TYLER MATHISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Wal-Mart`s new boss. The world`s largest retailer names a new CEO, just as holiday shopping takes off. So, what does the change at the top mean for shareholders?
SUSIE GHARIB, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Groundbreaking agreement. Oil dips on a nuclear deal with Iran. Will prices fall further, and will drivers start to feel relief when they fill up?
MATHISEN: Marriage penalty. Meet a woman who has a husband, a job, and a difficult decision to make about her health care insurance.
All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Monday, November 25th.
GHARIB: Good evening, everyone.
Attention, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) shoppers. There is a big management change at the world`s largest retailer.
Wal-Mart`s CEO, Mike Duke, will be stepping down in February. Replacing him? Doug McMillon, a 23-year company veteran who`s currently the head of the chain`s international division. He will be only the fifth chief executive at the company since it was founded by Sam Walton.
Now, the news came just days before Black Friday. This is the critical kickoff for holiday sales.
But it looks like investors approved of the changes. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) shares rose, even touching all-time highs in intraday trading, before settling at nearly $80, nearly 1 percent higher. As shoppers, workers and investors prepare to meet the new boss, many are wondering what changes maybe be in store with the new CEO.
Courtney Reagan takes a look.
COURTNEY REAGAN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mike Duke will be retiring after five years of Wal-Mart`s CEO and 18 years with the company. During his time at the helm, Duke has dealt with sluggish sales as a result of a recovering economy as well as allegations of bribery in Mexico and criticism over employee pay and benefits, all three issues are ongoing.
Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) shares have gained 66 percent during Duke`s tenure as CEO. While impressive, it has vastly underperformed the broader S&P retail index, which has increased more than 244 percent over the same time period.
Duke is largely regarded for his expertise in distribution, valuable knowledge for someone running the world`s largest retailer. While incoming CEO Doug McMillon also has distribution expertise, he`s known more as a merchant, with key experience running the company`s international segments.
Wal-Mart`s U.S. segment is its largest, by far, but international is where the future growth is.
BUDD BUGATCH, RAYMOND JAMES & ASSC: My initial take is that Doug was certainly the heir apparent. There was another potential heir apparent in Bill, Bill Simon, who runs Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) U.S.
DAVID SCHICK, STIFEL NICOLAUS & CO.: I think Doug McMillon has been groomed for this position, been CEO in training for sometime.
REAGAN (on camera): But why announce the CEO transition now during the company`s self-proclaimed busiest week of the year? Because Mike Duke announced his retirement at the company`s November board meeting, that`s when McMillon was voted on at the successor, nearly nearing the timing of Lee Scott`s retirement and Mike Duke`s succession five years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doug McMillon.
REAGAN (voice-over): McMillon has spent his career at Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and is expected to continue to work on polishing the company`s public image, while re-attracting shoppers and their dollars, at a time when its core consumer spends with caution and the competition heats up with more convenient dollar store rivals and online behemoth, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), nipping at its tail.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Courtney Reagan.
MATHISEN: And with us now to talk more about Wal-Mart`s management changes and what it all means for the company is J.P. Eggers, professor of management at New York University`s School Stern of Business.
Professor, welcome back.
Why now and what does Doug McMillon signal for Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)?
J.P. EGGERS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF MANAGEMENT: Well, I will admit the exact timing is a little curious being the week of black Friday.
But I think in general, they`re looking for a transition after the holiday season which means you need to announce it enough in advance that everybody is ready for the transition. As far as what McMillon is going to bring, I mean, I think this is clearly a doubling down on the business as usual on many ways, he`s got broad experience in distribution, but certainly merchandising, as you were discussing, as well, and international, kind of saying that, look, the existing stores, brick and mortar store business and the international business is kind of where they`re seeing growth and the need to push in the future.
GHARIB: But, J.P., you heard Courtney`s report talking about a lot of the issues — their sluggish sale, the bribery scandal in Mexico. What do you think is the most important thing that Doug McMillon will have to deal with, and can he fix all of these things.
EGGERS: Well, I mean, to answer the second question first to some extent, I think he`s got the right portfolio skills. Again, he`s been being groomed for a long period of time, they have gotten him into a number of different roles, they`ve had in international, they`ve had him in Sam`s Club, he`s very involved in merchandising and store operations.
