PowerTalk

This week on PowerTalk, I’m doing a deep dive on a subject that is literally ripped from the headlines -- insider trading. Over the last few years, a number of government agencies including the Securities Exchange Commission, the Justice Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation among others, have targeted hedge funds, expert networks and other sources of insider information.

Over the last three years, the SEC has filed more insider trading actions (168 in total) than in any three-year period in the agency's history. Last week, headlines were rampant over insider trading and what it may mean for the SAC Capital, one of the most successful hedge funds around, and its leader Steve Cohen.

Joining me to take you behind the scenes and in the know on these efforts over the last few years is award winning journalist and author of the new book Circle of Friends, Charles Gasparino. I’m sure your more than familiar with Charlie and his reporting on the Fox Business Network and the Fox News Channel, where he focuses on major developments in the world of finance and politics. What you may not know is Charlie has won a number of awards for his work, including the prestigious Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for his book The Sellout

After reading Circle of Friends, I can easily say that if you liked or loved Barbarians at the Gate, Den of Thieves, or Liar’s Poker then Charlie’s new book is a must read. The only bigger thrill than reading Circle of Friends was talking with him about it.

Direct download: 07-29-13_GASPARINOPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:36am EST

Water - so simple and something that, if your like me, you tend to take for granted. But a report recently released from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that $384 billion in improvements are needed for the nation’s drinking water infrastructure to continue to provide safe drinking water. But as you’ll soon learn, that $384 billion is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to what’s ahead for water and the water industry.

It’s a big topic and its the focus of PowerTalk this week. I’m your host Chris Versace and once again we’re taking you behind the scenes and in the know -- this time on water and the looming water crisis.  It’s a big issue and huge pain point -- so much so that it’s been a key theme in my investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. 

Over the last week, we’ve had a huge reminder of how important water is -- I’m talking about the heatwave that hit the Easter United States. But like I said, that was just a reminder as to how bad the drought situation is here in the U.S.

While we tend to think of water as abundant, it’s not -- in fact only a small percentage of the world’s water is reachable and usable -- to me that says it’s really a scarce resource.

Joining me to day to talk about this is Debra Coy, Principal at Svanda & Consulting and an advisor at XPV Capital. While those are Debra’s current titles, she been following or involved with the water industry for more than 25 years as an equity analyst at firms such as Janney Montgomery Scott, The Washington Research Group, HSBC Securities and others. 

Debra’s give a great overview on the water industry and its many facets -- from equipment companies like Xylem (XYL) to water utilities such as American Water Works (AWK) and Aqua America (WTR) to name a few. . We also talk about the looming water crisis, water’s role not only in the home but in industrial and other manufacturing uses (such as semiconductor manufacturing and pharmaceuticals), and how more and more companies around the globe are making critical decisions, such as where a new facility may or may not be located. That’s right, access to water is becoming a key consideration in economic development and that means jobs.

While water may be something you’ve have taken for granted, the looming water crisis is something you can’t afford to ignore any longer.

Direct download: 07-22-13_COYWATERPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:20pm EST

Investing can be fun and profitable at times, but it can also be a tricky thing. There are hundreds if not thousand of companies to choose from in dozens and dozens of industries. Some are new and thriving like wireless, broadband and social media. That’s great for companies like Qualcomm (QCOM), Entropic (ENTR) and Facebook (FB) and their shareholders. Others like newspapers such as the NY Times (NYT), book publishers and retail book stores like Barnes & Noble (BKS) are feeling the pain as their industry adapts to what I call the Always On, Always Connected society. 
The economy and industry fundamentals are not the only thing to watch and listen to with your investing eyes and ears. One other aspect is the regulatory environment and more specifically new regulations. As we know, business has been saddled with a number of them over the last few years, but none have the ability to impact a businesses’s cost structure like the Affordable Care Act. You know that far better as Obamacare. 
We’ve done a few PowerTalks already that have looked at the implications of Obamacare and other regulations. This week, we’re taking a different take and talking about how you can profit from these regulations. 
Joining me this week on PowerTalk are George Abraham and Sumesh Sood of Veda Healthcare Partners  Veda is a hedge fund that has been in operation for more than two and a half years and invests in healthcare. From biotech and pharmaceuticals to managed care and generic drugs, these guys are looking at all of it with an eye toward delivering profits for their investors. 
Healthcare investing can be a tricky thing, but when we look around and see just the shifting demographics -- living longer, a heavier population, nutritional concerns and more -- it’s apparent that there are a number of pain points to be had. Pain points mean opportunity for the prepared investor.
Let’s listen to what George and Sumesh see as remedies for not only these issues but also for your wallet. 
Direct download: 07-15-13_VEDAHEALTHCAREPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18am EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Ron Shaich, the Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Panera Bread (PNRA). As tends to be the case with these 1-1 conversations, we cover a lot of ground during our time together including the strategies that has led to strong growth in Panera’s revenues and stock price over the last several years. Focusing on the customer experience, transparency, and as Ron says simply “doing it right” are some of the strategies that led to that significant growth at a time when most competitors like Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc. (BAGL), Cosi (COSI) and others were been struggling. Ron and his team also successfully navigated the rise of many alternative eating styles -- Atkins, Paleo, raw and others -- by offering the customers a wide selection of products, including my favorite -- bear claws.

