing to embrace the move when a vote takes place. In any case, Tesla’s profit came in at a very lofty $21.9 million with a record $2.3 billion in revenue. That would be a 145% increase over last year’s same quarter revenue. Yes you read that right.  The company also scored 14 cents per share when analysts only expected 4 cents. Add that to the fact that last year the stock lost 58 cents per share and we’ve quite a nice comeback story. So what made this quarter different from all other quarters? Ramped up production of Tesla’s Models S sedans and Model X Crossovers. With Musk urging employees to move the vehicles with all their heart and soul, a 92% increase was seen on deliveries of 25,185 cars. But it wasn’t just the current crop of cars that contributed to Tesla’s winning quarter. Apparently, 373, 000 people already pre-ordered the $35,000 Model 3, which won’t even hit the streets until 2017.

Boohoo…

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Twitter announced its third quarter results and yet again, failed to impress anybody. One of the more significant highlights, or rather lowlights, is the company’s decision to lose about 9% of its workforce, or roughly three hundred employees, out of over 3,800 worldwide. That number could go higher but the ultimate goal is to help the company reorganize sales, partnerships and marketing efforts. And who doesn’t like to reorganize, right? The social media company did manage to pull down revenues of $616 million, beating estimates of $605.5 million. Some might consider that an impressive achievement. Except it’s not, since it marked Twitter’s ninth straight quarter of declining growth. And while the company also earned 13 cents per share, once again beating estimates of just 9 cents, growth of monthly active users stayed relatively flat, despite all kinds of exciting new changes.  In the meantime, both Disney and Salesforce.com have passed on potentially acquiring Twitter, as CEO Jack Dorsey said that he’s done talking about reports of possible acquisitions.

That’s NYSE…

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Chinese company ZTO Express made its big Wall Street debut today but failed to dazzle the Street. Unlike the Chinese IPO darling of 2014, Alibaba, ZTO dished out over 72 million shares for $19.50 a pop, only to open today for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange at $18.40. The stock later slid even lower to $17.70. But considering that the company’s original range fell between $16.50  – $18.50, its slide isn’t exactly tragic. Just disappointing. In any case, ZTO still managed to raise $1.4 billion and the company plans to use $720 million of that to purchase more trucks, land, facilities and equipment. In other words, big expansion plans are in the works. As a package delivery company, it handled close to 21 billion parcels just in 2015. It should come as no surprise, however, that ZTO’s main business deals with delivering shipments for Alibaba. In fact, Alibaba accounted for 75% of ZTO’s business in the first half of the year.  You might be wondering why Chinese companies like to list on stock exchanges in the United States. Well, for one, there are currently about 800 companies lined up in China who have filed applications to list on indexes on the country’s indexes.  It’s a considerably slower process and some feel it’s less reliable. Besides, given the volatility of the Chinese economy, raising money in U.S. dollars as opposed to a weaker Chinese currency only sweetens the pot for plenty of companies.

Mylan CEO Using New Math; End for Land’s End CEO; Mousy Talk on Twitter

Miss-stated…

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Let’s give it up for Mylan CEO Heather Bresch for providing us with some fiscal humor today. In case you missed it, she told Congress last week that poor little Mylan only makes $50 on each EpiPen 2 pack for which it charges $600. But the darndest thing happened. It seems that, for some strange reason, when Mylan calculated its sales and profit figures to present to Congress, the pharmaceutical company applied a statutory U.S. tax rate of 37.5%. Which is so weird because Mylan re-domiciled in the Netherlands in order to pay less taxes. In fact, last year Mylan paid a rate of 7.4%. And that’s even weirder because at that rate, Mylan’s profits come in closer to $160 per pack. The company sells over 4 million packs a year. If that’s not a $240 million arithmetic discrepancy, then I don’t know what is. Several members of Congress had strong opinions on Ms. Bresch’s capacity for honesty and presumably, math.  Representative Buddy Carter (R-GA), who as luck would have it is also a pharmacist in real life, called Mylan’s creative pricing a “shell game.” Shares of Mylan dropped a smudge.  Oh well.

Vattene!

