Trump Does Nothing for Twitter; Take That Trump! Tequila Goes Public; Whole Foods Whole Lotta Trouble

(Sigh…)

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The good news from Twitter’s latest earnings report is that its monthly active users increased by 2 million to 319 million accounts.  Although forecasts were for 319.6 million. Just saying.   Revenue also grew 10% to 717.2 million. However, that’s about all the good news there was, because the company missed estimates for revenues of $740.1 million, as ad revenues were lower, falling about .5% from last year’s $710 million to $638 million. In fact, Twitter experienced its slowest quarterly revenue growth since its IPO in 2013. To make matters infinitely worse, shares fell almost 12% on the news, and Twitter can’t afford to lose any more value from its shares. But CEO Jack Dorsey asked for patience, as the company he heads is making some investments into machine learning and figuring out exactly how to engage its advetisers. Seems like a prudent plan. But the bigger story is that President Trump’s tweeting did absolutely nothing for the company. Zero. Nil. Nada. Sure, the world got to see the kind of havoc that can be wreaked with just 140 characters. Unfortunately, that’s about all it did as his tweeting as Twitter reported that it actually experienced slower growth in the quarter that included the election.  According to Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer, Anthony Noto, you can’t expect a “single person to drive sustained growth.” Meaning, Trump had no effect, President or not. The one bright spot – if you can call it that – is that Twitter earned 16 cents a share when estimates for 12 cents.

 Mas tequila, por favor!

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Mexico had its first IPO since President Trump won the election back in November. The lucky IPO was tequila maker Jose Cuervo. The world’s biggest tequila company raised $900 million, with shares priced toward the top of the range at 34 pesos. That translates to roughly $1.67 per share. It’s pesos. What did you expect? The IPO had actually been put on hold twice, thanks to Trump, because his anti-NAFTA ambitions and wall-building enthusiasm kept weakening the peso. Interestingly enough, unlike other products, demand for tequila is not based on price. However, its price could get higher if Trump gets his way by slapping some major tariffs on the lime-friendly beverage. A move like that could put a major dent into Jose Cuervo, which gets 64% of its’s $1.165 billion in sales from the United States and Canada. At least Jose Cuervo always had the luxury of enjoying strong dollar-base earnings. That’s got to count for something, right? Problem is that the new expected U.S. protectionist measures could end up hurting that $1.165 billion. But maybe not. Because, after all, this is tequila we’re talking about. So maybe Americans will be willing shell out a few extra dollars.

 

A Whole lotta nothing…

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Whole Foods is looking anything but with its announcement that it will be closing nine stores. It’s the first time in almost a decade that the company had to resort to such measures as this quarter saw sales drop 2.4% when analysts only predicted a drop of 1.7%. Yikes. Whole Foods initially had a plan to open over 1,200 stores, but alas it was not meant to be as increasing competition and higher food prices led to the company’s sixth straight quarter of decreasing same store sales. The chain gained 39 cents per share which is was about what analysts expected, but as for its forecast, things aren’t exactly looking up. Whole Foods still operates 440 stores and believe it or not, six new stores are still expected to open, with another 80 stores in the planning stages.

Whole Foods is Getting a Whole Lot Sunnier; Nothing Like a Good Shareholder Fight; Urban Outfitter Pleasantly Surprises

Here comes the sun…

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Whole Foods is getting solar with a little help from Elon Musk’s Solar City and NRG Energy.  Of its 430-plus locations, up to 184 Whole Foods stores will get the solar treatment and with the stashes of money it is expected to save over the long run, maybe the organic grocer will start pricing their merchandise a little more cost-friendly. Whole Foods went with both companies so as not to be limited. Sounds fair. With a disappointing fourth quarter that saw a $432 million loss and a slower rate of growth, SolarCity’s stock needed this deal which gave its stock a solid 6.3% lift. Because oil prices have been so low, consumers haven’t exactly felt the fiscal pinch to get cost-effective solar installations and SolarCity’s been feeling that effect in its numbers. No word yet on which locations will get the solar experience but the move will put Whole Foods in the same company as Costco and Walmart for being among the top 25 corporate companies to go solar.

