With a surprising last-minute surge, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 finished at record highs on Friday, extending the 11th straight session-ending record for the Dow. The Dow ended up 0.96% for the week with the S&P 500 not far behind with its own 0.69% gain. However, some companies made news this past week, so without further ado, here are some of the markets' biggest moves and headlines.
Finally moving past scandal?
If you remember about a year ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention let the world know that consumers who had purchased the China-produced flooring from Lumber Liquidators Holdings (NYSE:LL) were roughly three times more likely to fall ill with cancer. That rate was much higher than earlier calculations following the 2015 broadcast by CBS' 60 Minutes. The stock shed much of its value since the 2015 airing, but rebounded 17% on Tuesday after it reported a narrower-than-expected loss during the fourth quarter, offering investors a slight amount of hope going forward.
Looking at the results, company revenue was up 4.3%, to $245 million during the fourth-quarter, and a 2.8% sales gain from comparable-store sales. Net loss for the fourth quarter was $5.5 million, or $0.20 per diluted share, compared to a much worse $19.8 million, or $0.73 per-share loss during the prior year's fourth quarter. Those results topped analysts' estimates of $242.2 million in revenue and a loss of $0.31 per share.
"While this represents a further step in the right direction, we remain focused on improving our business to drive long-term value for Lumber Liquidators shareholders. Our recent investment in a broader, trend-right assortment supported by deeper inventory reflects our commitment to serve our customers," said Dennis Knowles, Chief Executive Officer of Lumber Liquidators, in a press release.
Knowles is right. This is certainly a step in the right direction after more than a year with very few bright spots, but it still has an incredible distance to convince consumers the scandal is behind the company, and to convince investors it can get anywhere near its previous high of nearly $120 per share.
Chicken and burgers
While chicken and burgers might not sound like a match made in heaven for dinner, it could be tasty for investors in Restaurant Brands International (NYSE:QSR). The parent company of Burger King agreed to purchase Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc. (NASDAQ:PLKI).
Looking at the details, Restaurant Brands agreed to acquire Popeyes for $79 per share in cash, or roughly $1.8 billion. That was roughly a 21% premium to the closing price on Feb. 10, 2017, when rumors of the potential acquisition first started flying.
After the acquisition announcement, Popeyes reported its fourth-quarter results on Wednesday, with the company slightly beating estimates on both the top and bottom lines, but facing some pressure on comparable-store sales. The fast-food chicken chain posted revenue of $61 million during the fourth quarter, which was also a bit higher than analysts' estimates that called for $59.9 million. Its adjusted earnings per share hit $0.48, ahead of analysts' estimates of $0.46 per share.
Looking forward, it sounds as if Popeyes, operating roughly 2,600 locations in the U.S. and 25 other countries, will essentially operate independently, while taking advantage of the global scale and resources of its new parent company, Restaurant Brands. How much that really helps investors of Popeyes is yet to be seen.
Will they, or won't they?
In one of the bigger moves the automotive industry has seen in recent years, General Motors (NYSE:GM) had previously been reported to be in advanced talks with PSA Group to sell its long-struggling and unprofitable European operations. Both groups agreed to be in talks last week, but it appears there might be a little snag: pensions.
GM's pension plan for Opel and Vauxhall retirees is underfunded by roughly $9 billion, which is essentially an obligation almost the size of General Motors' total automotive debt, which sits at $10.8 billion. On one hand, PSA Group wants nothing to do with that massive obligation, and understandably, GM is saying it wants no part in an obligation of a business it's about to sell.
"Pensions are one of the reasons that, if you're PSA, you don't want to do the deal," David Whiston, an auto analyst with Morningstar, told Automotive News. "There may be a way to get it done if GM keeps the obligation but PSA gives them cash."
This development is a big deal for both companies because GM is fed up with its European operation, which has lost money since 1999 to the tune of more than $20 billion. This potential sale gives GM, depending on the outcome of pension negotiations, a clean exit out of Europe and a way to focus capital on other forward-looking strategies, such as autonomous vehicles.
For PSA Group, this offers at least $1 billion in annual cost savings by combining the operations, according to sources familiar with negotiations per Automotive News. We'll see how this all shakes out, but chances are the pension negotiations will be an ongoing saga for a while longer.