Dividends and Amazon agrees to changes to settle EU antitrust probes

In all industries, customers want choices, but in all industries the suppliers want the customers to buy the bulk of their goods and services from the supplier. That sounds simple, but suppliers often have relationships or direct ownerships or influence customers to be within their orbit of companies. If a company is not within the orbit, one measure of attempting to increase their sales is to use the government and its agencies to allow more choice.

It is easier to see the tighter orbits with software companies because they can and do offer fewer choices.

In an article by Kelvin Chan and Haleluya Hadero of the Associated Press, Amazon has agreed to change some of its practice in Europe.

In Europe, the governing body is called the European Union and the EU has an antitrust regulator and it tries to ensure choice is offered in Europe. The EU could have potentially fined Amazon with fines worth up to 10% of annual worldwide revenue.

Amazon agreed to a 7-year agreement beginning in June of 2023. The company promised to give products from rival sellers equal visibility in the “buy box”, a premium piece of website real estate that leads to higher sales. European customers will get a second buy box underneath the first box but with a different price or delivery offer.

Amazon is also easing access for merchants and couriers to its Prime membership service. At present, couriers can only deliver Prime parcels if they are approved by Amazon. The change will allow access to more couriers.

Amazon will stop using non-public data from independent sellers on its platform to provide insights on how to compete against those merchants through its own sales of branded goods or private label products.

John E Lopatka, an antitrust scholar and law professor at Penn State University, said the changes happening in Europe could become a precedent for US antitrust regulators.

It is not unusual for companies to be sued for antitrust practices; the competition always thinks the company is doing a monopoly like practices. As investors, you like that, as a consumer may not. Companies that can operate in a monopoly or monopoly like practice can raise prices and remain profitable to pay dividends. If you own them, being an owner is a good thing.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

Dividends and Fortnite maker to pay $520 million to settle FTC cases over privacy, in-game purchases

All companies collect information, some use it better than others, but all companies collect information. For those in the consumer market, the issue is the cost of acquiring a new customer versus attracting revenue from existing customers. If your existing customers like your product, maybe they will like other products and services your company offers. When companies collect the information, the assumption is the person paying is both old enough and rational enough to make an informed decision. But what happens to companies that cater to young people?

In an article by Diane Bartz of Reuters, Fortnight creator Epic Games will pay $520 million to settle allegations that it illegally collected children’s personal information and tricked people into making purchases.

For gamers, after you have reached a certain level of skill, most gamers want to advance in the game and to do that companies such as Epic Games and many others allowed its gamers to buy products in the game to advance. If the person is an adult, no concern for the FTC (Federal Trace Commission), but what if the gamers are kids? Epic Games was fined for pay-to-win and pay-to-progress mechanics that allowed gamers to buy no matter their age.

Epic Games says they have created features such as easier-to-access parental controls, a PIN requirement to allow parents to authorize purchases and a daily limit for kids under 13.

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy was pleased with the settlement.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, all companies collect information and many use artificial intelligence to analyze the information. It is expected with the larger companies and eventually will come to small and medium sized companies. If the company markets to young people, it has to controls in place not to abuse the young people. We as a society do not believe young people should be making decisions on a range of issues, the company has to respect that in the marketplace. Once the age has increased, the limits are much less, and it is expected companies to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. For your investments, how are they using AI?

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

Dividends and US bank stocks falter as recession worries take hold

Most of us think about growth for personal, professional and whatever community we live in. Personal often includes education of one sort or another. Professional includes making plans to include growth in the company and the role you play in the company. The community we hope there are projects which makes the community we live in better. A number of years ago, the author saw a display about the City of Detroit – one year they issued no building permits, fortunately that has changed for the better. For many of us, we are bias towards growth, it is hard not to find growth in Wall Street press releases.

In an article by Lewis Krauskopf of Reuters, bank shares were down in December as worries about recession and weakening profit margins dull the industry’s appeal.

The S&P 500 bank index was down 11% including Bank of America down 16%, Wells Fargo down 14% and JPMorgan Chase down 6%.

Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak said Bank stocks do not do well in a recession, as more and more investors are worried about a hard landing.

Banks face a potential double whammy: a recession could hurt loan growth and increase credit losses; higher rates threaten to shrink profit margins in the interest rates paid on deposits eats away at interest earned from loans.

On the other side of the coin is King Lip, chief strategist at Baker Avenue Wealth Management, his firm has been buying bank shares based on their belief the recession will be moderate. At present the S&P 500 bank index trades at 9 times earnings estimates, below its long-term average of 12 times and the roughly 17 times for the S&P 500.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, it is hard not to earn a bank share or two because the large banks are generally profitable companies, but similar to all companies the prices go up and down. If you own the banks, do you buy more or have you sold some? The only perfect answer is looking backwards, but the market looks to the future The wonderful aspect to the stock market is there are reasons to buy and reasons to sell and people come to the conclusion looking at the same data. As an investor for dividends, you ask is the dividend safe no matter if the recession is hard or soft?