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After less than two years on the job, Lands’ End CEO Federica Marchionni is out effective immediately. The now-ex CEO, who held posts at Dolce and Gabbana and Ferrari, just couldn’t seem to bring a luxurious vibe to a very middle America brand. Go figure. To be fair, the Wisconsin-based company is giving her credit for helping Lands’ End sow the seeds towards becoming a global lifestyle brand.  Which is incredibly heart-warming.  She probably didn’t help her cause when she interviewed Gloria Steinem for the company’s Spring catalog. At first she ticked off the anti-abortionists just for featuring the iconic yet controversial figure. After all, the company does sell a lot of uniforms to Catholic schools.  I’m pretty sure there’s a joke in there, but I’m not inclined to look for it. Then she managed to tick off the pro-choicers when she apologized to the anti-abortion activists for writing about Steinem in the first place. You can’t win, I tell you.  In the end, however, it did all come down to money, and Ms. Marchionni didn’t really make any for the company. Lands’ End sales were down 7% last year while shares were down 33% for the year. To add insult to fiscal injury, shares are down again today 11%, perhaps because the company now finds itself looking for its third CEO in just over two years.

Tweet tweet, squeak squeak…

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Could Twitter be going to the rodents? That might not be such a bad thing if word on the street – Wall Street, that is – is true.  Rumor has it that Disney is making a play for the social media company along with Google and Salesforce. Shares have been going up on the news since Friday and those shares need all the help they can get as Twitter continues its struggle to increase revenue. But the House of Mouse rumblings seem to have the most traction with talk that the company is currently working on a potential bid for Twitter. Interestingly enough, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sits on the Disney board so an acquisition isn’t so far-fetched. And since Disney’s biggest biz, cable television, has been losing ground to online streaming services, Disney Chief Bob Iger has been investing heavily in tech, thereby making a Twitter acquisition a very logical move. Twitter itself is looking to evolve into a bona fide media company, already offering live streaming NFL Thursday Night Football and the Presidential debates that air tonight. That focus will fit in nicely at Disney. Twitter’s hoping an acquisition deal will put the company’s value at a meaty $30 billion.  And who doesn’t like the sound of $30 billion?

Sweet Beat for Mondelez; Coca Cola’s Earnings Still Have Some Fizz Left; Twitter Needs a Growth Spurt

Ore-oh well…

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Last time Mondelez came up on this blog, it was because it made a $26 billion offer to buy Hershey Co. That deal would have created the biggest confection company. Ever. Except that Hershey Co. rejected the offer. In any case, the company still managed to beat estimates, cranking out earnings with a few ups and downs. Ultimately, Mondelez pulled down a profit of $464 million with 29 cents added per share. Unfortunately, the company also reported that sales fell a whopping 18% to just $6.3 billion. Some of those falling sales are being blamed on the strong U.S. dollar and that’s especially troublesome for Mondelez since most of its revenue is generated outside of the U.S. If you recall, Mondelez makes some of our country’s most beloved snacks including Oreos, Ritz Crackers and Trident gum. But Mondelez really would have liked to add Hershey Co. to its collection since 90% of Hershey’s revenue comes from the U.S. and the deal would have significantly increased Mondelez’s much-needed U.S. exposure. Instead, Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld is going to attempt to trim $3 billion in expenses. The company also plans to bring its Milka brand of chocolate to China, a market where Hershey has struggled to make a dent and, in fact, lost money on the endeavor.

Fizzle out…

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Speaking of things sweet and highly caloric, Coca Cola also reported earnings with lower than expected quarterly revenue. This time China and Latin America are the culprits. Well, partly anyway. Apparently, consumer tastes in China are switching gears from soda to more healthful choices, especially premium water. And who doesn’t like their water premium, right? Latin America is making problems for Coca Cola all because of high levels of inflation in some regions there. On the bright side, revenue in North America picked up by 2%. Too bad that’s about the only place it picked up. And it’s not just Coca Cola that’s feeling the health burn. PepsiCo is also struggling to get consumers to re-embrace it’s fizzier offerings. Coca Cola’s net income came in at $3.45 billion, up 11% from last year’s $3.12 billion.  The beverage company took in $11.5 billion in revenue with 60 cents added per share. Analysts expected $11.6 billion in revenue but 58 cents per share. However, last year at this time, Coca Cola raked in $12.16 billion, a bummer no matter how you slice it. But Coca Cola’s CEO Muhtar Kent isn’t worried and feels that his beloved soda drinkers are still out there. They’re just not drinking as much as he would like them too. The fact is, the total volume of soda consumption in the U.S. declined by 1.5% in 2015, and by .9% in 2014. Which means Mr. Kent better figure out a way to get more soda drinkers or get his current ones to kick back some more.

