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January 2017

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Amazon Music Unlimited has finally unveiled its family plan deal to UK users

After the recent roll out of Amazon.com, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) music service in the US and UK, speculations now confirmed that the tech giant is planning to bring its “family plan” feature to the UK. Dubbed as the Amazon Music Unlimited service, the family plan enables users to access it for £15 a month or £149 for a full-year.

Since the retail giant continues to operate in markets as a prominent e-commerce platform, it seems that the company’s decision to start its own music-streaming platform has mainly been triggered by the advent of rivals like Apple Music and Tidal. This move highlights the growing usage of music streaming services; something that seems to have replaced the traditional means of listening to music.

Therefore, with Amazon’s Music Unlimited platform, we believe the company is hoping to increase its number of users around the world strategically. Even though the company’s music service might not be able to get on Apple Music’s level instantly, a service which has successfully bagged over 20 million paying users in a year and a half, there are very high chances that Amazon will not stop offering its customers with exclusive features and deals to lure them into using its music streaming service.

Furthermore, Engadget confirmed that Prime members will be able to sign up for the service at £8 a month or £79 a year. However, non-Prime subscribers will have to pay £10 a month. Through this, Amazon hopes to advertise its Prime service to UK users. Since Amazon Prime continues to thrive in markets as one of the major pillars of the company, it is evident that the retail giant hopes to double upon its number of users before the end of 2016. We believe there is actually an increased chance that the family plan’s roll out for UK users might help Amazon get the reaction it anticipates.

However, it is safe to say that regardless of Amazon and Apple’s efforts to excel in streaming markets, Spotify continues to outshine all services. With more than 40 million paying subscribers and an additional user base of 70 million freemium users, Spotify’s simplistic settings and free tier seems to be a hot-favorite among music-lovers. In order to compete with Spotify, we believe Amazon Music Unlimited will need to do more than bring its Family plan to the UK.

The Country Caller sheds light upon the Street’s take on Ford stock

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) stock closed at $13.44 on Friday, down about a meager 0.15% against the previous day’s close. Since the start of this year, through May 27, 2016, the stock price has plunged 4.54%. 

Earlier this year, the Detroit based automaker announced its plans to gear up and manufacture a long range all-electric vehicle which would have a range of over 200 miles, giving cut-throat competition to another car maker from Detroit, namely General Motors Company (NYSE:GM). Moreover, not only GM should be worried, but the new all-electric vehicle by Ford is deemed to pose a threat towards Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) as well.

However, for now, Ford has come up with the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. The vehicle is expected to come with an additional driving range of 60 miles as compared to the iteration launched in 2016.

Furthermore, United States’ automobile industry as a whole is expected to witness a decline in sales for the month of May. The dip in automotive sales may come on the heels of two major factors. First, fewer selling days during the month and second, GM’s plan to curb down the rental sales. Kelley Blue Books projects a dip of 6.2% in the automobile sales during May, while TrueCar expects a decline of 4%.

According to Kelley Blue Books, only Nissan and Subaru may be the winners during the month as the automakers have announced a release of new models.

A majority of the  Street suggests that the stakeholders should Hold their investments in Ford stock. Out of 20 analysts who analyzed the stock, seven analysts suggested investors to Buy the stock, 12 analysts advised the shareholders to Hold the stock, while the remaining one analyst believes shorting the stock would be appropriate.

Users would have to reset the password to their accounts in order to gain access again

Twitter Inc. (NYSE:TWTR) was recently targeted in a massive online attack in which more than 33 million log-in credentials were hacked and put up for sale on the dark web. In order to counter that move, the micro-blogging site has started to notify the users affected by the purported attack and it is requiring the users to reset their password in order to re-gain access.

Twitter is not alone in being targeted by the cyber attackers, as LinkedIn, MySpace, and several other sites were also recently hit with several high-profile victims identified in the online attack including Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, the official National Football League account, and pop star Katy Perry, who incidentally, commands the highest number of followers on Twitter. The records stolen from the social network and news websites are being published by “LeakedSource;” a website that is offering to sell the records to those willing to cough up for them. Speaking about the attack and its source, Twitter’s trust and information security officer Michael Coates stated that the company was positively sure that the credentials were not taken from Twitter’s servers and that there is no indication whatsoever that they were compromised. The same sentiment, moreover, is reflected in LeakedSource’s statement that the information was fetched from the users, and not the host service.

It is understood that those users were especially susceptible and targeted, in the recent attack that uses the same password, or something really similar for multiple online services. Moreover, it was found that in a lot of cases, no other method of verification was employed by the accounts targeted by LeakedSource like two-factor authentication or verification by means of text messages or security codes.

