Oil Vey 2: The Wrath of Iran; Virtual Company with Real Billions; Dr. Pepper’s Outlook Fizzing Out

Double double oil and trouble…

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Image courtesy of jk1991/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oil surged 6% today. Yay. It finally finally went above $30 a barrel today. Another yay.  But maybe you’re thinking that positively sucks as you notice that you have a quarter of a tank of gas left in your car. However, in the grand scheme of things, a very grand scheme which does not fit in this blog today, a gradual price increase in gas is a healthy economic indicator. Plenty of folks on Wall Street are attributing this healthy surge to some conversations that were held recently between OPEC and non-OPEC members. Namely, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Oh yeah, Qatar and Venzuela were also allowed to participate. The deal is that these oil producers will cap their crude production – just as long as other major producers follow suit. The last time an  OPEC/non-OPEC “deal” was made was 15 years ago. And like the one 15 years ago, this one is not expected to do much, except act as a starting point. How reassuring. Now, guess which country has NO plans to cap, curb or freeze oil production? Iran, of course.  Sure, the totalitarian-run country thinks it’s a bummer that oil prices are so low, but its leaders are so hell-bent on re-grabbing its market share after all those pesky international sanctions it had to endure for the last 30 years, that it has no intention of curbing production. By the way, conspicuously absent from any talks was Canada, a country that just happens to have the third largest oil reserves, and China, the world’s fourth largest oil producer. Hmmm. Wonder what we ought to take away from that?

All in a maze work…

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Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At least virtual reality doesn’t bite. Swiss-based company MindMaze, a neural virtual reality platform – which is just as cool as it sounds – now has a pretty amazing valuation. After scoring $100 million in its latest round of funding, the company upped its valuation to over $1 billion. The company’s technology uses virtual and augmented reality and sells electronic headsets to hospitals in order to help rehabilitate stroke patients. The company also has plans to use its rehabilitation features for other injuries, and even amputations. Of course, since we are talking virtual reality, or VR as the cool kids call it, other versions will be available for video gaming as well. In an effort to boost profitability, the company is toying with the idea of selling the hardware separate from the software. It is the fifth start-up company of its kind, and joins the ranks of Oculous VR and Magic Leap. Apparently, investors dig the technology too, seeing as how they have dumped around $4 billion into various VR companies since 2010.

I’m not a Pepper…

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Dr. Pepper Snapple Group posted their fourth quarter earnings and there’s good news…and not so good news. Of course, the good news is the company’s profit. The beverage company, which also makes Canada Dry and A&W Root Beer, among other products, scored a $185 million profit, adding a buck per share and shooting down analyst estimates of 98 cents per share. Last year at this time the company earned $150 million with 77 cents added per share. The Texas-based company also pulled down $1.55 billion in revenue, a nice little boost from 2015’s $1.51 billion. But when we turn to the company’s outlook, we then find the not so good news. Despite people’s thirst, Dr. Pepper’s outlook is weak, expecting just a 1% increase in net sales. Even in 2015, the company took in a 3% increase. The company is figuring it’ll earn somewhere between $4.20 to $4.30 per share for the full year, even though predictions were for $4.34. Dr. Pepper may not be blaming the oil glut on the weak outlook, but there is another culprit – the ever blame-worthy strong dollar, which even managed to sully the beverage industry’s numbers.

Volkswagen Puts the Brakes on Farfegnugen; Will GoPro Become a No Go?; Mickey’s Magical New Venture

Auf wiedersehen…

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Volkwagen’s stock took a big 20% hit today over a not-so-little emissions scandal that has investors screaming “Nein!” It seems that the world’s largest automaker – at least for the first six months of 2015 – used some software, that managed to mislead regulators into thinking that the German automaker was actually following rules regarding emissions when, in fact, it wasn’t. The Environmental Protection Agency and California are calling the software a “defeat device.” Catchy, huh? So now, Volkwagen wisely decided to stop selling certain diesel vehicles, including Jettas, Beetles, Golfs, Passats and even some Audis, until repairs and amends can be made. Close to 500,000 vehicles are part of this fiasco and account for about 20% of sales in the U.S. The offending vehicles emit nitrogen oxides that have a nasty little way of exacerbating respiratory conditions. If the EPA is lucky, it could fine Volkwagen a whopping $37,500 per vehicle, which is cray cray since I’m pretty sure the cars don’t even cost that much. At that rate, Volkwagen could shell out a ghastly $18 billion. However, in all likelihood, it probably won’t be that much. Of course, those fines don’t include any consumer lawsuits and false marketing accusations. How do you say “up the creek” in German?

Word up…

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Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Alexander Eule can kiss his free GoPro swag good-bye. The Barron’s writer penned a scathing article on why GoPro is but a “one produce wonder.” Likening the device to the relic we call Blackberry, Eule said that GoPro’s got a ton of competition headed its way and it’ll be a miracle if the company’s stock stays above $25 a share. GoPro, once a Wall Street IPO darling, made an auspicious ticker debut back in June of 2014, jumping over 30% from its initial offering of $24 a pop. Peaking at $98 in October 2014, the stock has been losing wind pretty steadily and is currently hovering today between $32 and $33 a share. While some have wondered if Apple might pick up the company, others have said no way. Why would Apple bother with an acquisition like that when it can just dip into its vast resources and talent and make a similar product. And that is basically what its doing as evidenced by its recent patent report which sent shares of GoPro down 12%. Apple might just be the least of GoPro’s competition worries as Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi also has a similar device in the works. In case you were wondering, GoPro has not commented on the story. Yet.

For real…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Who better to invest on Virtual Reality technology than one of the finest purveyors of fantasy and make-believe? And so it begins that the Magical Kingdom/mega conglomerate corporation we call Disney is one of several companies throwing money at  VR start-up JauntVR. Hollywood is chomping at the bit to get in on the entertaining aspects of VR action that offers viewers a striking 360° perspective and Disney is hoping its $66 million contribution will see some exciting fiscal return action. Jaunt is hoping to emerge as the go to platform for anybody with a lot of money who uses cameras for a living. Even if they are into GoPro. There’s a whole slew of people and companies who have already used the technology, including Sir Paul McCartney and The North Face. ABC News took the tech to Syria to make a documentary featuring curators attempting to save antiquities in the war-ravaged country. Jaunt expects to use their new found cash to scale up its tech, help with growth and provide a nice welcome addition to its previously raised $100 million. If you’re at all curious what all the fuss is about, see for yourself at http://www.jauntvr.com/content/.