Miller Energy says new well better than expected

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Miller Energy Resources has had its share of troubles, but on Monday the Knoxville oil and natural gas company announced that a new sidetrack well is producing better than expected.
The WMRU-2 sidetrack well in Alaska began producing on June 7 and it’s initial seven day average production is approximately 630 barrels of oil equivalent, the company said in a news release.
The well is expected “to continue to exceed our original assessment as it stabilizes,” said David Hall, Miller’s chief operating officer.
CEO Scott Buruff said the well should be “a substantial revenue generator for Miller.”
The company’s share price was up 37 cents, or more than 7 percent, to $5.62 in early afternoon trading.
Miller is an oil and natural gas exploration and production company with operations in Alaska and East Tennessee.
The new well’s performance offers a bit of good news following recent shareholder complaints.
Early this year the company settled a lawsuit brought by a group of dissident shareholders who complained about “excessive compensation and unacceptable self-dealing” at Miller.
Click here for more on the shareholders complaint.

Regal Entertainment shares hit 52-week high

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Shares of movie theater operator Regal Entertainment Group hit a 52-week high today — $21.08.
The Knoxville based company has seen its stock price climb slowly but steadily over the last 12 months. Since Jan. 1, shares have gained more than 8 percent.
In early afternoon trading, the price had slipped back from the 52-week high, trading at $21.02, up 11 cents from Tuesday’s closing price.
At least one analyst thinks Regal, the largest movie theater operator in the country, could see its shares hit $23 by the end of this year.
Writing for the financial website Seeking Alpha, research analyst Gary Bourgeault says:
“If it is able to sustainably trade above $20.00 per share, I believe the company will be rewarded by investors. With the summer season upon us, and the holiday season to follow, I see the share price of Regal breaking the $23.00 mark by the end of 2014, as blockbusters like The Hunger Games and The Hobbit are released, along with the ongoing benefit of an increase in adjusted EBITDA to $137 million in the first quarter, with expectations that should continue to grow through the end of the year.”
Click here for Bourgeault’s full report.

Malibu Boats looks to expand international footprint

0814_KCLO_Malibu04_SYLoudon-based performance sport boat manufacturer Malibu Boats Inc. said today it plans to buy the equity interests of the Malibu Boats licensee in Australia.
Terms of the proposed deal were not disclosed.
The Australian business is operated by Malibu Boats Pty Ltd. and includes distribution rights in Australia and New Zealand.
“The planned acquisition of our Australian licensed business represents an important next step in our international growth strategy,” Malibu CEO Jack Springer said in a news release. “Australia is an important region to the boating industry not only because of the size of the market but its proximity to Southeast Asia and its ability to serve that region of the world. Acquiring our Australian licensed business will give us ownership of our brand world-wide and a platform in which to continue growing our business in Australia and New Zealand and developing a bigger presence in Asia.”
The proposed acquisition is expected to close the first half of 2015.
“The global unification of Malibu Boats that will result from the proposed acquisition of the Australian business makes perfect sense for the brand moving forward,” Xavier West, director of Malibu Boats Pty., said in a statement.
The letter of intent is not binding and the proposed purchase is subject to due diligence by Malibu Boats Inc., the release said.
Malibu Boats Inc. designs, makes and manufacturers Malibu and Axis Wake Research brand boats.
Shares of Malbibu Boats Inc. were up 52 cents to $19.54 in late morning trading.

Tax Freedom Day in Tennessee is here

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The federal income tax deadline looms, but Tennesseans have reason to celebrate.
As of April 5, Tennesseans collectively had made enough money to pay their total federal, state and local tax bill for 2014, according to the Tax Foundation’s annual Tax Freedom Day calculations.
Tennessee has one of the earliest Tax Freedom Days in the country, according to the Washington, D.C. based think tank’s annual report. Only Louisiana (March 30), Mississippi (April 2), and South Dakota (April 4) achieved tax freedom earlier this year.
For the nation as a whole, Tax Freedom Day arrives on April 21 —  three days later than last year “due mainly to the continuing economic recovery, which will boost federal tax revenue collected through the corporate, payroll, and individual income tax,” according to a news release.
“Arguments can be made for why the collective tax bill is too high or too low, but in order to have an honest discussion, it’s important to understand where we stand,” Tax Foundation economist Kyle Pomerleau said in the release. “Tax Freedom Day gives us a vivid representation of how much we pay for the goods and services provided by governments at all levels.”
Other highlights from the Tax Freedom report:
– Americans will spend more on taxes in 2014 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.
– Americans will spend 42 days working to pay off income taxes, 15 days for excise taxes, and 11 days for property taxes.
– Americans will pay $3 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of more than $4.5 trillion, or 30.2 percent of the nation’s income.
The Tax Foundation, which generally is critical of all tax increases, describes itself as a nonpartisan tax research group.
Click here for the full Tax Freedom Day report.

