Smokin’ Earnings for CVS; Yelp Satisfies Craving by Scooping Up Eat24; Israelis Go Full Force On Corporate Cyber Attacks

Butt out…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

CVS had some smokin’ good earnings even though it kicked the tobacco habit. As one of the largest pharmacies in all the land, CVS beat those fourth quarter estimates, and perhaps even shocked the tobacco industry, by earning a record $1.32 billion in profit and $1.21 a share. A year ago CVS pulled in $1.27 billion, tobacco and all. It was a big gamble, getting rid of cigarettes and its nicotine friends, since tobacco helped CVS pull in $2 billion annually. What may have contributed, however, to this quarter’s pleasing numbers was a super-combo of two very unique factors:  First, there are more insured Americans – who were previously uninsured – making up for lost times by getting all their prescriptions filled, and then some. Then there was that flu vaccine that proved less than useful against this season’s particularly nasty strain of the virus. Because the vaccine wasn’t as effective this time around, consumers were flocking to CVS to buy flu remedies causing a 13% increase in sales to $37.1 billion. Analysts only expected CVS to pull in $36 billion. So I guess, in some weird alternate universe, CVS can thank the flu. Sort of.

Can I get that to go?

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yelp is hoping to increase its presence in the food delivery arena by chowing down Eat24 to the very hearty price of $134 million. The two companies did some experimenting over a year ago and apparently it whet Yelp’s appetite to go full force on acquiring the online ordering engine. While Eat24 was only founded back in 2008, it already deals with 200,000 restaurants in 1,500 cities. Yelp will now compete with GrubHub –  who itself had a nifty little IPO debut back in April –  and is counting on its recent purchase to allow for a more streamlined approach to the online ordering experience. Sounds pretty tasty to me. Yelp currently has around 84,000 advertising accounts and, in case you were curious, it also has about a million restaurants listed with 135 million average monthly users dishing out their reviews, however unsavory they might be.

Bring it on…

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because Israel’s cyber-security is actually a matter of life and death for its citizens, it only make sense that it would lead the way in cyber-hacking defense. And since necessity is the mother of invention, it should come as no surprise that the latest defense mechanism to be used in the fight against corporate hacking – think Target, JPMorgan Chase, Home Depot, to name but a few –  is coming from Israel’s military. And hey, if you happen to make a few bucks on all the economic opportunities that come with protecting your peeps, then why not? Unit 8200, Israel’s elite intelligence division, has entered the cyber defense fray, launching its very own “cyber security” foundry called Team 8. With some help from investors like Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Cisco, it’s safe to say (no pun intended, or maybe a little) that Team 8’s got some major street cred. Founded by former Unit 8200 member Nadav Zafrir, Team 8 bills itself as a “start-up for start-ups” (catchy, huh?).  No doubt Target, Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase are currently exploring their cyber-security options and licking their chops in anticipation of what Team 8 can do for them. Or not. Whatever the cost to implement the technology, it will still pale in comparison to the epic damage cyber hacks can cause. But I’m guessing if Eric Schmidt is throwing money at Team 8, then it’s probably worth it to have a go at the technology.

Alibaba Love Story; CVS Gets the Last Hacking Laugh; Holiday Retail Shaming

Like you expected anything different?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba dished out its very first earnings report since going public and surprised NO ONE! Revenue was up an insanely impressive 54% to $2.74 billion even though analysts only expected a “modest” $2.61 billion figure. Net income for the company was up 16% to $485 million which, incidentally, was not as much as hoped. But hey, that’s literally the price you pay to become a record-setting $25 billion IPO. If you recall, Alibaba (BABA) began trading at $68 per share when it made its Wall Street debut back in September. But if you’d like to purchase some shares today, you’re going to have whip out over $104 per share. I bet your kicking yourself over that one, huh? Alibaba’s active buyers are up 52% to 307 million users while the number of its mobile monthly users doubled. Yes. Doubled. No major IPO success story (or quarter) would be complete without bringing a little Hollywood glamour into the mix. Which is precisely why Alibaba Chairman, Jack Ma, has been kicking it in La La Land recently.

And they said it couldn’t be done…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

CVS can take a non-emphysemic sigh of relief now that its earnings came out. The company’s idea to kick the tobacco habit from its shelves in close to 8,00 stores did not prove to be a fiscal disaster after all. On the contrary, the company posted better than expected earnings – across the board! Ha! Who says tobacco always wins? Actually I don’t know if anybody has ever said that…but moving on. True the company did take a bit of a hit over its initiative to pull smoking products from its shelves but revenue still went up. In fact, it was up by 10% and $35 billion – $250 million more than analysts’ predictions. But it gets even better. Retail sales were up over 3% to about $16.7 billion. It turns out that CVS got a little boost from Americans covered under ACA and Medicaid. But the big boost came from (drumroll please…) prescription drugs. Oh the irony…out with tobacco and in with prescription drugs.

Attention K-Mart shoppers…

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now you can get your Black Friday game on the day before. Which is, of course, Thanksgiving. In fact, if you are so jonesing for a shopping fix wile most people have yet to wake up and defrost their poultry, take comfort in knowing that you can mosey on over to you local K-Mart, which will be conveniently opening its doors at 6:00 am, and staying open until (Black)Friday November 28 at midnight. Warms the heart, no? While a slew of retailers have decided to begin the Black Friday chaos/fun/sales before most Americans even digest their Turkey, there’s a whole group of companies that have shunned the practice of opening on the national holiday and have taken to retail-shaming their fellow retailers. Why there’s even a page dedicated to the cause appropriately called Boycott Black Thursday. K-Mart insists that employees who work Thanksgiving day are doing so voluntarily for “holiday pay.” Even though K-Mart and other stores are opening earlier to beef up sales, oddly enough, last year K-Mart sales actually fell during the holiday season after instituting this new “working-holiday” tradition.