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.

HSBC’s Bankers Were Not Being “Franc”; No Toying With Hasbro’s Earnings; Netflix Says ¡Hola! to Cuba

Oops! Did I do that?

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What do arms dealers and popstars have in common? They have bank accounts at HSBC. The British-based bank’s Swiss subsidiary now stands accused of the unthinkable: Helping some of its wealthy clients avoid paying taxes (cue audible gasp). So what’s HSBC’s excuse, because let’s face it, there’s always an excuse. HSBC blames it on the fact that even though the Swiss division was picked up by HSBC back in 1999, it hadn’t been fully integrated into the rest of the company and thus didn’t abide by the highest standards it could have. And by highest of standards I mean “significantly lower” standards. HSBC clients were able to walk out of the bank with “bricks” (their word) of cash – just like what you see criminals carrying in briefcases in the movies. Swiss bankers didn’t much care because those “bricks” were in foreign currency and not in francs . Also, bankers structured accounts in fiscally creative ways in order to help all these super-wealthy clients save tons of money by not paying all those irritating European taxes. See where I’m going with this? Talk about customer service.  And who must HSBC thank for all this embarrassing publicity? Enter Herve Falciani, a self-proclaimed whistle-blower and former HSBC IT employee, who graciously gathered all the juicy data and supplied it to officials, and of course, the media too – but that’s after he tried to first sell the information (a whole other blog entry). About 100,00 clients are on these lists with over $100 billion in assets swirling around. Names like Phil Collins, David Bowie, and Tina Turner turned up. John Malkovich’s name also made an appearance but he said he had no knowledge of the account and it may have been something done by Bernie Madoff who once handled some his assets.

Toy Score…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hasbro, the second largest toymaker, just posted its fourth quarter earnings much to the delight of well…everyone. The company topped analysts’ expectations with more than a little help from the forces of Nerf and Transformer toys. No joke. Sales of those products and other selections geared toward the junior male consumer increased 21% and there’s nothing Frozen about it. Strangely enough, sales of its girl-focused toys, including My Little Pony and Nerf Rebelle, didn’t fare as well. And by “well” I mean sales slid down 10%. But the company did score a profit that was up 31% to close to $170 million adding about $1.22 to each share. Sales were also up 1.3% to $1.3 billion (nifty how those numbers matched up). However, analysts expected revenue to be $1.33 billion and Hasbro was very quick to blame that strong dollar of ours against other foreign currencies. Stupid dollar! Just kidding.  And bonus: The Hasbro board is even upping its dividend to $0.46 per share, which shareholders get to cash in on May 15 – provided they have those shares on record by May 1.

Bienvenido….

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nothing says diplomacy quite like Kevin Spacey.  Online video subscription service Netflix is seizing upon the easing of restrictions on Cuba to bring its premium entertainment to the shores of the Island Nation. Muy bien! Netflix has been in Latin America since 2011 and it already has 5 million subscribers there. While it’s still not clear just how involved the government will be in this new endeavor, with a little help from some broadband internet, international payment methods and a rate of $7.99 a month, “Orange Is the New Black” is set to make its way over to Cuba in no time – provided  subscribers are of the select 5% who have unfiltered access to the internet.

 

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.

Swiss Market Offers Up Fascism With Coffee; GM Earnings Put the Brakes on Recall Issues; Airline Industry Earnings Show No Signs of Ebola

How do the Swiss say “Oops”?

Image courtesy of amenic181/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of amenic181/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Migros, a major Swiss supermarket, is having a bad, embarrassing week. All because of some coffee cream containers. Except they weren’t just any coffee cream containers, unless of course you’re used to seeing Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini gracing food packaging. “Usually the labels have pleasant images like trains, landscapes and dogs,” a spokesperson said. Yeah. Just not today. I guess someone’s getting fired. Migros called it an “unforgivable blunder” when customers began to complain about the portraits of murderous fascists glaring back at them faces as they poured cream into their coffee. Migros, however, is blaming a subsidiary that designed the series of 55 motifs that ended up in scores of restaurants, cafes and kiosks.

Recall debacle? What recall debacle?

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Despite its disastrous mess of a year, thanks to its ignition switch recall, auto company GM still managed to crank out some insanely impressive earnings. Apparently the U.S. and China are either very forgiving or willing to look past the all company’s scandals and recalls because strong sales in those regions helped GM rake in $1.38 billion or $0.81 per share. Those numbers are nearly double the $698 million $0.45 per share earnings the company hauled in last year at this time. Over 880,000 GM vehicle were sold in North America alone. Russia and Europe weren’t feeling the love for the US car company but no worries because worldwide the company sold close to 2.5 million vehicles. But it’s those trucks I tell you, that consumers are totally digging as GM carries a 24% market share of those babies.

You are free to roam about the cabin…

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Their passengers may not always be healthy but their profits sure are. Indeed the airline industry as a whole has been seeing solid earnings across the board and it’s not their lucky stars they can thank but rather the price of fuel, which as I mentioned yesterday has been going down. JetBlue, Souhwest and United Airlines all rocked their earnings announcements. Even American Airlines added another record quarter of  $942 million, way over the $289 million it pulled in last year at this time. The airline also reported a staggering $11.1 billion in revenue. Considering my awful experiences on American Airlines, those numbers are nothing short of miraculous. As for Ebola scaring off travelers? Well, it’s not. ‘Nuff said.