United they fall…

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United Airlines has had better…decades, as two investment funds, who together own a 7.1% stake in the airline, are gearing up to turn the airline’s board of directors on its head. PAR Capital Management Inc. and Altimeter Capital Management LP aren’t happy with the way things have been going at the airline, which happens to be ranked as the third largest carrier by traffic and boasts 85,000 employees. The firms have nominated 6 new directors for the United Continental Holding Inc. board in hopes of undoing the “poor performance and bad decisions over the last several years.” Ouch. Because they feel the board is ineffective, one of the board members they are looking to bring in is former CEO Gordon Bethune, who ran the ship from 1994 – 2004, and is credited with turning the airline around back then. Shareholders will vote on the issue at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in the spring. Judging by the company’s low-employees morale, poor customer service, spate of electronic glitches and its inability to improve its on-time performance, there’s probably a whole lot of ugly going on there. The fact is that most of the other big airlines are cranking out huge billion dollar profits, while United Continental is still figuring out how to play catch-up, even after its 2010 merger, which is still plagued by tons of kinks. This news comes just two days after CEO Oscar Munoz announced that he’d be returning to his post on March 14, after being on medical leave since his October heart attack. Oscar Munoz came on board back in September, on the heels of former CEO Jeff Smisek stepping down after it was disclosed that there was a federal investigation involving United Continental and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

So trendy…

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Urban Outfitters’ stock rallied today close to 17% and for a few good reasons. First, the company took in a profit of $72.9 million, adding 61 cents per share. Even though last year the company took in $80.3 million and 60 cents a share, it was still a Wall Street beat since analysts predicted that this time around the retailer would only add 56 cents per share. Boom. The company flat-lined in terms of its net sales, posting $1.01 billion, but it was the improved margins that had Wall Street tongues wagging. There are few things that Wall Street loves more than improved margins and execs are expecting more improvement on the Urban Outfitter fiscal horizon. The trendy apparel company also scored big with customers by adding some new beauty products that it started selling both online and in 70 shops within the stores. In fact, that rollout proved to be such a success that 60 more stores will get to revel in that retail experience.  Investors were so wowed by Urban Outfitters results that over a dozen brokerages even raised their target prices for the company’s stock, with some brokerages predicting those shares could go as high as $38 a share.  Not every analyst was as generous, however, the stock did close today at 32.69.

Elon Musk Sets a Record; Whole Foods Says Sorry; Labor Department’s Mixed Messages

Electrifying…

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Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Elon Musk can sit pretty for the next few minutes and now would be a good time for the Tesla haters – if there are any – to make a run for it. The electric car company scored some rockin’ good digits in its latest quarterly earnings reports brutally beating estimates with a 52% surge over last year’s quarter. But it gets better as the company also set a new record, selling over 11,500 cars during this period. To be exact,11,507 drivers are now tooling around in their brand new $75,000 Model S sedans. Yes, I am jealous. And I am about to get even more jealous as Tesla gets revved up to unveil the Model X – an all-wheel drive SUV.  Elon Musk’s plan is to find new homes for 55,000 Telsas over 2015. Problem is, it’s already July and he isn’t even halfway there, having sold just 21,537 thus far. Even though haters insist that there’s simply a lack of demand for the very swanky electric automobile, Tesla execs blame the company’s limited capacity for production. So there.

Isn’t that a bit much for strawberries?

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Image courtesy of zirconicusso/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whole Foods might be the business darling of organic food, but some of their business practices were nothing short of toxic. Executives at the company admitted that some customers were overcharged for fresh cut fruits, fresh juices and even sandwiches. But apparently, it had only been happening in New York City where residents are already used to overpaying anyways. Next time you find yourself in the sliced fruit section at Whole Foods, check out the riveting video starring Whole Foods executives John Mackey and Walter Robb, flanked by produce on a television monitor, perhaps hovering over  Kingfisher melons balls and kale shakes. In the video, the gentlemen apologize  for the actions of a small percentage of its employees who “mis-weighed” some items, and priced them higher than what they should have been. In fact, around 80 different items were tested and they all weighed less than their worth. But, apparently there were also some items that were marked lower than what they were supposed to be. That’s how it determined that the errors were unintentional. But the Co-CEO’s apologized for that too. All this comes after a very unflattering investigation by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs that called it “the worst case of mislabeling they have seen.”

