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December 2017

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We pit the premium offering from Pebble against the premium smartwatch from Apple to see how it fares

Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Apple Watch was launched in September, 2014, with the flagship iPhone 6, amidst a standing ovation and prolonged applause. Apple CEO Tim Cook termed the smartwatch as “a precise timepiece, an intimate way of communicating from the wrist, and a comprehensive health and fitness device”.

Pebble has launched a number of fitness trackers and even non-wrist devices such as Pebble Core, but its Time 2 smartwatch is the premium offering and one that is most suitable to compete against any top dog in the market. So naturally, we decided to put the devices head-to-head to see which one comes out on top.

Starting with the design, both Apple Watch and Pebble Time 2 are premium pieces of equipment to slap on one’s wrist with any and all types of occasion and dressing. Time 2 comes in black, gold, and silver colors on a stainless steel casing. The strap mechanism is quick and easy to replace and the user may swap and change according to his liking with any 22m watchband.

Apple Watch comes in aluminum Sport, stainless steel Watch, and the Gold edition as the three variants, with simple, smooth straps available in blue, green, black, and pink colors. A fingertip-sized button at the bottom of the Watch casing hooks and unhooks the band for easy chop and change.

Time 2 comes with a 1.5-inch 228x200p display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, that is 50% larger than the original Time, while the Apple Watch comes with a 272x340p display for the 38mm and 312x390p display for the 42mm Watch. As for fitness and health tracking, Time 2 comes with an optical heart rate monitor alongside the accelerometer and Pebble Health integration with the calendar to track the user’s workout schedules and makeup for them in the free time. Apple Watch also includes a fitness tracker that monitors your exercise schedule and makes sure that you fill the rings for an optimal day’s work. It is not specifically a fitness tracker in its true nature, as it only borrows some of the features for the device.

With all the features and flashy casings and bands, the thing with smartwatches is that their batteries are not quite up to the mark especially when compared with the vintage smartwatches that they intend to replace. Look away now, Apple Watch users, as Time 2 is one smartwatch that boasts up to 10 days on a single charge, while Apple’s smartwatch lasts for only around 18 hours on a single charge. The reason for that is the multi-functionality of the Apple Watch, ranging from Music and fitness tracking to making calls and sending text messages right from your wrist. An improvement, however, is one of the top entries on any Apple Watch 2 wishlist.

Pebble Time 2 is available for $169 through Kickstarter and it’ll be later available for $199 at global launch. Apple Watch, on the other hand, is available from $266 for the 38mm and $344 for the 42mm model. So if you are looking for a simple, sleek fitness tracker that tells the time and lives to tell the tale as well, then Pebble Time 2 is your premium choice. But if you are in the market for a premium companion for your iPhone that does all that, then pick up an Apple Watch for yourself in your favorite loop.

Not so long ago, the Bellevue-based retailer announced its foray into the online streaming space, while having all the ingredients necessary to challenge Netflix’s legacy

Netflix, Inc (NASDAQ:NFLX) is thus far the leader of the streaming industry, as it has offered a unique proposition to customers, with no competition. However, it seems that its legacy will be short lived, as it faces severe threat from a wealthier competitor, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). Although Netflix did receive some recognition by investors lately, as its shares crossed the $100 mark after the earnings, it seems that it may not sustain this level for a long time.

Not so long ago, the Bellevue-based retailing giant, Amazon.com, Inc announced its foray into the streaming space, while having all the ingredients necessary to challenge Netflix. The company has a lot of advantages with it, which include strong brand recognition, financial stability, and more importantly, the infrastructure necessary to excel in this field. Meanwhile, its Los Gatos-based rival has found it difficult to gain financial strength, and has been increasing its tariff plans so as to push its topline.

The recent developments are even more threatening, as Amazon intends to enter sports streaming, which is an additional revenue stream for Reed Hasting’s company. CNBC reported that the e-commerce giant has recently proposed to launch an all sports package for its Prime subscribers. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has been interested in sports streaming for a while now, and his company has approached ESPN’s parent company, Disney, to gain streaming rights, while no official word has yet been made by either of the parties.

The Country Caller has emphasized on the financial instability of Netflix, as the performance has not been up to the mark, despite posting positive numbers. Thus, a red flag was raised on the sustainability of the company, which now seems to be questioned, given fierce competition surface in the coming times. TCC maintains a Neutral stance of the streaming giant, while the outlook for the online retailer is Bullish.

The Country Caller takes a look at BP’s latest investment project

Exploration & Production (E&P) activity is starting to pick up pace once again as crude oil prices began recovering recently. One such company which is undertaking an aggressive investment plan is the London-based integrated oil & gas company, BP plc. (ADR) (NYSE:BP).

The Argentinian unit of BP, Pan American Energy LLC, has indicated that it would spend $1.4 billion on exploration and production activities. Argentina is a country having bright prospects when it comes to oil and gas reserves.

A few years back, the US experienced a shale revolution. Companies in the country made use of horizontal drilling techniques to extract more oil. As a result, the US has managed to significantly increase production. Now, as some of the oil-extracting regions in the country have become saturated, E&P companies now are diversifying and moving to other regions to extract more oil.

Argentina has managed to increase its oil and gas production sharply due to new technology coming into the country. BP’s latest move could also help take this a step further and increase output even further. As reported by Reuters, BP would now invest $900 million in Golfo San Jorge and another $300 million in the shale gas region of Neuquen.

BP, in addition to these new investments, has also made several other investments. On July 1, the company announced its Final Investment Decision for the expansion of the Tangguh project in Indonesia. This venture is expected to give BP a strong foothold in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) markets. Asia now is considered a lucrative market for LNG supply. Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) and other oil majors are looking to develop LNG markets and tap this market for doing so.

After the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP seemed as it had lost its reputation as a strong oil and gas company. Through these investments and expansion plans, the company wants to give a strong indication that it is still in the game and shouldn’t be ruled out altogether.

Ahead of today’s release, The Country Caller provides 3Q Earnings predictions for Acacia Communications and LATAM Airlines

Acacia Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACIA) and LATAM Airlines Group SA (ADR) (NYSE:LFL) are set to report their financial results for the third quarter of fiscal year 2016 (3QFY16) after the closing bell on Thursday. ACIA had been successful in beating the Street’s expectations in its first earnings report after it went public, whereas LFL exhibited mixed trends previously. Earningswhispers.com suggests that Acacia will once again outperform Wall Street expectations, at least on bottom-line.

Acacia Communications (NASDAQ:ACIA)

For the quarter ended September 30, Acacia Communications is expected to report earnings per share (EPS) of 81 cents. For its first earnings call after the IPO, the company reported EPS of 77 cents. Earningswhispers.com believes the Massachusetts-based company will report a bottom-line beat over the Street with EPS of 96 cents.

Furthermore, revenue is expected to clock in at $135.11 million. Estimize.com, which expects revenue of 132.29 million, believes that the company will fail to beat the consensus revenue estimate this quarter.

LATAM Airlines

As per Wall Street data, LATAM Airlines will report EPS of five cents. The airlines is expected to recover from its previous losses and finally report a positive bottom-line. In the preceding quarter, it reported EPS of 17 cents. Moreover, the company reported a loss per share of 21 cents in the same quarter last year.

Wall Street analysts expect the company to earn $2.36 billion in net sales this quarter. In 3QFY15, revenue came in at $2.51 billion.

The Cupertino-based company has been accused of not paying the amount of tax that it should have paid, however, this isn’t the first time such activity has happened

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook recently called the recent European Union ruling “total political crap.” The EU imposed a bill of $14.5 billion plus interest after it found out Ireland helped the company by providing state aid over the operating years. The CEO feels that the bill is motivated by an anti-US bias.

Mr. Cook has been furious over the ruling and said that he would work with Ireland to try and reverse the issued ruling. The CEO also stated that the company is dedicated to its operations in Ireland. He said that Apple was given full help by the country in its time of need and now the company will stick by the country. The CEO is confident that the ruling would be overturned and Apple would further expand its operations in Ireland.

The CEO also stated that the company paid around $400 million to the US and intends to give several billion dollars more as soon as it recovers them. He believes that the company would recover the money by next year.

Ireland has helped Apple enjoy a relatively smaller tax rate over the years. The company has managed 60% of profits through various separate businesses in Ireland. The companies, based in Ireland, benefit from the “double Irish” mechanism which allows them to reduce their amount of tax liabilities. Apple, however, isn’t alone in this regard as companies such as Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) have also set up businesses in offshore countries. The lower tax rate is legal in all respects, which implies these companies aren’t breaking any laws by doing this.

Apple has been accused in the past over not paying taxes as it has operations in regions which might be termed tax havens compared to the US. The company profited highly from the move as it conducts majority of its operations in either China or Ireland. The US government asks companies which have the highest profits to pay taxes so that the money could go into the economy and also help with jobs. However, according to a study by a couple of non-profit groups, critics say that the company’s structure has been designed to avoid, rather than pay taxes to the US government.

Piper Jaffray analyst Erinn Murphy reaffirmed an Overweight rating and $47 PT on Coach Inc stock

Coach Inc (NYSE:COH) announced that its Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jane Nielsen has planned an exit from the company in order to pursue another opportunity. Following the announcement, Piper Jaffray analyst Erinn Murphy published a research note today reiterating an Overweight rating and $47 price target on the stock.

Jane Nielsen’s transition from the company is expected to take place in August of this year. In the meanwhile, Coach is working in collaboration with a search firm in order to find a permanent successor. The analyst at the investment firm elaborated that Ms. Nielsen would be staying with Coach until the company’s fiscal year end process and will be the signatory authority on the 10-K.

Piper Jaffray analyst mentioned in his research report that she believes Jane Nielsen’s departure from the company is not something which may have any impact on the financial performance of the company. Additionally, the analyst also mentioned that her firm would take a long position on the stock on any weakness in the shares and also that she confides in the thesis. Furthermore, Erinn Murphy also suggests that the company is well on track to reap the ultimate benefits of the turnaround.

The analyst suggests that Ms. Nielsen’s departure from Coach may come on the back of an enhanced compensation package from another entity, or she might have been offered an improved role. Erinn Murphy guesses that analysts at the Wall Street would be aware of her next employer over the next few days.

She said in her report: “In the meantime, we would anticipate investors to feel very comfortable and confident with Andrea Shaw Resnick’s ability to navigate as the interim CFO.”

As per the data collected by Zacks Investment Research, using a poll of Wall Street analysts, 12 analysts rate the stock as a Strong Buy, nine analysts rate it as a Hold while only one analyst suggests the stock may underperform the broader market.

The 12-month consensus price target on the stock is $45, reflecting a return potential of nearly 15% against its previous close.

According to Bloomberg, Alibaba’s Ant Financial is looking for an operating license to operate from Asia Pacific markets

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s (NYSE:BABA) financial affiliate Ant Financial is looking to acquire license to operate in the Asia-Pacific market. According to Bloomberg, Ant Financial is opting for operational license to operate in South Korea, India, Hong Kong and other Asia-Pacific markets in order to expand its international footing . The idea could also present growth opportunity for the affiliate.

The affiliate is looking for license from Hong Kong’s monetary authority, in an effort to enable its users to store prepaid cash or also to connect their bank cards to their accounts, as per report from thefly.com which cited Vice President Sabrina Peng of the international business department of the company. The Hong Kong monetary authority last month stated that it has received around 20 applications of such kind of facilities, and plans to start issuing the licenses this year.

The affiliate has raised around $4.5 billion last month, which has set the company to make acquisition bets around the globe from India to Korea. Ant Financial is valued at around $60 billion. The aggressive path toward international expansion can be gauged from the fact that Alipay’s owner has already tied up on global payments with different firms such as Uber Technologies Inc. and has also hired services of Douglas Feagin in order to have a successful move toward international business.

Vice President Sabrina mentioned that the company wants to succeed in its goal of offering inclusive financing globally, and is looking for partners across the globe. Also, in terms of allocating human capital and resources, the international expansion remains the Alibaba’s top priority.

Wal-Mart still left behind following the purchase of Jet.com for $3.3 billion

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) recently announced its decision to take over Jet.com. The deal is worth $3.3 billion and is mainly aimed at battling with the rival, Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). Jet.com is considered as a major challenge for Amazon. The acquisition was seen as a bold attempt by Wal-Mart to narrow down the widening gap created between the retailer and Amazon over their e-commerce business.

The retailer expects to benefit from the business model of Jet.com. According to its business model, the savings are a part of pricing strategy such that the savings increase with the number of products the consumers buy. Thus, the more the cart tally, the deeper the discount that the consumer would receive. Wal-Mart believes that this deal would give it an edge over the e-commerce giant.

Wal-Mart continues to be the largest retailer worldwide as it reported $482 billion in sales in FY15. However, a large part of these sales comprised of the traditional retailing sales and its online business revenues were not very impressive. It reported $13.7 billion in revenues for its e-commerce site which were quite minimal to Amazon’s $99 billion revenues in the same period. Amazon was also able to surpass Wal-Mart’s market capitalization. Amazon stood at $365.89 billion in market capitalization, whereas Wal-Mart lacked almost one-third behind at $230.01 billion.

With the purchase of the New Jersey-based company, the Arkansas-based company also got Jet.com’s CEO, Marc Lore. According to reports, the retailer had been eyeing the CEO since he was a part of Diapers.com, which was taken over by Amazon in FY10. Marc Lore will head Wal-Mart Stores post-acquisition for several years.

Cowen analyst John Blackledge stated that the deal indicates the pressure Amazon is putting on traditional retailers as well as e-commerce sites. He further added that he believes that the company is paying a hefty amount but it might worthwhile. This would be proven when the company starts to materialize from the deal. Also, he sees Amazon’s scale to be extremely huge as it tipped off Jet.com within two years of its inception and converted it into a loss-making company one year after its e-commerce site was put up.

Moreover, the Washington-based company is expected to shadow Wal-Mart post acquisition. This is because Amazon operates across 290 distribution channels globally. Its gross merchandise volume for US is estimated at $147 billion, compared to mere estimates of $10 billion and $1 billion for Wal-Mart and Jet.com, respectively post-acquisition. This is because Amazon offers ease, convenience, and speed along with pricing whereas Wal-Mart is just competing on pricing. This makes Amazon a much better online-retailer.

With the release of the Nuka World Expansion Pack, the series of Fallout 4 DLCs ends as confirmed by the Bethesda Marketing Executive Pete Hines

Fallout 4 will be receiving two more downloadable content packs and then that’s it. The last DLC pack will be the Nuka World expansion. No word on the specific release date yet (it will launch in August) but Bethesda Game Studio marketing executive, Pete Hines, has confirmed in a tweet that the Nuka World DLC will be the “last one.” The tweet was in reply to a fan’s query about further DLCs.

Nuka World will be priced at $30 on its own or will be included with the game season pass for $50 to accommodate it. The pass was previously priced at $30 but Nuka World’s inclusion prompted the price hike. The expansion’s official synopsis reads:

“Take a trip to Nuka-World, a vast amusement park now a lawless city of Raiders. Explore an all-new region with an open wasteland and park zones like Safari Adventure, Dry Rock Gulch, Kiddie Kingdom, and the Galactic Zone. Nuka-World features new quests, Raiders, weapons, creatures, and more. Enjoy the ride!”

Fallout 4 has already released a series of DLCs including, Automatron, Wasteland Workshop, Far Harbor, and Contraptions Workshop, consecutively releasing from March through June, one DLC each month. It will release the Vault-Tec Workshop before the release of the Nuka World DLC. Vault-Tec will allow players to build their own vault and populate it as well.

Fallout 4 will probably continue to have support even after the last DLC lands in August but what is in store for the future? Fallout 4 director Todd Howard said in a statement that there are three “big and crazy” projects that the game studio was currently looking at. Though he later modified that statement by saying that the number could be higher or lower than specified since a lot of things combine to make another or one big thing can be considered three or four separate entities. Nevertheless, experiments with VR are on the horizon and just in time for the release of the PS VR, launching in October of this year and Project Scorpio from Microsoft coming soon.

Also, due to the success of Fallout Shelter, Bethesda has been motivated to make more mobile games. Around two billion smartphone users exist on the planet and almost all of them either run on iOS or Android. It’d be foolish not to try and tap that market from a financial standpoint as even console manufacturers such as Nintendo have been moving towards such a goal.

So far, Fallout 4 has outsold all its predecessors in almost all aspects (total sales, individual sales depending upon consoles) for a total of approximately 12 million copies sold worldwide, in less than a year. It’s not like it needs to market a richer gaming experience to increase sales but it makes sense that they want to go out with a bang. Whatever the case, Bethesda studios has done a bang up job with the fourth installment of the post-apocalyptic action Role Playing Game. 

Fallout 4 Patch 1.6

Fallout 4 patch 1.6 is out on the PC now and it adds 300 new names that Codsworth can say including Rihanna, Sherlock and John Cena.