Contrary to the warnings out of The Motley Fool, there are things more dangerous than blindly handing over your nest egg to a slick Wall Street broker or high-cost mutual fund. You guessed it: Consumer safety group WATCH is just out with its 31st annual list of the year's "10 worst Toys."
Making the grade: Supremo Slingshots, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Electronic Michelangelo's Nunchukus, and our personal favorite, Toy Workshop Ltd.'s Traditional Wooden Fire Truck Pull-Along.
Wooden fire truck? Be honest -- unlike your conservative long-term equity mutual fund -- those things just sound dangerous. Buyer beware.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Home Depot Nails It
- Shameless Plug: Motley Fool Hidden Gems
- Sprint Walks and Talks
- Quote of Note
- eBay Bids on S. Korea
- Discussion Board of the Day: Marvel
- More Fool News
- And Finally...
Home Depot Nails It
Third-quarter revenues rose 15% over last year to $16.6 billion. Meanwhile, as net income grew 22% to $1.15 billion, EPS jumped 25% to $0.50 per share, reflecting $890 million in share repurchases. Wall Street had expected earnings of $0.46 per share on $16.15 billion in revenues.
But most importantly, same store sales increased 7.8%.
Back in January, the company unveiled its fix-it plan as the stock flirted with five-year lows. Same-store sales were declining, partially due to stiff competition from Lowe's and partially to internal problems. But after a tough 2002, it looks like Home Depot is back on track.
To improve efficiency, Home Depot installed self-checkout stations in 760 of its 1,643 stores by the end of the quarter. As a result, customer transactions grew 9.4% to 313 million, with more than 40 million of those transactions done through self-checkout. At the same time, the average ticket grew 4.9% to $52.10 -- the highest in history.
As Home Depot continues to position itself for growth, service business revenues grew 45%. Just last week, the company took another step in that direction, announcing the acquisition of privately held RMA Home Services, a company that specializes in the installation of replacement windows and siding.
The strong quarter led management to raise its full-year guidance for growth in EPS to between 15% and 17%. Lowe's exceptional performance is hard to ignore, and it probably is worth a premium to Home Depot. But the nation's second-largest retailer is showing that it's not done yet.
Shameless Plug: Motley Fool Hidden Gems
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Sprint Walks and Talks
By Alyce Lomax
The walkie-talkie move mirrors that of Verizon
Traditionally, Nextel's walkie-talkie service has been a winner in the corporate market. Its appeal has been to those who work in a variety of industries, such as construction, where there's a need to quickly and instantly connect to others.
Of course, part of the bet here is that walkie-talkie type cellular products could find another lucrative niche. That would be the possibility of a consumer run on such nifty new gadgets, especially with the holidays just around the corner.
Some reports theorized some appeal similar to that of another consumer sensation: instant messaging. While there may be some credence to that concept, one of instant messaging's differentiating characteristics in our hyperactive, multitasking world is the ability to carry on separate, private conversations with several individuals simultaneously (being careful not to type in the wrong window, as I did once when I told a friend in Boston that I would save a table for dinner here in Washington -- whoops).
Conversely, the walkie-talkie idea is for conversations with one individual at a time, or a group. For the consumer, it seems a regular old cell phone would suffice, for the one-on-one conversations. After all, as illustrated by cell phone users chitchatting as they hustle along city streets across the globe, a cell phone bears a striking resemblance to a walkie-talkie anyway.
With wireless number portability a potential drag on subscriber loyalty (and revenues), as discussed recently by Dave Mock, cell providers are obviously scrambling to retain customers and attract prospects. In fact, they would be remiss if they didn't. However, when it comes to this particular product concept, we'll see if "what is old is new again" has an appealing ring.
Quote of Note
Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever." -- Napoleon Bonaparte.
eBay Bids on S. Korea
Having bought a majority of the company in Feb. 2001, eBay will acquire the rest for approximately $380 million in cash -- a large purchase, but not huge, given eBay's $1.58 billion in cash and equivalents.
Ownership of Internet Auction Co. offers eBay full exposure to South Korea's fastest-growing e-commerce story. The company expects to surpass gross merchandise sales of one trillion Korean won in 2004, the first Korean e-commerce firm to do so.
For 2004, Internet Auction Co. expects 86 billion won in sales (that would quickly put eBay at its 2005 sales goal of $3 billion -- were that goal in won), which equates to $73 million, and makes for a small piece of eBay's $2.1 billion 2004 sales estimate. The company expects 2004 profits of 20 billion won, or about $17 million, putting its net profit margin at 23%, and pricing eBay's buyout offer at 44 times forward earnings.
Whatever image you have of South Korea, you probably wouldn't that it has the highest broadband penetration in the world at 23% of households. This works both for and against eBay: It means more people are online with fast connections that make commerce easy, but fewer new online customers remain to be tapped. Still, growth should not be a problem for the "eBay" of South Korea.
As of September, Internet Auction Co. had 7.3 million registered users and 1.4 million items for auction. South Korea has a total population of approximately 50 million adults and children.
Although U.S. sales account for a majority of eBay's revenue, its fastest-growth is overseas, and with the goal of operating in at least 25 countries by 2005, eventually international business could account for a majority of all revenues -- as is already the case with Coca-Cola
eBay expects $2.1 billion in sales next year and $0.98 in earnings per share. Consensus analyst estimates call for $1.03 in 2004 EPS. The $52 stock trades at about 51 times that estimate, a modest premium to the expected growth rate. It's equally attractive on its free cash flow growth rates.
Are you looking forward to the Blade and Spider-Man sequels coming out next year? Do you think Marvel will be able to milk more out of its nearly 5,000-character library or is this as good as it gets? Will David Gardner ever be able to thank Marvel enough for all it's done for his performance in Motley Fool Stock Advisor? All this and more -- in the Marvel discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
More Fool News
For all today's stories, see Today's Headlines.
In another life, Tom Jacobs spelled his name Danger. Back then he wasn't so obsessive about the quality of those who headed up the companies he owned. That was then, this is now. Read why Tom now insists that Management Rules. Dayana Yochim, meanwhile, is less concerned with the boardroom and more with What's in Your Wallet? Is it us, or is there something awfully familiar about that question?.
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Alyce Lomax, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Dave Marino-Nachison, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim