New American Express Platinum $550 Fee a Rip Off for Many

American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP) has increased the annual fee for Platinum Card members by $100 to $550 as of March 30. For existing card members, the change happens on the renewal date or September 1, whichever is earlier. Many of the new benefits to these cardholders are useless, because they are for services they rarely, if ever, use.American Express starts the list of these benefits with a relationship it has built with Uber:

Starting on March 30, 2017, consumers with The Platinum Card will receive exclusive access in the Uber app to a new Uber Rides with Platinum benefit, which provides up to $200 annually in Uber credits for U.S. rides and automatic VIP status where available.Uber is certainly not used by many American Express members, so this feature has no value at all.

Next, American Express offers a new travel service with the higher $550 fee:
Platinum Card Members will also receive 5X Membership Rewards points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. This is in addition to the recently unveiled 5X Membership Rewards points on airfare booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel

Do most Platinum members fly often? Probably not the majority of them.Another set of benefits are better for travelers than other card holders:Card Members will also get access to an expanded Global Lounge Collection, a new Global Dining Collection, more global events, enhanced mobile servicing options, and all of the other benefits that currently come with Platinum Card Membership.
When the new package for the $550 fee was announce, Janey Whiteside, senior vice president and general manager of Global Charge Products, Benefits & Services at American Express, said:Because we’ve built long term relationships with our Platinum Card Members, we have a deep understanding of what they value most about their Membership – access to exclusive experiences, rich travel rewards and superior service. We’re elevating the Platinum Card to further deliver in these key areas, while providing new benefits that enhance their lifestyles. We want to ensure that we’re continually exceeding our Card Members’ expectations.

For the legions of people who use their cards as most people do most often, the plan has little to offer. For members who use their cards for buying gas, food at restaurants and retail items in stores or via e-commerce, the $100 increase benefits American Express but not them.

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​SAME STORE SALES DOWN

After Marchex Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHX) announced a partnership with Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) on Thursday, its shares saw a solid gain. With this partnership, Marchex is looking to integrate its Omnichannel Analytics Cloud to optimize spend across Facebook’s channels.

A recent study by BIA/Kelsey expects that phone calls to businesses via smartphones will be over 100 billion this year. Ultimately the study concluded that this makes the ability to measure and gain insights regarding consumer behavior in an omnichannel sense critical to developing and refining a successful marketing strategy.

Facebook is partnering with Marchex to ensure that the most reliable and advanced call analytics are available to marketers. As one of the most important touchpoints, Facebook has an incredible influence, but ad exposure on social media can be difficult to tie back to phone calls or in-store purchases. This partnership is looking to eliminate this blind spot by giving marketers a deep understanding of what happens on a phone call that stems from a Facebook ad.By forming this partnership, Facebook is looking to use this level of insight and ability to immediately measure cross-channel impact to convert more prospects into customers.

Doug Weiss, product partnership manager at Facebook, commented:

At Facebook, we know how powerful a mobile device is, and we’re proud to have created one of the most powerful platforms for global brands to reach their audiences. With that power comes an acute responsibility to provide accurate data that enables brands to understand how this engagement on Facebook might be driving interactions off of Facebook. Partnering with Marchex to couple rich call analytics with Facebook’s own data is a significant step forward for marketers who must understand their audience and make sound, real-time decisions to increase their revenue.

Shares of Marchex were trading up 20% at $3.05 on Thursday, with a consensus analyst price target of $3.75 and a 52-week trading range of $2.46 to $4.68.

Facebook shares were last seen down 0.3% at $133.86. The consensus price target is $159.21, and the 52-week trading range is $98.88 to $135.49

DELL TOPS IN ENTERPRISE STORAGE

AMEX PLATINUM FEE GOES TO $550

​MARCH NEWSLETTER

​INVESTING




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 GOAL IS                                                  SMOOTH  

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The hedge fund Tiger Global Management LLC is perhaps one of the more widely followed hedge funds by investors and the media alike. Its latest 13F filing shows 37 positions worth some $8.03 billion, versus 27 positions worth some $6.94 billion at the end of the third quarter. Due to its size, investors pay attention when they buy and sell stocks.

Please Note: This article has been edited due to names and assignments.

