Thursday, March 26, 2015

Examining The Beer Industry Through Philip Van Munching's 'Beer Blast': The Risks Of Growth

There is a running theme in my articles about Beer Blast, Philip Van Munching’s history of the beer industry in the late 20th Century. That theme is that change is often bad for companies.

In my first article about the book, I described how companies’ introduction of new products often only damaged their brands. In my second, I showed how trying to change a beer brand’s qualities to save money or to make it more modern also damaged their brands. In both of these articles, change was bad for beer companies even when it was desired.

Growth is probably the type of change that companies desire most. Growth, after all, is what drives stock prices up. When a company is growing, it can hire new employees and promote old ones. And, of course, leading a growing company brings benefits for management. Managers, like most people, enjoy seeing their areas of responsibility expand. Such expansion comes with bigger salaries and higher status in their industries. No wonder corporate executives are always trying to grow their companies.

However, Beer Blast shows that even growth, the most desirable form of change, can be more problematic than anyone can imagine. (Read More)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Special Dividends And A Looser Credit Agreement May Signal A Turnaround At QC Holdings

I recently wrote an article for SeekingAlpha about alternative finance company QC Holdings (QCCO). The company has seen its revenues and earnings fall significantly since 2008, which has caused its stock price to plunge nearly 80%.

That said, the company may be going through a turnaround. It has declared special dividends two quarters in a row after not being able to pay dividends for a year. This shows that management is confident in the company's future--or at least confident that they don't need to hold onto more cash to deal with future problems. The company's credit agreement, which controls the terms of its loans, has also become less restrictive. This mean that the company's bankers are less worried about its financial situation. Given than QC Holdings' management and bankers are probably the people who understand the company's prospects best, this is a strong endorsement of the company's future.

Anyway, the article can be found here. It was chosen for SeekingAlpha's Pro program, meaning that it will only be available to non-paying members for a month, so I hope you'll check it out soon!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Examining The Beer Industry Through Philip Van Munching's 'Beer Blast': Brand Image

In my most recent article, I discussed the beer industry’s quest for new products as seen in Beer Blast, Philip Van Munching’s history of the industry in the late 20th Century. Van Munching argues that the industry’s constant introduction of new beer varieties has diluted the value of existing brands, hurting beer companies’ brand image.

However, Beer Blast does not only discuss brand image in the context of new products. Van Munching was the advertising director at Van Munching & Co., the former US importer of Heineken (HEINY) (HINKF). As a result, his book goes into great detail about the image strategies of several major American beer brands, offering insights about both their successes and failures.

Though Van Munching’s book was written in 1997, I feel such insights remain valuable for investors. For example, Beer Blast shows that beer companies are similar to luxury goods companies. Customers often use the brand of beer they drink to define their self image and the image they project to others. In this, they treat beer the way they treat luxury goods such as fashion items, which are similarly used to craft one’s personal image.

This may seem obvious, but...(Read More)