Today - Wednesday, September 2, 2015
- The buildup to Star Wars' "Force Friday" is under way, with Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) 18-hour toy rollout having kicked off a short time ago via its live YouTube channel.
- It began in the morning local time in Sydney, with a custom lightsaber-building toy kit from Hasbro. Eighteen hours is a long time for opening 15 toys, though, so there's a bit of a lull until the Tokyo unboxing at 10 p.m. ET (schedule).
- "Force Friday" is an all-out promotional effort, coming more than three months before Star Wars: The Force Awakens (the film) bows. The merch will likely add hundreds of millions of dollars to Disney's 2016 revenues, leading up to another film in December 2016.
- The lead manufacturer of the toys is Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS), and other producers include Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), collectible-card company Topps, Lego, Rubie's Costumes and Tobar novelties.
- Previously: Disney Infinity 3.0 launches with 'Star Wars' characters (Aug. 31 2015)
- Previously: Disney up 2.8%; schedules 18-hour YouTube 'Star Wars' toy rollout (Aug. 26 2015)
- Watchable -- the upcoming video service from Comcast (CMCSA +1.6%) -- looks a bit like a mix of YouTube and Hulu, according to the demo site that Variety found briefly unprotected today.
- The site's open to all, subscribers and nonsubscribers alike, and to unregistered viewers, though registration apparently comes with personalization options.
- Watchable will rely heavily on editor curation and be available (at some point) not only on the Web, but also on Comcast's X1 set-top and on mobile devices.
- Content partners that showed up in the demo included Vox Media (a recent recipient of Comcast cash) and its tech site The Verge; Popsugar, Break, Smosh, Vice, Discovery Digital and Fox Sports Digital.
- Comcast's service may be racing Verizon to market; Verizon's Go90 service is set to bow in "coming days."
- Previously: Comcast nearing launch of in-house video platform Watchable (Aug. 14 2015)
- Ahead of the IFA electronics show (runs from Sep. 4-9 in Berlin), Sony (NYSE:SNE) has launched its Xperia Z5 phone line. The flagship model, the 5.5" Z5 Premium, is the first phone to sport a 4K display (overkill?). The standard Z5 has a 5.2" 1080p display, and the Z5 Compact a mere 4.6" 720p display.
- Sony, looking to stand out in a very competitive high-end Android market, is also emphasizing the phones' cameras: They have 23MP resolutions, 24mm lenses, F2.0 apertures (good for low-light shots), and a "ground-breaking" auto-focus speed of 0.03 seconds. They run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 processor.
- Huawei, trying to make greater high-end inroads, has launched the Mate S, a 5.5" phone with a 1080p display, metal body, and 13MP camera with optical image stabilization. It will retail for a steep €650 ($728).
- Lenovo (OTCPK:LNVGY) is going off the beaten path. The company has launched the Phab and Phab Plus, two near-7" devices whose size arguably makes them tablets more than smartphones. Also launched: The Vibe P1, a phone with a 5" 1080p screen and massive 5,000mAh battery; the Vibe P1m, which has a 5.5" 720p screen, and a relatively modest 4,000mAh battery; and the Vibe S1, which has two front cameras to enable selfie shots with depth effects.
- Meanwhile, Lenovo's Motorola Mobility unit has refreshed its Moto 360 smartwatch lineup. 42mm and 46mm men's versions are offered, along with a 42mm women's version. The watches sell for $300-$430.
- Level 3 Communications (NYSE:LVLT) moved up 4.3% today as Citigroup's Michael Rollins made it his top telecom pick, particularly at a discount due to its post-earnings moves.
- The company missed revenue expectations in Q2 as wholesale voice sales dropped off.
- "We view the top-line miss as more of a mis-communication than a structural issue in the business and continue to favor buying LVLT shares," Rollins writes. Level 3 had said roll-off of revenue benefits from broadband expansion at Starbucks and for some government contracts would dilute growth in 2015, but without specifying quarters
- "We believe that LVLT maintains favorable operating leverage within the business, will continue to experience meaningful merger related synergies due to the Tw Telecom integration (with a current annualized run-rate of $25M network access and $90M of operating expense synergies, with the goal to expand to $200M annually)."
