Google’s Tax Troubles Continue in Madrid; Will Oreo Scoop Up Hershey?; Pier 1 Not Feeling the Outdoor Love

Mucho dinero…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It was just another day in the life of Google as authorities raided its offices, this time in Madrid, Spain. At issue, yet again, is the search engine giant’s corporate tax practices in Europe and the looming question as to whether or not Google, and other big corporations like it, are steering their profits legitimately, in order to score a reduced tax rate. Spanish authorities are investigating the search engine giant to see if it has been in engaging in the  dark art we know as tax evasion. Back in May, France investigated Google for “aggravated financial fraud” and “organized money laundering” which both sound awfully sinister. France is hoping to get $1 billion from its investigation. Even Italy’s authorities are in on the action and looking to see if Google underpaid its taxes there as well.  Google already forked over $175 million in back taxes to British authorities, whose politicians are still whining because they feel that the amount was too low. Expect more post-Brexit griping. Naturally, Google and its peers are calling out their innocence and are adamant that they comply fully with tax rules. But, at any rate, the investigations still seem far from over.

Yummm…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The mood is sweet on Wall Street with talk of a Hershey takeover from Oreo maker Mondelez International. Given that there’s a trend to cut back on the amount of sugar people have been consuming, the timing seemed opportune for a buyout of a company that makes the world’s most beloved -in my opinion, anyway – chocolate bar. Mondelez, which also makes Cadbury chocolates, is currently the second largest confection manufacturer in the world. If the buyout goes its way, it will become the number one sweets maker, as 90% of Hershey’s revenue comes from North America. Shares of Hershey shot up 22% on the tasty news, hitting a record high of $117.79. Shares of Mondelez also went up, just not as much. Hershey’s market value is about $21 billion, give or take. But in order for the buyout to go forward, the Hershey Trust would have to give its blessing. After all, it controls 81% of Hershey stock and voting rights. However if you’re looking for some hostile action, might I suggest you look elsewhere. Mondelez already pledged to not shed any jobs and to keep the illustrious Hershey name intact.

Missed it…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s looking like a long walk off a short Pier 1 as revenue for the home store chain came in at a disappointing $418.4 million. That number might seem impressive, except that it wasn’t to analysts, who were expecting revenue closer to $420 million. The company lost $6 million in profits and 7 cents a share when predictions were for a 5 cent per share loss. If those figures weren’t depressing enough, then consider that last year at this time, Pier 1 took in revenue of $436.9 million with a $7 million profit and an 8 cents per share gain. Shares of the company are now 50% less than what they were a year ago. The big area to disappoint was outdoor furniture. Darn you, outdoor furniture. That category was supposed to bring in some boffo results, but instead proved to be a real downer. The table top category did nicely. Just not nice enough. Taking a page from Chipotle, the company will now attempt to march out a rewards program and even add a gift registry. Which is weird, because I assumed the company already had a gift registry. I even went to check just now and wouldn’t you know it? It doesn’t. In any case, the company is forging ahead with plans to close 20 stores, while it already shuttered 8 this past quarter. Pier 1 did, however, open another three stores, presumably in more economically hospitable areas.

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Wild Things at the ECB Conference; Google Gets Antitrust Slapped by EU; Smith & Wesson’s Shares Shoot Up

Think you’re having a bad day?

Image courtesy of noppasinw/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of noppasinw/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank just might be having an even worse day than you, this April 15. And he didn’t even have to file his taxes. As Mr. Draghi was speaking at a conference in Frankfurt, Germany today when a female protester literally jumped onto the table from which he spoke and threw a stack of papers and confetti at him screaming, “End ECB dictatorship!” Now folks have been known to take intense issue with what they consider to be measures that are just a bit to harsh for fiscally challenged European countries, especially Greece and Spain, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d say Ashton Kutcher was somewhere in the room telling Mario Draghi he’d just been punk’d. But…Ashton wasn’t there. Alas, if only the rest of the conference had been as exciting. Instead the ECB President went on to discuss the less riveting topics surrounding the state of the European economy, how it’s allegedly improving and that the $1.2 trillion quantitative easing program is apparently working. In case you were wondering just what on earth is quantitative easing, or QE, as the cool kids call it, it’s a super special type of monetary policy used when the regular one doesn’t seem to be working properly (the details of which I will not delve so as to maintain my audience). As for the protester, Josephine Witt, who managed to pass through multiple security checks posing as a journalist, she gleefully tweeted: “I would say, the #ecb ‘s security service is just as good as putins.”

