Sears Dives Into “Dump Trump” Fray; Allergan Goes From Face to Body-Contouring; Teva Beats Despite Turmoil

To dump Trump or not to dump Trump?

id-100292300

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sears is the latest company caught up in the great retail debate over its decision to discontinue carrying Trump branded merchandise. It would seem that the merchandise of both President Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, have been dropped from Sears and Kmart stores – which Sears owns. However, while Sears and Kmart have put the kibosh on 31 Trump Home items, there’s still plenty more Trump merchandise available online for sale via third-party vendors. Believe it or not, Sears goes by the numbers, at least the ones attached with a dollar sign, and has been putting great efforts into kicking up its online presence. So if items are profitable, they get to stay. If they are not? Well, you get it. This is in the wake of Nordstrom’s decision last week to ditch Ivanka’s line completely. Rumor has it that sales of her merchandise tanked more than 70% for most of October, compared with the same time period last year, when the would-be president still hadn’t yet managed to offend an almost an entire gender of the electorate. Since the Trump brand has been unpopular these days, plenty of customers have little desire to purchase many of its products.  But make no mistake, if the items in question had been selling, either at Sears or Nordstrom, don’t think for a second that the stores wouldn’t have kept the merchandise on its shelves, no matter what the President said – or tweeted.

Yoga, it ain’t…

id-100315070

Image courtesy of Vitolef/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Allergan, the maker of everyone’s favorite wrinkle-fighter, Botox, is going to scoop up Zeltiq Aesthetics Inc. for about $2.5 billion, or about $56.40 per share. That’s more than a 14% premium from Friday’s closing price. Naturally shares of Zeltiq went up, because, hey, who would’t want to join the Botox family, right? But here’s the fun part, in case you have never heard of Zeltiq. The company makes a body-contouring product, called the CoolSculpting system, that will fit in nicely at Allergan. Your face and your butt get contoured and primed all from one company. If there’s a regulatory issue with that, then I don’t care. Zeltiq has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and yes indeed, that kind of makes it more legit. CoolSculpting apparently reduces the appearance of fat by freezing it, however, I’m not sure that it actually gets rid of the junk in the trunk. Instead, it just shapes it into your body, like play-doh. Or something like that. Laugh all you want but there’s nothing funny about the 37% worth of revenue brought in by CoolSculpting systems products, which helped Zeltiq take in a net revenue of $374 million for 2016. Allergan CEO Brent Sanders must be onto something, since the body-contouring market is a whopping $4 billion industry and, according to him, is the fastest growing field in medical aesthetics.

Not the usual generic stuff…

id-100363768

Image courtesy of jk1991/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not all pharmaceutical companies are having as much fun as Allergan. Last week, shares of Teva pharmaceuticals seemed to be in an ugly state of free fall, and matters didn’t help when its CEO Erez Vigodman suddenly left the company. The official word is that Erez Vigodman’s decision to leave Teva was part of a mutual agreement. At least that’s the story they’re sticking to. But even before that, the company was having fiscal issues in the way of delayed drug launches and major acquisitions that wreaked all sorts of ugly fiscal havoc on the company’s stock price. Then, lo and behold, the company reported an earnings beat this morning and all seems right in the world once again for the company.  Teva took in revenues of $6.5 billion, adding $1.38 per share when estimates were for $6.24 billion and $1.35 per share.  Also from the good news front, the company didn’t even see the need to adjust its forecast for the year, and still expects to score between $23.8 billion to $24.5 billion in revenues and adding between $4.90 to $5.30 to shares.  Interim CEO and President Yitzchak Peterburg took the call and said it was “a critical time for Teva, and we are here to fix what is not working.” Which basically means they are desperately trying to figure out how they can get the company to start pulling down some major cash, ditch  a lot of debt and improve its prospects.  Rumors are swirling that the company will split into two: one to focus on its generic offerings and the other for its branded products. According to some experts, a move like this could solve a ton of problems. Just maybe not all of them. Another possibility is to sell off its branded generic drugs biz in an effort to unload some its major debt. Time will tell.  Because I certainly can’t.

Advertisements

Yahoo’s Got Major Un-security Issues; Big Pharma Slapped With Big Lawsuit; Super Bowl “Ads” Up to Big Bucks

Some heads are gonna roll…

id-100388412

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotso.net

Today’s massive data breach is brought to us by Yahoo. Again. It’s estimated that a billion users had their personal data breached back in 2013, which is nearly twice as big as the last data breach Yahoo reported just a few months ago that happened in 2014. Now Yahoo has the dubious distinction of being the target of arguably the largest data breach. Ever. Incidentally, it wasn’t even Yahoo that discovered the breach but rather law enforcement officials. Law enforcement handed over files to the internet company that they received from a third party who said the info was stolen. Way to stay on top of things, Yahoo! Virginia Senator Mark Warner is now on a mission to investigate why Yahoo can’t seem to get its cyber-defense act together, while Yahoo is on its own mission to investigate who was responsible for the breach.  The Senator went to the SEC  back in September to ask them to investigate if Yahoo did what it was required to do by informing the public about the breach that occurred in 2014.  Warner would have preferred that Yahoo informed the public about the breach when it first happened – and NOT three years later. Sounds fair. In the meantime, there’s talk about whether Verizon still plans to acquire Yahoo’s core internet business for $4.83 billion. With Yahoo’s stock experiencing its biggest intraday drop in almost a year, that deal might go buh-bye as Verizon reviews “the impact of this new development.”  Or Verizon will just offer Yahoo a lower price to acquire it. Because, apparently it still makes strategic sense to purchase Yahoo even with two massive data breaches under its belt.

