Today - Saturday, April 18, 2015
- An eventual recovery in U.S. oil drilling activity "will fall well short of reaching previous levels," because of a growing reserve of wells that have been drilled but not yet hydraulically fractured and increased activity in re-fracking wells that are running dry, Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) CEO Paal Kibsgaard said in Friday's earnings conference call.
- At least 2,700 wells have been identified as candidates for re-fracture in North America, representing a total market value of ~$5B, says EvercoreISI's James West, adding that the Eagle Ford likely contains 1,000 of the wells while the Bakken has ~500.
- The assessment suggests the disconnect between oil rigs and the trajectory of U.S. production may get worse before it gets better; while output had been rising in tandem with the number of rigs, production has continued climbing even as the rig count has collapsed to less than half its October 2014 peak.
- ETFs: XLE, VDE, ERX, OIH, XOP, ERY, DIG, DUG, XES, IYE, IEO, IEZ, FENY, PXE, PXJ, RYE, FXN, DDG
Friday, April 17, 2015
- A spokesperson for ESPN (NYSE:DIS) has weighed in on reports that Verizon (NYSE:VZ) will offer unbundled or "skinny" packages to give customers choice about what they receive -- and ESPN says that's not allowed.
- “Media reports about Verizon’s new contemplated bundles describe packages that would not be authorized by our existing agreements," says the company's statement. "Among other issues, our contracts clearly provide that neither ESPN nor ESPN2 may be distributed in a separate sports package.”
- The move's unsurprising coming from ESPN, which charges the highest prices per subscriber by far among national cable peers, reportedly now more than $6/month. That compares with TNT at around $1.48/subscriber month.
- ESPN has made defending bundles a policy priority in Washington, and companies with powerful bundles of channels like Disney (with the various flavors of ESPN as well as the Disney Channel and Soapnet) can force channels with low or no consumer interest into bundles with the desired flagship stations to build their audience.
- The statement suggests Verizon didn't get a sign-off from Disney before talking about unbundling, though Peter Kafka reports that Verizon's Alberto Canal said the company had gotten authorization from all programmers in its new bundle.
- After pressure from Canada's privacy commission, BCE now faces a $750M class-action lawsuit over its ad targeting.
- The suit, filed against its Bell Canada and Bell Mobility units, says that the divisions breached laws and user contracts by sharing personal info with a third party without consent.
- Plaintiff lawyer Ted Charney estimates up to 5M of Bell Mobility's 7.9M customers had been tracked through the company's targeted "Relevant Advertising Program," which began in November 2013.
- Criticism of the program includes that the information collected wasn't detailed at the start, and that customers had to opt out rather than opt in.
- Mobile phone consumers might be happy, but the industry's price war is showing up as average revenue per account is dropping, according to Cowen's quarterly wireless survey.
- Bills fell for a second straight quarter, to an average of $136/month, down from Q4's $141. The biggest drop came to Sprint (NYSE:S), whose "Cut Your Bill in Half" promotion is taking hold by reducing its average bill 14% Q/Q to $132/month.
- Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is below $150 for the first time in the survey, slipping 5% to $143.
- On the other hand, AT&T (NYSE:T) was essentially flat at $143/month and T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) actually increased ARPA 4% to $121.
- Sprint may face a churn problem: 24% of subscribers whose contracts are up in the next six months say they'll leave, above the industry average of 13%.
- Subscribers without contracts are up to 34.5% from Q4's 30.5%, spurred by T-Mobile's huge contract-less base.
- "We believe ServiceNow (NYSE:NOW) saw increased seasonality in Q1, which is in part the result of the company's shift to Services Automation beyond IT, where the company will be focusing on larger cross-enterprise deals," writes Brean (Buy) after ServiceNow (NOW) provided light Q2 guidance and a smaller top-line beat than has been seen in recent quarters amid heavy forex pressures.
- On the CC (transcript), CEO Frank Slootman stated ServiceNow "had quite a bit of deal slip" in Q1, and was also dealing with a drained deal pipeline (as of January) and a salesforce reorg. Brean isn't worried. "This is a common occurrence for enterprise software companies, but appears to have unfortunately caught many by surprise (ourselves included). However, we believe the after-market reaction reflects strong outperformance into the print, as well as overall anxiety in the market, as opposed to deteriorating fundamentals."
- "When you trade at 9x 2016 revenues you don't get a pass...on anything," admits Canaccord (Buy). It's not thrilled with the Q1 numbers, but also thinks there was nothing to change its belief ServiceNow will grow to $3.5B-$4B/year business with 20%+ free cash flow margins by 2020. The firm still sees shares reaching $200 in 4 years.
- TechStockRadar's Rob DeFrancesco: "[T]he longer-term outlook remains bright because the company continues to benefit from the broad enterprise transition to the cloud (it faces little legacy vendor competition) and gain traction in IT operations management (ITOM), a $10-billion market that is significantly larger than its core [IT service management] market. In the latest quarter, ServiceNow generated about 10% of its business from ITOM, indicating plenty of room for expansion."
