Bidding to feed America, Yum Brands'(NYSE: YUM) Taco Bell is offering a free Crunchy Beef Taco to everyone in the U.S. if a home run hits its 12" by 12" target in the outfield at Busch Stadium during Game Three of the World Series Tuesday night. If Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, or any other player makes good, the Bell says 300 million people can collect their taco from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Nov. 9. Good luck thinking outside the bun on that day.

Shareholders, don't let this publicity stunt worry you. The company does have an insurance policy to cover the anticipated costs of the tacos if it happens.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Disney Direct?


Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)

When Disney(NYSE: DIS) officially announced that it was unloading its 313-store Disney Store chain by entering into a licensing agreement with Children's Place(Nasdaq: PLCE), it was the sum of months of public anticipation.

It wasn't necessarily a secret. Days before the deal was announced, Disney sent an email to its customers to inform them that the company's own store was setting up its virtual storefront under the domain.

Disney Direct? It was ironic. Disney was in the process of distancing itself from its 313 suburban embassies of colorful Disneyana and its new venture was named exactly after what Disney had failed in doing in specialty retail.

Don't get me wrong. I'm with Steven Mallas on this. Disney is doing the right thing. Anyone that read "decreased losses at Disney Store" in the company's fiscal third-quarter press release had to reason that Disney collecting licensing royalties passively from Children's Place will be better than actively losing money.

I mean, I may have scratched my head at the fact that I couldn't recall ever walking into an empty Disney Store and that the whirlwind of activity failed to result in consistent profitability for the company, but the numbers don't lie. Neither does the fact that Disney's other off-site ventures -- from restaurants to high-tech video arcades to kid play havens -- have ultimately folded early.

So it was interesting to see Forbes put out its annual list of the most valuable character franchises with Mickey Mouse and his gang on top. Mickey lapped Winnie the Pooh -- another Disney property -- but it was refreshing to see Mickey and his entourage account for $5.8 billion in retail sales this year. That was a healthy jump over the $4.7 billion that Mickey generated in 2003. Disney and Pixar's(Nasdaq: PIXR) Nemo as well as the growing Disney Princesses line were also billion-dollar franchises.

While it's important to see Disney create new characters, it's good to know that the old faithful (Mickey's a few years shy of being an octogenarian) can still help Disney's consumer products division. Now it will have Children's Place's expertise in keeping kids happy at prices that make parents smile too. Disney Direct? It was more like a double reverse, but, hey, if it works, it works.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz finds himself at a Disney Store on a seemingly monthly basis but walks out empty-handed way too often. He owns shares in Disney and Pixar.

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Kellogg's Healthy But Plain


Seth Jayson (TMF Bent)

Fools would do well to be extra skeptical when headlines issued by company PR crow about exceeding expectations. Such is the case today with Kellogg's(NYSE: K) third-quarter earnings release. Remember, in press-release ball, the object is to hide the real info from the investor and the first move is usually the over-hyped headline.

Fortunately for those who would like to believe that some things are still wholesome, there don't appear to be any nasty surprises lurking at the bottom of the bowl. Kellogg's slim sales gain -- 4.8% without currency windfalls -- is nothing exciting, but it's in line with competitor Kraft(NYSE: KFT) and better than General Mills(NYSE: GIS). Peer and Income Investor favorite Sara Lee(NYSE: SLE) reports tomorrow.

Investors' take-home of $0.59 per share represents another slim 5% gain over the prior-year period, but taking the longer view, earnings are up 16% for the first nine months of the year. Gross margins also improved, so what's not to love?

The stock's price, for one. While a slight run-up in a spooked market this morning betrays plenty of enthusiasm for this brand, is it really warranted? The slow-moving, mature giant already trades at over 20 times free cash flow and 20 times full-year earnings estimates. Shares look fully valued, so investors -- like coupon-clipping cereal buyers -- would be smarter to seek companies with greater growth prospects, more room to run, or both.

For related Foolishness:

Seth Jayson is fortified every morning with caffeine and Slim Jims. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.

Discussion Board of the Day: I Survived the 80s

Feeling retro? How has the music industry changed over the years? Did you grow up in the 1980s and live to tell the tale? All this and more in the I Survived the 80s discussion board. Only on

BellSouth's Cingular Pursuit


Phil Wohl

The real questions about the telecom services industry: Can the prolonged slumber still be considered a period of transition? Has the market accelerated and left the companies breathless?


