Uber Revs Up for a Big U.N. Campaign; Credit Suisse Says Auf Wiedersehen to CEO; Barnes and Noble Books Not Terrible Earnings

Put the pedal to the metal…

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Über is stepping on the p.r. gas and teaming up with U.N. Women for a big campaign. There is probably a joke in there somewhere about irony but I’ll let you come up with it. In honor of the twenty year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration – a provision promising global gender equality – Über wants to help foster and facilitate economic growth for women through the “Step It Up For Gender Equality” program. The idea is to employ 1 million women as Über drivers by 2020. But here’s the tricky part: Both Über and U.N. Women need to be present in a region. U.N. Women is only present in 48 countries while Über is allowed to operate in 55 countries, and the two don’t always coincide. Sadly, Über is more globally successful than gender equality. But that’s for another blog. Of course, it’s also hard to ignore all the scandals and issues Über has been having with not just female passengers who have been victims of violent drivers, but female drivers who have been harassed by passengers, as well. Currently, 14% of Über’s 160,000 drivers are women. This latest initiative, though no doubt noble and sincere, tends to also suggest that Über’s got some major fiscal growth plans up its tailpipe – continuing to intrigue investors who can’t seem to stop throwing billions of dollars Über’s way.

Nein…

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan has announced he will be leaving the Swiss bank in June and giving the position over to Prudential’s Tidjane Thiam. Dougan, who had been at the post since 2007, said the decision to leave was mutual. Of course it was. For a while investors had wanted Dougan to cut back on the investment arm, but the CEO resisted. His resistance did not pay off. Combine that with the $2.5 billion Credit Suisse had to pay U.S.authorities for helping its clients evade taxes and, well, here we are today, discussing Dougan’s resignation. As the first American selected to be CEO of Credit Suisse, the Swiss media just wasn’t that into him from the start. His loyalty was questioned and he took heat for his pay packages. Also, Dougan doesn’t speak German, which apparently didn’t sit well the Swiss media either (and presumably, many many others). News of the impending change sent the stock climbing.

 Book it….

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Barnes & Noble’s quarterly results are in and the word is that revenue is down 1.7%  to $1.96 billion. This ought to surprise no one. And if it does surprise you then I have one word for you: Nook. The e-reader has been nothing but a giant money pit for the bookseller even with Samsung trying to come to its rescue by putting out the first new tablet for Nook in two years. What ought to surprise everyone is that B&N didn’t do nearly as bad as many thought it would all because of books. And toys. But definitely books. Actual books printed on (hopefully) recycled paper. I kid you not. It helped B&N rake in 93 cents per share in profits and helped store sales increase by 1.7%. Sure it wasn’t the forecasted $1.23 per share, but hey, Barnes & Noble will take it. Also, college books proved to be a big help in the fight against horribly missed earnings, with revenue coming in 7.2% higher. Barnes & Noble has plans to spin spin off its college books division in the summer. And now, instead of closing 20 stores this year, Barnes & Noble only plans to close 13 stores.

Advertisements

Keurig Issues a Very Un-Merry Recall; Walgreens’ Happy Fiscal New Year; Barnes & Noble Regifts Itself, Sort of, With Nook Buyback

Ahhhh Keurig!!!

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like the automotive industry doesn’t have the monopoly on recalls this year, after all. Enter Keurig, beloved brewer of coffee and other hot beverages for millions. Following over 90 reports of people literally getting burned by their machines, Keurig recalled 7.2 million Keurig Mini Plus machines because they can overheat (imagine that) and spray hot liquid on its discerning coffee drinkers. Oh the horror. Not sure if your precious Keurig is on the recall list? Well, there are an estimated 6.6 million brewers that were recalled in the United States, with the rest purchased in Canada. The machines were made between December 2009 and July 2014 and were likely purchased at Kmart, Kohl’s Target, or directly from the Green Mountain website. In any case, rest assured that Keurig will ship you a repair kit FOR FREE. Of course, can you guess what the company stock did today? Yes it took a bit of a pre-Christmas nosedive and that’s in addition to the 5% drop in sales the company saw in its fourth quarter.

Out with the WAG, in with the WBA…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nothing says jolly like beating analysts’ estimates and Walgreens did just that. The health retail giant pulled in some impressive numbers for its fiscal first quarter with earnings of $809 million and $.085 per share. Analysts forecasted a paltry $0.74 per share. Analysts also called for revenues of $19.43 billion. But Walgreens instead pulled in close to $19.6 billion in revenues. In fact, shares of the company have pleasantly creeped up 29% in the past year. And while we bid farewell to 2014, it’s also time to bid farewell to retiring Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson. Wasson, who will not soon be forgotten – whether some people like it or not – orchestrated plans to takeover Swiss health and beauty company Alliance Boots. Part of the original plan was to pull off an inversion-type deal which did not exactly pan out. But what did pan out was Walgreens’ long-awaited foothold onto the international pharmaceutical/health/beauty market by just taking over the Swiss company. So bienvenu Walgreens. Or whatever it is they say there. With this new deal we shall also bid farewell to Walgreens presence on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq under the ticker symbol WAG. Assuming the deal with Alliance Boots finalizes by December 31, Walgreens will now be traded only on Nasdaq, under the ticker symbol WBA, as part of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc holding company. Sniff, sniff. As for the company’s 8,200 plus stores, expect to see some changes as the company looks to cut costs and trick out appearances.

