Stupidity is contagious. It gets us all from time to time. Even respectable companies can catch it. Let's take a look at five dumb financial events this week that may make your head spin.
1. You can ring my Dell
Dell (NASDAQ: DELL ) was supposed to report earnings next week, but it bumped its release to Thursday after the market closed. It wasn't pretty. Revenue was flat, and adjusted earnings were shaved in half.
However, we're kicking off this week's list of dumb moves with Dell because of the guidance that the company chose to give investors.
Given the company's announcement on Feb. 5 of a definitive merger agreement to take Dell private, the company is not providing an outlook.
Let's see. The struggling PC giant is trying to get shareholders to vote in favor of a deal to be taken private, but it won't tell them what they'll be giving up if they do decide to cash out here?
That's just bad form, Dell.
2. Social dysfunction
Instead of being hailed as the Facebook of China, maybe Renren (NYSE: RENN ) should be tagged as the Faceless of China.
The Chinese social networking website operator was crushed after posting disappointing quarterly results. Revenue growth in its latest quarter of 11% was less than half the 23% that Wall Street was targeting.
It gets worse. Renren's outlook for the current quarter calls for revenue to fall by 3% to 7% over the prior year's performance. Ouch! Analysts were betting on a 28% increase.
Online advertising has been sluggish at Renren despite its growing base of users, but now, even the online gaming business that was driving results higher has peaked.
Renren went public at $14 two years ago. It has gone on to shed more than two-thirds of its value. Until it can start growing again, it won't be granted too many friend requests from investors.
An analyst asked for some more color on the decision to whack away 5% of its workforce in a seemingly improving economy. "The environment in terms of our business is improving slightly, but nowhere near the pace that we want," CEO John Chambers responded.
Layoffs happen. Costs need to stay in check. However, how does Cisco expect to pick up the pace of its growth with 4,000 fewer employees around?
The world's largest retailer pointed to this year's elimination of the payroll tax stimulus -- an effective 2% increase -- as the primary culprit behind Wal-Mart's negative comps.
Now, there's initially some logic to that. The payroll tax increase hurts the lower and middle class that Wal-Mart relies on for the bulk of their business. If folks have 2% less in take-home pay, they will naturally have less to spend after their bills are paid.
However, isn't Wal-Mart the low-price leader? Shouldn't shoppers be trading down to the leading discounter to stretch their leaner disposable income?
More importantly, Wal-Mart's comps couldn't even keep up with inflation -- up less than 2% last year and flat the year before -- during the years where the payroll tax cut was supposedly stimulating the economy. There's something more happening at Wal-Mart, and it's a taxing dilemma for shareholders.
5. Shamu is all wet
Companies going public only have one chance to make a first impression.
SeaWorld (NYSE: SEAS ) fell short in its first quarter as a public company. The theme park operator missed Wall Street's profit targets in its quarter of trying to live up to historically conservative estimates. SeaWorld's net income of $0.41 a share fell woefully short of the $0.51 a share that the market was expecting.
A sharp decline in traffic resulted in a weaker profit than what the pros were targeting. The gamble to raise ticket prices resulted in fewer turnstile clicks. SeaWorld can get through this, but if this is a sign of things to come, investors had no reason bidding up the shares the day that it went public.
Shamu's the only one making a big splash here.
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