My answers are "No," the period of transition is long gone, and "Yes," the telecom services companies still need to get in better shape.


My view of the communications industry's future is this: It will take on a more global slant that will eventually blur industry borders. The lines between cable/satellite and telecom companies will be erased, and companies will be more global instead of purely regional. Then, and only then, will companies truly be able to bundle a suite of communications services that will be offered under one "umbrella" and (perish the thought) a single bill.


BellSouth (NYSE: BLS) , the old Southeastern Baby Bell, reported disappointing Q3 earnings of $0.44 per share today; that's $0.07 per share below both last year's earnings and the analysts' consensus estimate. The company cited the hurricanes that affected 1.2 million of its customers, at a cost of $38 million ($90 million expected for the fourth quarter), as a contributor to the decline.


Many companies in the telecom industry are having a tough time growing voice revenues while still seeing decent data/Internet growth. BellSouth appears to be resting most of its expansion hopes on 40%-owned Cingular Wireless, its joint venture with SBC Communications(NYSE: SBC). Cingular has a huge deal pending to acquire AT&T(NYSE: T) Wireless, which would vault it into the top national wireless provider position, with 47 million subscribers.


BellSouth has also traditionally had very productive properties in Latin America but recently sold three wireless operations -- in Ecuador, Guatemala, and Panama -- to Telefonica Moviles, S.A.(NYSE: TEM), the wireless affiliate of Telefonica, S.A.(NYSE: TEF). The company will receive $1.2 billion in the transaction and is expected to recognize a $600 million gain, or about $0.33 per share, in the fourth quarter.


Leveraging the large Cingular/AT&T Wireless subscriber base will be a daunting task, since companies such as Nextel(Nasdaq: NXTL), Sprint(NYSE: FON), DeutscheTelekom's(NYSE: DT) T-Mobile, and Verizon(NYSE: VZ) all have strong wireless operations in place. Despite the company's attractive 4.07% dividend yield, the shares are missing a catalyst that would drive them off their relatively flat trend over the last year.



Cut the cord and feel free to talk about these other takes:

Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and still has dreams about his old telecom companies. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.

Wild Oats Grows Stale


Seth Jayson (TMF Bent)

You can say one thing for sure about the management at Wild Oats Markets(Nasdaq: OATS): It has guts. It takes a lot of "intestinal fortitude," as our nutty old gym teacher used to call it, to chase after a leader like the grand poo-bah of granola, Whole Foods Market(Nasdaq: WFMI). It takes even more to issue an earnings warning in the current market climate.

But that's exactly what happened at Wild Oats today, with the result that the Street took an organic hickory stick to the stock, whipping it for more than 10% in early trading. Margins went south. Why? Too many sales. Comps are expected to remain weak for the next quarter at negative 4% to 5%, with the never-tiresome excuse of the California grocery strike. Follow this reasoning: The prior-year quarter's 8.5% increase -- hardly earth-shattering -- will make this year's sales look worse.

Come on folks! I think you've used up all your coupons there. Let's hear something a bit more original next time, shall we? Meteor strike, Bigfoot sightings spooking patrons, customers running to traditional stores like Kroger(NYSE: KR) and Albertsons(NYSE: ABS)... anything but the strike.

History buffs might want to look back at last year's less-than-stellar third quarter, in which comps grew less than 1%, down from 5% the year before. Last year's excuse was supply-chain management leading to "out of stock" situations that sent customers away. Right. As you read through subsequent filings, you begin to get the impression that there's little more here than a couple years' worth of excuses.

The bottom line is that Wild Oats now expects a loss for Q3 in the neighborhood of $0.21 per share, with the full year's red ink expected to be around $0.15 per share. Too bad the Street -- and, just maybe, investors -- were expecting a profit.

This isn't the first time Wild Oats has disappointed shareholders lately. Last quarter was a debacle, too. Kind of makes the problems at Whole Foods look pretty tasty in comparison. Here's a healthy tip for your all-natural diet. Make your portfolio Wild-Oats free.

For related Foolishness:

Seth Jayson shops at Whole Foods. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.

Quote of Note

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." -- Groucho Marx

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