Besides being a leader in the business community, Ron is  an advocate for getting our political leaders to work better together. He’s a part of No Labels, a growing citizens’ movement of Democrats, Republicans and everything in between dedicated to promoting a new politics of problem solving. Their slogan is a great one -- Stop Fighting, Start Fixing.

If your tired of nothing getting done in Washington, frustrated by the lack of progress and the blame game in DC or want to learn more about how Ron and his team delivered over the last few years, get a bear claw and listen up. 

Direct download: 07-08-13_PANERABREADPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:51am EST

This week we’re going on a ride. Not a magic carpet ride but rather a plane ride with the Founder, President and CEO of BlackJet, Dean Rothchin, to talk about how his company is helping change the aviation industry. 

Here at PowerTalk, each week I bring you my 1-1 conversations with not only CEOs of public and private companies, but also those from the up and coming companies and disruptive apps that are likely game changers. That makes them potential disruptors in the world that I call PowerTrends. We’ve seen this time and again and that’s why I keep a close eye not only on publicly traded companies, but also venture and private equity backed ones as well. 

If your a frequent traveler or even just an occasional one, you already know what a hassle traveling has become. Getting to the airport hours before your flight to face long lines and or flight delays or cancellations are just the start of it. It seems the airlines like American Airlines (AAMRQ), United Continental (UAL), Delta Air Lines (DAL), US Airways (LCC), Spirit Airlines (SAVE) and others are nickel-and-diming you all the way. 

Want to check a bag? Pay more.

Want to get a snack on the flight? Pay more.

Want to watch a movie? Pay more.

There’s even talk of passengers having to pay to bring carry-on luggage on board the aircraft.

Don’t forget, you still have to get there hours ahead of time so you can have some up close and personal time with the TSA. 

Did you know that there are a number of smaller airfields that have private plans flying in and out of them all the time?

Often times, those private planes aren’t full and that means the operator is leaving money and profits on the table.

That’s where BlackJet comes in. 

Through its app and website -- BlackJet.com -- the company matches excess seating on private planes with those folks that are looking for a better way to travel. That’s just the start, as CEO Dean Rothchin explained to me there’s far more flexibility when traveling with BlackJet than with a conventional airline. Some have called it the Uber of the airline industry, 

While some may scoff at this, I can tell that BlackJet is gaining ground and a following. I know this because the company is launched in five cities -- San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, South Florida and Las Vega -- and is expanding to five more -- Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

After listening to this PowerTalk with Dean, you’ll not only see how BlackJet is turning the aviation industry on its head, you’ll understand there are alternatives out there that can make you feel like your worth a few million dollars even if you don’t have that much.

Direct download: 07-01-13_BLACKJETPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50am EST

Thanks for joining me this week on PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace.  As you probably know each week I share my in-depth conversations with the movers and shakers in business with you. Some people ask me why I do this.....the answer is to bring you with me as I go behind the scenes and in the know so you can make more informed business or investing decisions. 

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Richard Demb, the co-founder and CEO of Abe’s Market - a company that is exploding given the explosive demand for natural foods and products as well as the surge in demand for specialty products that are gluten-free, Paleo-friendly, Kosher or Raw.

Given how busy our lives are these days, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Abe’s Market.  I could be wrong, but if your not a person that is looking for organic food and natural products, gluten-free solutions or some other healthy alternatives you may not have heard of Abesmarket.com.

Here’s the thing though, as you you through your local grocery store - a Kroger’s (KR), Safeway (SWY), Harris Teeter (HTSI), Publix Super Markets or some other one - if yours is like mine, your seeing more and more shelf space dedicated to natural, organic and gluten free products. Figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture find that retail sales of organic foods alone grew to $21.1 billion in 2008, up from $3.6 billion in 1997. According to Datamonitor, U.S. sales of gluten-free food and beverages are expected to reach $5.6 billion by 2015. That compares to other figures that put the market size for gluten free foods at $2.6 billion in 2010.