Suited up…

id-100241266

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Twenty states are going after big pharma via a massive lawsuit that probably wont be going away anytime soon. Mylan NV,Teva Pharmaceuticals and four other companies that manufacture generic medicines are now staring at the wrong end of a very big lawsuit. This lawsuit, by the way, is completely separate from the investigations being led by the Justice Department and other agencies. The companies are being sued for conspiring to fix drug pricing on two generic drugs: an antibiotic called doxycycline and a drug used to treat diabetes called glyburide. The suit charges that brass at the pharmaceutical companies jacked up the drug prices by setting them and also allocated markets, which they all knew was illegal. They made sure any incriminating correspondence was deleted or simply avoided written communication. When asked for a comment, one of the companies named in the suit, Heritage Pharmaceuticals Inc., conveniently blamed former executives who had since been fired.  Jeffrey Glazer, former CEO of Heritage Pharmaceuticals is actually expected to plead guilty next month. Mylan predictably denied the charges while Teva said it’s still reviewing the complaint. The others remained mum.

Ad-citing news…

id-100176528

Image courtesy of topstep07/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Super Bowl is still a couple of months away but the advertisers are gearing up for their multi-million dollar thirty second spots come February 5. Rumor has it Fox is charging between $5 million – $5.5 million. GoDaddy, which skipped last year’s Super Bowl ad festivities, is coming back this year, along with Snickers, Skittles and – get this – Avocados from Mexico. Can’t wait to see how Donald Trump tweets about that one.  GoDaddy skipped last year’s festivities, apparently to focus on breaking into more international markets. That mission has presumably been accomplished as the domain services company is now available in 56 markets. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Super Bowl without beer ads and Anheuser Busch has got a whole bunch of spots lined up touting its refreshing assortment. In the meantime, regular advertisers, PepsiCo and FritoLay are sitting out this year. It’ll be the first time in ten years that viewers will not see a Doritos ad during the big game. But don’t get too choked up about Pepsico’s absence. The company will still figure prominently since its Pepsi Zero Sugar is the official sponsor of the half-time show starring Lady Gaga.

EpiPen Getting Dose of Competition; Gaping Gender Gap; Wells Fargo So Very Sorry Indeed

Shot to the heart…

id-10065040

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

EpiPen, which currently controls 95% of the auto-injector epinephrine market, now has to scoot its greedy butt over to make way for a much-needed competitor. Privately-held Kaleo Pharma is bringing back Auvi-Q, the auto-injector device that was taken off the market back in 2015 because of dosage delivery problems. Apparently the problems have been fixed and you can expect to see Auvi-Q back on the shelves in the first half of 2017. However, before you breathe a sigh of relief, experts have said that the price for Auvi-Q might not be all that competitive. In fact, between 2013 – 2015, Kaleo’s price hikes matched Mylan’s and the cost for the auto-injector might go for $500, just $100 less than EpiPen’s highly-criticized $600 2-pack. Make no mistake. Kaleo’s no more an angel in the pharmaceutical industry than Mylan is. The company is also known for making Evzio injectors which use naloxone to treat opioid-overdoses. Once upon a very short time ago – like a few years – the devices cost $690. But not anymore, as the devices go for $4,500 per two-pack. Kaleo has promised that its Auvi-Q device will be affordable and expects insurance companies to help see that promise through. In the meantime, as Mylan’s generic version of its EpiPen is expected to go for $300, the FDA nixed Teva Pharmaceuticals application for a generic version of the EpiPen citing “major deficiencies.” Yikes.

Rock on, Rwanda!

id-100304686

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you thought the gender pay gap couldn’t get any worse, along comes the World Economic Forum to tell us otherwise in its Global Gender Gap Report. The study examined 144 countries and took into account all kinds of factors like economic opportunities, political empowerment and education. The study disconcertingly found that if we wait 170 years, that pesky gender gap might actually close. But who wants to stick around until the year 2186? Sadly, last year’s projection had us holding our collective breath until 2133 but in all fairness, if we actually start to do things correctly, the gender gap could “could be reduced to parity within the next 10 years.” That’s got to be somewhat reassuring, right? One of the more unpleasant nuggets in the report illustrated that average female salaries were half those of men and disturbingly enough, education gains didn’t necessarily help women increase their salaries. Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Rwanda took the top five spots in that order. (Yes, Rwanda).  I’m thinking maybe it’s time to start poaching our political leaders from those countries. Just a thought. The United Kingdom ranked twentieth, even with a female Prime Minister. Go figure. And even though the U.S. ranked twenty-eighth last year, this year the Land of the Free fell to spot number 45, apparently due to a decline of women in the labor force. At least the U.S.’s ranking wasn’t as bad as Yemen, which ranked dead last. Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan also claimed the loser spots which I suppose makes sense considering those countries tend to treat women as property instead of human beings.

