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Kraft Heinz shares fall 28 percent after writedown, dividend cut

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(Reuters) – Kraft Heinz Co shares fell to a record low on Friday a day after the food company disclosed a $15 billion write-down on its marquee brands, raising concern that years of rigorous cost cutting have eroded the value of its Kraft cheeses and Oscar Mayer deli meats.

Kraft’s revenue growth has stagnated in the years since it merged with Heinz as consumers shun older, established brands for newer products, cheaper private label brands and non-processed and organic food.

The shares fell as much 28 percent to a low of $34.51, wiping $17 billion off the company’s market value. In mid-afternoon trading, shares were down $13.10 at $35.07.

(Graphic: Kraft Heinz stock crushed by writedown – tmsnrt.rs/2BNXPcJ)

Shares of rivals food makers also fell, with General Mills, Conagra Brands Inc, Unilever and Nestle SA all down between 1 percent and 3 percent.

Brazil’s buyout fund 3G Capital and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc together own more than 50 percent of Kraft Heinz. 3G has advocated the company combat higher transportation, commodity costs and sluggish growth by reining in expenses companywide. But that has come at a price.

“Investors for years have asked if 3G’s extreme belt-tightening model ultimately would result in brand equity erosion,” JPMorgan analyst Ken Goldman said.

“We think the answer arguably came yesterday in the form of a $15 billion intangible asset write-down for the Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands,” said Goldman, who cut his rating to “neutral” from “overweight.”

On Thursday, Kraft Heinz, whose brands include Jell-O gelatin dessert and Velveeta processed cheese, reported a quarterly loss, said it would cut its dividend 36 percent and disclosed that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the company’s accounting policies.

Ketchup-maker Heinz merged with Kraft in 2015 in a deal engineered by 3G. Under 3G’s stewardship, the new company embarked on extreme cost cutting that risked stifling investment in innovation and marketing.

Warren Buffett releases his annual letter to shareholders on Saturday and investors will scour the document for any insight from the billionaire on his Kraft stake and relationship with 3G.

ZERO-BASED BUDGETING

Under 3G, Kraft Heinz embraced zero-based budgeting, a cost-conscious strategy intended to improve operating margins that requires managers to justify all expenses, from pencils to forklifts.

Some analysts are now questioning the effectiveness of 3G’s model, given that the company’s margins before interest and taxes fell to 23.2 percent in 2018 from 27.2 percent in 2015, the year Kraft Heinz was formed.

“We see the 3G model as highly dependent on deal-making and synergy realization and at some point having best-in-class margins doesn’t matter if the sales growth doesn’t eventually come,” Guggenheim Partners’ analyst Laurent Grandet said in a note.

“Kraft Heinz results confirmed all our worst fears – plus more,” Grandet wrote in a note.

Stifel downgraded the stock to “hold” from “buy” and more than halved its price target to $35, well below the current median target of $52.

Credit Suisse cut its price target by $9 to $33, making it the lowest on Wall Street.

“This is not your typical “reset the base and everything will be fine” story,” Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow wrote.

FILE PHOTO: Heinz tomato Ketchup is show on display during a preview of a new Walmart Super Center prior to its opening in Compton, California, U.S., January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

“The dividend cut, the write-down of the Kraft and Oscar Mayer trademarks, and the guidance for further divestitures demonstrate the hallmarks of a company that has a serious balance sheet problem,” Moskow said.

The news also hit the company’s bond investors. Kraft Heinz’s nearly $31 billion of bonds were among the most heavily traded paper in the U.S. corporate debt market on Friday morning, according to MarketAxess, and yields on several of their largest bonds shot higher and their prices dropped by a full point or more.

Spreads on their bonds, or the premium demanded by investors as compensation for holding Kraft paper over safer U.S. Treasury securities, widened by the most ever across a range of the company’s bonds.

Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Anna Driver; Editing by Bernard Orr, Sweta Singh and Steve Orlofsky

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Ottawa’s not-for-profit book publisher provides Ottawa authors with hardcover printing

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Are you a writer in Ottawa seeking to become a self-published author? It has now become much easier to put your work up for sale and exceed your book sales target.

In previous times, authors were only able to publish their work traditionally and this process had many restrictions. Now with self-publishing, it is very easy for writers to get their work in front of their readers without spending lots of time and money.

Even with self-publishing, it is still important to choose the right platform as many authors who are in a haste to publish, easily fall victim by investing in the wrong platform and overlooking the key principles of success.

Despite how popular self-publishing has become amongst aspiring authors, only a handful of self-published books achieve high sales. In fact, only less than 1 per cent of most self-published books are really good and less than 5 per cent can pass as decent. 

Now, with professional guidance, self-publishing platforms like AgoraPublishing.com stand out from the rest particularly because of their commitment to ensuring that your work is of top quality, allowing it to attain mass marketability effortlessly.