As far as what they need to do, they really need to manage international growth effectively because they can kind of very easily figure out how to fix things in the same store sales in the U.S., but figuring out how to kind of open the new stores, get into those new countries and build up the new systems, is a big piece of the plan going forward.
MATHISEN: He comes out of the international business there. Is he at all tainted by that Mexican bribery scandal that broke about a year or so ago? And how big a problem is that for him and for Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)?
EGGERS: So I can`t see any real reason why he would be tainted by that. He was running Sam`s Club in the U.S. at that point in time, and I can`t see any reason why anybody looking in real detail would say that he would had any real knowledge. As for the potential implications for Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) overall, given the importance of international expansion, this going to be a potential hurdle to overcome in certain places where bribery is seen as kind of not a way of business.
But the reality is, there are many countries around the world where this is not a surprising finding to see this coming to light in some way. And while there are big and important questions and certainly some potentially monetary finds, it would be something that Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) should be able to handle going forward, I would expect.
GHARIB: And what about competition? This retail industry is so competitive. There are a lot of newcomers coming in like the Amazons of the world, you know, big companies that are trying things. And then you`ve got the discounters and all of that.
Who do you see as Wal-Mart`s biggest competition? And what do they have to do to get ahead of it?
EGGERS: So, certainly in the U.S., Target (NYSE:TGT), and, you know, potentially these dollar stores coming from underneath, but then Target (NYSE:TGT) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) in the U.S. would be by far the two biggest competitors.
We have the interesting situation that in many of the foreign countries they are looking at and targeting, there`s different competitors in foreign locations. So there is not one clear big one.
I think in the short term, they`re clearly focusing on the brick and mortar sales, by kind of focusing in with McMillon and going that direction, looking at Target (NYSE:TGT), looking at the dollar stores, looking at grocery chains, and saying that the Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) thing will kind of have to be put off as they continue to grow their online presence.
MATHISEN: Very quickly, he may be Wal-Mart`s old guard, but he is a young guy, he could be there 15, 20 years.
EGGERS: There`s no question. He`s a very young guy coming into a senior role. You know, as I said before, they have been grooming him for a while. But this is — I think certainly the hope would be it is a long-term solution. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) has looked for long-term as opposed to short-term solutions at the top.
So I would expect that they`re hoping the same thing in this case.
MATHISEN: J.P., thank you very much.
J.P. Eggers is professor of management at New York University`s Stern School of Business.
EGGERS: Thank you.
GHARIB: Turning to Wall Street. It`s now the NASDAQ`s turn to boast a milestone, for the first time since the heavy days of the dotcom bubble 13 years ago, the NASDAQ topped the 4,000 mark several times in intraday, before settling just points below that level.
Also today, another record high for the Dow. Those blue chip Dow stocks rose seven points, the NASDAQ up nearly three, but the S&P lost two points.
MATHISEN: Meanwhile, crude prices settled slightly lower after the coalition of Western powers reached a tentative deal to curb at least temporarily that nation`s nuclear ambition, in exchange for suspending some tough economic sanctions. Oil was modestly lower all session long with traders still concerned about how much Iranian oil reserves might hit the energy market and when.
Sharon Epperson has our history about the agreement, how much Iranian oil we`re talking about and what it may mean to prices at the pump.
SHARON EPPERSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As part of a preliminary deal, the United States has said sanctions against Iran will not be tightened but will remain in effect over the next six months. Sanctions have significantly reduced Iran`s oil exports from 2.5 million barrels per day in 2011, to 1.5 million in 2012, and less than 1 million barrels a day in October.
The White House says Iran`s oil field will be limited to two million barrels a day as part of the sanctions. But considering the level of exports in October, reaching that level could potentially add more oil to the global marketplace.
KEVIN BOOK, CLEARVIEW ENERGY PARTNERS: What we`re talking about is the cap at 1 million barrels a day, which is Iran`s much diminished oil volume that they`ve had under the sanctions. If you now say that a million is OK, you`re talking about an incremental 285,000.
EPPERSON (on camera): That`s not an insignificant amount. Brent crude prices initially plunged on the news of an Iran, down about 3 percent but recovered the losses by the end of the day.
(voice-over): The International Energy Agency contends that even if some oil sanctions are lifted it`s not likely that Iran would be able to jump back to pre-sanctions levels immediately.
So what`s next for oil prices? If global supplies outstrip demand and other factors continue to pressure the market, Brent crude oil and U.S. oil prices could fall sharply.
ALAN HARRY, SPARTAN COMMODITY FUND PORTFOLIO MGR. & CEO: I think we could see $85 and $86 crude oil half way through next year. With the Fed stopping the purchasing of the bond program and slowing it down, I think we`re going to see even a lower level for commodities, especially crude oil.
EPPERSON: That should bring relief to drivers, if oil prices continue to fall, some analysts say, the national average price for gasoline could fall below $3 a gallon next year.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Sharon Epperson.
GHARIB: But prices won`t get below $3 a gallon not just yet. The latest Lundberg survey shows that gasoline prices rose for the first time since September, up 3 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, averaging $3.20 nationwide for a gallon of regular.
MATHISEN: Officials at Boeing (NYSE:BA) have a lot on their plate right now. The company is now soliciting bids from at least a dozen different locations before it decides where to build its newest jet, the 777X.
At the same time, the aircraft maker is warning airlines not to fly a pair of its jet models too close to high altitude thunderstorms, saying ice could form on the General Electric (NYSE:GE)-made engines, creating the loss of thrust.
With that, Boeing (NYSE:BA) was the biggest decliner in the Dow today, falling more than 2 percent.
Phil LeBeau joins us now from Chicago with more.
Phil, let`s start with that icing problem. Which planes are being singled out and is there an easy way to fix it?
PHIL LEBEAU, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Well, the people at General Electric (NYSE:GE) believe that they can do a software fix. They pretty much have an idea of what is causing these ice crystals to form, and it`s only in select flights and select cases where they believe there`s an issue.
So, what you have is a situation where some airlines have said, listen, we think we could have some high altitude thunderstorms on particular routes. And as a result, we won`t fly the Dreamliner on that route. We`ll put a different plane in that route instead.
And my sense is, knowing the people at General Electric (NYSE:GE) and doing stories found there, with their aircraft engine facility, they`re going to figure out some kind of a software fix relatively quickly.
GHARIB: Phil, you just mentioned that this is happening on select routes. Any response from the airline companies on how they feel about all of this?
LEBEAU: Well, they`re never happy, Susie. They`re never happy when they have to take a new plane out of service and substitute a different plane into that route. But having said that, we`re not looking at a widespread drop in service for the Dreamliner.
Some of the airlines, the Japanese airlines, they`ve had a few select routes where they have had to change out that plane. But it`s nothing that`s going to have a huge impact on the bottom line.
MATHISEN: Tell me I`m wrong, Phil, but is the Dreamliner star-crossed?
LEBEAU: No, I don`t think it`s star-crossed. I think what you`re seeing here are — I know everybody hates hearing the term — teething problems. But that`s part of what you`re seeing here, and it happens with all new airplanes.
MATHISEN: All right. Let`s move to the bidding process for the 777X aircraft. Which states are in the running and when can we expect a decision?
LEBEAU: It`s probably easier to say who`s not in the running.
Look, there are at least 15 different sites around the country, probably about seven to ten states that are in consideration, Tyler, and we`ll probably hear some kind of answer from Boeing (NYSE:BA), it says in the first quarter of next year most likely, definitely in the first half of next year.
GHARIB: All right. Phil, thank you so much for all that information:
Phil LeBeau reporting from Chicago.
And still ahead on the program, what does an online retailer, a toy store, and an airline have in common? The answer is hidden in the fine print. That`s coming up.
MATHISEN: Chrysler says it won`t have its initial public stock offering until next year at the earliest, disputing a published report, Fiat, the majority owner of Chrysler, that an IPO this year is, quote, “not practical”.
Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of both automakers, has been squabbling with the United Auto Workers Union trust that owns more than 41 percent of Chrysler, over just what the company`s real market value is.
GHARIB: Holiday shoppers looking for a value may want to check out the latest issue of “Consumer Reports” magazine. It`s out with its annual holiday report card for 2013, telling us which retailers are being naughty and which ones are being nice this season.
Jackie DeAngelis has more.
JACKIE DEANGELIS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether they`re shopping in stores or online this holiday season, one thing is for sure — consumers have choices. So, where will they spend their hard-earned dollars, and which companies will benefit from that purchasing power?
With its fourth annual naughty and nice list, “Consumer Reports” says companies who have the best policies and practices, they will rake it in, because things like customer service, return policies, shipping and fees, they matter.
On the nice list: mega-merchant Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). They`re being praised for implementing a $5 administrative fee needed to open a buy now/pay later, layaway account.