Grow-tesque…

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On the heels of yet another celeb controversy on its site, this time over the cyber-abuse of Ghostbusters actress, Leslie Jones, Twitter announced its latest earnings.  And no, the results did not help lift the waning spirits of investors. Apparently CEO and Co-Founder Jack Dorsey has yet to pull the rabbit out of the hat as growth was so slow it was practically backwards at a paltry 1%. Revenue came in at $602 million, which was just 20% higher than last year at this time. At least shares picked 13 cents a pop, even though analysts predicted shares would only gain a dime. Expectations, however, were for $608 million in revenue, so nobody was particularly impressed by the three cent beat. Not shockingly, the stock took a nasty fall on the news, diving as much as 14% at one point during the day, and losing as much as $1.7 billion of its market value. That leaves its current market value at $11 billion, despite its $18 billion valuation. But we’re supposed to get excited for Twitter because its got some big plans for video that its hoping will actually reverse its negative fiscal tide. Videos are Twitter’s number one ad format and so it made deals with the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. Of course deals with the DNC and RNC are also in place since U.S. politics has turned into a veritable sporting event. But even with all that entertainment on the platform, it’s not crazy to hope for a miracle for the one-time Wall Street darling.

Jumping the Twitter Ship; Coffee, Tea or Nukes? Air Iran Might Be Headed Our Way; McD’s CEO Really Does Deserve a Break Today

And then there were six…

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Twitter just got a whole lot lighter – except not in a good way. Four top executives are jumping ship from the social networking site, in addition to a top member over at Twitter-owned Vine. The news was tweeted (naturally) last night when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted that all five people had “chosen” to leave and “will be taking some well-deserved time off.” That’s awfully sweet but it still begs the question as to why those folks chose to leave in the first place – especially because those four executive departures constituted 40% of Twitter’s top brass. Don’t bother looking up any job postings for the newly vacated positions. Dorsey seems to have at least one of them filled, apparently by a high-profile executive in the media industry. No word yet on the other positions but rumor has it they’ve also been filled. Not that any of this is news to those at Twitter. When Jack Dorsey returned to the top spot he did, after all, say that the board will eventually have to be replaced. Incidentally, upon Dorsey’s return, shares of Twitter have fallen about 50%.  Shares are now hovering below the IPO price as the company continues to struggle to find ways to attract more users.

Blackout dates…

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Because nothing says romantic vacation getaway like hopping on a plane to Tehran, Iran is on a mission – not even a nuclear one! – to boost tourism and get back in the good graces of just about every country in the western hemisphere. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is in Europe this week and just might strike (no pun intended) a deal with Airbus to purchase some 500 aircraft so that you can book your next vacay to the radically ruled country. Rumor has it that Boeing might also supply Iran with some aircraft too, and it would mean that it’d be the first time in 36 years – ever since that pesky Islamic revolution – that travelers could hop on a direct flight to a country that’s hostile to United States citizens. Looks like British Airways is itching to be among the first of the commercial airlines to start taxiing on an Iranian tarmac. Apparently, some analysts are expecting a bona fide economic boom – I SAID ECONOMIC! – to occur in Iran now that sanctions have been lifted in exchange for shelving its nuke fantasies.  And because banking sanctions have also been lifted, Iran will even be able to pay for the aircraft. And so much more…