- Infrastructure services companies like Level 3 may do a better job monetizing the broad increase in data demands than wireless carriers can, he notes.
- Until today, since earnings on July 29, Level 3 shares had dropped 17.6%.
- Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) could outperform the market during the next 12 months thanks to a dividend yield that’s nearly twice as high as the S&P 500′s, Barclays Paul Cheng says.
- XOM’s relative yield has jumped to a recent high of 180% from 127% and compared to the 25-year average of 138%, Cheng calculates, adding that when XOM's relative yield exceeds 170%, it outperformed the S&P 500 in the subsequent one-, three- and 12-month periods by respective averages of 1.8%, 3.9% and 6.8%.
- Although Cheng thinks the energy sector’s downside risk relative to the market may be limited from current levels and that XOM may have reached near-term lows, he maintain an Underweight rating on the stock and sees better risk-reward opportunities in Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU), Imperial Oil (NYSEMKT:IMO) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP).
- Having long included text ads with Gmail, Google (GOOG, GOOGL) is now broadly rolling out a native ad solution for Gmail that lets advertisers include pictures, videos, forms, and buy/call-to-action button, among other things.
- To keep users happy, the media content won't appear unless an ad is clicked or tapped - until then, it looks like a standard text ad. Marketers can buy ads using Google's mainstay AdWords search ad platform, and target based on keywords, audience groups, demographic data, and topics. Google had 900M active Gmail users as of May, with 75% accessing via mobile devices.
- Separately, CNET reports Google plans to unveil two new Nexus phones at a Sep. 29 event - a smaller device from LG, and a larger device from Huawei. The Huawei phone has been rumored to feature a 5.7" 2K display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, USB Type C support, and 64GB of storage. The LG phone has been rumored to have a 5.2" 1080p display and Snapdragon 808 processor.
- Previously: Google reportedly testing search ads within results
- Analysts at RBC Capital add five names - CNQ, OTCPK:DTNOY, WES, WFT and EXH - to the firm's Global Energy Best Ideas List, and removes five names.
- Canadian Natural Resources is well positioned to benefit from a rebound in crude oil as the largest heavy oil producer in Canada; DNO's near-term outlook is "set to be dominated" by regular oil payments from Kurdistan; Western Gas Partners is a defensive play given its solid but with ssignificant growth potential; Weatherford is the "next man up" on the M&A front; and Exterran Holdings is viewed favorably ahead of the proposed spin transaction.
- Removed from the RBC list: CAM, MIC, PDS, OTC:SECYF, OTCPK:AOIFF.
- Lee Enterprises (LEE -3.1%) has closed on the sale of its properties in Napa, Calif., including the HQ of the Napa Valley Register, for a net $5M.
- The move is part of continuing monetization of the company's real estate to reduce its highest-rate debt. It has more than $10M worth of real estate listed for sale or under contract in several states.
- The company will apply the Napa proceeds to reduce its second-lien term loan.
- Since reporting its Q3 earnings in early August, shares in Lee Enterprises are down 39%.
- Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A, RDS.B) lifts the force majeure on exports of Bonny Light crude oil in Nigeria after re-opening two key supply pipelines shut last week because of leaks and sabotage.
- Separately, Shell has resumed drilling of an exploratory well in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, and says work is "going well" despite recent stormy weather that caused the company to halt operations for a few days.
- Also, CEO Ben van Beurden says Shell's takeover of BG Group, approved today by the European Commission, will boost profitability at a time when oil prices could be set to stay low for a sustained period.
- ComScore (NASDAQ:SCOR) has bounced back in some after-hours trade, +8.5%, after dropping 15.3% over the past two days.
- Shares have declined since a Monday story highlighting its use of data exchanges, barter which when booked as "nonmonetary" revenue make up a large percentage of its revenue growth.