That’s some big growth and with people becoming increasingly concerned about the quality of the food we eat,  how its grown, raised, fertilized and so on there doesn’t seem to be any slowdown in sight for these types of products. Better yet, they are a proactive consumer -- the kind that a company would love to have. 

That combination has done wonders for companies like Whole Foods (WFM), The Fresh Market (TFM), Natural Grocers (NGVC), United Natural Foods (UNFI) and others.

Rather smartly, Abe’s Market co-founder and CEO Richard Demb realized  what this could mean when that demand for natural, organic and gluten free products was combined with the power of Internet retailing. Soon after Abe’s Market was born -- and today it brings you thousands of products that have the Abe’s stamp of approval across a number of categories including food, beauty, health, home and more. In short, Abe’s is kinda like a combination of Whole Foods meets Amazon.com (AMZN)

But there’s more...

Recently Abe’s Market launched a new service offering that I think your going to want to hear about - it’s led some people to call it  a Groupon (GRPN) Killer. 

All that in more ahead as we go behind the scenes and in the know during my PowerTalk with Richard Demb, co-founder and CEO of Abe's Market.


Ever since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted that the Fed could begin tapering its stimulating efforts, volatility returned to the stock market. There has been much discussion about when and how the Fed will deal with the sugar stimulus-addicted economy. The concern is if the Fed acts too quickly, much like a child on too much sugar, it will crash. This has led to the return of volatility to the stock market over the last several weeks. 

My view, which I discussed this past weekend when I appeared on The Wall Street Report as well as with subscribers to PowerTrend Profits and ETF PowerTrader, is that the Fed is not likely to taper near term. Data collected over the last few weeks and as recently as earlier this week confirms the U.S. economy has once again entered yet another spring swoon. Just yesterday, the New York Fed's own Empire Manufacturing Survey for June boosted the case for no near-term tapering:

• "The new orders index slipped six points to -6.7, the shipments index fell twelve points to -11.8, and the unfilled orders index fell eight points to -14.5."

• "Labor market conditions worsened, with the index for number of employees dropping to zero and the average workweek index retreating ten points to -11.3. Continuing the trend seen in the past few months, indexes for the six-month outlook declined, suggesting that optimism about future conditions was weakening further."

That’s doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but while its easy to get overly downbeat as I’ve shared with subscribers to PowerTrend Profits there are pockets of strength in the economy. 

In one of this week’s two PowerTalks, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and I talk about those pockets of strength as well as what can be done to help stimulate growth further without adding to the debt burden that we are increasingly putting on further generations.  For those not familiar with Doug, he’s President of the American Action Forum and recent Commissioner on the Congressionally-chartered Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Prior to that, Doug was the Chief Economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2001-2002. As you’ll hear, he’ll share his view that there is much to go in the auto and housing rebounds, and  the need for a tax overhaul if we really want to jumpstart the U.S. economy.

Weighing in on that last point and others is Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research as well as a contributing editor of RealClearMarkets.com and a columnist for the Washington Examiner, MarketWatch.com, and Tax Notes. Diana and I touch on the downside of over regulation as well as how the government’s role in backing certain companies and technologies like those found at Solyndra practically almost guaranteed their failure. It’s also why Diana says, the Affordable Care Act is “built to fail.” 

Direct download: 06-17-13_ROTHPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:19am EST

Ever since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted that the Fed could begin tapering its stimulating efforts, volatility returned to the stock market. There has been much discussion about when and how the Fed will deal with the sugar stimulus-addicted economy. The concern is if the Fed acts too quickly, much like a child on too much sugar, it will crash. This has led to the return of volatility to the stock market over the last several weeks. 

My view, which I discussed this past weekend when I appeared on The Wall Street Report as well as with subscribers to PowerTrend Profits and ETF PowerTrader, is that the Fed is not likely to taper near term. Data collected over the last few weeks and as recently as earlier this week confirms the U.S. economy has once again entered yet another spring swoon. Just yesterday, the New York Fed's own Empire Manufacturing Survey for June boosted the case for no near-term tapering:

• "The new orders index slipped six points to -6.7, the shipments index fell twelve points to -11.8, and the unfilled orders index fell eight points to -14.5."

  • "Labor market conditions worsened, with the index for number of employees dropping to zero and the average workweek index retreating ten points to -11.3. Continuing the trend seen in the past few months, indexes for the six-month outlook declined, suggesting that optimism about future conditions was weakening further."

That’s doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but while its easy to get overly downbeat as I’ve shared with subscribers to PowerTrend Profits there are pockets of strength in the economy. 