- Shares fell 11.5% in regular trading to $73.29. They're still up 38% from where they traded a year ago.
- Yesterday: ServiceNow's Q1 results, guidance/details
- As reports spread that Justice Dept. attorneys were likely to recommend blocking Comcast's (CMCSA -2.1%) $45B buyout of Time Warner Cable (TWC -5.4%), the cable companies both argued there was no basis to block the deal.
- It'll mean "faster broadband speeds, access to a superior video experience, and more competition in business services resulting in billions of dollars of cost savings," according to a Comcast statement. "These benefits have been essentially unchallenged in the record."
- Meanwhile, over at the FCC, 37 groups opposed to the deal wrote Tom Wheeler, the agency's chairman, saying that even conditional application of net neutrality regulation wouldn't soften their opposition. Signatories included Dish, Consumers Union, the Writers Guild of America, West, and Free Press; "they don't make any new arguments," Comcast responds.
- Some volume came into competitive stocks and gave them a (relative) lift after the news: Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) came off lows to finish down 1.9%; Cablevision Systems (NYSE:CVC) rebounded to finish just -0.3%.
- In February, BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield laid out why he thought the deal would ultimately get rejected.
- Then shortly after the Justice Dept. news broke, Comcast noted it was bringing its top-speed 2-Gbps Gigabit Pro service to the California Bay Area. The company previously said it would launch the service in Atlanta (where Google Fiber and AT&T plan 1-Gbps service); it's setting June for the California launch, but still no word on possible pricing.
- "AMD’s model appears to be breaking, as we now have them burning substantial amounts of cash," writes Bernstein's Stacy Rasgon, reiterating an Underperform following the CPU/GPU vendor's Q1 miss and soft Q2 guidance. "Frankly, this call is getting depressing. But, we see little reason to step off of it."
- Rasgon doesn't see AMD going bankrupt (no major debt payments are due before 2019), and likes its improved inventory management. But he also thinks the company will be in "serious trouble" if PC demand doesn't stabilize later this year thanks to improved inventories and Windows 10.
- He also notes AMD's 20% Q/Q and 38% Y/Y PC CPU/GPU division sales drops compare with 16% Q/Q and 8% Y/Y drops for Intel's PC/mobile CPU unit. "This continues to suggest continued share losses by the company (though this should hardly be shocking at this point)."
- Ascendiant's Cody Acree, who downgraded to Hold: "In addition to a relatively weak macro computing environment, we believe AMD’s gross and operating margin leverage will likely also be constrained. We believe CPU and GPU pricing from both INTC and NVDA will continue to be aggressive and that AMD’s semi-custom business will only support modestly higher margins as pricing declines meet console volume increases."
- Though maintaining an Outperform for now, Wells Fargo's David Wong now forecasts losses for the rest of 2015, and also through 2016. He sees profits eventually returning on account of AMD's engineering expertise. Oppenheimer notes gross margin (down in Q1) is expected to be flat Q/Q in Q2, and thinks new semi-custom wins are unlikely to ramp before 2H16.
- Jefferies' Mark Lipacis (Buy) is hoping improved PC/console demand and the launch of AMD's anticipated Fiji GPUs provide a 2H15 lift. He also expects AMD to use its May 6 analyst day to "articulate its first long-term strategy and business model in years."
- Shares fell 10.3% in regular trading to $2.58. The 52-week low is $2.14.
- Yesterday: AMD's Q1 results, guidance/details
- Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) says it plans to eliminate the position of zone managers and reassign those ~14K workers to department manager and assistant manager positions within its stores, while adding up to 8K new department heads, as part of an overhaul of its store operations.
- WMT says the cut to the layer of in-store management is meant to reduce bureaucracy and put more power in the hands of people running the company’s 4.5K U.S. stores.
- WMT says the cost is included in the $1B investment in wages and staffing outlined in February; the costly turnaround plan under CEO Doug McMillon also includes raising wages for a half-million employees, with hourly rates going to $9/hour this month and $10/hour by next year.
- Celanese (NYSE:CE) hit a new 52-week high today and closed with a 15.5% gain after reporting Q1 earnings that routed analyst estimates and raising its FY 2015 EPS guidance to $5.60-$5.90 from an earlier outlook for $5.00-$5.50 and above the $5.21 consensus estimate.
- CEO Mark Rohr said CE began 2015 with "significant headwinds at the macro level," including an uncertain macroeconomic environment and volatile currency markets as well as the company's methanol transition and tow inventory de-stocking, but CE's strong Q1 commercial performance "gives us confidence that we can overcome these headwinds."
- UBS raised its price target on CE to $69 from $65 following the Q1 results, citing the increased guidance and cost savings initiatives, while UBS reiterated its Buy rating on the shares.
- CE also says it is considering expanding its south Texas chemical plant to produce methanol; the $800M project, to be built under a JV with Japan's Mitsui, would have the capacity to produce 1.3M tons/year of methanol.
- Advaxis (NASDAQ:ADXS) has filed to sell up to $200M in common stock through future offerings. No details have been given on the drug developer's plans for any proceeds it might raise.