High end retailer Neiman Marcus (NYSE:MCS) offering free shipping and return on most items.
Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) saying goodbye to those fees for time changes in reservations. Plans could be changed for the simple difference in fare value.
But good things don`t necessarily have to come in packages.
TOD MARKS, CONSUMER REPORTS SR. PROJECT EDITOR: Citibank made our list this year for their policy of basically for forgiveness for late fees. Look, we all ding credit card companies time and again for their punitive practices, and they`re not very consumer friendly. But what Citibank has managed to do this year is to basically give you late fee forgiveness.
DEANGELIS: On the naughty list, the world`s 11th largest retailer, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), raising eligibility for free super saver shipping from $10 to $35.
And Toys “R” Us, suspending their week after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Travelers be warned. United Airlines no longer allowing families with infants or kids under four to priority board.
But it`s not just about discounts and savings. It`s also about best practices.
MARKS: Kmart made the naughty list this year. They announced with great glee that they would be open for 41 hours straight beginning Thanksgiving morning at 6 a.m., going through 11:00 p.m. Black Friday night. That`s a long time, feel kind of sorry for the employees putting in that time.
DEANGELIS (on camera): The marketplace is crowded. The offers and restrictions are far and wide. It will be interesting to see if the nice beat out the naughty this holiday season, when it comes to the bottom line.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Jackie DeAngelis.
MATHISEN: Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) upgraded Alcoa (NYSE:AA) to a buy, sending shares of the aluminum maker higher and that is where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus”.
The analysts at Goldman said Alcoa`s aluminum business is under-appreciated, and noted its improving cost structure is reasons why the stock got a bump up, to buy from neutral. Shares up almost 4 percent today to $9.59.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) Merrill Lynch upgrading shares of Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) to buy, from neutral. The analyst says Cat`s power system business is going to support earnings for 2014, despite weakness in mining and construction. That sent shares of the Dow component up almost 2 percent of $84.40.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) said it sold more than a million Xbox One consoles on the devices first day on the market. That sales figure matched Sony`s first day sales of its PlayStation 4 device, which hit shelves a week earlier and was $100 cheaper. Shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) slightly higher, $37.64, the close there.
The talk show host Kate Couric is joining Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) as the tech company`s global news anchor. The move is an attempt by Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) to expand its audience, to sell more advertising. Shares of Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) initially popped to multi-year highs on the news, but it did end the day just a little bit lower, $36.29.
GHARIB: BlackBerry announced more shakeups to its management team. Its chief operating, chief financial and chief marketing officers are leaving the struggling smartphone company. The news comes just weeks after the CEO was replaced and the company took itself off the market. The stock rose slightly to $6.25.
Shares of the drug maker Orexigen Therapeutic surged today after reported good news about its weight loss treatment. The company says that its drug Contrave performed well in its latest study and didn`t increase a patient`s heart attack risk. Orexigen plans to re-submit the treatment for regulatory approval in coming weeks. The stock climbed more than 9 percent to $6.21.
News that the U.S. government won`t cut Medicaid and Medicare as much as expected this year sent shares of Davita Healthcare and Fresenius Medical Care (NYSE:FMS) higher. Both companies provide kidney dialysis, and Medicare covers most payments for those treatments.
Davita shares were up almost 9 percent to $61 and change. Fresenius shares jumped 7 percent to $34.54.
And the Food and Drug Administration has done a U-turn regarding a diabetes drug that once had sales of $3 billion a year. The FDA has removed some restrictions on the GlaxoSmithKline medication Avandia, saying it no longer has serious concerns on the drug`s heart task risk. This means more doctors can prescribe Avandia to more patients. Shares fell 1 percent to $52.82.
More concerns about the Affordable Care Act, and this time, it`s about just how affordable coverage can be. When it comes to paying taxes, the so-called marriage penalty can mean that some couples pay higher rates that they would if they filed singly.
With the Affordable Care Act, some couples are finding that new insurance rules come with their own version of the marriage penalty.
Bertha Coombs has that story.
BERTHA COOMBS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aileen Markowsky is finding being married and working is leaving her with tough options for health insurance next year.
AILEEN MARKOWSKY, MASTIC BEACH, NY: I`m losing my health care coverage. The company that my husband works for has implemented spousal carve out. So because I am offered health through the part-time job that I have, I`m no longer covered under my husband`s plan.