Comeback kid…

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Attention naysayers: McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook’s turnaround plan seems to actually be working. How ’bout that. McDonald’s served up some tasty earnings with a special boost from its all-day breakfast offerings.  A big show of gratitude also goes to China where, as it turns out, diners continued to opt for the Golden Arches’ fast-food fare despite the nasty food safety scandal that erupted during the summer of 2014. Same store sales took a 5.7% jump and wouldn’t you know it, shares jumped on the news, especially because, after two years of little to no growth, the company finally experienced that wonderful sensation, posting its best quarter in four years. McDonald’s pulled down a profit of $1.21 billion, an almost 10% increase, while adding $1.28 per share. That’s a nice little smack down to analysts’ estimates of just $1.23 per share. And while a strong dollar did send revenue a bit south to $6.34 billion, it was still above and beyond expectations of $6.22 billion. The only bummer in the earnings was in France, where terrorist attacks have kept too many would-be McDonald’s patrons from enjoying the cuisine.

A Beer-y Big Merger is Brewing; Twitter’s Big Plans; Johnson & Johnson Needs a Band-Aid for its 3Q

99 million bottles of beer on the wall..

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Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It looks like we have a winner. Well, a winning bid, anyways, that has SABMiller finally finally saying yes to ABInBev’s offer to scoop ’em up. After five tries, ABInBev offered up $106 billion for its fellow mega brewer. Now regulatory approval in the United States, and even China, is all that stands between final completion of the merger. That, and also shareholder approval which still might get in the way of meaningful fiscal relationship. Assuming the merger is approved, it will go down as one of the top five mergers. Ever. The newly formed  company will control approximately a third of all the world’s beer (Heineken, the next biggest competitor, only controls 9% of the market) and puts Corona and Budweiser in the same corporate family as Miller and Grolsch.  The new combo will handle 18 of the top 40 beers in the world. It’s a match, some would say, made in beer heaven. The two companies put out 77 billion liters of drinks and 150 billion pints last year. Once they merge, sales are expected to come in at about $55 billion. If, however, the deal does not go through, AbInBev  has to hand over a $3 billion break-up fee. to SABMiller. Is that necessarily a bad thing?

Chirp chirp…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Twitter is about to get a lot less chipper. Well, 8% less chipper, to be more precise. Just one week after re-assuming his CEO role, co-founder Jack Dorsey announced that Twitter will be trimming its workforce, eliminating 336 positions out of the 4,100 at the social media company. Those positions will be mostly from the product and engineering areas whose departments were already bloated. No lay-offs are expected of any executives. Apparently, the company is not bloated with them. Dorsey is on a mission to turn Twitter into a kindler gentler platform. Just kidding. He just wants to make the system more accessible because, believe it or not, not everybody finds Twitter that user-friendly. Who would’ve thunk it? It seems many users have signed up only to unceremoniously part ways with the micro-blogging tool shortly thereafter.  In the process, Dorsey’s also hoping to make a lot of cash and do away with those bleak stagnant quarters that the company keeps churning out. Wall Street likes Jack Dorsey’s ideas so far and sent shares up almost 6%. Too bad the stock is down 30% for the year.  Dorsey added, “The world needs a strong Twitter, and this is another step to get there.” I couldn’t have made that up if I tried.

Band-Aids and Tylenol and hep C, oh my!

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Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Health care giant Johnson & Johnson has had better quarters. Especially much better than this past third quarter where the company saw a 29% drop in earnings and is now down 8% for the year. There is no band-aid big enough for that boo boo. As is the trend, the strong dollar gets part of the blame, or rather 8% of it. But at least the company is showing signs of recovery following a spate of recalls that go back to 2009, as its consumer health business posted some respectable digits. The company even plans to buy back $10 billion in common stock and increased its profit outlook by a nickel hoping to score between $6.15 – $6.20 per share for the year. Johnson & Johnson pulled in net income of $3.36 billion scoring $1.20 per share with over $17 billion in revenue. Unfortunately, analysts were looking for $17.41 billion in revenue and doesn’t even compare to last year’s net income of $4.75 billion figure that added $1.60 per share. Wall Street made sure to share its disappointment by sending shares down 71 cents a pop.  The company also took a 90% beating on its hepatitis C, Olysio, drug since newer drugs to treat that hit the market. And even though sales of Tylenol and Motrin fell worldwide by 7.7%, here in the states, sales on those products increased almost 9%. And for that you are welcome, Johnson & Johnson.