In light of recent attacks on multiple services that most of us use almost every day, it is advised that online security should be taken very seriously and stringent measures should be observed by the users to protect the privacy of their family, friends, and most of all, themselves. The services that we use do their utmost best to protect user information, but like in Twitter’s case in point, the leak doesn’t always source from the host and the users are often at more risk due to their negligence. Verification by texts and security codes do not take more than a few minutes to set up, but they protect your account in such events to no end.

Why Chevron is a good buy despite poor results?What’s Positive for Investors?How to Enhance Financial HealthConclusion

Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) stock has soared by 14.55% Year-to-Date (YTD), but its 1Q results are far below than satisfactory. The US integrated oil major reported net loss of $725 million, or net loss of $0.39 per share.

The poor performance was mainly because of persistent depressed crude oil prices as evident from its upstream performance which reported a loss of $1.46 million. The downstream segment was also unable to offset poor performance of upstream segment. Its earnings from downstream segment amounted to $735 million, which were much lower than earnings of $1.423 billion in same period a year ago.

The earnings break-up in above image highlights the difficulties oil companies are facing due to lower range of oil prices.

What’s Positive for Investors?

In response to lower crude prices, Chevron has decided to calm down its investors by trimming its Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) and operating expenses.

Chevron had already lowered its Capital and exploration expenses in 2015 as compared to 2014, but has set out plans to even lower this expenditure for current year. The above image depicts that its guidance for upcoming quarters is much lower than 1Q.

Similarly, its operational expenditure and Selling, General and Administrative (SG&A) expenses are also on the lower range as guidance for future is way below current and past levels.

Apart from lower expenditure, its future revenue stream from projects in pipeline also presents significant upside to the stock. Its Gorgon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project has been completed, but production from Train-1 is halted temporarily because of technical failure. It is expected to commence production this month, while Train-2 and Train-3 start-up timing is expected to become operational this year.

Wheatstone LNG is also nearing completion, with first LNG expected by mid of next year.

How to Enhance Financial Health

Chevron, in its investor presentation, mentioned that it estimates asset sales of about $5-$10 billion for current year. The divestment criteria would be that assets which no longer fit with Chevron’s strategy and are unable to compete for capital, are disposed. Moreover, it also mentioned that Chevron would dispose only those assets of which fair value is received by the company.

Conclusion

Chevron’s 1Q earnings were below par, as no investor would like to invest in a company which is incurring heavy losses. But considering future revenue expectations from Chevron’s mega projects and active decision making from its management, adds value to investment. Moreover, if oil prices recover, it would be further value addition to the investment in the oil major.

 

Hargreaves believes the Street has overblown Netflix’s issues at home for 2QFY16 and he expects investors to broadly focus on global opportunities after 1QFY16 earnings release

Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) shares have faced hammering since the beginning of 2016 and are trading down 10% year-to-date (YTD), despite recovering from lows in February. After a potentially strong quarterly performance in terms of subscriber additions during first quarter of fiscal year 2016 (1QFY16), the Street is now concerned about the US growth prospect in 2QFY15.

Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves, who rates Netflix stock as an Overweight with $140 price target, stated that some Street analysts still fear that the world’s largest online TV network will fail to add many subscribers in the current quarter. However, he thinks these concerns have been “overdone and myopic relative to the company’s global opportunity.”

Mr. Hargreaves is expecting Netflix management to guide 300,000 in 2QFY15 US subscriber growth when it will report its 1QFY15 results on April 18. Although he believes that less than half of the consensus estimate, he urges that investors expecting less than the Street analysts.

The sell-side firm thinks that the guidance will at least be in-line with expectations of buy-side and any growth forecast would probably enable investors to concentrate “more broadly” on business opportunities around the globe.

According to Mr. Hargreaves, consensus for 2QFY15 international subscriber net additions is 2.8 million, which he believes is “conservative,” as it would imply the lowest adoption level in pre-2016 markets in three years and a massive deceleration in post-2016 markets. Thus, the research firm sees potentially significant upside to the Street’s projection for 2QFY15 and 3QFY15 international subscribers, which could substantially overshadow woes at home.

Pacific Crest expects investor sentiments shifting from Netflix being seen a US company to a “global leader in video distribution” as 2016 progresses. Mr. Hargreaves advised investors to not “step over quarter to pick up dimes.”

Street analysts like Robert W. Baird and ITG Investment Research think that Netflix may struggle to add new subscribers as it moves forward to introduce the planned increase in subscription prices. This may lead to excessively churn rate and effect the key metric.

 

Chevron Corporation reported net loss of $725 million in 1Q on the back of lower crude pricesCAPEXDividend

Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) in its 1QFY16 earnings reported a net loss of $725 million, or loss of $0.39 per share. Its earnings declined from $2.6 billion in the same period a year ago. Although crude oil prices have recovered in recent weeks despite the failure of agreement on production freeze, the prices remained suppressed in 1Q this year which contributed to the company’s substantial loss.

