Lululemon-ade?; Sir Richard Branson’s Got Some Cool Punk Plastic for You; Campbell Soup Freshens Up

Making lemonade…

Image courtesy of Pixomar/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Pixomar/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like there’s something to be said for quitting…from the board that is. Since founder and former CEO Chip Wilson sort of graciously stepped down from the Lululemon board, the yoga apparel-making company seems to be turning over a new fiscal leaf. The company managed to beat the street following several quarters that had the company reeling from design-flawed see-through yoga pants, not to mention, some very un-zen-like comments from Mr. Wilson. This quarter, Lululemon pulled in revenues of $423.5 million, a nice little increase from last year’s  $418.6 million when the company seemed to be in the midst of all its issues. The company also managed to score $47.8 million in profits with 34 cents per share added, beating estimates by one cent. That profit was almost three times what Lululemon Athletica pulled down last year at this time, again, when it was dealing with all its troubles. And bonus, the company even raised its outlook predicting it will earn between $1.86 – $1.91 per share from a previously estimated from $1.85 to $1.90. In keeping with Wall Street tradition, shares of the stock went up on the news of the earnings beat.

But can I get an upgrade with it?

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may not be earning any miles with it, but it’ll definitely be the coolest item in your wallet. I am talking about Sir Richard Branson’s latest offering from Virgin Money – a credit card that features the Sex Pistols on it.  Slapping the Sex Pistols on plastic was no accident either.  It was Branson who signed the group to his label, Virgin Records, back in 1977. So clearly there’s a bias towards the band. Led by Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, the band was arguably one of the most influential punk rock bands – that is until they broke up a year later. The Sex Pistols seem like a good fit for a credit card that wants to market itself to consumers as a way ” to put a little bit of rebellion in their pocket.” However, to my untrained ear, that sounds like it has the words “debt” and “collections” written all over it. But hey, whatever works. Bonus: if your card gets declined, imagine how cool you’ll look as you embarrassingly sneak the card back into your wallet. Okay, maybe not.

Is it mmm mmm good?

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Campbell Soup may indeed be “good food” but apparently hummus and salsa is even better these days. The iconic soup maker announced plans to buy fresh food company Garden Fresh Gourmet for $231 million. Garden Fresh Gourmet scored $100 million in sales for 2014 so clearly there’s something to be said for fresher fare. Campbell Soup,which also owns Prego sauces and Pepperidge Farm cookies, has been noticing, fiscally speaking, that consumers aren’t as interested in its canned soups and other offerings that sport a lengthy shelf life. So it’s been trying to shift gears towards trendier, money-earning items like fresh(er) food and the ever popular organic category. Of course, the company is also hoping it will reel in that ever elusive group we call millennials who seem to be dictating many food trends in the last few years.

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.

Is the Banking Industry About to Get Turned on its Fiscal Head?; Lululemon Posts Some Zen Earnings; Noah’s Ark is in Park;

Want to join the “Club?”

Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuchylee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s time to welcome New York Stock Exchange’s latest IPO darling, Lending Club, trading under the ticker symbol LC (catchy, huh?). The banking industry, however, might not be giving it the warm reception that the rest of Wall Street will be showing it. The Lending Club, whose stock price had been set at $15 per share (and is trading at $23.79 as I write this), sets people up, but not quite like Tinder or match.com. The Lending Club matches borrowers with lenders of money. Founded in 2006 by Renaud Laplanche, Lending Club set out to make borrowing cheaper…and easier, than traditional banks and lending institutions. How very considerate.  Lending Club gets a fee per loan transaction and a  loan transaction can be for as little as $25.00. But with $6 billion in loans, thus far, the loan transactions probably tend to be a bit higher. The company is being watched by the alternative lending industry – and banks, no doubt – because if Lending Club does well – or not, it could indicate success – or failure – for other companies with similar models.

Assume warrior position…

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

See-through yoga pants be damned. It seems design flaws and a fallout with Lulelemon Athletica Inc. founder Chip Wilson could not stop the yoga wear maker from kicking some analyst estimate bootie. Profits for the company came in at close to $60.5 million and $0.42 per share. Online sales were up 27%, as well. Analysts had the company pegged for $0.38 per share. Still, it’s hard to overlook the fact that those numbers were down 8.5% from a year ago when the retailer posted $66 million in profits and $0.45 per share. So it must be a good thing then that the company has big plans to outfit men all over the world in its athletic gear. In fact, Lulelemon hears a $1 billion opportunity knocking with that idea. That’s probably why it opened its first men’s store in New York City last month.  Namaste.

Get your raincoats…

Image courtesy of njaj/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of njaj/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It seems  state funds have dried up for the Kentuck-based Noah’s Ark Encounter, as the $18 million in tax breaks and government funding was just yanked from the folks who are attempting to bring that famous biblical episode to life. The museum, which will be located  conveniently next to the “Creation Museum,” will boast a 500 foot recreation of the famous wooden ark, taking into account the measurements specified in the book of Genesis. However, the reason for the fund-yanking is the company behind the museum, a non-profit subsidiary of Answers in Genesis, plans on hiring based on religion. Meaning if you’re not religious enough, you need not apply – a veritable problem if you are looking to get state funds for a tourist attraction. Naturally, like any money-centered deal that goes south, legal options are being explored by the Creation Museum group with a billboard campaign in Kentucky and…New York (go figure) to counter criticism. In the meantime you can check out the 700,000 square foot Creation Museum, which has attracted some one million visitors since it opened its pearly gates back in 2007.

Employment Numbers Crunch; Nothing Sour About Lululemon; Radio Shack Over and Out?