- Advaxis raised $23M through a February stock offering. It had $30.6M in cash at the end of January, and no debt.
- Shares have fallen to $18.30 AH.
- With Google's Android Wear platform handicapped in China by the blocking of many Google services, Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) has launched DuWear, an Android-based smartwatch OS that comes with versions of Baidu's voice search and mapping apps.
- Much like Android Wear and Apple Watch, mobile payments support, motion tracking, and heart rate monitoring are also included. Baidu promises a "major manufacturer" will launch a DuWear watch in June. In the meantime, it's releasing a ROM that lets users (if they're interested) install the OS on Android Wear devices such as the Moto 360, LG's G Watch, and Sony's SmartWatch 3.
- Baidu also claims DuWear supports some 3rd-party Android Wear apps that don't use Google's mobile services framework. The OS launch comes a month after Baidu ended support for its Cloud OS Android smartphone ROM (had seen limited uptake).
- Separately, Baidu has acquired Anquanbao, a provider of cloud-based software that protects sites against malware and DDoS attacks. The startup's clients include Tencent and major Chinese domain name service providers.
- Baidu plans to use Anquanbao's software to improve load times for its sites and protect them from security threats. Anquanbao founder/CEO Ma Jie will head Baidu's cloud security ops.
- Nearly 60 institutional investors ask the SEC to require oil and gas companies to publish a detail analysis of the risks of climate change to their business models, much in the way companies already disclose information on factors outside their control such as commodity and currency price swings.
- Some oil companies already provide general information about how much they could lose if climate change worsens and regulation or cultural shifts reduce consumption, but the new request seeks more details about how they reached their conclusions.
- Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) said last year climate change poses little risk to its reserves but agreed to start providing some information about how it arrived at such a conclusion.
- The action comes the day after Calpers sponsored a successful shareholder resolution at BP's annual meeting that requires the company to begin stress-testing its operations against climate change risks.
- A new version of popular series Battlefield wasn't enough to boost video game sales in March, as software sales slipped 3% Y/Y to $395.4M. But software was positively solid compared to game hardware sales that slipped 21% Y/Y to $311.1M, according to NPD Group.
- In new retail games, Battlefield: Hardline (NASDAQ:EA), a cops-and-robbers version of the war-game series, led sales charts followed by another new entry, action role-player Bloodborne (NYSE:SNE) which was strong despite being a PS4 exclusive.
- The top five was rounded out by Grand Theft Auto V (NASDAQ:TTWO), Mario Party 10 (OTCPK:NTDOY), and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (NASDAQ:ATVI).
- Physical software sales showed sharp declines for previous-generation consoles, which points to the health of the new generation (PS4, Xbox One, Wii U), whose software sales increased 58% Y/Y.
- In hardware, Sony says PS4 again topped the charts, but everyone's doing well in the new generation: “This is the 17th month of sales for the Xbox One and PS4, whose combined cumulative hardware sales are over 50% higher than the combined 17-month cumulative sales totals for the Xbox 360 and PS3,” said NPD's Liam Callahan.
- In a market down more than 1% today, GameStop (NYSE:GME) did worse, down 3.1%.
- And in other EA news, at the ongoing "Star Wars Celebration" event going on in Anaheim, Calif., today's news included the reveal trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront wowing fans. Launching Nov. 17, the game showcases high-definition visuals but takes a somewhat risky move of dropping single-player missions entirely for cooperative and multiplayer.
- GE and Honeywell (NYSE:HON) say they will take steps to cushion the impact of a stronger dollar, after GE said foreign currency effects whacked $950M, or four percentage points, off its Q1 sales, while HON also reported a four-point Q1 drag from a stronger dollar and projected that exchange fluctuations would weigh down sales by $1.7B this year.
- GE says it is considering different locations where it can manufacture products or components for businesses, such as its power and healthcare units, and HON has been hedging transactions that its individual foreign subsidiaries make when they import in dollars, and now it is also hedging when the company's foreign sales are translated back into the dollar.
- The impact of currency shifts on U.S. companies will be highlighted further next week with quarterly reports from United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), which already cut its 2015 financial forecast in January over currency worries, as well as from 3M (NYSE:MMM) and Illinois Tool Works (NYSE:ITW).
- Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE:ANR) reports that the NYSE has said its common stock does not satisfy one of the Exchange's standards for continued listing and trading.
- ANR has six months to regain compliance under the NYSE's rules, and plans to submit a plan outlining the actions it intends to take to do so.
- Costco (NASDAQ:COST) is hiking its quarterly dividend by 13% ($0.045/share) to $0.40/share. That's good for a 1.1% yield at current levels. The next dividend is payable on May 15 to shareholders on record as of the May 1 close.
- The bulk goods retailer is also launching a new $4B buyback that replaces its existing $4B authorization (had $2.5B remaining). The buyback expires in April 2019, and is good for repurchasing 6% of shares at current levels.
- COST +0.5% AH to $145.25.
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