Regal theater to get ‘immersive’ 4D technology

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A Regal Entertainment Group movie theater in Los Angeles will be the first theater in the U.S. to get new 4D technology.
AEG, a global sports and entertainment presenter, announced Monday that it has signed a deal with a South Korean company, CJ 4DPlex, to open a 4D theater at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14 in Los Angeles this summer.
“Los Angeles was the natural choice for the first U.S. location to carry 4DX. We wanted to bring this experience to where all the movie magic happens,” Byung Hwan Choi, CEO of CJ 4DPlex, said in a news release.
Officials with Knoxville-based Regal Entertainment, the largest movie theater operator in the U.S., could not be immediately reached for comment.
The new movie technology delivers an “immersive 4D experience to excite all five human senses. Features include motion, wind, strobe, fog, vibration, mist, rain and even scent-based special effects that go far beyond 3D,” the release says.
Some 14,000 4D seats are currently available in 91 theaters in 23 countries.
It’s uncertain how fast 4D tech will spread to other U.S. theaters or if it will make it to Knoxville. But it would be cool way to experience a blockbuster action movie.
AEG is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Anschutz Company, a major investor in Regal Entertainment.
CJ 4DPlex is the world’s first 4D cinema company for feature films. Headquartered in Seoul and with international offices in Los Angeles and Beijing, the company provides 4DX cinema systems for exhibition partners along with 4DX codes of major Hollywood titles.
Click here for the AEG news release

Malibu Boats gets some love from Motley Fool

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Following its successful IPO a few weeks ago, Loudon-based Malibu Boats is getting some love from a Motley Fool writer.
The maker of performance sports boats is in better shape than its competitors and positioned to take advantage of an improving market for power boats, Motley Fool writer Mark Lin says.
Here’s an excerpt from Lin’s Fool report:
“Malibu Boats is the outright market leader in performance sport boats and has seen its market share in the category increase from 23.9% to 32.9% over the past five years. Even more noteworthy is the fact that almost all of its major competitors lost market share during the period, suggesting that Malibu Boats hasn’t just ridden along on industry growth but has gained a real edge over competition.”
Competitors Mastercraft and Brunswick, maker of Sea Ray Boats, which have manufacturing plants in Vonore, Tenn., can’t like that assessment.
Malibu, which completed its IPO on Feb. 5, reported a gross profit of $11.7 million on sales of $43.9 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31.
Click here for the Motley Fool report.

UT beats Florida in Forbes college basketball rankings

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Florida may be the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA mens basketball tournament, but the University of Tennessee is a much more valuable team, financially speaking.
UT is a sparkling No. 15 on Forbes’ 2014 list of the most valuable college basketball teams, with a team value of $14.1 million and a profit of $8.5 million.
Among its Southeastern Conference foes, the Vols trail only Kentucky, NO. 3 on the Forbes list with a team value of $32.5 million. But UT is well ahead of the Gators who finished outside Forbes’ Top 20 with a team value of $10 million +.
The financial details for the current rankings are from the 2012-2013 season and come from the U.S. Department of Education database, says Forbes, which published its 2014 list on Monday.
Ticket sales, alumni contributions, parking and concessions and NCAA tourney payouts are among the revenue sources cited by Forbes.
“Unlike our professional sports valuations, our college basketball values don’t represent what a team would sell for on the open market; as college teams, they obviously cannot be bought or sold. Instead, we use a weighted methodology to determine how much value the top college basketball teams generate for their athletic departments, universities and fellow conference members,” Forbes’ writer Chris Smith reports.
No. 1 on the Forbes list for the third straight year is Louisville with a team value of $39.5 million and a sizzling profit of $24.7 million.
The Vols lofty Forbes ranking continues to benefit from the tournament payout earned by the 2010 team, which made the NCAA Elite Eight and came within a whisker of the school’s first Final Four.
The Vols play their first NCAA tournament game since 2011 on Wednesday when they go up against Iowa.
Click here for the Forbes report.

