Companies can make brilliant moves, but there are also times when things don't work out quite as planned. From an electric car maker exploring self-driving cars to a cable giant finally nixing an unpopular service, here's a rundown of this week's smartest moves and biggest blunders in the business world.
Tesla Motors (TSLA) -- Winner
The one success story in electric cars continues to get better. Tesla Motors posted its first quarterly profit on Wednesday, blowing through Wall Street's revenue expectations along the way. Tesla's receiving orders for new Model S sedans at a faster clip than it can make them, and that's a good problem to have.
Earlier in the week Tesla made headlines when CEO Elon Musk revealed that he has talked to Google (GOOG) about the technology that powers Google Maps self-driving vehicles. Don't get too excited though. We're still several years away from cars that can go on autopilot becoming available at the retail level. However, it's not a surprise to see that the one company that's truly cashing in on the call for emission-free cars is also the one at the forefront of tomorrow's driving experience.
Comcast (CMCSK) -- Loser
The country's largest cable television provider is apparently not the Skype type.
Tech watcher DSLReports.com is reporting that Comcast will stop marketing a premium Skype service that it tried to sell for $10 a month to folks already paying big money for XFINITY triple play bundled services.
Comcast knows that Skype video calls are free to other Skype users, right? High-def webcams are pretty cheap nowadays. At a time when Comcast is shedding video customers, the last thing it needed was to come off as greedy by trying to squeeze another $10 a month out of its customers. It's not a surprise to see Comcast backing away from the service after just a year of availability.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) -- Winner
Skeptics were worried about the company behind the Keurig single-cup brewing system after two key K-Cup patents expired late last year. What would stop many of its partners from bypassing Green Mountain and putting out K-Cups on their own?
Well, Green Mountain got some beefy validation this week when it struck a deal with Starbucks (SBUX) that expands the existing arrangement between the two companies. Starbucks will triple the number of products it makes available for Green Mountain's K-Cup and Vue portion packs through at least the next five years. Cool beans!
Carnival (CCL) -- Loser
After three months of repairs in Alabama, the notorious Carnival Triumph set sail to Bahamas for some additional repairs. This should've been a good week as Carnival cast out the demons of that ill-fated February sailing where passengers were drifting at sea for five days on a disabled cruise ship.
However, now we get another horrific mishap on a Carnival ship. An Australian couple reportedly fell overboard on the Carnival Spirit on Wednesday night as the ship was making its way to Sydney.
Disney (DIS) -- Winner
As big as Disney is these days, the media juggernaut still managed to grow revenue and earnings in the double digits. The family entertainment giant posted strong quarterly results, sending the shares to a new all-time high this week.
Earlier in the week Disney had announced that it would be turning to Electronic Arts (EA) to develop new Star Wars games, a move that was widely expected after Disney scaled back its own interactive operations.
There's nothing goofy about Disney these days.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The Motley Fool recommends Google, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Starbucks, Tesla Motors , and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Starbucks, Tesla Motors , and Walt Disney. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.
5 Things to Do Now That Warren Buffett Is on Twitter
5 Winners and Losers of the Week in Business
One critical question is what sort of celebrity Twitter user Buffett will turn out to be: the laissez-faire famous person who rolls with the hoi polloi's punches, or the hypersensitive control freak who cannot brook the slightest mischief or criticism? There's only one way to find out which alternative Buffett favors, and that's to test him through vigorous trolling.
There are lots of options. Many conservatives dislike Buffett -- whom they might be expected to admire, given his enormous investing success and cheerful advocacy for the U.S. economy -- because of his support for Barack Obama. Particularly galling has been his endorsement of the president's proposal for higher taxes on upper income earners, encapsulated in the so-called Buffett Rule. Buffett's invocation of his secretary, who he has said pays more in federal taxes as a proportion of income than he does, has become a source of mockery; why not ask Buffett why the secretary of the richest investor on Earth isn't a member of the one percent herself? Seems only "fair," to use a word the president favors in this connection.
For those on the left, Buffett's status as arch-capitalist dealmaker offers a few openings. There have, for instance, been questions about what he knew, and when he knew it, before making a $5 billion investment in Bank of America (preferred shares, of course) in August 2011. Shortly after Buffett's purchase, word got out of extensive job cuts (40,000 employees) and the firings of two executives -- restructuring moves likely to raise the bank's stock price. "Did [Buffett] have inside information that other investors were not aware of?" asked bank analyst Richard Bove. "Did he know that there were going to be these two major announcements at the time he made his investment? If he did know, I think it is illegal." These questions are under 140 characters, so have at it.
Bagging the scalp of a verified Twitter user for your followers list can seem like a daunting task. You can do it, though, take it from me: for some reason, I'm being followed by POLITICO's chief economics reporter.
Buffett -- who currently follows zero accounts, despite having received tweets of welcome from such luminaries as @BillClinton, @BillGates, and @BarackObama -- seems like a hard nut to crack. You might have a slight advantage if you're female, since, in the words of a recent essay written for Fortune (and promulgated as his second tweet), "Buffett is bullish... on women." It might also help if your avatar is a picture of a Cherry Coke Can. Buffett failed to identify his favorite soda in a blind taste test conducted by Bloomberg, so we're guessing it's the #branding he likes.
Once you've gotten Buffett to follow you, you'll be able to send him a DM, Twitter's private and confidential telegram. This is an ideal step toward actually hanging with Buffett, which is generally a possibility only for those rich enough to partake in charity auctions. (Last year's winning bid for lunch with Buffett was $3.46 million.)
Some activities that might pique our subject's interest, and which you might consider suggesting: playing bridge, which Buffett once said "is such a sensational game that I wouldn't mind being in jail if I had three cellmates who were decent players and who were willing to keep the game going twenty-four hours a day"; flying around in his private plane, which he once identified as one material thing that makes his life more enjoyable; or reading the newspaper. Buffett owns more than 70 of them, reads five a day, and recently admitted, "It's almost unnatural how much I love newspapers."
Sometimes, those with large Twitter followings will lend their extensive reach to lesser entities looking to spread a worthy message. As a consequence, the retweeted account often gains additional followers. #WinWin.
Buffett has just surpassed 400,000 followers, an impressive rate of influence-accrual. And he has an intense affection for charity, having pledged to donate more than 99% of his wealth. So your best bet, if you want that @WarrenBuffett RT, is to ask nicely on behalf of a good cause.
For companies, a stock purchase by Buffett is more than a welcome dose of capital; it's a vote of confidence from history's most storied value investor (i.e., one who seeks strong businesses whose shares are underpriced). An endorsement via Twitter could have similar significance.
The recent hack of the Associated Press account showed that even fraudulent tweets can have dramatic effects on trading. Crack Buffett's Twitter password, send a few market-moving tweets under the aegis of that coveted blue-and-white check mark, and you might be able to make off with a lot of money. Or you could just short Berkshire Hathaway and announce the famously long-serving Buffett's retirement, effective immediately. That would be simpler.