Schadenfraud Anyone? Forbes Unveils its Latest Top 400; Can’t Stop Netflix; Venmo’s the New Way to Go. At Least According to Paypal

That’s a whole lotta money…

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Forbes has unveiled its latest list. This time it’s the top 400 richest Americans for 2017 and there are very few surprises in store. Bill Gates and his $89 billion net worth takes the top spot, followed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and everyone’s favorite Omaha Oracle, Warren Buffett.  Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg sits pretty in fourth place. The first time we finally see a woman on the list is at spot number 13 and it’s occupied by Alice Walton of the illustrious Walmart clan. There are 22 newbies on the list and some of them are even self-made billionaires, including Netflix CEO Reed Hastings who comes in at number 359. He had a good year and his company had a great quarter. But we’ll get to that one in a bit. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick comes in at number 115, despite being out of his CEO job, while beloved Star Wars creator George Lucas gets spot 118. As for President Trump, he did make the list, coming in at a less than impressive (for him) ranking of 248.  He shares the spot with 15 other people including Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel. Their fortunes are valued at $3.1 billion, a figure the President will probably dispute. It’s a steep drop for the President, whose 2016 ranking had him at the 156th spot. But I guess that’s what happens when your portfolio loses $600 million. I wonder who he’s going to blame for that one?

Wall Street ❤️ Netflix…

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The best way to bring Wall Street to its finicky knees is to crush its expectations. And Netflix did just that. First, the video streaming company laughed in the face of analysts’ projections for subscriber growth. For Netflix that was a 5.3 million increase, far from the modest forecast of 4.5 million new subscribers. A large percentage of those new subscribers came from outside the U.S. Netflix now boasts 109 million subscribers and I’m guessing you must be one of them, right? As for the next quarter, the company expects to add 6.3 million subscribers. Revenue for the company was $2.99 billion, again beating projections of $2.97 billion.  However, at first glance, Netflix’s profit was not so impressive. But that’s only because the company is throwing down serious cash for producing its own shows. And if you’ve ever seen “Orange is the New Black” or “House of Cards” then you’d probably agree that it’s money well spent.  So what does this all mean for you, the Netflix connoisseur/viewer, who obsessively waits for new seasons of your beloved shows to be unleashed? Well, you can probably expect an increase in your subscription plans but hey, that’s the price you gotta pay if you want to keep watching new seasons of “Stranger Things,” right?

Going half-sies…

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If you haven’t signed up for Venmo yet, now might be a good time to start. The company just announced that users can now use the app to make mobile online purchases from over 2 million retailers including Forever 21 and Foot Locker.  But what’s so darn cute about Venmo is a feature that gives you the option to split a purchase with a friend. Or even an acquaintance, I suppose. Which is so great when you go out for lunch and can’t be bothered to do the math at the table or when you just want to pay the rent down the middle. And, you can even share status updates about the purchase. How nifty. Especially if you’re a millennial. Did I mention that Paypal is Venmo’s parent company? Well, it is. And pretty much anywhere you’re able to use PayPal, you can now use Venmo there as well. Just think of all the Lululemon merchandise you can purchase with all your besties.

 

 

 

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China’s Trading Halt Heard ‘Round the World; Planet Netflix; JC Penney’s for Dollars

Domino effect…

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Another day, another trading halt in China where shares once again plunged 7% – this time in just 29 minutes. The yuan dropped to its lowest level since March 2011 and it marked the second time this week that one of the world’s biggest economies took a hit like this. Naturally, this triggered global markets to reluctantly follow suit and even here in the U.S., the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq also saw drops. Not that I am trying to freak anybody out, but the last time the Dow had a bad start to the New Year was back in 2008. Investors, however, are most definitely not panicked about that little parallel and expect the situation to improve…over time.  Besides, market indexes aren’t anywhere near lowish territories so experts don’t expect China’s fiscal woes to be a major issue.. well here anyway.

Gone global…

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Apparently it’s Netflix’s world and we just live in it. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told a crowd at CES, “You are witnessing the birth of a global TV network,” as he announced that the streaming video service would now be expanding to 130 more countries. The service will be available in 21 different languages and be available in a total of 190 countries in this great big world. That way, a whole new massive international audience can get to experience the joy we call ,”Orange is the New Black.” Interestingly, Netflix will not be making customized services for particular countries. Rather, it will be just one single solitary internet-based television network – one that is expected to reel in millions upon millions of new subscribers.  That, my friends, is how you conquer the world, but more importantly, Wall Street, where yesterday, shares of Netflix went up 10% on the news (though today it closed down at 114.56). Unfortunately, folks in China still have to wait – maybe forever – for the service to reach its shores lest its citizens gain inspiration from entertainment that the Chinese government might deem objectionable, incendiary or just plain rude. Other countries that wont be catching up on past seasons of “House of Cards” any time soon include North Korea, Syria and Crimea.

Bah-humbug…

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Macy’s did not have a very merry Christmas as evidenced by its disappointing sales during the most important spending season of the year. Two factors seem to have contributed to these results: unseasonably warm weather kept shoppers from loading up on cold-weather gear; and a strong dollar that kept overseas tourists’ wallets at bay. And when a retailer posts less than impressive earnings during the most critical time of the year, it usually means a forecast trimming is in the works – which is exactly what Macy’s did. To add insult to fiscal injury, the retailer will be laying off close to 5,000 employees and closing 40 stores. Oddly enough, embattled retailer JC Penney saw a sales surge this holiday season of close to 4%. A big shout out for this fiscally pleasant surprise goes to amped up online efforts which helped lift shares by 2.4%. Now, if JC Penney can recoup that 8% decline that it took over that past year…well, wouldn’t that be grand.