87-year-old’s Ruby Tuesday review goes viral

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You can’t put a price tag on millions of folks reading a positive story about your business.
Maryville-based  restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday recently was the beneficiary of just such a publicity bonanza a review by  a review by 87-year-old restaurant critic Marilyn Hagerty went viral
Hagerty, a columnist for the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald liked her local Ruby Tuesday, in particular the salad bar and cloth-like napkins.
Bloggers, websites and other digital outlets went crazy. The viral explosion landed Hagerty an interview on NBC’s Today Show where she told Lester Holt she just didn’t get why her reviews went viral.
This wasn’t Hagerty’s first brush with viral fame. A couple of years ago her review of the local Olive Garden sparked a similar viral outburst.
Given its recent financial troubles, Ruby Tuesday should be thankful for the Hagerty generated publicity.
In its most recent financial report, Ruby Tuesday reported a quarterly net loss $34.4 million, or 57 cents per share, and said it would close 30 underperforming locations.
Olive Garden reportedly got a much-needed boost from the Hagerty review and subsequent viral publicity. Not everyone sees the same thing happening for Ruby Tuesday.
A Motley Fool writer said any boost will be short-lived.
“However, it’s not likely that this brave and crafty senior citizen will have any long-term impact on Ruby Tuesday.”
That’s too bad. Ruby Tuesday could use all the help it can get.
Click here for Hagerty’s Ruby Tuesday review
Click here for the Motley Fool analysis.
Click here for Hagerty’s Today Show interview

Productivity takes a hit with March Madness — but who cares

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The Big Dance is almost here and workers coast to coast will soon ignore their jobs to watch their favorite college basketball team battle in the annual NCAA tournament.
Millions of workers will watch games on office TVs, company computers and smartphones. An estimated 50 million Americans will participate in March Madness office pools.
The basketball frenzy is fun, but it’s also costly for businesses.
For every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament, companies nationwide will lose nearly $2 billion in lost wages, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
“There are distractions every day at the office, but the first week of the annual men’s college basketball tournament is particularly hazardous to workplace productivity.  While March Madness distractions may not alter the nation’s quarterly GDP numbers, you can be assured that department managers and network administrators notice the effect on work output and company-wide internet speeds,” John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a news release.
In a 2012 MSN survey, 56 percent of workers said they would spend at least an hour a day on March Madness activities, according to the news release. This year that would mean more than 77 million workers will spent work time watching games, keeping up with their office pool and talking to co-workers about the tourney.
Based on an average hourly wage of $24.31 — as noted in the most recent employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — that would mean “$1.9 billion in lost wages for each hour of work time spent on March Madness,” the release said.
Despite the productivity loss, companies should avoid the temptation to crack down on basketball activities, Challenger said.
“Department managers may notice that their workers are more distracted and the IT department may notice the loss of bandwidth.  However, at the end of the day, it is unlikely that a few days of March Madness distraction will impact the company’s bottom line,” Challenger said.
However, taking a hard line could hurt morale, which would have a long-term impact on productivity.
Companies would be better off trying to engage workers by promoting an office pool that’s free to enter, encouraging employees to wear their team colors or even serving a catered lunch on the first two days of the tournament, Challenger said.
Click here for the Challenger news release.

Manpower: Metro Knox hiring to improve in 2Q

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Hiring in metropolitan Knoxville is expected to show healthy improvement in the second quarter, according to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released Tuesday.
Seventeen percent of Knoxville area employers surveyed said they planned to add jobs in the April to June period, while only 1 percent said they would trim payrolls, Manpower reported.
Construction related businesses are among a broad range of area companies expected to add jobs in the coming quarter.
“We’re seeing a lot more activity in construction. We’re seeing a lot more opportunities,” said  Bill Garibay, president and CEO of ES&H Inc., a Knoxville-based company that provides professional services in construction, remediation, environmental, and safety and health support.
An improving economy is driving increased hiring, said Garibay, who also is president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee.
“The economy is making a turn. The housing market is making a turn and people are starting to spend money,” he said.
Area employers were considerably more cautious about adding jobs in the first quarter when 13 percent said they would hire in January through March period, while 9 percent expected to cut staff , Manpower reported.
In addition to construction, other Knox area job sectors with the best employment opportunities include, durable goods manufacturing, nondurable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, wholesale and retail trade, financial activities, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality and government, Manpower said.
Nationwide, 19 percent of employers surveyed plan to add jobs in the second quarter and 4 percent said they would cut staff.
Manpower surveyed more than 18,000 employers across the country for its second quarter report.