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.

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Singular Sensation for Alibaba; Don’t Bet On It: Online Daily Fantasy Sports Gone in a New York Minute; In: Higher Minimum Wage. Out: Tipping

Singled out…

Image courtesy of  bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Did Alibaba just throw down the gauntlet to Black Friday? China’s biggest e-commerce site knocked it out of the fiscal park on November 11, aka Singles Day, shattering last year’s $9.3 billion record for the auspicious shopping event. In fact, just by midday the company had already hit $9 billion in sales. Some of the top sellers were Nikes and baby-related products. CEO Jack Ma kicked off the Singles Day shopping festivities by launching the event Tuesday evening with James Bond actor Daniel Craig and House of Cards Star Kevin Spacey. After all nothing says Chinese e-commerce like British and American actors, right? The earth-shatterting sales left many wondering what many are worried about a flagging Chinese economy and its October report that the country hit a particularly slow pace in the third quarter. What didn’t hit a slow pace i was mobile sales for Alibaba’s Singles Day, where 68% of the day’s transactions occurred.

You bet-or not…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman just might be the least popular person on the planet right now. The AG sent “cease and desist” letters to fantasy sports companies FanDuel and DraftKings, ordering them not to accept bets from New Yorkers anymore. The AG called the companies a “new version of online gambling” and said the contests are “neither harmless nor victimless” because they lure in people who are predisposed to gambling addiction. AG Schneiderman went on to say that the companies are basically perpetrating “a massive, multi-billion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country.” Ouch. FanDuel and DraftKings, however, argue that what they offer is “a game of skill.” There are currently 34 lawsuits in 13 states pending against the daily fantasy sports companies accusing its proprietors of unfair and/or illegal activity. DraftKings and FanDuel actually stopped doing business in Nevada after the state’s attorney there ruled that the business models meet the state’s definition of gambling and would therefore have to pay for a license.  Both companies are valued at about $1 billion each. Major League Baseball has a stake in FanDuel while the NBA has its own stake in DraftKings. FanDuel also has big money ad deals in place with both the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Jets. At least the AG isn’ t looking to get back any proceeds from New Yorkers who placed bets and actually won. Well, for now anyway.

Not tipsy…

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Image courtesy of maya picture/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No more bragging rights for big tippers at Joe’s Crab Shack. Well, at least in 18 of the chain’s 131 locales. Parent company Ignite Restaurant Group has decided to do away with the “tip” model and the idea behind it is quite simple: The restaurant scraps tipping and then increases the minimum wage of its employees to $14 per hour.  It means that for some servers, it makes up for lost tip wages. “I personally believe tipping is an antiquated model,” CEO Ray Blanchette said investors at a recent meeting. That’s lovely and all but he also believes it helps improve service and reduces employee turnover. Besides, servers will get paid the same whether they work a busy shift or a slow one with fewer diners. Of course, that tip model means menu prices are heading north from anywhere between 12% to 15%. But considering that most tippers tip around 18%, there’s no great loss there. While Joe’s Crab Shack is the first national restaurant chain to try this out, restaurateur Danny Meyers Union Hospitality Group also put this model into place in New York. Joe’s started doing this back in August and incidentally, or not, its restaurant that adopted this no tipping model the longest has gained the most traction. Which is good since overall sales for Joe’s Crab Shack in the third quarter went down 6.6%. Ironically, the National Restaurant Association does not care much for the model because the “median hourly earnings for servers range from $16 – $22.” Do the math and you realize that could actually mean a nasty pay cut for plenty of restaurant employees.

How to Own a Piece of Ferrari; Unemployment’s Groovy Historic Lows; Under Armour Wants to Score with Basketball

Bellisimo…

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Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re among the millions who fantasize about owning an Italian automotive masterpiece, you might just get your chance. Sort of. Ferrari just filed the paperwork for an IPO to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Even though 90% of the luxury car company has been owned by FiatChrysler (FCA) since 1988, the company plans to spin off Ferrari into its very own company, in an effort to raise about $5 billion and cut some debt. No actual figures were given as to how many shares are going to be offered, however 10% will be up for grabs by the public, with another 10% going to the Ferrari family and the rest of the 80% to be given to FCA shareholders.  You might have to wait a bit for the big Wall Street debut as it isn’t expected to happen until later in the year or even 2016. The spin-off, while making the business domicile in the Netherlands, will still remain headquartered in its home country of Italy. The company, which is currently valued at about $11 billion, pulled in $3 billion for 2014 on 7,255 cars. Go ahead and do the math on that one. Ferrari takes great pride in employing a “low volume production strategy” meaning the company doesn’t make too many machines because it likes that there’s a certain exclusivity to the automobile. That pretty much explains why people typically drool when they see one on the streets. Just maybe not so much in the Middle East, Europe and Africa from where 50% of Ferrari’s sales come.

How low can you go?

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Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The economy has been giving us a lot of interesting numbers in the last few months but this one takes the fiscal cake. It turns out that the number of American filing first-time unemployment claims has hit a 42 year low. Indeed, the rate of first-time applicants hasn’t been this low 1973, falling 26,000 to 255,000, when bell-bottoms were trending, and the word “trending” was decades off from even being coined. FYI, economists didn’t see this one coming. I mean, sure they forecasted a dip, but this would constitute more of a drop…off a cliff.  To put things in perspective, at the height of our most recent fiscal crisis, 600,000 people a week were filing jobless claims each week. Unemployment is also hovering at a seven year low of 5.3% and the economy added 3 million jobs in the last twelve months. And while we had a bit of an ugly unemployment claim number last week, that was primarily because of some auto plant shutdowns and therefore not accurate data. Now, I hate to be a downer but, part of the reason why that unemployment number is so darn low has to do with the fact that plenty of unemployed Americans have thrown up their hands in defeat and given up their job search.

A-Game?

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Image courtesy of phanlop88/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fitness clothing brand Under Armour is looking to score on the basketball court and hoping to unseat Nike in the process.  Analysts are totally digging the idea too. They figure if Under Armour can gain some major traction in that arena, it’ll give them a real sense of how far the brand can go. It certainly helps that NBA superstar Stephen Curry wore Under Armour kicks en route to the championships and now graces the Under Armour campaign together with his sneaks – the Curry One. But the challenge is great, seeing as how Nike’s got about 90% of the basketball shoe market. As for the athletic apparel makers earnings, Under Armour’s revenue jumped 29% to $783.6 million. Interestingly enough, profits took a 16% to just under $15 million all because of its purchases of some fitness apps earlier in the year.