Seven year itch…

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Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Employers added 223,000 new jobs in June but the remarkable thing about it – I mean besides people getting paychecks – is that the unemployment rate hit a seven year low falling to a somewhat respectable 5.3% from May’s 5.5%. Unfortunately, wages didn’t behave as respectably and stayed put. Nevertheless, these numbers point to an economy that is getting its juice back and may even cause those dudes and dudettes at the Fed to raise interest rates. But before we get all worked up, the Labor Department also warned us that the number of Americas working or simply looking for work fell as well. It’s a problem because it could mean that many folks who would love to have some steady gainful employment are downright discouraged and put the kibosh on their job hunt. At least the folks who did score jobs are helping the economy by spending their hard-earned cash.

Whole Foods is Going 365; Chip Wilson Squeezes Out of Lululemon; Rupert Murdoch to Step Down But Not Out

Whole-y moley…

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Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s going to be tough now to complain that Whole Foods is too expensive and that going organic is for those with tons of disposable income. The grocery chain is set to open up its new line of stores, “365 by Whole Foods Market,” cleverly named after its house brand. Of course, 365 will also have other brands, as it would seem a bit lofty to fill an entire store with just the one band. The chain is set to open next year and not a moment too soon. Bigger chains, like Target and Wal-Mart have figured out ways to compete with Whole Foods’ 400 stores by offering organics too, except at much lower prices. Naturally, that has been putting quite a damper on Whole Foods’ sales and that ever-elusive group of organic-minded millennials let the grocery chain know it by taking their paychecks to chains whose organic fare is considerably less expensive. But 365 is expected to bring more bang for the millennial buck – and everyone else’s.  And bonus: President of the “365” division, Jeff Turnas aims to make the shopping experience at the new store “fun and convenient.”

On a sour note…

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Image courtesy of SOMMAI/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Lululemon founder and former CEO Chip Wilson wants to get some fiscal closure from the yoga-retailer by selling off his family’s entire 14.2% stake in the company. Considering the company posted better than expected earnings earlier in the week, it probably seems like a good time for Mr. Wilson to unload his 20.1 million shares, which are valued at about $1.2 billion. However, even with the best of companies, when an announcement is made that a considerable amount of shares are getting dumped, the stock goes south. And Lululemon was no exception, losing around 2% of its value at one point. But at least this brings a little more stability to the line as Chip Wilson’s last few quarters with Lululemon were anything but…zen.

The end of an era?

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Image courtesy of pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox has left the building. Well, not quite but a reorganization proposal is in the works. The 84 year old mogul, Rupert Murdoch, has finally decided to hand over the reins to his son, James Murdoch, much to the surprise of…no one. James currently reigns semi-supreme as co-chief operating officer of the company. However, since the elder Mr. Murdoch still controls a majority of the shares, he’ll still be around a’plenty. So what’s to become of older Murdoch brother, Lachlan? He’s not going far either as he will step into the role of executive co-chairman, working alongside his little bro.  As for the current co-chairman, Chase Carey, who also serves as president of 21st Century Fox, the plan is for him to step down, graciously, of course, and take on an as yet unidentified role, as part of the reorganization plan. Awkward. 

McDonald’s Turnaround Plan Needs Salt; Warren Buffet Likes His Sugar; Chevy Volt Wants to Electrify

Would you like to supersize that?

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Image courtesy of pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook finally revealed to all who were maybe mildly interested about his big plan is to steer McDonald’s back towards fiscal awesomeness, all in the course of a 23 minute video. The world’s biggest burger chain wants to re-franchise 3,500 of its stores. Because franchising offers “stable and predictable cash flow” from collecting fees, it will supposedly save the company about $300 million a year.  And who doesn’t like saving $300 million. Then, Easterbrook wants to make the company’s corporate structure and bureaucracy less “cumbersome” by dividing the company up into four neat little parts. Well, maybe not little. But certainly neater.  The first part is all about U.S. stores. International markets like, Australia and the U.K make up part number two. The third part is labeled high growth markets  – think China and Russia. Then, all those other countries in the world make up the fourth group.  Of course, no master revival plan would be complete without incorporating a customer-focused approach and the ever-menacing prospect of…accountability. But hey whatever works. And something needs to after the company posted a 2.3% drop in sales and revenue that was way too short of its target. Despite detailing this new plan Mc Donald’s couldn’t get Wall Street excited enough to send shares up, even a little.