Speaking of Europe…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Google’s not having the best day in Europe either. The all-mighty search engine is getting called out by the European Union for abuses of power. The EU is handing Google a “Statement of Objections,” with an antitrust complaint that accuses the company of favoring and promoting its own services and products over competitors in user search results and comparison shopping. Google has a 90% share in Europe’s search engine market and 35% of Google’s ad revenue comes from Europe. The United States also began a similar investigation but dropped it after Google graciously agreed to make some changes. The changes, however, weren’t enough for companies like Microsoft, Yelp, Expedia etc., who are happy about this probe since they feel that Google’s search engine dominance is making for a very uneven playing field. The EU is also investigating whether Google forces mobile device companies to use them and whether or not those companies are even allowed to tweak Android software.

Shoot ’em up…

Image courtesy of Surachai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Surachai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Firearms: Love ’em or hate ’em matters not when there’s money involved. Shares of gun maker Smith & Wesson saw a 13% increase on shares today as the company announced that orders for firearms are picking up.  In fact, the stock hit a high today of $14.75 and is up over 50% since the beginning of 2015. Last year the company took in over $626 million in sales, a record for the company. Even though sales aren’t expected to come close to that figure this year, Smith & Wesson is still expected to rake in between $546 – $550 million dollars –  and no one seems to be taking issue with that. Well, at least not on Wall Street.

Where in the World is Über?; Harvard Professor Gives Whole New Meaning to Chinese Take-out; See Which Company Made “The List”

Mo’ money, mo problems…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Über just picked up another $1.2 billion in funding and is now valued at $40 billon. Awesome, right? Not even close. On the heels of its most recent “tracking-customers” scandal comes even more…problems. So on which part of the globe should we begin? How about Portland, Oregon? You might have downloaded the Über app there but don’t bother using it. Hours after it launched, the city put the kibosh on the ride-sharing device. In Über’s home state of California, San Francisco D.A. George Gascón and Los Angeles D.A. Jackie Lacey have filed suit against Über for, among other issues, not being totally honest about the quality of the background checks it conducts on its drivers. Which brings us to Chicago where an Über driver allegedly raped a female rider. And just because gambling and prostitution is legal in Nevada, that doesn’t mean Über is. Yes, oddly enough, it’s banned there too. On the other side of the pond, good luck finding an Über ride. Denmark and Norway have filed complaints, a Dutch court ruled it illegal, France has yet to decide, while Spain already but the brakes on Über’s operations. In Asia, Thailand also nixed the service and India’s having huge issues with it as well. But on his blog, Travis Kalanick did mention that Über operates in 250 cities on 50 countries. He must mean on a different planet.

Can I get the sauce on the side?

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re going to overcharge your clientele, you best make sure they aren’t professors from Harvard’s Business School. Just ask Sichuan Garden’s Ran Duan. Except, he’s not so talkative lately. When Professor Benjamin Edelman ordered four dishes from the Boston eatery, he was over-charged a dollar more than the advertised price on the restaurant’s website.  So Professor Edelman, who, by the way,  fiercely and diligently took on the airline industry for misrepresenting fees, did the same with Mr. Duan. First, the professor suggested that Sichuan Garden refund him three times the amount of the over-charge. Mr. Duan, instead, offered to refund $3.00. After several emails were exchanged, which seemed to only fuel Professor Edelman’s irritation, he decided it was time to take the issue to the regulators, just as he had done with the airlines.  The lesson is? Well, there are several, aren’t there.

You call this work?

Image courtesy of portal/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of portal/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is your company on Glassdoor’s 2015 50 Best Places to Work list? If not, maybe it’s time to polish your resume and start spending lots of time on LinkedIn, which by the way, takes the number 23 spot. It’s no surprise, I guess that Google made the list. After all, didn’t Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson make a movie just about being interns there? However, this was the first time Google took the top spot. Among the many storied perks behind the company is twelve weeks maternity leave…for the father. So where does that leave mom? With an additional six weeks’ quality time with baby. Thinking of trekking down to Antarctica? Bain and Company, which ranks second, has got an expedition with your name on it. Just make sure they have a position you can fill. Facebook ranks at lucky #13 with one employee writing about it: “Transparency. Trust. Compassion. Food.” ‘Nuff said. Got IT problems? Great. Grab a beer and talk it over at Zillow’s “IT Happy Hour.” The real estate site ranks 33. Who is not in the top 50? Glad you asked. Twitter is noticeably absent from top 50 this year presumably thanks to some management “changes.”