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

Dividends and Keystone cleanup turns Kansas valley into a work site

When oil is discovered, it is a good thing for the drillers, but for the company to make money they have to move the oil from the drill site to the refinery. They can ship by truck, but the cost and amount are too small for a large well. Railways ship oil and that is a very useful method, but the least expensive for the company is an oil pipeline. If and when the oil field is connected to the pipeline system, then everyone is happy because if there is one producing oil well there are more. If you examine the oil fields and then where the pipelines go you will see the US has a very connected industry.

The wonderful thing about pipelines is they deliver the oil to the refineries and the refineries can be located in one part of the country and the oil in another. The majority of refinery capacity is south of Houston and not far from New Orleans.

In an article by Erwin Seba of Reuters, the bad thing about pipelines is every once in a while, the pipelines leak. Generally, if you want a safe profitable company, examining utilities and pipelines is a good step. The companies are regulated, spend millions on ensuring the pipelines are monitored and tend to act rather quickly to stop and clean up the mess.

In Kansas, the Keystone pipeline transporting heavy crude oil coming from the Oil Sands of Canada and heading to a refinery on the Gulf Coast leaked. 14,000 barrels leaked and the cleanup is expected to take weeks or months. In the world of drones to take picture of events, the pictures show the oil leak.

The leak in the pipeline happened on a farm near Washington, Kansas and more than 400 people from contractors, the pipeline company, state and local officials all working to fix the fields. !4 landowners are being compensated for work on their fields. Bill Pannbacker the farmer where the majority of the spill happened, does not expect to see grass on the pasture for 2 or 3 years.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, all companies do both good and not so good things in their normal corporate life. In this example, the pipeline transports oil to the refineries which produces gas for all of us. Sometimes a spill happens and when it does it is important to see what the reaction of the company is? how does the company handle the bad aspects? if they meet your standards then you can keep your investment. if they do not meet your expectations, then it is time to seek alternatives.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

Dividends and IPO slump sparks 80% drop in Nasdaq listings

In the world of Wall Street, people are paid a salary, but the real money is in bonuses. Typically, the firms make money and pay a bonus from the profits. The bonus can be and often are more than your salary, the bonuses allow many to live a very good lifestyle. If the markets are not doing well, then bonuses suffer. Similar to most industries, every profitable industry has its profit centers and one of the profit centers of Wall Street is the IPO or Initial Public Offering. For the past 2 decades the IPO was an automatic profit center.

In an article by Mehnaz Yasmin and Akash Sriram of Reuters, the IPO market on the Nasdaq fell 80%. In 2021 743 companies raised over $180 billion. In 2022 156 companies raised $15 billion.

Companies go public for a wide variety of reasons, but one is people are willing to make a long-term investment as well as they can see a method to sell shares if they go higher than the IPO. To do this simple thing needs a rising market or a market that is generally going higher. In 2022, the Nasdaq index is down 28%. The S&P 500 index is down 16.2% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average index is down 6.5%.

The Nasdaq is heavily dependent on technology companies and that has been a very good thing, for technology IPOs form the bulk of US listings.

According to Nasdaq’s Chief Executive Adena Friedman, the lull will likely continue in the first quarter of 2023 and hopefully pick up in the 2nd quarter.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, Wall Street makes lots of money on IPOs and trading stocks, as a dividend holder you are not a profit center for Wall Street, but you can easily be a profit center for yourself. As long as your investments are making profits which can pay dividends you do not have to do anything. Your biggest decision is what do you do with the dividends? pay down debt? buy more of what you own? use a little to help Wall Street? those are good decisions to have to make. Remember you invest for you first, then Wall Street for the bulk of the stocks you will buy and sell there are many institutions buying and selling the stocks – there is a ready market for you.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

Dividends and Energy bulls hit pause as recession looms

When consumers were talking about high prices at the pump, as an investor you may have examined the oil companies and which ones to own. For high prices at the pump means high profits at the oil companies.

According to an article by Danilo Masoni of Reuters, after 2 straight record-breaking years, investors who profited during the past 2 years in the oil patch, now have to decide to sell some holdings or do nothing.

Marko Kolanovic, a global markets strategist at JPMorgan recommended selling part of your energy portfolio but is a long-term bull.

Andrea Scauri, a fund manager at asset manager Lemanik expects oil prices to lower because of recissions risks and windfall taxes in Europe. At the moment she sold and moved to other alternatives.