Nook’d out…

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s official. The Nook e-reader business is once again fully back in the arms of Barnes & Nobles. But don’t expect the reunion to last too long as Barnes & Nobles plans to spin it off on its own by August. The Nook, which turned out to be a big money loser and just couldn’t compete with Amazon and friends (and enemies), cost Microsoft $300 million back in 2012. Barnes & Noble graciously agreed at the beginning of the month to buy back the biz from the software giant for $125 million with Pearson Inc. still holding a stake in the company. But no more as Barnes & Noble paid $27.7 million in cash to the educational book publisher with $13.8 million in actual cash and 603,ooo shares of stock.  Wall Street liked the move as well and shares of the bookseller moved up a smidge.

Labor Pains and Gains; Microsoft is Nook’d Out; Merry Mortgage Rates

We can work it out…

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thanksgiving might be over, but there is yet more for which to be thankful: The number of people filing for unemployment benefits dropped once again to under 300,000. The week prior,  the Labor Department reported, much to our collective chagrin, that 314,000 people applied for jobless claims. So you see now, employers really are graciously hanging onto their workforce and the job market is not “cooling” as last week’s numbers rudely suggested. But time for the downer: 2.36 million people are getting jobless benefits. However, unemployment is expected to stay at its annoying 5.8% perch – which is not totally awful since its the lowest since July of 2008.  In fact, the 4 week average for claims being filed even plunked down 9% during the year. If that doesn’t make you merry, well then, that’s your problem. Then there’s that cheery little fact that 229,000 jobs were added, on average, per month over the last year. Still not jumping out of your seat? Well you should because last year that number was a ghastly 194,000. ADP even graciously reported that 208,000 jobs were added just this past November.

Thanks for the virtual memories…

Image courtesy of cuteimage/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cuteimage/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Barnes & Noble and Microsoft can officially change their Facebook status to “no longer in a relationship” ending a two and a half year partnership that saw mostly loss. Microsoft initially plunked $300 million into the relationship involving the once highly-touted Nook, and oh the hopes – such high hopes that with Microsoft’s tech prowess, the Nook would emerge as a formidable force in the tablet wars. But it was not to be as Microsoft did not do what others had hoped for and even went on to introduce its own tablet – The Surface. Combined with the sensation we call the “iPad” and, of course,  the Kindle Fire, the forlorn Nook was left in the digital dust.  This quarter saw revenues drop to $64 million, a staggering 41% decrease over last year, with sales down 60% for the year. Now it is up to Samsung, to help repair those shattered hopes and dreams for Barnes & Noble, as the bookseller writes out a $62 million check to buy back its stake from Microsoft.

Rated: Awesome

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re thinking now would be a good time to buy a new house, my virtual friend, you just might be right as 15 and 30 year mortgage rates have fallen yet again. In fact,  those rates are at their lowest in a year and a half. This week you could get yourself a sweet deal on a 30 year at a rate of 3.89%. Last week that rate was hovering at 3.97%.  Looking to score a 15 year? How does 3.1% sound? I’ll tell you how it sounds – better than last week’s 3.17%. These rates, by the way, are coming just in time as home values are creeping up on us. October saw a 6% rise in values. Good news for sellers, anyways. Not so much for buyers.

Barnes & Noble Doing the Splits, The Mood Darkens at Barclays and Wall Street Not So Cuckoo For General Mills

Splitsville…

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While everyone loves a great love story, Wall Street is loving an impending break-up instead. Barnes & Noble just announced its earnings today which were less than spectacular. But it also announced its plans for the Nook – namely, that its future does not include the e-reader. Sales of the Nook have been dragging down the bookseller for awhile because it has been unable to compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon. The plan is either to make two separate companies where the Nook business would be its own public company and Barnes & Noble would keep its books, e-books and college bookstore division or the Nook business would perhaps get picked up in a private sale.Whatever the outcome, Wall Street cheered the news of the split by causing shares of Barnes & Noble to jump a little.

Dark matters…

Image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Barclays is the latest bank to get slapped with a lawsuit courtesy of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The issue at hand: Dark pools. Indeed a term like that is filled with suspense and intrigue but more importantly, questionably ethical high frequency traders (or HFT’s as the cool kids call it). As necessity is the mother of invention, dark pools were crafted for institutional investors to trade huge amounts of shares under the mysterious cloak of anonymity. HFT’s were allegedly given special access to Barclays dark pools and now the bank stands accused of helping to hide the dubious ways of these HFT’s. What is the harm of all this to you? Glad you asked, telepathically, of course. HFT’s benefit by putting other investors (perhaps yourself) at a disadvantage. Some argue that HFT’s provide a public service by inadvertently (or advertently?) reducing trading costs. The SEC and Department of Justice argue otherwise.

Crumb-y sales…

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

General Mills announced its earnings. Not that it made much difference as the company’s earnings came to resemble little more than a virtually flat line. So now the company, best known in my home for such classics as Coco Puffs and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, will embark on a “formal review” which is just corporate code for finding ways to cut costs and make a ton more money. But it wasn’t a complete flat line. After all the company did go down 7% in international sales. Here in the States sales fell 3% in categories including (but not limited to) frozen foods and yogurt. Cereal remained the same at $2.4 billion in sales. The CEO blamed some of the disappointing earnings on lots of promotional spending that fell flat – no pun intended. Well, maybe just a little.