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.

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Snapchat-ting all the Way to the Bank; HSBC Is In Big Trouble, Yet Again; Virgin America’s Soarin Good Earnings

And just like that it disappears…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hindsight is 20/20 but in Snapachat’s case it’s more like 19 – as in billions of dollars. The social media and messaging app, which very presciently declined Facebook’s offer to buy them for a paltry $3 billion back in 2013, is rumored to be adding an additional $500 million to its coffers. This will now peg the company at between $16-$19 billion and could make it the second most valuable privately held company behind Über technologies and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi. Started in 2011 and helmed by CEO Evan Spiegel, the app allows users to post pictures and messages that disappear within a few seconds after being opened. Snapchat boasts 100 million users and it should come as no surprise that 57% of its users are under the age of 25. Of course, its disappearing act is not the app’s only trick as it now has deals with, among others, Yahoo, CNN, ESPN…the list goes on, tailoring content just for you. Even movie studios are getting in on the Snapchat action and before long you’ll see Snapchat’s very own superhero series. If that doesn’t scream street cred, then I don’t know what does.

Don’t bank on it…

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of scottchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s nothing like a little money laundering investigation to put a downer on your week. Well in HSBC’s case it’s “aggravated money laundering” which sounds so much more sinister than just plain old “money laundering.” This latest criminal investigation comes a week after the revelation that it helped some of its super wealthy clients and their 1,100 bank accounts, evade taxes. HSBC is on a roll, I tell you. Investigators suspected that if HSBC was helping its clients avoid paying taxes, then what else might it be helping their clients do? Hence, we have the money-laundering investigation.  A Swiss public prosecutor launched a criminal probe into the matter and has since raided the picturesque offices of HSBC. Good thing that former HSBC IT employee, Herve Falciani, very thoughtfully collected all those files pointing investigators into launching an investigation. Too bad he tried to sell the information first, though. That kind of looked bad for him. But probably not as bas as how it’s looking for HSBC right now. Of course, HSBC is said to be cooperating. Whatever that means. Do banks ever not cooperate?  HSBC did, however, sort of acknowledge it messed up on the tax evasion end blaming the fact that stringent standards weren’t in place as they should have been. You don’t say.

Flyin’ high…

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’ve ever flown Virgin America, then it might come as no surprise (or maybe it will) that the airline just whipped Wall Street expectations with a little help from cheaper oil prices and fully booked planes. The airline only made its Wall Street IPO debut back in November but so far it has not disappointed as the airline took in $1.16 per share – a far cry from the 80 cents Wall Street expected it would earn. Revenue for the fourth quarter was $372.2 – a 3.4% increase over last year at this time, impressively taking down analyst estimates of $370.8 million. Started by billionaire Sir Richard Branson, the airline just announced big plans to give Southwest Airlines a very unwelcome run for its money by offering non-stop flights to Austin. Let’s just hope this little battle pays off for the passengers too.

The EU Is Mad At Apple, The EU’s Cabdrivers Are Mad At Uber and Nobody’s Mad At Expedia

An Apple a day isn’t keeping the EU away…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apple (AAPL), Starbucks and other major American corporations are being investigated by the European Commission for tax evasion. It’s only fair, after all, since the US started this whole tax evasion investigation business going after Swiss banks and their clients. It seems that some countries including Ireland, the Netherlands and even teeny tiny Luxembourg are very gracious to certain large corporations when it comes to how much they charge them in taxes. Apple apparently paid only about 2% on tens of billions of dollars in foreign income by putting that chunk of cash through a subsidiary in Ireland “with no declared tax residency.”  Yeesh. It sounds like the average US citizen pays a higher rate on his or her taxes than a company that just offered a seven to one split. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook swears that every dollar that was owed to Uncle Sam was duly handed over. Which brings us back to the United States and the whole big raging debate on how much corporations should be taxed and then what to do with that money. Enter the politicians and well…you can be sure nothing will get resolved.

Offensive driving?

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Speaking of Europe, our neighbors across the pond experienced some traffic issues today courtesy of cab drivers in London, Madrid, Paris, Berlin…While ride-sharing app Uber was busy getting a $1.2 billion investment infusion from multiple investors, cab drivers overseas were busy planning protests to show their lack of appreciation for this innovative technology. Cab drivers are a wee bit irritated over the service, arguing the app threatens their livelihood, is unregulated and unsafe. However, what makes it anymore unsafe than riding in a traditional cab is unclear. EU drivers also have to put up $270,000 to get a license. Uber drivers do not. Just to be certain their voices were heard, they took great pains to snarl traffic, block tourist centers and shopping districts and leave thousands of potential passengers stranded and frustrated.

A bit of excitement at Expedia…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You can now congratulate Expedia on being the largest (though not the only) travel website to officially accept bitcoin for hotel payments. It has teamed up with bitcoin payment processor Coinbase to help out with the virtual/crypto-currency which has had exchange rates from $395-$659. It joins a growing illustrious and industrious list of companies accepting bitcoin for a variety of goods and services, including trips to space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. You can start spending all those bitcoins at Expedia on Wednesday…assuming you have any.

Spacing Out Thanks to the FAA, Will France Say Adieu to $10 Billion? True or False: $59 Fares

Cleared for liftoff…

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sir Richard Branson and his impending fantastic space voyage are good to go as far as the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is concerned. Virgin Galactic, co-owned by Branson and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments mapped out an agreement with the FAA over how the intergalactic adventure will work with US airspace. It hopes to launch its first flight on SpaceShipTwo by the end of 2014. Hundreds of people have already signed up for a flight that only sets them back about $250,000 – and is, of course, payable via super-cool and super un-regulated bitcoins.

Au revoir, BNP?

Image courtesy of 1shots/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of 1shots/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

France’s biggest bank, BNP Paribas, is already in some tres hot water over violating US sanctions against unpleasant countries like Iran and Sudan. The Justice Department has been conducting its investigation for quite a while and feels the time has come for BNP Paribas to finally pay for its wrongdoings to the hefty sum of $10 billion. What’s so special about this figure, besides its enormity is that it would be the biggest fine ever imposed on a misbehaving bank –by fives times as much. BNP, however, feels it should only have to pay around $8 billion. But Attorney General Eric Holder has even bigger plans as he is eager to remind the banking industry that none of them are “too big to jail.” He wants to bar BNP from even trading assets ( or as it’s called on The Street, dollar clearing) besides throwing the responsible individuals into the less than illustrious ranks of the unemployed.

Southwest. Oops. They did it again. And Again…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Southwest was in a whole heap of trouble yesterday and had to pay some embarrassing and avoidable fines (hey, just like BNP will likely do, almost). The trouble began when Southwest posted $59 fares on its website flying from Atlanta to LA, Chicago and New York. Of course those fares were too good to be true. Would be travelers were told that those fares were not available and were a mistake and never meant to be part of the sale even though they were heavily advertised. Hmmm. The US Department of Transportation didn’t care for this show of false advertising and let them know it. Lucky, for the airline it only had to pony up $300,000 which is probably what it earns in the time it takes you to read this paragraph. Despite its questionable sales tactics, shares of the airline have gone up over 40% this year. Another hmmm.