Chevron’s CEO Mr. John Watson stated that “Our upstream business was impacted by a more than 35 percent decline in crude oil prices. Our downstream operations continued to perform well, although overall industry conditions and margins this quarter were weaker than a year ago.”

Chevron’s financial performance is summarized in the table below, which highlights that the upstream segment continued to hit hard on back of lower oil prices.

Earnings by business segment (In Millions of Dollars)

1QFY16

1QFY15

Upstream——————————————————————-

(1,459)

1,560

Downstream—————————————————————

735

1,423

All Other——————————————————————–

(1)

(416)

Total————————————————————————-

(725)

2,567

 

Chevron’s average sales price of crude oil amounted to $26 a barrel, as compared to $43 in the same period a year ago. Also, average sales price of natural gas of $1.32 per thousand cubic feet was much lower than $2.27 in 1Q last year.

Mr. Watson further mentioned that the company is trying to enhance its cash flows. He stated that it is controlling its spending and is making sure to get its projects in pipeline to be completed soon, which could boost future revenues.

Furthermore, Chevron is also eyeing to lower its cost base, improving work flow efficiency, and matching its organizational size with future expected levels of activity to place the company in a better position. Also, focus is more towards higher return, and short term projects.

CAPEX

Chevron incurred Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) of $6.5 billion in 1Q this year, as compared to $8.6 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Out of the total CAPEX incurred, 92% was related to CAPEX in the upstream segment.

Dividend

Despite incurring heavy losses, Chevron continued to maintain its strong dividend history and declared a dividend of $1.07 per share to its common share holders. Although lower oil prices and difficult operational conditions continued to hamper overall performance, it has maintained its dividend at $1.07 level for the past eight quarters.

We believe that Chevron would maintain its dividend at this level, and would not increase owing to weakness in the oil markets. However, next year, when its Gorgon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project becomes fully operational along with Wheatstone LNG which is also expected to come online, it might raise its dividend as its revenues would increase substantially owing to better LNG demand in the future.

 

We take a look at the recent rumors surrounding the iPhone 7

It is now almost certain that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) will be removing the standard 3.5mm headphone jack from the company’s upcoming iPhone 7. According to reports from numerous sources, Apple will finally be ditching the standard headphone jack for the lightning Smart Connector. The Smart Connector was first introduced with the iPad Pro last year and the iPhone 7 will be the second device from Apple to feature this. The Cupertino-based giant has already received massive criticism from tech fans over the world for the its rumored decision to remove the 3.5mm port.

Now, new images have leaked which show the new lightning headphones that will come with the iPhone 7. The new images were obtained by NowhereElse, which has been a reliable source for Apple product news, giving us a first look at what the lightning headphones will look like. According to the images the new earphones look exactly like the regular iPhone earphones. The difference is the presence of the new lightning connector which has been added in place of the regular 3.5mm connector. The Lightning connector is the same plug that is used to recharge all Apple devices.

However, there are also reports that Apple might include a lightning connector instead of removing the 3.5mm plug. There is also the possibility that Apple is looking to introduce Bluetooth earphones as the company looks to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack. Reports indicate that Apple is looking to remove the headphone jack as the company is planning to bring water resistance to the new iPhone 7.

Onleaks also reported that the iPhone 7 will finally see an increase in battery capacity as the new device is expected to feature a bigger 1960 mAh battery as compared to the 1715 mAh battery on the iPhone 6s. Previous leaked images showed a device that was very similar to its predecessor and the only notable difference was the larger camera and redesigned antenna lines which are now placed along the edges rather than at the back of the device.

Microsoft’s personal virtual assistant is a compilation of funny and helpful, and we’ll explore all sides of it

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has done a wonderful job with its personal virtual assistant, Cortana. It takes a lot of work and a lot of thought to go toe-to-toe with Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now, still managing to come out as the favorite for many experts.

Cortana’s seamless integration with the tasks that we perform everyday on our computers is one of the reasons that the personal assistant has made a lasting, positive impression on users. But it’s not all work either! Cortana also knows how to let its hair down every now and then. So let’s get to know it a little better: –

 

Make Her Sing

 

While Siri and Google Now could still feel robotic in the way they carry a tune, Cortana makes it seem a little more lifelike. To put it simply, if robots ever take over the world, you would want Cortana to utter its orders to the inferior human race, and not Siri or any other virtual assistant. That is, if you’ve heard her sing before.

 

Use A Different Search Engine Than Bing

 

If Cortana doesn’t know the answer to a question of yours, it simply performs a search for the query on your default web browser. However, the virtual assistant is wired to perform those searches on Microsoft’s native Bing search. But that should not and does not stop the user from using a different search engine; one that the user would prefer. All you require is the Chrometana extension on your browser, which allows you to choose your preferred search engine from Google, Yahoo!, or DuckDuckGo. So the next time Cortana doesn’t understand something, it will simply perform a search on the search engine of your choice.