Roland Kaloyan head of European equity strategy at Societe Generale is overweight energy expecting prices to increase between the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, unless you are taking profits, owning dividend paying stocks means you can read both sides of the discussion and do nothing. Sometimes the best solution is to do nothing and allow profitable companies to buy their stock back, pay dividends and even special dividends. The result is over the long term the stock continues to climb and your assets increase.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

Dividends and US Senate hearing on crypto could lead to legislation

When people lose money or resources, they often turn to the government to help them receive some of their money back. However, one of the reasons they invested was a seemingly lack of regulations. The government is between a rock and a hard place, because the lack of regulations means the government can do a little, for the courts have to decide if an illegal act has happened. In the case of crypto, the government is looking to bring in some regulations.

In an article by Glenn Gamboa of the Associated Press, some US Senators want to impose regulations on crypto exchanges which operate in the US.

Crypto was once touted as the alternative to the US dollar and a seemingly unregulated market, while the coins are regulated by the exchange, the identity of the purchaser is kept secret. This has resulted in those who make income from non-legal manners were drawn to the crypto exchanges. In the same fashion as money deposited in countries whose banks are in tax free haven countries brings in non-legal dollars.

Senator Warren has a proposal; Senator Gillibrand has another while some of the spokespeople now encourage regulations.

Sam Bankman-Fried believes FTX was at war with Binance over the unregulated market.

The government of the US, say FTX customers and investors were defrauded by FTX as Mr. Bankman-Fried diverted funds from the main account to cover expenses, debts and risky trades at Alameda Research a crypto hedge fund.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, one of the reasons you wish to own these types of stocks is they are traded on very regulated exchanges, or they should all have good governance. In the TV show, the Marshalls – one of the leading characters said to both follow the money trail and when the CEO was on the run, where did the person grow up. Often times when something goes wrong, people go back to first principles or their background. With profitable stocks investing the first principle is does the company still make money or is profitable? can it easily pay the dividend? and then other concerns can be asked.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

Dividends and Airfares on key corporate travel routes to jump up to 25% in 2023, survey shows

Everyone when they are travelling looks to save both money and time, some want to save time and use alternative methods, while others want to save money. If you are travelling for your workplace, you want to arrive fresh and have some perks which makes you desire the business class of the plane. Someone in accounting always believes the flights are overpriced and the company needs to save costs and find the least expensive flight.

According to an article by Reuters, a survey from American Express Global Business Travel says airfares are expected to increase in 2023 amid higher fuel prices, labor and aircraft shortages.

The biggest gains are economy class on routes between Australia and Asia.

The cost of economy class within North America will rise by a more muted 3% and within Europe by 5.5% as capacity cuts during the pandemic are restored.

Flights between Asia and Europe are taking longer because of the sanctions on Russia which means the planes avoid Russian airspace. On a trip between London and Tokyo, the flying time is 2 1/2 hours and 20% increase in fuel burnt.

Amex GBT said global capacity in 2023 was expected to recover to 92% of 2019 levels.

Airlines group IATA forecast that carriers would post an industrywide profit next year partly due to rising fares.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, the pandemic brought commerce to a halt in the hospitality and travel businesses, and they are recovering and can be profitable next year. The point is the lag time, governments have their agenda, businesses have to adapt but there tends to be lag times. if the government and your timeframe do not add up, you should find alternatives till your investment agenda and the governments are at least on the same page.

There are more questions than answers, till next time – to raising questions.

Dividends and Juul Labs reaches settlement covering thousands of lawsuits

During WW II, the cigarette companies distributed hundreds of thousands of cigarettes to the troops fighting in Europe and many of them came back to smoke in the US. For a long time afterwards, smoking was normal and if people gathered the majority smoked. Times moved on and now smoking is still normal, but if you gathered a group together likely the smokers in the US would be a minority. For cigarette companies, they were looking for a new market and along came vaping.

In an article from the Associated Press, the company that lead the vaping success story is called Juul Labs and the company was bought by Phillip Morris. However, Juul had an emphasis on their vaping products, and they were aimed at high school teenagers. The teenagers could not smoke, but they could vape, and the flavors reflected teenage tastes.

Eventually, parents pressured school boards who pressured the Department of Justice to bring lawsuits or change laws. (it was easier to bring lawsuits). After 5 years of the process, Juul Labs has reached settlement covering thousands of lawsuits.

When a lawsuit is over, all companies including Juul announced the settlements represent a major step towards strengthening the company’s operations and a way forward.

The lawsuits provide money and funding for anti-vaping education programs.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, all profitable companies have a legal department to take care of inhouse normal legal routine matters and outside lawsuits. Often times when there are multiple lawsuits, the companies hire an outside legal firm to do the work for them. It is not unusual for companies to be sued on a regular basis. It is noted as the lawsuits go on and the amounts become higher, the inhouse resources go towards the legal process rather the focus on the business plan. Most lawsuits involve money, and the company should have a reserve fund to pay the lawsuits. Ideally, the investments you own has few lawsuits and can worry about profits and paying dividends.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.