🎰 MGM and Caesars' hackpot

Monday, September 18, 2023 by Snacks
Feels like the ’90s again (Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

Feels like the ’90s again (Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

Feels like the ’90s again (Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

Feels like the ’90s again (Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

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Last Week’s Market Moves
Dow Jones
34,618 (+0.12%)
S&P 500
4,450 (-0.16%)
13,708 (-0.39%)
$26,478 (+2.22%)

Hey Snackers,

A French supermarket chain is slapping “shrinkflation” labels on products it says have gotten smaller and pricier. Carrefour marked 26 items including Lipton iced tea and Lindt chocolates ahead of price negotiations with suppliers. Le shrink, c’est pas chic.

Stocks ended the week barely changed from last Friday, as investors wait for the Fed’s rate decision on Wednesday. The central bank is expected to skip a hike. Core inflation accelerated in August for the first time in six months, but consumers’ inflation expectations improved.


1. Hackers of MGM and Caesars up the ante as cybercrime crashes the corporate party

When the house doesn’t win… Last week, casino colossus MGM Resorts suffered a massive hack that critically disrupted its business. Gaming machines and ATMs were offline (customers got handwritten notes for slots), hotel sites struggled, corporate email went kaput, and digital room keys stopped working. Guests said staff were relying on pen and paper. As of Friday, hotel operations were struggling for the fifth day. Another casino chain got dealt a bad hand too: 

  • Caesars Entertainment said hackers stole customers’ SS and driver's-license #s, and it reportedly paid the cybercriminals about $15M not to leak the data.

  • Big blind: The same group who broke into MGM’s systems is believed to have hacked Caesars. Its US- and UK-based members are said to be as young as 19.

A good bet… for bad actors. Hotel-casinos are attractive targets — and not just for the casts of “Ocean’s Eleven” and “21.” They collect valuable customer info, and every second of hack-induced downtime = lost $$. MGM’s share price fell 7% last week, and credit-rating agency Moody’s said the hack highlighted “key risks” that might damage its rating. The industry is working with security experts after an uptick in attacks this summer. It ain’t cheap: last year US companies spent $73B on cybersecurity, and paid at least $456M to ransomware attackers.

  • Ransomware = software that encrypts a victim’s data, making it unusable. Hackers promise a decryption key if the victim pays up.


Data is a treasure (and a liability)… The gaming industry isn’t alone in its high-stakes battle against hackers. The FBI said that last year ransomware hit 14 “critical infrastructure sectors” (like: healthcare, water services). This year ransomware attacks have approached record levels, and cybercrime worldwide is forecast to hit $8T in lost funds. But there’s a bright spot, at least for the in-demand cybersecurity industry: an analyst said it could be a $2T market.

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Zoom out

2. Stories we’re watching

#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt… TikTok’s new shopping features are expected to finish rolling out to users by October. The ByteDance-owned app said 200K sellers have signed up for its Shop tab and 100K creators have joined its affiliate program to make shoppable ads. On the Chinese version of TikTok (called Douyin), users bought $208B worth of products last year. It’s unclear whether that success can cross the Pacific. Meta’s struggled to make social commerce popular in the US, and it’s pulled back features on Insta and FB, like live shopping. 

Booster season… The CDC has recommended new Covid shots for Americans over 6 months old. The FDA recently greenlighted Pfizer’s and Moderna’s updated vaccines, and the mRNA shots have started hitting pharmacies. (FYI: Johnson & Johnson’s vax is no longer available after demand dropped off.) Covid hospitalizations rose for over a month, hitting 17.4K for the week ended August 26. That’s still below last summer’s surge, but the CDC expects it’ll continue rising as we enter virus season. Not to mention back-to-school and return-to-office mandates.


3. Coming up this week

Earnings delivery… FedEx reports Wednesday, after revenue fell in its last reported quarter as ecomm and shipping demand slipped. Analysts think FedEx’s luck could pick up after rival transport biz Yellow Corp. filed for bankruptcy last month. While UPS will be spending more after its generous union labor agreement, FedEx is focused on slashing $4B in expenses by 2025 through layoffs and consolidation. As UPS’s expenses go up, FedEx could benefit by raising prices and cutting costs. It plans to hike US shipping rates by ~6% next year. 

Tour of Italy… Olive Garden parent Darden reports Thursday, after beating expectations for the past three quarters. Darden, which also owns LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille, recently finished its $715M acquisition of Ruth’s Chris. Olive Garden’s poised to satisfy consumers’ hunger for dining deals: the breadstick bigshot has inspired “cheap meal” hacks on TikTok as more Americans dine out on a budget. According to a new study, low-price restaurant chains (like Olive Garden, Applebee’s) are the most socio-economically diverse places in the US.


4. Last week's highlights

  • Jelly: Uncrustables legend J.M. Smucker said it would buy Twinkie parent Hostess for $5.6B. Smucker can use Hostess’ portfolio to feed America’s big snack appetite with fresh creations (picture: PB&J Twinkies). 

  • In-N-Out: Starting in April, fast-food chains in California with 60 or more US locations would have to pay workers at least $20/hour under a new deal between labor unions and the restaurant industry. 

  • Richish: Last quarter US household wealth hit a non-inflation-adjusted record. But while net worth has climbed, purchasing power hasn’t: inflation-adjusted median income slipped last year to ~$74K.

What else we’re Snackin’

  • Struck: 13K auto workers began picketing on Friday at Ford, GM, and Stellantis plants after the Detroit Three failed to reach a deal with the UAW. It’s the first time all three companies have been targeted at once.

  • OTSee: The FDA warned CVS, Walgreens, and other brands to stop selling eye drops it said were issued illegally. As the agency ramps up oversight, it also said a decongestant found in NyQuil and Mucinex doesn’t work.

  • WorkLife: RTO policies have been behind 10% of home sales this year, as mandates force workers to choose between their house and their job. Home prices may dip in once-hot “Zoom towns” as workers opt for shorter commutes.

Snack Fact of the Day

US restaurant tipping fell to 19.4% last quarter, the lowest since the start of the pandemic

This Week

  • Monday: Earnings expected from Stitch Fix

  • Tuesday: Earnings expected from AutoZone

  • Wednesday: Fed interest-rate decision. Earnings expected from FedEx, General Mills, and KB Home

  • Thursday: August existing-home-sales report. Earnings expected from Darden Restaurants

  • Friday: Last day of summer

Authors of this Snacks own shares of: CVS, GM, and Moderna

*Advertiser’s disclosure: See important disclosures at masterworks.com/cd.

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