In one of this week’s two PowerTalks, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and I talk about those pockets of strength as well as what can be done to help stimulate growth further without adding to the debt burden that we are increasingly putting on further generations.  For those not familiar with Doug, he’s President of the American Action Forum and recent Commissioner on the Congressionally-chartered Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Prior to that, Doug was the Chief Economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2001-2002. As you’ll hear, he’ll share his view that there is much to go in the auto and housing rebounds, and  the need for a tax overhaul if we really want to jumpstart the U.S. economy.

Weighing in on that last point and others is Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research as well as a contributing editor of RealClearMarkets.com and a columnist for the Washington Examiner, MarketWatch.com, and Tax Notes. Diana and I touch on the downside of over regulation as well as how the government’s role in backing certain companies and technologies like those found at Solyndra practically almost guaranteed their failure. It’s also why Diana says, the Affordable Care Act is “built to fail.” 

Direct download: 06-17-13_EAKINPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:14am EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk to discuss the growing threat we all face - cyber attacks -- as well as a set of new solutions to combat them is Martin Roesch. Martin is not only a founder of cyber security company Sourcefire (FIRE), but also its chief technology office and a Board Member. 

With cyber attacks growing not only in volume, but with them happening to companies like Google (GOOG), Bank of America (BAC), Northrop Grumman (NOC), Microsoft (MSFT), Yahoo (YHOO), AOL (AOL), LinkedIn (LNKD), Tumblr, the Reuters news service and the BBC to name a few, it’s a cause for alarm. 

Earlier this week I was talking with some folks at the American Chamber of Commerce and they pointed out several of the key concerns that are on the minds of its more than 3 million members. Those businesses that comprise the Chamber’s constituents -- from mom-and-pop shops and to leading industry associations and large corporations -- cyber security is increasingly on their mind. 

How can it not be? 

Symantec’s (SYMC) Internet Security Threat Report, Volume 18 published this past April revealed a 42% surge during 2012 in targeted attacks compared to the prior year. Designed to steal intellectual property, these targeted cyberespionage attacks are increasingly hitting the manufacturing sector as well as small businesses. While it may raise some eyebrows to those not in the know, you may be surprised to learn that 31% of all targeted attacks aimed at businesses with less than 250 employees.

During the course of my PowerTalk with Martin Roesch, we talk about why the bad guys have a leg up on cyber security companies and what Sourcefire is doing to fix that; how security differs from a good defense;  the state of the cyber security industry, including recent consolidation activity and what’s next. Martin also shares details about some of the new products that Sourcefire is rolling out, which sets the stage for a new model of cyber security. 

Direct download: 06-10-13_SOURCEFIREPOWERTALK_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:14am EST

Thanks for joining me for another edition of PowerTalk - I’m  your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. Joining me today to take you behind the scenes and in the know today is Tom Breitling, the co-founder and chairman of Ultimate Gaming. 

As you may have noticed over the last few years, gambling has grown from being only in Las Vegas, Nevada and Atlantic City, N.J to a number of other states -- Maryland, West Virginia, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to name a few. 

At the same time, technology has had a tremendous impact on our lives and has resulted in the increasing shift toward what I call an Always On, Always Connected Society. It’s hit certain industries hard  for example newspapers and The New York Times (NYT); classifieds, coupons and want ads all of which can be viewed with Monster.com, Groupon (GRPN) or on Valpak.com and more; we communicate less through postal mail and increasingly through email as well as other social media sites like Facebook (FB), Google’s (GOOG) Google + and more. 

Although it’s had its issues, gambling has not been immune to this transformation. While Congress banned online gaming in the U.S. in 2006, that changed recently as tax-hungry states like Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware relaxed the rules. Flash forward to this past April, UltimatePoker.com went live, becoming the first legal, real-money poker site in the U.S. Since then Caesars Entertainment Group said it plans to go live this summer with an online poker site in Nevada.

With more than 10 other states looking at online gaming, be it for poker or for “full blown casino gaming” that was approved in New Jersey, we wanted to get the skinny on the return of online gaming. That’s why I was very excited to talk with Tom - and if anyone should know about the intersection of the Internet and gaming, it’s Tom Breitling given his leadership at Travelscape.com and the Golden Nugget. In case you missed it, he sold both companies and made a ton of money.

How big can online gaming get? Morgan Stanley predicts U.S. online gambling will produce over $9 billion in revenue by the year 2020. That $9 billion figure is the same revenue generated by Las Vegas and Atlantic City markets combined.

As you’ll hear from Tom, this new path for online gaming can help spur not only jobs and taxes, but a number of technologies that make online gaming secure. Tom also shares an interesting perspective on the legislative environment and what it means for business, trust me you won’t want to miss it.

Direct download: 06-03-13_ULTIMATEPOKERPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:08am EST