Kudos to Priceline. Booking.com promotes Boston $PCLN

Like most people I held my breath as Boston went through the bombing and subsequent disruption. I use www.booking.com which is part of Priceline (Nasdaq:PCLN) for a lot of business and personal travel. They seem to be featuring Boston. Just in case you were scared off Boston is one helluva town and worth a visit. Check it out.

Cradle of democracy in USA.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Alcoa Strange Social Media Follows $AA @alcoa #socialmedia #SEO

Alcoa (NYSE:AA) follows some strange twitter accounts on its twitter feed under @alcoa. Look at who they have chosen to follow. At about 4217. Most of them are predictable. Politicians, Environmentalists, Business and Political Media. They follow judiciously as they should to track social commentary about themselves.

But who decides who to follow and what are the policies. Here are just a few that seem well like they have nothing to do with Aluminium.

Dominos Pizza

Tiger Woods

Martha Stewart

Lenos Garage (Yeah the talk show guy. But no Letterman or Fallon could be found)

StarbucksJobs (really)

A lot of the Mad Men Characters

Food Network

Whole Food

and last but not least

CharlizeAfrica which of course is Charlize Theron who is South African.

Just saying. As you try to understand an investment and observe their social media behaviour “Whats that all about”?

They have about 11,119 followers. When you net out media, environmentalists, competitors and those who they have business dealings with not too many investors following them.

Social Media is still in its infancy. But it is bizarre

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Protect Yourself with Bomb Sniffing Dogs. Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down. Illegitimi non carborundum #bostonbombing

Security is clearly a big issue after the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. What the public in general and single individuals in particular need is bomb sniffing dogs. By the tens of thousands.

Not sure if we have a reliable number on how many dogs we have a household pets. So far only police and military have bothered to breed and nurture dogs for bomb sniffing. But clearly police forces should ramp up their K9 units. Dogs are not that expensive. Dogs can move quickly. Dogs and plain clothes officers can move around without creating too much attention.

You have cops patrolling in cars and working grids. Increase the foot patrols with bomb sniffing dogs especially in public areas.

Do you manage large facilities and events such as football stadiums, sporting and concert venues hire security with bomb sniffing dogs. Pretty soon when you come to work a dog will sniff you before you enter the building. Subways, airports, train stations you name it. Man’s best friend.

A lot of service men have avoided death and wounds because of dogs.

Are you rich and have a lot of toys? Are you worried about bombs. Get a family pet trained to sniff out bombs.

By the way if you run a hardware store and someone is buying a lot of nails and ball bearings make sure he/she is on security camera with good facial recognition. Take note of what plastic they use to pay. Check the parking lot security cam and get the license plate. Tell them to have a nice day. Most people respond instinctively by looking up, maybe smiling and wishing you the same. Mark that time point on the camera scan and call security.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Bank of America Short Term Pref Dividend Shuffle Long Term Pain. $BAC

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) thinks it will save some $500 million a year when it redeems its prefered shares. Yes cancelling the 8% plus with nose bleed yields will help. The dividends paid on preferreds will drop by one-third and earnings available to common shareholders will increase about 20%. All without changing any risk profile. Nice work.

CFO Bruce Thompson says he has no plans to replace the preferreds at this time. This begs the question. What will become the dividend on the common. They currently yield about 0.34% with the shares trading near the 52 week high. You cannot be a big money center bank and pay a lousy dividend to the common share holders.

If you believe interest rates are artificially low you would want to lock in some long-term capital at advantageous rates. Never mind about the short-term thinking of todays capital adequacy ratio. Banks and their investors need to think in five and ten-year time frames.

Lock up some long-term preferreds at low rates. Lock up some thirty year bonds are very low rates and wait for the economic cycle to make you look like a superstar. Institutions still are and always will be your largest core investors. They will understand the value narrative and buy in.

Then you will move beyond having to make sharp deals with Warren Buffett and concentrate on becoming a powerhouse.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Proctor & Gamble Try Bastard Cash Flow Trick. Now it’s Slow Pay $PG

Proctor & Gamble (NYSE:PG) is trying the olde school trick of slow pay to eek out more cash from operations. Currently they are paying around 45 days and are looking to extend to 75-100 days. According to Morning Ledger at WSJ CFO Journal many other comparable companies are doing it. Expectations are they will free up some $2 Billion in cash.

Why there has to be a reason. The market cap is around $218 Billion. The move may generate about 1% of market cap. Big deal. But is P&G getting a case of the shorts.

Working capital is about 1:1. not outstanding.

Short term debt last report was $9.8 Billion, payables $7.2 billion. If you believe interest rates are going up and you have to figure short-term debt is floating the more you pay down the better. Long term debt clocks in at $23.6 Billion which is 10% of your market cap.

But take a look at the share re-purchase levels. In the past twelve months they have spent billions repurchasing their shares..

The stock is trading near both its 52 week high and five-year high. management wants to do something to break to the upside. The short position is about 0.78% of the float and has seen substantial short covering of late. This bullish catalyst is diminishing.

The dividend has just been increased by 7%. P&G has a 123 year uninterrupted history of dividend payment. The last 57 years have seen constant increases. Everyone who is a dividend oriented investor already owns the shares. No radical new buying demand is expected.

So they have to stick it to their suppliers. Their suppliers may offer terms for early pay which out weigh dragging payments. There is a sanctimonious comment about helping suppliers find financing. Come on if you have Proctor & Gamble on your receivables list the bank has lent you money.