It was good while it lasted…

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The number of people picking up unemployment checks took an unwelcome climb to over 300,000 claims – 315,000 to be a bit more accurate. That number was about 11,000 higher than the previous week and it’s a bit of a bummer since numbers that high haven’t been seen since June. But the fact that unemployment filings were up for the week ending September 6, which included the holiday weekend suggests…well not much. Labor Day, ironically, tends to play tricks on those pesky unemployment numbers. Besides, those numbers are still well below pre-recession levels and on average down over 7% from where they were last year at this time. Now if they could just do something to plump up those wages faster than inflation then we’d be set.

 Who would’ve thunk it?

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lululemon scored nicely this quarter, especially considering all the corporate and see-through-yoga-pants drama it experienced in the last year. And yes, the earnings were better than expected sending shares of the stock up 15%. The company, famous for its hip athletic apparel pulled in revenues of over $390 million earning $0.33 a share compared to the same time last year where it earned $344 million. Also, the chain has big plans to outfit men in yoga pants. With a stand alone men’s store already gracing its home country of Canada, New York City is about to debut a Lululemon men’s store to call its very own. If you were in the market for see-through yoga pants, though, look elsewhere. The company ironed out that kink ages ago.

No frequency radio…

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like bankruptcy is on the horizon for embattled electronics retailer, Radio Shack. In fact, the company said that by the end of September their funds could run dry. It’s holding out hope that somewhere out there the financing gods will smile upon them and lift them up from that fiscal well of despair. Until then, Radio Shack is hoping that the services they offer in store will help them stay relevant in a marketplace that has seen brutal competition from the internet. It is also in the process of trying to close hundreds of stores out of the thousands it has, and cut costs in other areas. But it remains to be seen if these measures will be enough or if Radio Shack is a sinking ship. The company reported second quarter losses of over $137 million. Last year at this time it’s losses were just over $52 million.

Wall Street Is Sour On Lulu, Phil Mickelson In the Clear and Sale Away

Namistakes…

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shares of Lululemon (LULU) went sour today after the company announced its quarterly earnings. While the athletic apparel company barely beat Wall Street’s predictions by $0.02 a share, its profits fell to a very un-zen $19 million from over $47 million a year ago. Its see-through yoga pants debacle certainly helped bring in those awful numbers. But it wouldn’t be right not to mention and wonder if some of these earnings come courtesy of Lululemon’s founder (no longer, chairman) and biggest shareholder Chip Wilson. Wilson idiotically remarked that heavy – and even not so heavy women – should steer clear of his company’s merchandise. An ignorant statement like that – see-through yoga pants or not – ought to help destroy a company’s earnings. Besides that, the company is staring at some fierce competition from Gap’s Athleta brand and Under Armour. Shares of the company went downward dog by 35% in the past twelve months.

SEC no longer teed off at Phil?

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pro-golfer Phil Mickelson is happily teeing off now that SEC is pulling back from its investigation into whether he might have been involved in insider trading. Apparently the eleventh ranked golfer in the world wasn’t buying Clorox, shares of it that is, while billionaire Carl Icahn was planning to buy the company. However, the Feds are still curious about some “well-timed trades” by Mickelson and his buddy, pro-gambler Billy Walters back in 2012. While Phil Mickelson scored a million bucks on those trades, Walters allegedly notched a whopping $15 million on shares of Dean Foods.

Where o’ where does the economy stand?

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The economy once again is toying with our emotions as it continues to pull in numbers with very mixed messages. The good news is that retail increased. The bad news is that it didn’t increase enough gaining only by 0.3% instead of the 0.6% predicted (and hoped for) by some supremely intelligent economists. Then there’s our fickle little job market. The good news: In May we say 217,000 jobs added. It’s been five years since the country has seen monthly job growth of over 200,000 per month. Yippee, right? No because the bad news: The number of people filing for unemployment went up to 317,000 last week. However, that number is still less than the yearly average so a slight yippee can be uttered. Then there’s the issue of wage growth. The issue being that wages aren’t doing that much growing.

Citigroup Just Can’t Handle the Stress, Microtastic! and Turning Lululemon Into Lemonade

Citigroup fail!

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shares of Citigroup fell 5% today because it failed the Federal Reserve’s “Stress Test.” The US government feels Citigroup has “a number of deficiencies” and wouldn’t be able to handle another economic downturn, like the one from 2008 that keeps rearing its ugly face. The Fed also doesn’t want to have to bail Citigroup out  – again. The Fed has what they call “qualitative concerns” about Citigroup and some other banks that have over $50 billion in assets. For people like you and me that means they need more money on which to fall back should economic disaster strike and they need to up their business practices A game. They have ninety days to fix these problems. Or else….I don’t know what else. I guess they just get another deadline. Other banks that also failed the stress test include HSBC North America, RBS Citizens Financial Group and Santander Holdings USA.

iPad…therefore iMicrosoft…

Image courtesy of twobee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of twobee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

iPad users the world over can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Microsoft Office for the iPad has arrived. Phew! Microsoft chief Satya Nadella finally FINALLY made the big announcement today. But apparently Wall Street knew way before and was very excited because shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) began climbing last week. Probably the $1.4 billion in projected revenue helped the Street’s enthusiasm. You can go to the Apple App store and get the free download. But if you actually want to create and edit, you’re going to have to purchase an Office 365 subscription.

These lemons aren’t so sour after all…

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lululemon Athletica clearly has some great karma. Despite hitting a major snag this year with see-through yoga pants, the athletic wear company struck its best warrior pose and beat Wall Street’s fourth quarter estimates by going up 7%. Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) sales hit $521 million when it was expected to only reach $515 million. Newcomer CEO Laurent Potdevin, who also worked at TOM’s and Burton Snowboards, has big plans for bringing Lululemon to the rest of the world. Wall Street loves talk of expansion, especially global expansion. And it also loves it when companies beat expectations.