COOMBS: Her husband`s firm isn`t alone. According to a Mercer Survey, 7 percent of large companies such as UPS are denying spouse`s coverage next year if they can get insurance elsewhere, in part, to keep plan costs down under the Affordable Care Act.
The problem for Aileen is that insurance where she works part-time will cost more than her take-home pay.
MARKOWSKY: If I were not working at this small part-time job, then I would be covered through my husband`s health care. However, because of the opportunities for advancement where I`m working, I don`t want to quit.
COOMBS: She is working with a broker to explore options on New York`s health exchange, just one plan would let her keep her doctor but it`s costly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, most likely we`re going to end up going with the entire plan instead —
MARKOWSKY: Right, because she`s the only expert —
COOMBS: Lower premium plans have high out of pocket costs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This first one here, you`re going to have an individual deductible of $4,000.
COOMBS: Which combine with monthly payments would double her insurance costs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you get to pay $8,058.
MARKOWSKY: And that is $400 less than I pay for Joe and I both now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
MARKOWSKY: Yes, and we have great coverage right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
COOMBS (on camera): Aileen`s income would qualify her for a subsidy if she were single. But under the Affordable Care Act, married couples can only qualify for subsidies based on their combined income. And together, the Markowskys earned too much. And while they have a small business on the side, there`s also a marriage penalty of sorts when it comes to small business plans, which is impacting her own broker insurance options.
DEAN SHERLAND, INSURANCE BROKER: I have a company that is owned by myself and my wife. And according to the Affordable Care Act, we are no longer considered eligible for group coverage. So, we are being forced into the individual exchange.
COOMBS: President Obama`s often repeated pledge about keeping your coverage —
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.
COOMBS: — is ringing hollow for Aileen. She is now thinking of giving up her job in order to keep her doctor and her plan.
MARKOWSKY: I love what I do and I love working for that company. And I can see the potential and there are people there working with me to get promoted, to get with a better position, and now we`re hit with this.
COOMBS: Bertha Coombs, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT.
MATHISEN: Coming up, millions of Americans may be hitting the road this Thanksgiving weekend. But that number is down sharply since the Great Recession, leaving some private toll road investors paying the price.
GHARIB: As millions of Americans get ready to hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday the number is far fewer than just a few years ago. And that means that big drop means profits have proved elusive for many investors who put money into privately funded toll roads and bridges used by the public.
Hampton Pearson has more.
HAMPTON PEARSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forty-three million Americans will be hitting the road over the upcoming holiday weekend, according to AAA. That`s down from last year and continues the dramatic drop in driving overall since the recession.
ROBERT SINCLAIR, AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION: For Thanksgiving in 2007, more than 50 million people traveled. By 2008, when the recession had taken hold firmly, that number dropped down to 38 million, 12 million people said, skip it, I`m not traveling for probably the most important holiday of the year. And it really comes down to the money.
PEARSON: Nationwide, total miles driven peaked at around 3 trillion back in 2007, it`s dropped at least 5 percent since then. It`s a direct hit on the bottom line revenue tied to the estimated $27 billion global investors poured into private toll road deals all over the U.S. in the last decade.
Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have the authority to charge tolls, and 33 states have authorized public/private partnerships. That`s according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
EMILY GOFF, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Any private investor in a toll road is first going to look and make sure there is sufficient demand on that road. So crucial there is getting accurate revenue and usage projections. And if they see that they can make a profit, then they by all means going to engage with that state and set up a toll road or a bridge.
PEARSON: Two success stories in the Washington, D.C. area, the privately owned Dulles Greenway is making payments on its billion dollar debt. And there are now hot lanes on the Capitol Beltway, where drivers pay more to travel at a speedier quicker pace with the tolls collected electronically.
Out in Oregon, they are experimenting with miles traveled using the GPS or an electronic odometer.
ROBERT PUENTES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The idea is to closely match the use of the roadway system with what users are paying for it. Right now, we really don`t do that very well.
PEARSON (on camera): The bottom line, traffic congestion and the need to pay for improved roads will pave the way for innovative public and private solutions.
For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Hampton Pearson, in Washington.
GHARIB: And that`s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I`m Susie Gharib, thanks so much for joining us.
MATHISEN: And thanks from me, as well. I`m Tyler Mathisen. Have a great evening, everybody. And we`ll see right back here tomorrow.
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