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.

 

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Botoxed-Off, Toyed-Off and Great Whites Great For Tourism

In this week’s pharmaceutical saga…

Image courtesy of patpitchaya/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patpitchaya/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Allergan, the company behind the super-important and super glam, Botox, is making news while erasing wrinkles. How ’bout that. The company announced its plan to cut 1500 jobs – roughly 13% of its work force  – hoping it will make things more efficient and productive. In the meantime Valeant, together with Pershing Square Capital, has been trying to buy(out) Allergan for $53 billion and has been tattle-telling on Allergan to regulators -and anybody else who’ll listen, about alleged rumors and other comments it made. More like the stuff of playgrounds than boardrooms but at least it keeps things interesting. The Irvine, California-based company is trying to fend off Valeant’s offers for a (hostile) takeover which Allergan says “substantially undervalues” the company. Unfortunately for Allergan, its biggest shareholder Capital Research Management just sold off its own 6.3% stake in the company, which seems to suggest that it doesn’t feel Allergan’s value is going much higher than what Valeant is offering.

Not feeling very playful…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hasbro, maker of some of America’s most beloved board games, like Monopoly and Twister, is finding that America is not so much loving them anymore. The company that also makes Play-Doh and Nerf toys took a hit in its earnings even though sales in its boys division pulled off a 32% surge to the tune of $335 million in sales. Despite their super-hero status, there was only so much Marvel Superheroes and Transformers could do as no force seems to be greater than Wall Street which hoped for $842 million and a profit of $.37 per share. Sadly, Hasbro was only able to reign in $829 million and a penny less in earnings per share. My Little Pony and her and perfectly coiffed equine friends also helped with a $163.8 million in sales but those board games took a 12% beating. However, this time last year, the toy company pulled in over $766 million, so at least it wasn’t a total bust.

Great Escapes…

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Instead of filling would be beach goers with fear, Great White Sharks have been causing a tourist spending frenzy. The carnivorous ocean denizens are creating quite a stir in the retail arena with sales of shark paraphanerlia surging. Sure, the sighting of a fin might evoke fear and panic, but don’t rule out the need for shark hoodies, shark-themed candies and the ever cuddly great-white shark plush toy. Since 1916, there have been over a hundred unprovoked attacks – thirteen of them deadly. From Cape Cod down to the Florida coast and beyond, you can count on one thing – Sharks are good for the economy.