Video Games 09 Jul 2007 08:37 am

Sony Cuts Playstation 3 Price

by Sean Hackbarth

Playstation 3

Sony really, really needs to crank up Playstation 3 sales. Video games are a huge money-maker to begin with. Plus, the company needs to get more Blu-ray high-def video players on the market to win the war over HD-DVD. Nintendo’s Wii has been outselling Playstation 3 almost two-to-one. Sony decided to spur demand with a price cut:

Sony Corp. slashed the price of its current PlayStation 3 by $100, or 16.7 percent, and introduced a high-capacity model in an effort to spur sales of the struggling video game console.

Starting Monday, the current 60 gigabyte model will cost $499, down from $599.

The Japanese electronics maker also said it is introducing a new version of the PlayStation 3 with a bigger hard drive for storing downloaded content such as video games and high-definition movies.

The new PS3 increases the system’s storage capacity to 80 gigabytes from 60 gigabytes and also includes a retail copy of the online racing title “MotorStorm,” a company spokesman said. It will be priced at $599.

Sony’s production cycle probably isn’t at that point where it’s making money off the consoles. This price cut will cut into the company’s margins. But not extending its video game dominance for another generation is something the company doesn’t want to ignore.

Sony Cuts PS3 Price by 16.7 Percent”

Airlines 14 Jun 2007 10:56 am

Midwest Airlines Board Vote Will Lead to Purchase

by Sean Hackbarth

Midwest Airlines logo

Today marks the end of Midwest Airlines as an independent, Wisconsin company. At the company’s stockholders meeting today it’s expected that three director candidates backed by AirTran will be voted onto the board:

The election will be the highlight of today’s 10 a.m. shareholders meeting. Midwest Air shareholders will choose between a slate of incumbent directors John Bergstrom, James Boris and Frederick Stratton, or challengers John Albertine, Jeffrey Erickson and Charles Kalmbach.

AirTran announced Monday that 59.5% of Midwest Air’s shares have been tendered to the takeover offer, which was extended to Aug. 10. Given that level of support, AirTran executives expect to see their three nominees elected to the board. Analysts also believe that outcome is likely.

The importance of the election is that Albertine, Erickson and Kalmbach “will bring a fresh perspective to the debate” on whether Midwest Air should enter into sale talks with AirTran, said Kevin Healy, AirTran vice president of planning.

Midwest lost a lot of sympathy when they annouced they were replaced a good portion of their two-across seating for typical three-across in order to increase revenues. They’ve not created two classes of seating making the airline little different from potential buyer AirTran. Romantic notions of “saving the cookie” lose their punch when Midwest ditches their primary market distinction.

AirTran has taken a slow and steady approach in its bid to acquire Midwest. Slowly but surely they are winning over stockholders who see a combined company in a better position to compete. Midwest reinforced that notion Tuesday when they announced they wouldn’t meet analysts’ expectations. Their growth strategy isn’t going as well as Midwest hoped.

When AirTran does buy Midwest the state will lose a good corporate citizen. I hope we gain more flights to more locations at a better price.

Midwest Board Vote Today”

Retail 25 May 2007 11:44 am

Saks Shoe Department Gets Zip Code

by Sean Hackbarth

shoe

The Manhattan Saks Fifth Avenue (SKS) store got the U.S. Postal Service to help them with a publicity stunt. The department store announced their newly-remodeled shoe department will be so big and important it deserves its own zip code:

The quintessential Manhattan store is revamping its shoe department, and when it moves from the fourth floor to the eighth floor in August customers will be able to send mail to 10022-SHOE.

“We believe it’s such a big move for us it deserves its own ZIP code,” Saks spokeswoman Lesley Langsam Kennedy said Thursday. “We wanted to make it a destination.”

But the four-letter addition is meaningless:

Only the last four characters, which aren’t necessary when you’re mailing something, are specialized, and they won’t be read by sorting machines.

Read

Personal Finance 24 May 2007 10:29 am

Fed Wants Ease Credit Card Confusion

by Sean Hackbarth

Ben Bernanke Pop Art

Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve wants to make credit card statements easier to understand and give consumers more time before their terms are changed:

To help, the Fed’s proposal would call for a table summarizing the changes to appear on the statement above the list of the consumers’ transactions. That’s where people are most likely to notice the changes, the Fed said.

From solicitations to monthly statements, the Fed’s proposal would require key information appear in larger print, with rates and fees in an easier-to-see boldface. The proposal also aims to make language easier for people to understand.

“The purpose is to avoid those ‘gotcha’ moments,” said Fed Governor Kevin Warsh.

Read

Travel 23 May 2007 02:29 pm

Skybus Airlines Takes Low-Cost Flight to New Levels

by Sean Hackbarth

Skybus logo

$10 for an airline ticket. That’s a gimmick Skybus Airlines is using to hook people into its ultra-low cost flying model. On every Skybus flight ten seats will sell for $10. Other seats can run from $37 to $330 if you buy at the last minute.