Enjoy a Coke with Warren Buffet…

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Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case you couldn’t make it to the the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting this weekend, also known as Woodstock for Capitalists, here are but a few of the pearls from that auspicious event. Wells Fargo, Coke, IBM and AmEx rock, at least according to the Oracle of Omaha. Mr. Buffet clearly knows a thing or two of what he speaks since his company has a market value of a staggering $350 billion. When he discussed Coca Cola and the $16 billion stake his company owns in it, the debate about the adverse health effects of sugar didn’t seem to concern him. He feels that people enjoy Coke and thus, it apparently makes them happy. Unlike Whole Foods, which he said, “I don’t see smiles on the faces of people at Whole Foods.” No doubt Whole Foods was not happy about that comment. He was also asked about his involvement with 3G Capital with whom he is now buying Kraft Foods. People have taken issue with 3G over its practice of buying companies and then laying off many of its employees. Mr. Buffet, however, said, “I don’t know of any company that has a policy that says we’re going to have a lot more people than they need.”  How charming. As for naming a successor, well, he didn’t.

Low-voltage…

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Even though gas prices are pretty low, making gas-guzzling SUV’s that much more appealing, that’s not stopping car companies, like GM, from parading out its latest eco-friendly models. The 2016 Chevy Volt model is making its debut and what is supposed to be so electrifying about it is that it’ll be around $1,500 less than the 2015 model. It’ll also get 30% more mileage from a single charge than the 2015 model. It’s a bit redesigned and there’s even a $7,500 federal income tax credit. But to be fair, it’s not a fully electric vehicle because if you find yourself coasting along  the highway – or any road, for that matter – and the battery juice runs out, the Volt becomes just another regular gas guzzler.  If that doesn’t bother you – and why should it – then consider that Chevy is offering 0% financing for 72 months for qualified buyers. Unqualified buyers should take the bus. California’s even offering a $1,500 rebate which pretty much means that GM doesn’t think there’s going to be a waiting list for this particular automobile. Because let’s face it, a Tesla it’s not.

Tesla’s Earnings Are Charged; Whole Foods Surprises; Posh Earnings for Kate Spade

It’s electric…

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tesla investors are squealing with energy efficient delight today as the electric car company released third quarter earnings that beat the Street. Perhaps you might have noticed a few more Model S cars tooling around your neighborhood? Well it’s no coincidence that Tesla set a delivery record for those fabulously, environmentally-friendly automobiles. Expect to see even more of them as CEO Elon Musk plans to ship out 50,000 Model S cars in 2015. In fact, just in this quarter alone, Tesla whisked off over 7,800 cars to new owners – over 41% more than last year at this time. Unfortunately, the company didn’t fare so well on its net loss – a whopping $75 million. However, the company blames stuff like the costs involved in opening stores in Asia, not to mention all those pesky fees for research on its upcoming SUV. Analysts predicted Tesla would lose a penny a share. But wouldn’t you know it – it raked in $0.02 per share instead. Analysts also predicted revenues of $892 million but were foiled once again as the company posted $932 million in revenue.

Whole-Y organic cow…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It wasn’t the best quarter, or year, for that matter, for Whole Foods. After all, having to compete against mainstream supermarkets that offer up organic fare for so much less is…hard. But it looks like the grocery chain did okay, after all, seeing as how it reported a 5.8% profit increase in its quarterly report. Perhaps it’s those touching, poignant commercials that have caught your organic eye. Or maybe you enjoy the perks from the Whole Foods customer loyalty program (who wouldn’t?). The company also put the spotlight on value and its attempt to lower prices. That profit spike was also probably helped by its tech offerings like Instacart and the Apple Pay option. Whatever it was, the green green grocer managed to bag a $128 million, $0.35 per share profit from its 360+ stores. There was only one not-so-slight problem: Whole Foods had its lowest growth rate in four years.

Now that’s pretty…

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Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nothing says fashionable like a 30% rise in sales. Which must make Kate Spade & Co. very posh indeed. Especially because those surprisingly fashon-forward numbers came after the company said its margins would likely be an “issue.” The trendy label even saw shares climb 10% in pre-market trading today. All while fellow fashion companies and competitors Michael Kors and Coach have been seeing numbers that would make even the most durable fabrics want to shrivel up into nowhere. So what gives? Well for one thing, at Kate Spade promotions are out, for now anyways. What is in are theme-driven sales. You might not care for the lack of promotions not being offered but it’s certainly working for Kate Spade’s numbers. The company earned $0.02 per share  with net sales up 36% to over $250 million. To be fair though, analysts did expect $4 million more. But that might change now that it is teaming up with the Gap. The company has 98 stores and 57 outlets. Kate Spade is hoping it can double its sales by the end of 2016 to $2 billion (aren’t we all?).