 

It still hurts…

id-100297302

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After just 13 days into his tenure, Wells Fargo already has its latest CEO, Tim Sloan, apologizing. Of course, that apology is over the account scandal that already cost the bank $185 million in fines from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But what’s different about this apology is that Sloan was actually addressing the bank’s 260,000 employees. Which is a step up from last month when former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf took to blaming 5,300 lower-level employees instead. However, karma is not done with the bank just yet as Wells Fargo could end up eating $8 billion in lost business in the next 12-18 months since approximately 14% of its current customers are looking to switch to more trust-worthy competitors.  As Sloan noted in his apology,“many felt we blamed our team members. That one still hurts, and I am committed to rectifying it.” And so the bank is hiring culture experts to fix the weaknesses that led to this ugly episode. Of course, cultural weaknesses aside, the bank can look forward to both criminal investigations and class-actions suits. Which is only fair considering that the wrongfully blamed lower-level employees – many whom made less than $15 per hour – were met with retaliation after they dared to call in to the bank’s internal ethics hotline.

Banks Behaving Badly; More Karma Headed Towards EpiPen Maker; Shamu Entertainer Ditches Dividend

D’oh!

id-100261148

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are few things life more stupid than pissing off Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Yet Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf managed to do just that with his prepared, yet sometimes absurd remarks that were carefully crafted for his much deserved beating by the Senate.  That beating came after the bank had to cough up a $185 million fine because employees opened up more than two million unauthorized checking accounts and credit cards. Senator Warren said, among many other colorful things, that Stumpf demonstrated “gutless leadership” and called for him to be personally criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the SEC. Yowza. Stumpf did attempt to explain that Price Waterhouse Coopers was brought in to review the accounts in 2015. The problem is that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)  wondered very loudly why Wells Fargo didn’t do that immediately after a scathing L.A. Times article came out exposing the scandal way back in 2013.  In the meantime, Carrie Tolstedt, who headed the retail banking business that oversaw the fraudulent accounts, retired in July with $125 million from a previous stock compensation. Of course, the bank’s top executives attempted to point the finger at lower level employees who made between $35,000 – $60,000 a year. Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees in the last few years for improper conduct tied to the fraudulent accounts. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) made sure to ask Mr. Stumpf how much he took home last year: $19.3 billion was the answer. John Stumpf is still very much gainfully employed and is apparently “deeply sorry.”

Give a shot…

id-100122602

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

West Virginia joins the list of states gunning for Mylan ever since the company hiked the price of their life-saving EpiPen drug to $600 for a 2-pack. Mylan argues that it recoups less than half of that $600 Epipen price tag yet the drug accounts for 40% of the company’s operating profits. The state’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey is going after the drug-maker, filing a petition to find out information that might just lead to some very unpleasant Medicaid fraud charges for Mylan. The subpoena could determine whether Mylan underpaid on rebates so that it could participate in the state’s Medicaid program. And while Mylan has yet to comment, its CEO Heather Bresch has a very unpleasant date planned for Wednesday with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. You might have heard that her father is Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) Awkward. Also problematic, in terms of West Virginia’s Antitrust Act, is how Mylan sued Teva Pharmaceuticals for patent infringement when the latter wanted to make a considerably cheaper, generic version. The two companies settled but in the meantime, blame it on the FDA for not yet approving the generic version. This latest investigation, by the way, is completely separate from New Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation.

Nothing to sea here folks….

id-100331053

Image courtesy of bandrat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

More rough waters for SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) as the theme park company hit a new low today of $11.77. While it did rebound a bit, the company still plans to issue its last dividend – 10 cents a share – on October 7, which is down from the 21 cents it had previously issued. But after that, the dividend will be put on hold…indefinitely. Instead, SeaWorld will use that money to buy back shares as the company stares at a future without killer whales in captivity.  Starting next year, SeaWorld in San Diego will bid a salty farewell to its Orca shows, with San Antonio and Orlando following suit in 2019. The brutal publicity from the 2013 Orca documentary, Blackfish, has put a significant damper on earnings and attendance at the theme parks, with visitors down 8% to about 6 million for the year. Interestingly, SeaWorld thinks the drop in attendance has more to do with other factors like Tropical Storm Colin and a shift in holidays. Whatever the real reason is, the fact remains that revenue was down 5% to $371 million from last year’s $392 million for the same period.  Add to that a drop in profit of $5.8 million from $17.8 for the same quarter last year and you’ve got yourself a hot fiscal mess.