Tiger Global Management does not own Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) any longer. It was just this week that Apple hit all-time highs, but the 13F filing with the SEC now shows that they have exited the position. The firm’s stake in Apple had more than doubled to about 3.6 million shares, valued at more than $400 million at the end of the third quarter.It is unknown what price and what day the stake in Apple was sold off, but the share price was $113.05 on the last day of the third quarter of 2016 and Apple’s price was at $115.82 on the last trading day of 2016. It turns out that the Tiger team left some money on the table, because Apple’s stock price hit $135.00 on February 14.What matters now is what else Tiger’s management team has bought. This is far from a total portfolio view but these are some of the top changes below.Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) was listed as a new position of 366,800 shares. This stake in Facebook would be worth close to $50 million in current dollars — versus $42 million at the end of 2016.

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) was listed as a new stake of more than 2.1 million shares under Tiger’s 13F filing. In current dollars, that would be worth some $136 million.Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) was perhaps the big surprise here. Tiger now owns about 52.7 million shares of Fiat Chrysler that would be worth about $600 million today. At $11.40 now, this was a $9.12 stock on the last day of 2016, a gain of about 20% from the end of the year.

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) was a tad smaller at 1,381,929 shares (versus an end of third quarter stake of 1,342,548 shares) but this is a huge position — worth $1.036 billion at the end of 2016.

When Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) released its most recent earnings report before the markets opened on Thursday, the company said that it had $0.53 in earnings per share (EPS) on $27.61 billion in revenue. Thomson Reuters consensus estimates had called for $0.52 in EPS and revenue of $27.31 billion. In the fiscal fourth-quarter of last year, the retailer posted EPS of $0.57 in EPS and $26.16 billion in revenue.

Total sales, excluding fuel, increased 4.4% in the fourth quarter over the same period of last year. Recent mergers with Roundy’s and ModernHEALTH contributed to this growth. Unfortunately, same-store sales declined 0.7% in this time, which undercut all the positive earnings momentum.

During 2016, Kroger added 12,000 new supermarket jobs. Also this past year, the company posted its 12th consecutive year of market share gains.

In terms of guidance for the 2017 full year, the company expects to see EPS in the range of $2.21 to $2.25 and identical supermarket sales, excluding fuel, to range from flat to 1% growth. The consensus estimates are $2.23 in EPS and $121.2 billion in revenue.

On the books, Kroger’s cash, temporary investments and store deposits in transit totaled $1.23 billion at the end of the quarter, versus $1.20 billion in the same period from last year.

Rodney McMullen, board chair and chief executive of Kroger, commented:

True to our history, we will continue making proactive investments in our Customer 1st Strategy to maintain our strong competitive position. We are lowering costs to invest those savings in our people, our business, and technology. This approach will enable us to deliver on our long-term net earnings per diluted share growth rate target of 8 – 11%, plus an increasing dividend, as it has in the past.

He added:

In 2016, Kroger grew market share, increased tonnage, and hired more than 12,000 new store associates. For 2017 and beyond, we will continue delivering for our customers while also setting the company up for our next phase of growth and customer-first innovation.

Share of Kroger were last trading down 4% at $30.75, with a consensus analyst price target of $36.09 and a 52-week trading range of $28.71 to $39.22.

​MARCHEX PARTNERS WITH FACEBOOK

The latest data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Enterprise Storage Systems Tracker shows that total worldwide enterprise storage systems factory revenue was $11.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016. That was down 6.7% from the previous year. However, total capacity shipments were 18.3% higher year over year to 52.4 exabytes during the quarter.

According to the IDC:

Revenue growth increased within the group of original design manufacturers (ODMs) that sell directly to hyperscale datacenters. This portion of the market was up 3.2% year over year to $1.2 billion. Sales of server-based storage declined 7.8% during the quarter and accounted for $3.4 billion in revenue. External storage systems remained the largest market segment, but the $6.4 billion in sales represented a year-over-year decline of 7.8%.

Despite the impact of headwinds on the broader enterprise storage systems market, companies continue to increase their investments in some key areas, including software-defined storage, cloud-based storage, all flash storage systems and converged systems.

The largest external enterprise storage systems supplier during the quarter, accounting for 32.9% of worldwide revenues, was Dell Technologies Inc. (NYSE: DVMT). Its $2.12 billion in revenue was down 17.3% from a year ago. In a statistical tie for second place were Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (NYSE: HPE), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ: NTAP), with about a 10% share of the revenue each. As with Dell, and all suppliers overall, revenue declined year over year for these three as well. Fifth place Hitachi had 7% revenue share.

When Hewlett Packard Enterprise reported mixed fiscal first-quarter financial results last week, it specified three headwinds as having an impact on the outlook for 2017: increased pressure from foreign exchange movements, higher commodities pricing and some near-term execution issues