William Shatner Wants $30 Billion for Water; Harley-Davidson’s Wall Street Hits and Misses; Under Armour Needs to Bulk Up Projections

Rain rain don’t go away…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leave it to Star Trek legend William Shatner to take California’s drought emergency straight to Kickstarter. The 84 year old actor and Priceline shiller wants people to beam him up some cash – $30 billion’s worth, to be exact – so that a  four foot above ground pipeline can be built from Seattle to Nevada’s Lake Mead. The fact that Seattle doesn’t have a surplus of water to really be giving out to California, which is in its fourth year of drought, doesn’t seem to bother Shatner much. I’m guessing he didn’t ask officials in Seattle their thoughts on the idea. California Governor Jerry Brown has already issued a drought emergency and apparently there is about a year’s supply of water left. Mr. Shatner isn’t entirely convinced himself that he can even raise the $30 billion needed to build the pipeline but he is hoping to raise awareness on the issue. “If I don’t make 30 billion, I’ll give the money to a politician who says, ‘I’ll build it.’ I don’t think that last part is the best idea Mr. Shatner has ever had, but its sure to get a few people talking.

Not so hog wild…

Image courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Profits for iconic Hog maker, Harley Davidson, are up thanks to a somewhat reduced tax rate. So why the sad faces on Wall Street over the price of its shares? Because those very shares took a 6% hit today over revenue that fell 3.4% to $1.51 billion, down from $1.57 billion a year ago. The bike makers also revised forecasts that have less bikers getting on those legendary two-wheeled machines. Harley-Davidson initially expected to deliver between 282,000 – 287,000 Hogs this year. But now that range is looking closer to 276,000 – 281,000 orders. Some of that, of course, can be attributed to that annoyingly strong U.S. dollar that seems to be sucking the fun from just about every company’s earnings these days. But Harley-Davidson has also had to deal with competitors  – hard to believe that anyone can compete with a Harley – who have been offering better discounts and totally messing with the motorcycle company’s earnings. The good news is that the motorcycle brand still took in $270 million and $1.27 per share, even though analysts only expected $1.24 per share. Can someone please get those analysts on a Harley? A year ago the Hogs pulled in about $265 million at $1.21 per share.

Dude, what gives?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Under Armour came out with earnings today and informed those that matter that it hit its revenue targets and raised its outlook. The Maryland-based athletic company even has PGA Masters Winner Jordan Spieth shilling for it. Under Armour also pulled in 5 cents per share on revenues of $805 million when analysts only called for $802.5 million. The apparel division grew 21% while the footwear division grew 41%. So why are investors still not satisfied with the athletic apparel company’s earnings? Here’s where things get dicey. Even though Under Armour raised its outlook for revenues from $3.76 billion to $3.78 billion, investors, analysts and others who throw large sums of money at the company expected higher projections of $3.82 billion in revenues. That $.o4 billion difference put a damper on the morning for many investors. Hence the stock took a bit of a hit this morning. Nothing major, just a few percentage points, but enough to put several Wall Street-ers in a bit of a snit.

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Raise Praise for Walmart ; Pinterest Tries to Double Up; Priceline’s Beamed Up Earnings

You raise me up…

Image courtesy of nongpimmy/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of             nongpimmy/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s a good day to be a Walmart employee. No, seriously. It is. The gargantuan retailer just announced it’ll be raising the salaries of some 500,000 of its hardworking employees raising to about $1.75 more than the Federal minimum wage. Full-time employees will go from an average of $12.85 an hour to about $13 per hour. Part-timers will see their paychecks go up to $10 per hour from the average $9.50 they make now. The pay-raise fun begins in April and CEO Doug McMillon says it’s all part of a master plan to improve customer service, employee morale, etc. Those are all nice and pleasant things, of course, but no doubt Walmart is really hoping it will also lead to higher sales and profit. Walmart figures higher pay will help attract and retain employees that know the value of good customer service. And if it improves its somewhat tarnished reputation for its lousy pay practices in the process then why not?  So how bad could their pay practices have been that the company is implementing this change? Well, a majority of its employees’ salaries were so low that, all together, they were eligible to receive millions – I repeat, millions – of dollars in public benefits.  This initiative will cost Walmart about $1 billion, but hey, you’re worth it.