Based out of Ottawa, Agora Publishing is a not-for-profit book publishing agency that has over the years supported self-published authors to achieve their book sales target. The agency has been in operation for over 20 years, consistently serving writers all around the globe who seek to take advantage of their numerous full-service options which are not provided by other competing platforms like Lulu or CreateSpace.

Unlike other comparative services that are driven by for-profit ethics, Agora Publishing pays critical attention to the quality and readiness of the writer’s manuscript, copy editing, book cover design and other areas of the book production and marketing process. They also provide professional hardcover printing services, which is a rarity for most self-publishing platform who only focus on producing digital copies.

While digital media has disrupted other industries such as news publishing and the entertainment business, a lot of readers still love to own physical books. According to a 2019 report by the Association of American Publishers, of almost $26 billion made from book sales in the U.S., book print made up over 90 per cent ($22.6 billion) of sales revenue compared to $2.04 billion for ebooks. These figures include genres such as trade, education as well as fiction and points to the fact that hardcover books are still very relevant.

“I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, sales are flattening off, I think the physical object is very appealing. Publishers are producing incredibly gorgeous books, so the cover designs are often gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects,” said Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers’ Association in the U.K. in CNBC report.

Agorapublishing.com stands out from other self-publishing platforms and has become a great option for writers who want to self-publish high quality and mass marketable books in Ottawa in both digital and print formats.

The agency provides a host of professional community-driven services which include ISBN registration, book cover design, the book’s internal graphic design and typesetting, copy editing or substantive editing, book website design, author news blog design, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), the writing of informative promotional articles, distribution, printing, and many more.

Even with a captivating manuscript, having a below-par book cover can contribute to a dent in sales. Some new authors try to save cost by patronizing cheap homemade book covers that look inferior and this can drastically affect sales as readers still “judge a book by its cover”—especially cheap-looking books.

Nonetheless, platforms such as AgoraPublishing.com seek to serve writers in Ottawa with free professional consultation and advice on the readiness of their manuscript for production and a hands-on approach to ensuring that writers are provided with a high level of service at all levels of the production process. This way, your book goes through rigorous quality checks to ensure that only the best is made available to the public.

Agora Publishing has built a successful roadmap for its authors which includes their book production and marketing strategies. Their team of professionals work with authors to print highly durable and beautiful hardcover books with quality prints to attract the attention of book buyers.

Racing into the world of self-publishing can hit you with a cruel reality, therefore the only chance for success is having proper planning and preparation. AgoraPublishing.com provides Ottawa writers with expert services, handling the entire process for you to ensure your book attains the desired success almost instantly.

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Book Self-Publishing: AgoraPublishing.com is the best choice for Ottawa authors

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For writers in Ottawa, it is now easier than ever to put your work up for sale by becoming a self-published author. Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishing makes it very easy for writers to get their work in front of their readers without spending lots of time and money.

However, for many self-published authors who are in a haste to publish, they easily fall victim by overlooking key principles of success, leading to the failure of their books in achieving the desired sell-out rate.

Quite a large number of authors who are new to self-publishing get so many basic things wrong. Now, with professional guidance, self-publishing platforms like AgoraPublishing.com stand out from the rest particularly because of their commitment to ensuring that your work is of top quality, allowing it to attain mass marketability effortlessly.

Unlike other self-publishing platforms (CreateSpace, Lulu etc.), Agorapublishing.com is a great option for writers who want to self-publish high quality and mass marketable books in Ottawa.

Published authors earn money through book sales by receiving royalties—a percentage of the book’s retail price. The obvious way a published author makes money is through book sales. In traditional publishing, you could expect to receive around 8 to 15 per cent royalty on each book sale depending on your status as an author, the publisher, or your target market.

However, authors in Ottawa are choosing to self-publish with Agora Publishing as they can earn much more money from royalties. When you self-publish your book, you can earn much more in royalties.

One of the most common reasons for poor sales for Ottawa authors is being in a haste to self-publish a book without adequate planning. Some upcoming authors share the misconception that having a book means it’s go-to-market ready. But there must be adequate planning, enough promotion, a considerable amount of followership, amongst others.

Racing into the world of self-publishing can hit you with a cruel reality, therefore the only chance for success is having proper planning and preparation. Professional services like AgoraPublishing.com provides Ottawa writers with expert services, handling the entire process for you to ensure your book meets the highest standards. This way, you are certain that your work would attain success almost instantly.

Irrespective of how captivating your book might be, to capture the attention of readers, there needs to be some form of marketing. However, a lot of self-publishers make the mistake of assuming that once they’ve acquired the services of a publicist, listed it on Amazon and made social media posts, it is enough marketing.