 

Search for Facts

 

Cortana is also your personal fact-finding machine. When you ask for the tallest building in the world, or the country with the highest population, the personal assistant is on it right away. A result is displayed swiftly, and you are left wondering how we’ve progressed this far, this quickly in technology.

 

Of Wit and Humour

 

Cortana is a compilation of smarts of hundreds of men credited with the development of the virtual assistant. Naturally, the answers it provides to everyday mundane questions like the meaning of life and the importance of Bill Gates for it, are generally really amusing. Go on, try one for yourself. It won’t disappoint.

 

 Send Emails

 

Probably the oldest trick in the book, but one of the most effective to date. Coordination and correspondence with colleagues and batch mates for the final project could be the most important thing on your mind this weekend, and you also have that PowerPoint to craft for the presentation. Fire up Cortana and it will assist you in sending an email in no time.

 

Apple is highly dependant on its iPhone offering for its total revenue generation

2016 was the first time in over a decade that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) experienced a decline in sales for its iPhone offering. Also, it is critical that the Cupertino-based tech giant’s iPhone model, dubbed as iPhone X is a success, considering that the company earns around 60 percent of its total revenue through its smartphone offering.

Keeping a track on the latest news on the gadget, you would already know that no other device has managed to raise as much anticipation as Apple has done with its ‘tenth-anniversary’ iPhone model. Apple has recently celebrated ten successful years since it first launched the original iPhone model.

Although the Cupertino Company has remained its usual tight-lipped regarding its next set of smart projects but recent speculation has assisted in generating an accurate perception regarding the Apple’s next flagship smartphone device.

Apple is fully-expected to finally ditch its decade long association with IPS LCD technology and incorporate an OLED display in its highly-anticipated iPhone X. This will allow the Cupertino Company to finally better compete with its closest rivals in the world of smartphones. Also, the upcoming flagship device should come equipped with a faster and more efficient processing chipset. Recent rumors have also pointed at the possible incorporation of an edge-to-edge display on the company’s tenth-anniversary iPhone model. Furthermore, all upcoming variants of the next-gen iPhone are expected to offer wireless charging. Stay tuned for more news involving the tech giant’s upcoming projects.

Deutsche Bank believes Monsanto will accept Bayer’s offer at around $130 per share

Deutsche Bank’s research department recently released its report, where it covered the latest merger talks between Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON) and Bayer AG. The senior executives of these companies are currently on the negotiation table, where Bayer has raised the acquisition offer up to $65 billion ($127.50 per share).

The bank’s research analysts believes that as the negotiations are going on, the winner in this Monsanto takeover battle is likely to be Bayer AG (ADR) (OTCMKTS:BAYRY). In support, these analysts provided competitive analysis of this prospective merger with its peers.

According to them, even if Bayer bids up to $130 per share for Monsanto, it will reflect 16.2 times EBITDA for FY17. This is lesser than 16.8 times FY16 EBITDA upon which the state-owned China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) is acquiring Syngenta AG (ADR) (NYSE:SYT). In comparison to Syngenta, Monsanto contains far superior agricultural assets, as well as profit margins, return on capital and R&D pipeline.

Another aspect that was brought in the limelight was Monsanto’s digital farming platform. On August 17, 2016, Monsanto announced that its Climate Corporation segment is developing in-field sensors’ network. This will enhance the scope of weather, soil, and other data that flows in its digital agriculture tools. These tools ultimately help in increased crop yields with reduced costs.

Monsanto has invested around $2 billion in the development of Climate Corporation’s platform over 5-6 years. Even though its current cash flow is still negative, yet the incorporation of in-field sensors are likely to receive high attention in the agriculture segment. However, according to the research analysts, Bayer apparently did not incorporate its value in its aforementioned bid.

The third point that was brought into attention by the research analysts was that Bayer would be purchasing Monsanto potentially at or near the bottom of a challenging agriculture cycle. According to the recent forecast released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), US Net Farm Income would fall $71.5 billion, down 12% YoY. Moreover, it is down 42% from the all-time high record of $124 billion that it achieved in 2013 – the lowest level since 2009. Hence, it is more likely that the trend gets reversed from this point onwards.

Lastly, Monsanto’s closing price yesterday was $108.05 per share. This means that if it accepts Bayer’s offer of $130, it is still able to provide a premium of around $22 per share to its investors. Having said this, the research analysts also pointed out that given the heightened regulatory concern around agricultural combinations, Monsanto shares are likely to trade at a 12%-14% discount to any price agreed upon in the acquisition.