- Nonmonetary revenue has grown to 8% of the company's total revenues over the past 12 months, up sharply from just 2% of revenue previously.
- Ahead of a Thursday board meeting to discuss Twitter's (NYSE:TWTR) CEO search, co-founder/chairman/interim CEO Jack Dorsey is still seen as a leading candidate, "people close to the board" tell Bloomberg.
- Dorsey's status exists in spite of the fact he remains CEO of Square (set to go public), and that Twitter's board has insisted the company's permanent CEO make a "full-time commitment" to the job. VCs Chris Sacca (previous) and Marc Andreeessen are among those who support Dorsey getting the job.
- Search firm Spencer Stuart is said to have reached out to candidates such as ex-Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior and CBS Interactive chief Jim Lanzone. However, some of those contacted reportedly "don’t think they were seriously considered as candidates, given Dorsey’s position." Meanwhile, sales chief Adam Bain (also a candidate) is said to be "unsure whether taking the job might jeopardize his relationship with Dorsey."
- Twitter's shares are down 22% YTD. They recently fell below the company's $26 IPO price for the first time, but have since risen back above it.
- The FCC has approved Frontier Communications' (FTR +3%) $10.54B purchase of wireline operations in California, Florida and Texas from Verizon (VZ +1.1%).
- The deal, which Verizon undertook in the wake of its $10.4B in bids in the AWS-3 wireless spectrum auction, had previously received approval from the Dept. of Justice.
- It still needs approval from public utilities commissions in California and Texas, though the key hurdles are behind it. The companies expect to close the transaction at the end of Q1 2016.
- Frontier focused on the broadband offerings it could bring: "By doubling our size, we will add scale and scope to our operations, strengthen our product and service offerings, and improve the customer experience," said Frontier CEO Daniel McCarthy. "Our goal is to deliver the life-changing benefits of broadband to an additional 750,000 households at speeds of 25Mbps/2-3Mbps across the entire Frontier multi-state footprint, including California, Florida and Texas, by the end of 2020."
- Geron (NASDAQ:GERN) +20.4% AH on news that the New England Journal of Medicine would publish two papers showing positive results for GERN's flagship drug imetelstat, an inhibitor of the telomerase cancer cell enzyme.
- In two mid-stage clinical trials, GERN said the use of imetelstat suggested it works against malignant cells that cause essential thrombocythemia, a disease in which the body produces too many blood platelets, and against myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disease that disrupts the body's production of blood cells.
- S&P +0.07%.
- 10-yr +0.02%.
- Euro -0.03% vs. dollar.
- Crude -0.5% to $46.06.
- Gold -0.04% to $1,133.20.
- Lower copper prices could mean trouble for some gold miners, including Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX), Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), New Gold (NYSEMKT:NGD) and Buenaventura (NYSE:BVN), J.P. Morgan analysts warn.
- Gold has been under pressure but nevertheless shows relative strength, the firm says, while "perversely, copper had its own semi-investment demand when it was used for collateral lending, but if this category of demand falls away, prices could be weaker."
- JPM likes Goldcorp (NYSE:GG) and Agnico Eagle Mines (NYSE:AEM) for their production pipeline, but it cuts targets for ABX, NEM and BVN by a respective 14%, 15% and 20% due in part to their exposure to copper by-product credits.
- Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE) has renewed its deal to provide American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) and U.S. Airways bookings on the Expedia, Travelocity, and Hotwire sites/apps. The deal has also been expanded to allow the Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN - provides hotel listings on 3rd-party sites) to provide content for AA.com, and for Expedia, Travelocity, and Hotwire to provide paid seating options for American flights.
- Expedia's air ticket sales rose 26% Y/Y in Q2 (20% on an organic basis). Revenue/ticket fell 10%.
- Vale (NYSE:VALE) says it received a ruling allowing it to restart operations at the Onca Puma nickel mine in Brazil, after a court last month ordered operations stopped due to a dispute over payments to local indigenous communities.
- Vale also says a court order for the company to pay the indigenous groups 3M reais ($796K) also was suspended.
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