Stupidity is contagious -- even respectable companies can catch it. As we do every week, let's take a look at five dumb financial events from this past week that may make your head spin.
1. Sam Walton shakes his head
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) has had a rough run heading into Friday's annual shareholder meeting. The discounter has posted five consecutive quarters of negative comps, and activists are getting vocal about what they think Wal-Mart should be paying and providing for its employees.
You would expect a company that has seen its stock essentially spinning in place over the past year as its fundamentals slip to be humble, but that's not Wal-Mart at all. In fact, it set up merchandise at a pair of its company stores near the meeting to sell to its investors. We're talking about caps, mugs, lanyards, and T-shirts that read "Walmart SHAREHOLDER." The shirts are just $6, but that's still a gutsy move by a company whose recent performance doesn't seem to create much of an incentive for stakeholders to brag.
2. Sea no evil
TEA/AECOM put out its annual theme park attendance report. SeaWorld (NYSE: SEAS ) is the only major North American operator to post a decline in turnstile clicks. That's not a surprise: SeaWorld itself told us that it suffered a 4.1% dip in attendance for 2013.
However, the report did break out its attendance estimates for some of the chain's most popular attractions. SeaWorld Orlando fell 5%, SeaWorld California was off by 3%, Busch Gardens Williamsburg dipped 4.5%, Aquatica rose 1%, and Adventure Island slipped 2%.
The reason this makes the cut is the quote that SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck gave to the Orlando Sentinel on the individual numbers: "While we do not report our numbers on a park-by-park basis, it is worth noting that the actual attendance was significantly higher than the estimates at some of our parks in the 2013 report," he said.
Really? SeaWorld already told us that overall attendance fell 4.1%. The average of the three theme parks and two water parks singled out in the report is already better than the overall figure. Is actual attendance really "significantly" higher?
3. Veer away from this stock
Vera Bradley (NASDAQ: VRA ) is carrying some serious baggage. The maker of the colorful and once-trendy suitcases and other stylish accessories saw sales slip 8% in its latest quarter to $113.5 million. That's not good, and it's exacerbated by Vera Bradley itself forecasting $116 million to $120 million in revenue earlier this year.
Earnings fell even harder, but profitability actually exceeded Wall Street expectations. However, with Vera Bradley stunning analysts with guidance calling for a drop in revenue for the entire fiscal year, it's easy to see why shareholders feel as if they were the ones left holding the bag.
4. This workout isn't working out
Shares of Life Time Fitness (NYSE: LTM ) fell 12% on Thursday after a pair of analysts cooled on the fitness center operator after it hosted an event for Wall Street pros.
William Blair and Piper Jaffray soured on the former gym beau after checking out Life Time's Analyst Day. Piper Jaffray lowered its rating from outperform to neutral, and William Blair hosed down its profit outlook.
The first rule of Analyst Day is that you don't disappoint the analysts.
5. Hertz, don't it?
Bean counters don't always get it right the first time -- or the second. Hertz Global Holdings (NYSE: HTZ ) had already delayed its Q1 filing last month after spotting accounting errors with the capitalization and timing of depreciation for certain non-fleet assets, allowances for doubtful accounts in Brazil, and other items. Now the rental car giant is delaying its report again after spotting even more accounting flubs.
Hertz will be restating the past three years of financials. Looks like we need a designated driver in the accounting department.
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