Peloton produces profit for the first time amid pandemic-demand spike, stock pushes toward new record


Peloton Interactive Inc. reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings Thursday afternoon.


MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto

A year after its initial public offering, Peloton Interactive Inc. is pedaling toward new highs amid a pandemic that is forcing people into their homes and away from gyms, creating demand for at-home fitness equipment.

Peloton
PTON,
-3.75%

on Thursday wrapped up its fiscal year by reporting that sales and subscribers roughly doubled in the 12-month period, and revealed its first profitable quarter as a public company and record quarterly revenue a little less than a year after its September 2019 IPO. Shares fell 3.8% Thursday from Wednesday’s record closing price of $91.17 — more than three times the IPO price of $29 a share — but pushed back toward record highs in after-hours trading following the release of the report, with gains of more than 7%.

Peloton reported fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $89.1 million, or 27 cents a share, on sales of $607.1 million, up from $223 million a year ago. Peloton reported a net loss of $47 million in the fiscal fourth quarter a year ago, just ahead of its IPO. Analysts on average expected earnings of 10 cents a share on sales of $586 million, according to FactSet.

“It has been another staggering year of growth, and I know all parts of the organization have had to work together to do everything possible to meet the incredible demand for our products and services,” Chief Executive James Foley said in a conference call Thursday. “The strong tailwind we experienced in March as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold has continued to propel demand for our products into the fourth quarter and first couple of months of Q1 fiscal year 2021.”

While still attempting to catch up to a flood of orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic — Peloton said Thursday it does not expect order-to-delivery times to normalize until around the end of the calendar year — the company is also looking to expand its customer base. On Monday, Peloton announced that it will reduce the price of its standard exercise bike and introduce a lower-priced treadmill, which could clear a path for potential buyers who were not willing to pay the large upfront costs for its products. It will also introduce a premium bike for fans who want top-of-the-line equipment.

Wedbush analysts noted that in a previous survey of 1,200 people, they found that Peloton could “dramatically improve” sales at a lower price point, especially in treadmills.

“42% of non-Peloton owners that were interested in fitness and familiar with the brand showed some level of interest in a $2,500 Tread, compared to just 30% showing interest in the current Tread,” the analysts wrote in a Sept. 9 note, after Peloton announced its new lineup. “Among existing Peloton bike owners, the number of respondents saying they would be ‘very interested’ in owning a treadmill from Peloton doubles based on the lower price, from 14% based on the $4,295 price point to 28% assuming a theoretical (at the time) $2,500 price point.”

While lower sales prices could hurt hardware margins and average selling prices, much of Peloton’s long-term prognosis focuses on the subscriptions for interactive workout media that owners continue to pay after they have received the equipment. Peloton announced Thursday that it now has 1.09 million subscribers, nearly doubling the 511 million that it reported at the end of its last fiscal year, topping its forecast of 1.04 million to 1.05 million.

In total for the fiscal year, Peloton collected revenue of $1.46 billion from the sale of equipment and $363.7 million from subscription services, up from $719 million and $181 million, respectively, in the previous fiscal year. Combined with other revenue from merchandise and other offerings, Peloton ended the year with $1.83 billion in sales, up from $915 million.

“By the end of FY 2020 our Peloton membership base grew to approximately 3.1 million, compared to 1.4 million members in the prior year,” Peloton detailed in a letter to shareholders Thursday. “Fueled in part by the challenges associated with COVID-19, member engagement reached new highs with 164 million Connected Fitness Subscription workouts completed in FY 2020.”

For the current fiscal year, which began in August, Peloton predicted htat subscribers and revenue would roughly double yet again. The company guided for revenue of $3.5 billion to $3.65 billion, with connected subscribers swelling to 2.05 million to 2.1 million. Analysts on average were predicting revenue of $2.74 billion and subscribers of 1.78 million ahead of the report, according to FactSet.

Peloton stock has gained more than 260% since its IPO; the S&P 500 index
SPX,
-1.75%

has returned 17.7% in that time. In after-hours trading Thursday, shares topped $94 following the release of the report.



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Harris promises to offer free tuition for low-income students at public and historically Black colleges


Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris welcomed by a marching band at Florida Memorial University, a historically Black private university, on Thursday.


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Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris promised Thursday that a Biden-Harris administration would make college tuition free at public schools and private historically Black colleges and universities for students whose families’ income is below $125,000 a year, and pledged student-loan debt forgiveness for some graduates of HBCUs.

