+ Starbucks is amazing. Sales at Starbucks shops open at least 13 months were up 7 percent in the Americas region for the fiscal second quarter ended March 29. That’s a lot more people standing in line to buy overpriced coffee and “enjoy” the weak WiFi.
+ Amazon’s stock is flying, despite losing money, again. All the other metrics are strong — cash flow, sales, operating income — and are all up big-time. I love being an Amazon customer but I sold my Amazon eons ago. Dumb me. It’s amazing how Bezos has convinced Wall Street that losing money is good for the stock. Here’s the stock for the past year.
+ Comcast dropped its bid for Time Warner Cable after most every customer of the two much-disliked firms voiced their unhappiness at creating the world’s largest cable company. Maybe both will now concentrate on improving their service? Wouldn’t that be nice.
+ The Apple Watch allegedly contains 8 gigabytes of total storage. That’s more than many laptops and about 250,000 times as much as my first laptop, a Radio Shack Model 100. Who knows when Apple will deliver my order.
+ Citibank just updated Apple Pay on a Visa credit card of mine they just cancelled because it got hacked. Go figure. Check. Check. Check.
+ Obama apologized because his drones killed two innocent people. Obama has embraced drones as his “war,” while leaving Iraq and Afghanistan as “their” wars. It’s all very depressing.
+ JPMorgan Chase just upped my daily limit on checks I can deposit via their “Bank by iPhone Photo” mobile app. I reiterate: If you’re still traveling to a bank to deposit checks, you’re missing on the great banking innovation of the 21st century. Go talk to JPMorgan Chase. Neat, reliable, amazing, customer-friendly software.
+ When buying parts for ThinkPad computers (and probably others) you must have the correct FRU number. There are many parts with the same name, but with different FRU numbers, e.g. keyboards. The same name part but with different FRU won’t work in your machine. Check. Check. Check.
+ I’m seriously impressed with how responsive sellers on eBay can be. They prefer to fix your unhappiness than have you register a complaint with — God forbid — eBay “management.”
+ Never take advice from someone who doesn’t live with the consequences. — from Shark Tank show on CNBC. The show is fascinating family fare,especially for school kids wondering what to do with their lives.
+ Call your cell phone company, cable or Internet provider. Question the bill. They’ll lower it. I don’t know why. But they’ll lower it. Ask for a reduction since your two-year contract is up. With your cable or Internet provider, ask for a higher Internet speed. You’ll be surprised how much faster you can get these days.
+ If you’re buying a new computer — laptop or desktop — get at least 16 gigs of RAM.
+ Back up your working files this weekend. But not just to the cloud.
Petrobras in the “too hard” basket. It’s bounced back from a low of $5 to today’s $10. Some argue it’s a short squeeze. Others argue it’s “coming clean.” It was a magnificent short for a while. I covered it a little early. I’m out of it. I have it in the “too hard” basket. Here’s this week’s Economist:
Deep under water
Brazil’s energy giant comes clean with investors
KNOWING the worst can help with a recovery. But it is no guarantee. Petrobras issued its much-delayed results on April 22nd, after accountants had scoured its books to find details of many years of scams and kickbacks, which are part of Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal. The state-controlled oil company said that graft had cost it 6.2 billion reais ($2.1 billion). Other charges included a bigger-than-expected write-down of 44.6 billion reais, mainly on a flagship petrochemical complex and a big refinery. The net loss was 21.6 billion reais in 2014, against a 23.6 billion reais profit the year before.
Cleaning up Petrobras (and Brazil’s political system) is a long-term job. In the short term the company is focused on survival, with production sinking, oil prices low, cash scarce, and a hefty bill looming to develop its prized assets: the “pre-salt” oilfields that lie deep below the country’s offshore waters.
Publishing audited results was vital. Creditors could have demanded early repayment of $54 billion of debt if the company had missed a deadline of April 30th. The previous management’s borrowing binge left Petrobras as the most indebted company in the world, and-when the scandal broke-an outcast from the capital markets.
Openness about the past will not forestall American shareholders who are fuming about mismanagement; some have already sued. But for now, investors seem willing to give the new management under Aldemir Bendine, a former boss of state-controlled Banco do Brasil, a chance: Petrobras’s shares have steadied in recent months, though they are still well below their peak (see chart).
Mr Bendine says he will husband cash by cancelling this year’s dividend, slash capital expenditure, and sell $14 billion of assets by the end of next year-though finding buyers for them is another story.
The company’s future does not lie just with its management. Politicians must not only stop stealing: they must cease interfering too. President Dilma Rousseff’s left-wing Workers’ Party forced Petrobras to sell imported petrol at a loss to keep pump prices low. That made the company bleed cash. The government has since let it raise prices, but Petrobras still suffers political pressure, such as demands for big dividends, which help bolster Brazil’s threadbare public finances. The government insists that Petrobras should take the lead in developing offshore fields-a task for which it may have the technical expertise, but not the balance-sheet.
Some of these problems will land on Shell’s desk. The Anglo-Dutch giant has just bought BG, a British energy company, which is a big partner for Petrobras. Mr Bendine says he may seek more ties. Shell has cash and know-how, but may tread carefully in a country where nemesis follows hubris, and there is always plenty of blame to go round.
Favorite New Yorker cartoons from this week.
Harry Newton who notes a neat piece in Men’s Fitness magazine on raising funds through crowdsourcing. Main crowdfunding sites: Kickstarter (the leader), Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Tilt and Patreon. You can’t get the article online, yet. I have a print edition subscription. I like the magazine, though my abs are not up to snuff.
Disturbing cover of this week’s Economist. Click on it to get the full image.