How does Skybus plan to make money? You will be charged for everything:

The airline sells soft drinks, juice and water for $2, alcoholic beverages for $5 and, if you really want to splurge, a small bottle of champagne for $10. Candy bars and potato chips go for $2. If you are looking for a little more to eat, a sandwich will run you $10.

Each checked in bag costs $5 and boarding first will set you back $10. Then there’s the catalogs flight attendants push on you. ABC News’ Scott Mayerowitz called it, “the Home Shopping Network at 35,000 feet.” In addition Skybus hopes to sell naming rights for individual planes.

Money is saved by flying into less-trafficked airports, boarding the plane via stairs instead of the more costly gate, self-check in, and buying tickets only on the web.

If you can put up with being nickeled and dimed to death and are willing to fly through Columbus, OH Skybus could be a way to save you a lot of money.

Read

Technology 04 May 2007 01:04 pm

Microsoft Badly Wants Yahoo

by Sean Hackbarth

Microsoft wants to be a bigger fish in the large, online sea. Google has been trouncing them on search and subsequently on online advertising. Google is now moving into the relm of business software, a Microsoft cash cow. The New York Post reports Bill Gates and the gang have had enough and want to buy Yahoo:

While Microsoft and Yahoo! have held informal deal talks over the years, sources say the latest approach signals an urgency on Microsoft’s part that has up until now been lacking. Now, Microsoft shows fear.

The new approach follows an offer Microsoft made to acquire Yahoo! a few months ago, sources said. But Yahoo! spurned the advances of the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant. Wall Street sources put a roughly $50 billion price tag on Yahoo!.

“They’re getting tired of being left at the altar,” said one banking source who has recently had talks with Microsoft. “They now seem more willing to extend themselves via a transaction to get into the game.”

Microsoft spending $50 billion would be unprecedented for the company. They’ve been sitting on billions in cash for years. It put fear in their competitors until Google started reeling in the billions.

Gary Sattler at Bloggingstocks.com is ripping the Redmond giant:

My interpretation of Microsoft’s subliminal message here is that it couldn’t win the game so it’s going to pay the crippled kid down the street to come play with it. The only problem here is that the crippled kid isn’t all too interested in playing, and Microsoft doesn’t even seem to realize that it’s a cripple.

TechCrunch’s Duncan Riley observes, “It certainly is a strange time when Microsoft accuses Google of anti-competitive behaviour one day, then activily seeks to acquire a leading competitor for the sole purpose of trying to compete with Mountain View based uber company the next.”

Read

Food 03 May 2007 05:26 am

Profit Boost Means More Mint Juleps for Yum Brands

by Sean Hackbarth

Yum Brands logos

Rats couldn’t stop Yum Brands (YUM) from boosting profits 14%. The dirty, nasty rodents who starred on an internet video clip scurrying around a New York City Taco Bell/KFC are the company’s excuse for a 12% decrease in domestic sales. Fortunately for Yum foreigners didn’t care about the sanitary conditions of Big Apple stores. International sales shot up 56% in the first quarter.

Yum’s numbers should make for an enjoyable Kentucky Derby, sponsored by the Louisville-based company. The first round of mint juleps are on CEO David Novak.

In related news Yum announced that KFC and Taco Bell are now trans fat free. The rats rejoice. Nothing is worse than eating food off the floor only to find out it’s plugging up your arteries.

Read

Energy 02 May 2007 10:08 pm

With Tight Supplies Expect Record-High Gas Prices

by Sean Hackbarth

Old gas pump

If you like to drive (or you have to drive) you’re in trouble. Tight gas supplies mean rising gas prices. In the Southeast Wisconsin area where I live gas is comfortably over $3/gal. Analysts say current gas inventories are only slightly higher than just after Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast. Expect the average gas price to top the record of $3.06/gal set in 2005.

We’re in a situation where too few refineries mean supply shocks when they go down due to fires or maintenance. High oil prices mean the oil companies have the cash to build more. It requires governments allowing them to build and locals rejecting NIMBY attitudes for the sake more gas. Or we just accept high gas prices and buy a Prius.

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[Photo via Flickr]

Media 01 May 2007 01:52 pm

News Corp. Wants to Buy Dow Jones

by Sean Hackbarth

News Corp. (NWS) owns the New York Post, one of the few American newspapers improving its circulation. Dow Jones (DJ) owns another one, The Wall Street Journal. News came out that News Corp. wants to buy Dow Jones for $5 billion.

I bet you wish you owned Dow Jones stock this morning. It shot up to $57 dollar/share on the news.

News Corp.’s bid might ignite a bidding war for Dow Jones.

The deal makes a lot of sense for News Corp. The Post and WSJ can combine printing and back office operations to bring the tabloid into the black. There’s also the upcoming Fox Business Channel which could use the WSJ’s cachet.

Read

Investing 30 Apr 2007 01:53 pm

Stock Options 101

by Sean Hackbarth

Stock options are risky (unless you’re a CEO) but they can help you make money when the market goes up and down. To pull this off you need to understand what you’re buying. InvestorTrip has begun a series on trading stock options by first telling you what they are. This should be an interesting series.

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