But quite frankly classic financial analysis frowns heavily on companies who drag out their payables. Ultimately its a sign of financial weakness not strength.

Dividend investors are better served with improving margins, improving market shares, new product launches, product extensions, accretive acquisitions, pricing power. You know stuff like that. Sticking it to your suppliers. Meh!

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective. I probably use some of their products like soap and don’t even know it.

Coca Cola Growing Foreign Struggling Traditional Olde Directors Need Change $KO

Coca Cola (NYSE:KO) disappointed the market with lower than expected earnings. The same olde story was dragged out. Growing well in developing countries where disposable income is growing. Getting very tired in traditional markets where they are very well-known.

Does Coca-Cola have the stuff to over-come the well identified obstacle or is it over the hill. Check out the board and I’ll have you voting over-the-hill very soon. The board itself is large. Some 17 independent directors. Do you really need such a large group. The average director is 67 years old. Yet you have ten directors over the age of 70. Five of the newer ones are under 60.

The average tenure is 11 years. Three directors have been on the board for over 30 years. 3 more have been on the board over 10 years.

Lets take a look at the over 70 crowd. What do they bring to the table.

Herbert Allen 73. 31 years on the board. Dean of venture capital. Helluva good resume. But what is he doing for Coca Cola and their battle to become dominant with the Western middle class. Way over due for replacement.

Barry Diller 71. 11 years on the board. Chairman of IAC/Interactive Trying to find his way through the digital world. Whats does he bring to the table that Coca Cola needs.

Donald Keough 86 is considered a saint in the world of Coca Cola. But he is retiring. Veteran of cola wars.

James Robinson 77 is the presiding independent director with some 38 years of service. He built his career at American Express finishing as Chairman and CEO in 1993. After 38 years you are well entrenched. His background as an executive does not deal with mass market consumer beverages. It is interesting to note that Warren Buffett is a large core investor in both Coca Cola and American Express.

Donald McHenry 76 32 years on the board is an academic and consultant. Whatever it is that he had is not helping the consumer beverages wars.

Ronald Allen 71 has 22 years on the board. He retired in 1997 as Chairman, President and CEO of Delta Airlines. While he may understand the price of fuel, airport landing slots and the advantages of Boeing over Airbus can he move a few cases of Coca Cola.

James Williams 79 has 34 years of experience on the board. Former Chairman and CEO of Suntrust Bank. He is retiring this year.

The Coca-Cola board is old and tired. They are no longer value added. no insights into the Western consumer. No insights into burgeoning foreign markets. This one group of cronies should go sooner than later.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective.

Citigroup Board Many New Appointees Changing Soon $C

Citigroup (NYSE:C) is coming out with earnings shortly. Check out their board and see if they are buckled up properly for the long-term and for the investor. The average age of the independent director is 66 and the average tenure is four. The tenure is light but then think about all the turmoil and you’ll see why.

I have also tried to calculate which directors will turn over soonest. The problem with Citigroup is they are all in a short time span so the board is in danger of turning quickly which is a danger sign.

The directors line up as follows:

Robert Joss 71. Former dean of stanford University. Professor of finance emeritus. Was a rising star at Wells Fargo where he finished up as the vice chairman. CEO and Managing Director of Westpac after Wells Fargo. you can see the value to Citigroup after all the turmoil. He is plus five on the director best before scale.

Lawrence Ricciardi 71. SVP and general counsel and CFO of IBM at various points. Also was President, CEO, EVP and General Counsel at various points for RJR Nabisco. Through in a tour as EVP and General Counsel at American Express Travel. Nice combination of legal and financial expertise. Plus six on director best before.

Diana Taylor 58 Very travelled resume. Lehman Brothers, Kuhn, Loeb; Smith Barney; Wolfensohn Funds. Political travels include Superintendent of Banks for New York, Deputy Secretary to Governor Pataki and CFO of Long Island Power Authority. Finance and politics secured the directorship for now. As Citigroup marinades out of its former troubles will see be helpful. Negative eight on the director best before.

Robert Ryan 69 started off life as a vice president with Citibank in 1975 after spending five years at McKinsey. VP finance and CFO at Union Texas and SVP and CFO at Medtronics until 2005. Plus four on the director best before.

Joan Spero 68 Economist who became an EVP at American Express for corporate affairs and communications. Under-Secretary of State for Economics, Business and Agriculture. Also spend some time as an Ambassador to United Nations for Economic and Social Affairs. Minus one on the director best before.

Ernesto Zedillo 61 Economist and cabinet level officer in Mexico. Economist and deputy manager of research at Banco de Mexico. Minus six on the director best before.

Judith Rodin 68. President Rockefeller Foundation. Formerly President of University of Pennsylvania and then President Emeritus. Plus seven on the director best before.

William Thompson 67 Salomon Brother 1975 to 1993. Remember those guys. before Goldman Sachs there was Salomon Brothers. Then he went on to be CEO of PIMCO. Plus one on the director best before.

Anthony Santomero 66 Was President of Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia then a senior advisor to McKinsey. Has been a Professor of Finance at Wharton School of Business. Ranks at dead even zero on the director best before.

Franz Bernard Humer 66 Chairman of Roche Holdings and has been a senior officer there since 1995. Minus three on the director best before.

George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective. Check out the Director Best Before Method http://bit.ly/17vuhuc