Explaining Southern California's economy

Disney earnings: Maybe there isn't a tech-entertainment connection

World of Color

Susan Valot/KPCC

"World of Color," a water show that opened last year, is credited with drawing more people to Disney California Adventure.

Walt Disney Co. reported first-quarter earnings yesterday, and they were fairly good: net income was up 12 percent.

But the growth came largely from ESPN and theme parks. If you study the earnings statement, you can spot something alarming in two critical parts of the business of the Mouse: movies and video games.

This is from Bloomberg:

Seven Disney films in U.S. theaters in the quarter collected ticket sales of $239 million, a 33 percent drop from $357.6 million generated by nine movies a year ago, according to Box Office Mojo, an industry researcher.

The studio is in talks with Coinstar Inc.’s Redbox and other services to impose a 28-day delay on rentals of new DVDs, [CEO Bob] Iger said on the call. The delay is being sought because of the industrywide drop in DVD and Blu-ray sales, he said.

The consumer products unit reported profit little changed at $313 million on a 3 percent higher sales of $948 million.

Disney’s interactive division registered a loss of $28 million. Sales tumbled 20 percent to $279 million. The unit is cutting costs and taking steps to raise revenue with a goal of becoming profitable in the next fiscal year, Iger said. It hasn’t shown a profit since Disney began breaking out the results in the final three months of 2008.

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Apple vaporizes estimates for first quarter earnings

Mercer 19876

Shereen Meraji/KPCC

The new Apple store at the Americana in Glendale.

Any questions? The consensus on Wall Street was that Apple would earn $10.14 a share and record $39 billion in sales for its first fiscal quarter, according to Bloomberg. Instead, it did $13.87 a share on $463 billion in sales. Eyes are still being put back in their sockets:

"Those numbers are just unimaginable," said Michael Obuchowski, chief investment officer at First Empire Asset Management, which has $4 billion under management, including Apple shares. "It’s still an extremely well-managed company and they are showing that the product pipeline is sufficient even now to generate growth rates that are unrivaled."

Apple is now pretty darn close to being a $400 billion company, by market capitalization. It currently has two major things going for it: it's vacuuming up more and more market share for smartphones, as these devices become much more popular and begin to define the future of mobile computing; and it's ideally positioned to thrive in the post-PC age, as consumers shift away from old-school laptops and desktops and move to ultrabooks and tablets.

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Has the 'post-Google' era arrived?

Mercer 16018

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Google reported fourth quarter earnings today and missed Wall Street's estimates by a country mile. Investors were looking for $10.51 per share. They got $9.50. This immediately gave some Google bears justification for cutting their target prices for the Internet search giant — and for making even more drastic pronouncements. For example (this is from MarketWatch):

“Is the post-Google era upon us?” asked analyst Scott Devitt of Morgan Stanley in a note to clients. He cut his price target to $590 from $642 while leaving his rating at equal-weight, or neutral.

Other analysts are keeping their calls for Google in the stratosphere. But the fourth quarter miss might be signaling something more ominous — or optimistic, depending on your perspective — than the end of the Google Age. 

The beginning of the Facebook Age.

If Facebook stages, as expected, an IPO later this year, it could become overnight a $100 billion company, by market capitalization, raising $10 billion in the process. There's every possibility that investors are preparing for this earthshaking event. Google's struggles provide an ideal excuse for them to trim their Google positions to prepare to move into Facebook.

Facebook shares will be prices at a premium, given that the company probably isn't planning on selling very much of itself in its IPO, continuing a recent trend of tech companies limiting the initial "float" of shares to command a higher valuation. 

So Google is under pressure at almost the same time that Facebook is poised to capture investor attention and shift the tech world decisively toward a more social, less search-driven model. Web and mobile users are spending their time on these sites and with their apps, so this is where the action is. The big question is whether they'll be able to make money off advertising in the same bountiful way that Google has from search.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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Reportings: California unemployment; LA car mechanics; drive the speed limit

Not a rounding error. California was at 12 percent unemployment. Now we're at 12.1: "California's dependence on the real estate industry is going to continue to cause pain until home-building starts again. But with uncertainty throughout the economy, few businesses in any field seem willing to hire." (LAT)

 

Lose your job in a recession, see your future income reduced by almost 20 percent: "For high-tenure workers who experience job displacement in a recession, the losses amount to about three years of earnings at pre-displacement levels and 19% of the present value earnings of otherwise similar workers who retain jobs." (Brookings Institution)

 

It's springtime for car mechanics in LA: "And as the U.S. vehicle fleet ages and consumers continue to save, repair shops, analysts said, are in a good position to continue their growth." (LAT)

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