Contrary to that belief, getting your book as much attention as needed requires you to exhaust every available marketing options at your disposal. AgoraPublishing.com provides professional marketing services to Ottawa authors and this makes it possible for their books to achieve a high number of sales.

For most traditional publishers in Ottawa, they tend to prioritize authors who have already created a specific niche. This leaves aspiring and relatively unknown authors with nothing more to do than wait in line before their book gets any sort of attention. Self-publishing is a much appealing option because no one is excluded or given preferential treatment; anyone has the potential to become a best-selling author. If you have good material, you can publish your book with professional guidance from Agora Publishing.

If you are worried about your book getting rejected by traditional publishers in Ottawa, self-publication with Agora Publishing is the best option for writers. It doesn’t matter how controversial your content is, opting to self-publish gets your work into the marketplace faster.

For self-published authors in Ottawa, they have more control over their work and choose any country, through any channel, and in any format (print, eBook, or audio) they want it sold. With help from Agora Publishing, authors can decide where and when to sell the book and the best way to promote it to reach a global audience.

Nonetheless, even with a perfect manuscript, having a below-par book cover can contribute to a dent in sales. For some new authors—in a bid to save cost—they tend to patronize homemade book covers that carry an inferior look. This can drastically affect sales as readers and book buyers do “judge a book by its cover”, especially terribly cheap-looking book covers.

Another quality check for any book that more often than not fails is the book description. Having a book description that is two-sentence long doesn’t qualify either does a lengthy preview of the first chapter.

Nonetheless, platforms such as AgoraPublishing.com provides Ottawa authors with unprecedented quality control and checks on all books to ensure that only the best is made available to the public.


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Book Self-Publishing: AgoraPublishing.com provides quality control that Amazon’s KDP lacks

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Many of today’s best-selling writers have chosen the path of self-publishing to become authors, bypassing traditional publishing. However, getting a highly successful self-published book can be quite a difficult task.

Technology has opened up new possibilities in the book publishing industry, changing the way publishers communicate with authors. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has adopted a more digital experience for customer interaction, but there is a tendency to overlook the fact that self-publishing platforms such as AgoraPublishing.com provide much better quality control.

While the implementation of chatbots for customer interaction seems like a fascinating idea, human interaction is still the most preferred choice of communication. Verbal communication is faster, easier, and more effective than typing messages back and forth.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Humans generally speak at 125-175 words per minute and can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute. In contrast, the average typist does 38-40 words per minute — and that’s on a full-fledged keyboard, not on a mobile phone.”

The success of a book is attributed to the level of planning, preparation and the amount of hard work put into it before it is launched into the market. For authors, even after hitting the shelves, there is still the need to diligently follow up on book sales and revise your plan wherever necessary.

While the idea of using a chatbot for customer communication might sound very progressive, the most preferred choice for authors remains human interaction and there are various reasons for that.

In the younger generations, many people are getting accustomed to the use of automated forms of customer service through mediums such as chatbots. However, human interaction is overall still the most preferred choice.

When trying to solve a customer service issue, 83 per cent of consumers would rather talk to a human than lay complaints via digital channels, according to research from Accenture Strategy. Despite the ability for Amazon’s KDP chatbot to respond to queries much faster or provide similar answers, it simply cannot provide the same feeling and assurance that speaking to a human at Agora Publishing provides.

Additionally, Agora Publishing provides offline accessibility while Amazon’s KDP chatbot requires internet connection before it can be accessed. Therefore, you would need to either download the app or visit their website to initiate a conversation with the chatbot or access the knowledge base content. This isn’t very reliable as in the event of poor internet connectivity, human-based customer service would always provide the authors with the required support.

Robots would always be robots; and while Amazon’s KDP chatbot is built on a framework loaded with different algorithms and scripts, no amount of programming would be enough to replace a human’s distinct ability to read subtle details from a person’s mood or language.

For example, if an author contacts a publisher and becomes agitated due to poor sales during the first few days of publishing, even the most sophisticated chatbot would never be able to replicate the warm, calm and empathetic response that a customer service representative would provide.

Additionally, in the cases of delayed publishing, having a conversation with an actual person who can provide a detailed explanation and subsequently apologize for the delays can be much more soothing to the customer than interacting with a chatbot.

Amazon’s KDP chatbot is capable of providing authors with basic help on some common issues, but unlike Agora Publishing, they are incapable of resolving every challenge that authors often need assistance solving.

For example, if an author needs help deciding what name would be best for a biography a deceased loved one and has questions about the cover design, royalty rates and marketing techniques. All of these multiple questions would come sequentially with each question and answer leading to the next. A chatbot would be unable to handle this kind of complexity due to the multiple requests being made by the author.

In conclusion, while technology has made self-publishing much easier than before, a human agent is still the most effective way to communicate with publishers. They can sympathize with an author wherever necessary before proceeding to provide detailed responses to every query.

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