“In relation to the history of HBCUs, [students] decide to take on a profession of service, which often does not pay as well as if they go into the private sector and do other things,” Harris said at a roundtable discussion held at Florida Memorial University, a historically Black private university. “So for those students who come out and have jobs that pay less than $125,000, student-loan debt will also be forgiven.”

Harris also promised to invest $70 billion in historically Black colleges and universities.

Additionally, she said that two-year college programs would be free for low-income Americans.

“We want to support our young people for whatever they pursue by way of education after high school,” Harris said. “For some that will be a college and university, for some it will be a two-year program, or an apprenticeship, or something of that nature, and we want to make sure that we support them in that quest.”

Harris made the remarks in response to Jaffus Hardrick, president of Florida Memorial University, who said that “we are literally working on a shoestring budget” amid the economic decline caused by the pandemic that has forced many students to reconsider attending college.

During her short-lived presidential campaign, Harris proposed making community college free.

Her remarks came in the key swing state of Florida, where 29 electoral votes are up for grabs, the most among any of the major swing states. Former President Barack Obama claimed the state by a thin margin in the 2008 and 2012 elections. President Donald Trump, however, won it in the 2016 election.

In a RealClearPolitics moving average of polls focused on top swing states that are likely to decide the election, Democrat Joe Biden had an edge of 3.9 percentage points over Trump as of Thursday, but his edge in Florida was just 1.2 points.

Before addressing the roundtable, Harris took a jab at Trump, citing the interview he had with Bob Woodward where he said “I wanted to always play it down,” referring to the threat of the looming pandemic.

“He suggested that to wear a mask is a sign of weakness as opposed to a sign of strength,” she said. “This is the president of the United States.”

Earlier in the day, Harris visited Doral, a neighborhood of Miami with a high concentration of Venezuelans.

Two days prior, Trump also visited South Florida, where he signed an order extending a moratorium on offshore drilling around Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Biden is scheduled to visit the Sunshine State on Sept. 15.



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After U.S. tech gains, European stocks pause as ECB decision awaits


(FILES) This file photo taken on March 12, 2020 shows flags of the European Union fluttering in front of the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany.


daniel roland/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

European stocks were steady on Thursday, ahead of a European Central Bank decision and press conference in which expectations are for the central bank to raise concerns about the rise of the euro.

Up 1.6% on Wednesday, the Stoxx Europe 600
SXXP,
+0.16%

was little moved at 369.70.

U.S. stocks, particularly in the tech sector, broke a losing run on Wednesday, as the Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
+2.70%

rallied 2.7%. U.S. stock futures
ES00,
+0.05%

were modestly higher Thursday.

The ECB decision is due at 1:45 p.m. Central European time (7:45 a.m. Eastern), though analysts are focusing on the press conference with President Christine Lagarde at 2:30 p.m.

Attention also is in London, where an emergency meeting is being called on the U.K. decision to unilaterally amend its withdrawal agreement. Bloomberg News reported the European Union was considering a lawsuit.

Wm Morrison Supermarkets
MRW,
-3.51%

slumped 3.7% after reporting a 25% slump in first-half adjusted pretax profits, with the company flagging higher costs and reduced consumer demand for fuel. “Some traders will be wondering if Morrisons can’t post a rise in profit when a pandemic has driven up demand, when will they register a rise in earnings,” said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Chemicals group Akzo Nobel
AKZA,
+3.47%

rose 4% as the company said revenue for the third quarter will be close to last year’s levels. It reported strong decorative paint demand in Europe and South America.

Games Workshop
GAW,
+13.92%
,
which makes miniature wartime figures, jumped 13% after saying its performance for the quarter ending Aug. 30 was ahead of its expectation



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JP Morgan enters green bond push with $1 billion debut debt deal


The San Francisco skyline is obscured in orange haze Wednesday.


AFP/Getty Images

JP Morgan Chase & Co. entered the green-bond world on Wednesday, offloading the bank’s first set of bonds specifically to fund projects with a sustainability bent.

While the banking giant has arranged debt with an environmental or social-good purpose for its clients and other companies, this was JP Morgan’s first $1 billion foray into issuing such bonds on its own behalf.

Many investors welcomed the move, not only because of the weight JP Morgan
JPM,
+0.95%

carries in the market as the nation’s biggest U.S. bank by assets, but also because of a growing acceptance within the U.S. that a climate crisis threatens both environmental and financial instability.

Read: CFTC’s groundbreaking climate-change report sounds a bipartisan alarm on costly risks for U.S. financial system

JP Morgan’s bond deal hit as wildfires raged along the West Coast, with smoke from fires shrouding the San Francisco Bay Area on Wednesday in an eerie orange haze and underscoring how climate change threatens to make extreme fire events, power outages and forced evacuations the norm.