 In the land of unicorns…

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The next social media darling that may be headed off to the wonderful, not-so-mystical land of Silicon Valley “unicorns” is Pinterest. By “unicorns,” I am referring to billion dollar startups, a term thoughtfully coined by Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee. But apparently these “unicorns” are turning out to be a bit more ubiquitous than previously thought as Pinterest is but among a larger group of “unicorns” and “decacorns” and “super-unicorns”…but I digress. Founded by CEO Ben Silbermann, Pinterest graciously allows users to “pin” images of all kinds of stuff that appeals to them on their boards, thereby bringing light and joy to the world. And now Pinterest is said to be adding a “buy” button. That ought to bring even more light and joy. Adding e-commerce into the social media start-up picture tends to prove lucrative on so many levels. Pinterest is rumored to be raising funds to the tune of $500 million. Any takers? This new round of funding would put the company in the $11 billion valuation stratosphere, nearly doubling its $5 billion valuation it had back in May.

But what does this mean for Captain Kirk?

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Priceline, the company shilled by the inimitable William Shatner, beat Wall Street estimates for its fourth quarter earnings taking in almost $452 million with adjusted earnings at $10.85 per share. Well beam me up on those numbers, Scottie, because analysts only expected Priceline to score $10.05 per share. Those impressive digits were helped by growth from hotel and car rental reservations. Revenues were $1.84 billion and, once again, those analysts predicted the online travel booking service would only rake in $1.8 billion. Naturally, shares of Priceline took a joyous upswing in the news and clearly sending the message to Wall Street that the Orbitz-Expedia deal didn’t seem to have any adverse affects on the company. Well, not yet, anyway. If you’re in the market for some shares of Priceline, it’ll only set you back about $1,200.00…per share.

Expedia Challenges Priceline With its Latest Acquisition; Retail Sector: Where Have All the Shoppers Gone? Costco Breaks Up With Amex

Book it…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Priceline look out! And you too, William Shatner. Expedia just announced its lofty plans to buy Orbitz Worldwide Inc.for $1.34 billion, which squares out to about $12 a share at a 25% premium. The folks at Expedia feel it’ll help them give Priceline Group Inc. a real run for its money – and reservations, I suppose. Orbitz already picked up Travelocity a while back for $280 million and now the online travel booking service also gets CheapTickets, and ebookers as part of this latest deal. As you may recall (and it’s perfectly fine if you don’t), Priceline itself made a few purchases itself last year when it scooped up a stake in ctrip.com International and OpenTable Inc. Apparently, mergers and acquisitions in the online booking arena are all the rage right now but let’s just see how it pans out fiscally for the consumers booking all those services.

Show me the money…

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Will the retail sector get it right already? January proved to be a colossal fiscal bummer as the Commerce Department announced that sales in the retail sector fell, yet again, to 0.8%. Economists forecasted it would only drop 0.4% and it’s the second straight month to drop after December’s dismal 0.9% plunge. So what gives? After all, gas prices are low, employment numbers are rockin’ and even wages are coming up…a smidge. Apparently, Americans have been more inclined to actually pay down some of their debt and even save up some cash for a rainy day. The nerve of those fiscally responsible Americans, I tell you. But economists, the same ones who predicted those retail numbers would only fall to 0.4% instead of the 0.8% it did fall, are predicting that those numbers should come right back up to a more respectable level, if we give it some…space. Let’s just hope they’re right this time.

While we’re on the topic of retail…

Image courtesy of photoraidz/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photoraidz/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Costco shoppers rejoice. Next year when you go shopping at the wholesale warehouse you needn’t bother whipping out your Amex card anymore. The world’s second largest retailer and the charge card company just couldn’t work things out and thus an exclusive relationship between Costco and American Express is coming to an end March 31, 2016. The exclusive agreement allowed for Costco to pay a much smaller rate than other companies but alas, all good things must come to an end. The rate was so low , in fact, that it explains why the deal even lasted as long as it did. And thus, a sixteen year relationship has thrown in its fiscal towel. Sniff sniff. In Canada, a similar deal also came to an unfortunate demise last year. Oh Canada!  On Wall Street shares of American Express, took a bit of a hit while Costco shares actually went up. Perhaps next year, as you find yourself stocking up on a year’s supply of toilet paper and deodorant, you might just get to use your Visa or Mastercard, two cards that have so long yearned to be a part of the Costco magic.