“The more the larger players come along, the larger the scale to move things along faster,” said Steve Liberatore, Nuveen’s lead portfolio manager for environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and impact investments.

But Liberatore also stressed that a key part of tackling the unfolding “climate disaster” is to mitigate it in an “economically beneficial way for the average person.”

That can mean achieving a lower cost of capital for renewable energy projects than what’s available for funding fossil fuels.

To that end, JP Morgan was able to pull in pricing Wednesday amid high investor demand, clearing the bonds at a spread of 48 basis points over Treasurys BX:TMUBMUSD10Y, after they initially were floated in the range of 65 basis points.

A bond spread is the level of compensation investors get paid above a risk-free benchmark to act as a creditor, with lower spreads often indicating high demand or a lower expectation of default.

“Generally, green bonds yield less, meaning the cost of financing is lower,” said Pri de Silva, senior corporate credit analysts at Aware Asset Management, adding that JP Morgan priced similar bonds in May that were trading on Wednesday closer to 58 basis points over Treasurys.

“From a funding perspective, I’d say there was a 10-basis-point advantage,” de Silva said, even though he noted the “sunk costs” involved in setting up the new green issuance platform, including providing the “belts and suspenders” to ensure there’s a process in place to track that only eligible projects are funded.

To that end, JP Morgan said proceeds from the debut green bond would finance a range of projects from green buildings to renewable energy, in a public filing.

Notably, the bank also listed areas that will be excluded from the funding from bond proceeds, including coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy projects, as well as activities that involve modern slavery, child labor and human rights exploitation.

Amid an overall corporate debt boom, the second quarter also saw a record $99.9 billion of “sustainability bonds” issued globally, according to Moody’s Investors Service, a category that encompasses green, social and sustainable bonds.

JP Morgan’s debut follows on the heels of Citigroup
C,
+0.70%

and Bank of America
BAC,
+0.11%
,
which issued green and social-good bonds earlier this year.

See: Bank of America sold a first-of-a-kind Covid-19 bond

“Banks are in a unique position to issue green bonds as they are interrelated with the broader economy,” said Brian Ellis, portfolio manager, Calvert Green Bond Fund.

“From an investor’s perspective, growth in green bond issuance provides increased opportunities for portfolio and project diversification, but also the ability to be more selective because there’s a larger group to choose from.”

JP Morgan declined to comment.



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Mall owners Simon, Brookfield close to buying J.C. Penney out of bankruptcy


A shopper heads into a J.C. Penney store in Seattle in 2017.


Associated Press

NEW YORK — Mall owners Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners are close to a deal to buy department store chain J.C. Penney out of bankruptcy and keep the chain running.

Penney’s lawyer Josh Sussberg announced the tentative pact, which will save roughly 70,000 jobs and avoid liquidation, during a brief hearing in bankruptcy court Wednesday.

Sussberg said that the Penney
JCPNQ,
+108.25%

would have an enterprise value of $1.75 billion, including $300 million in cash from the two landlords and $500 million in new debt.

He noted that a letter of intent including more details of the pact will be filed with the bankruptcy court in the next day. Penney will be left with $1 billion in cash after the deal is completed, he said.

“We are all committed to moving this quickly and saving J.C. Penney,” Sussberg said during the court hearing.

The 118-year-old department store based in Plano, Texas, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in mid-May, one of the biggest retailers to do so since the pandemic temporarily shut down non-essential stores around the country. As part of its bankruptcy reorganization, Penney said it planned to permanently close nearly a third of its 846 stores in the next two years. That would leave it with just over 600 locations.

More than 40 retailers have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year, including more than two dozen retailers since the coronavirus outbreak. Among the hardest hit have been department stores, which were already struggling to respond to shoppers’ shift to online shopping.

The tentative agreement between two big landlords and Penney is the latest example of mall owners’ increasing willingness to buy out their pandemic-hit tenants. Mall owners are facing big challenges as stores close or are unable to pay rent. The exit or closing of retailers also triggers a clause that would allow other tenants to break their leases or get a rent reduction without facing penalties.

In fact, a retail venture owned by licensing licensing company Authentic Brands Group and Simon agreed to purchase 200-year-old clothier Brooks Brothers for $325 million last month.

Neither Simon
SPG,
-1.69%

nor Brookfield
BPY,
+0.27%

responded to requests for comment regarding the tentative deal with Penney.



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