Microsoft: Reaching For Infinity And Beyond – Seeking Alpha

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is one of the most well-known companies in the entire world. In a perpetual race against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) for “Most Valuable Company,” Microsoft has been able to make a name for itself over the past 44 years based on its product line and its openness to growth and innovation.

As a company, it has moved line-in-line with the broad Software and Services index, and has outperformed the S&P 500 by 65% over a five-year time frame. The industry itself has promising growth possibilities, with estimates of 4% growth in 2019.

msft vs the industry it is in

Source: Capital IQ

CompTia notes that “the product mix will be an especially important factor, as the high growth rates of emerging categories are expected to more than offset the slow growth mature categories” when looking at the tech industry. This plays into Microsoft’s strategy, as they carry some slow-growth product lines within their More Personal Computing segment, but have strong exposure to emerging categories, such as the Cloud.

comptia industry growth

Source: CompTia

As technology continues to integrate into our daily lives, and as big tech becomes increasingly more competitive, it is important to pay attention to key factors that will drive growth in the industry. Artificial Intelligence and the Cloud are two big market opportunities, as well as strategic alliances both inside and outside the industry.

MSFT has strong exposure to each of these three growth factors. Cloud demand, which is evolving constantly, will be a huge play as Microsoft continues to battle for market share. Artificial Intelligence, and all the applications it carries in the healthcare industry and other spaces, will be another big growth driver. Finally, the company has been building out partnerships and collaborations across companies as they continue to manage their economies of scales.

MSFT: Carving Out a Spot in The Industry Through Partnerships

MSFT has managed to create a niche for themselves in this $5T software and services industry. They operate through three key business segments, Productivity and Business Processes, Intelligent Cloud, and More Personal Computing. Their business ecosystem is rather complex, and continues to grow through acquisitions and partnerships.

msft ecosystem

Source: Dynamics

Over the past month alone, MSFT has entered into several deals to improve their standing in the industry. On February 4th, they purchased the DataSense platform. On January 15th, they entered into a seven-year agreement with Walgreens to provide digital health opportunities. On January 7th, it was announced that they entered a collaboration with Kroger to work on data-driven connected store experiences.

They teamed up with MasterCard in early December to work on digital identity management. They opened a joint-engineering office with Walmart in early November. Finally, they purchased GitHub Inc in a $7.5 billion acquisition in October.

The company is priming itself for growth, and taking each opportunity as they come. Satya Nadella is a key driver of the company’s performance over the past several years. Since he became CEO in 2014, the stock price has increased by 228%, a larger gain than both Apple and the S&P 500. Overall, the governance of the company is strong, driven by a diverse Board of Directors that carries only two external directors. They scored the best score possible on three of the QualityScore pillars, scoring well in Audit, Board, and Shareholder Rights.

msft share price under nadella

Source: Los Financieros

Looking Into the Possibilities: Growth in Artificial Technology

People are afraid of a takeover of machine intelligence. Over one-third of respondents to a survey released by Center for the Governance of AI believe that high-end machine intelligence will have a “bad” effect on humanity. Over 80% of respondents believe that robots and artificial intelligence require careful management. And almost one-third think that high-level machine intelligence should not be developed at all, with another one-third completely neutral in their opinion. people are afraid of ai

Source: Statista

Despite the uncertainty, MSFT is the company that people have the most trust in for the development of artificial intelligence. The fact that consumers trust MSFT the most to do this job is extremely promising, especially considering that AI is a key industry growth factor.

who do people trust to develop ai

Source: Statista

Microsoft is also implementing artificial technology in the healthcare space, highlighted by their recent partnership with Walgreens Boot Alliance. They have several key alliances in the industry, highlighting the earlier point about partnerships, ranging from Veradigm, a clinical research company, to ThoughtWire, an EarlyWarning application that can detect the risk of a heart attack.

Source: Microsoft

Source: Microsoft

Artificial Intelligence does carry a significant risk, and companies in the process of developing the software have made sure that consumers are aware of the risks that it carries. However, Microsoft is working on “democratizing AI” with aggressive investments across the board.

Artificial intelligence as a market is expected to experienced a 62.9% CAGR from 2016 to 2022, growing from $8B in revenue to almost $50B by 2020. Microsoft will also be implementing their Azure API to share health data across the cloud. The cloud has become a large focus for many of the top companies, with Amazon leading the charge and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) spending $25.5b in 2018 capex to try to gain market share.

The Cloud: Clear Skies Ahead

Amazon is a dominant player in this space with their product, Amazon Web Services. They dominate across every single region, and despite MSFT Azure’s 76% growth in sales for the most recent quarter, that dominance isn’t going away any time soon.

global cloud dominance

Source: SRG Research

Microsoft is close behind, as evidenced by their second place ranking in most geographic locations. MSFT leads in Enterprise SaaS, and also has a leg up on Amazon in private cloud. But this segment of the industry is highly competitive.

comp position

Source: Market Realist

The Cloud itself is posed for tremendous growth. Over the past three years, there has been an $80b increase in IaaS + SaaS revenues. These are variances of cloud platforms, with IaaS being more hands on for users, and SaaS completely managed by an outside company.

Over the next five years, there is expected to be an $300B increase revenues for IaaS + SaaS, which represents a growth of $60B per year versus the five-year average yearly growth of $26.7B. Market penetration in the $1.8T tech market is expected to increase to grow to 24% into the coming years, as compared to the 7% penetration in 2018.

MSFT is expected to have 70x revenue growth from their Azure platform versus AMZN’S 11x growth from their AWS platform. AWS has an advantage over Azure because they were first to market back in 2006. It took the company ten years, from 2006 to 2016, to make the first $10B in revenue off the product, but only two years to add the next $10B. Now they are expected to make $10B in 2019 alone.

the sweet spot in the industry

Source: Value Biased

Microsoft is working on the same trajectory, but Amazon has a two-year head start. After 2020 is when MSFT should see the quick gains that their top competitor has experienced. They will still lag behind, but momentum will be on their side, with projections to add $10B in revenue in 2021E.

aws azure

Source: Value Biased

Both companies are not too transparent with the exact amount of money that they make off their products. AWS had experienced 46.94% growth in revenue year-over-year from FY17 to FY18, which is a contraction from previous growth numbers. Doing the same analysis on MSFT yields a 17.6% year-over-year growth, which is much smaller than Amazon’s growth metric. AWS leads in Quarter over Quarter growth too, posting 45.3% growth in revenues from Q318 to Q418 versus MSFT’s 20.3% growth over a similar time frame.

Microsoft Revenue:

msft revenue

Amazon Revenue:amzn revenue

Source: Capital IQ

Cost Leadership: Azure Leads the Field

Microsoft’s Azure does have some advantages over its competitors, most notably in terms of pricing. They lead across on-demand pricing options. AWS is usually not the cheapest option, but they do offer more services than their counterparts. Google’s Cloud product line tends to be the most expensive.

revenue growth

Source: ZDNet

Microsoft also has a larger reach than their cloud competitors, located in 54 regions across the globe. They also have 120+ new subscribers to their product every month. It has the largest compliance offering in the industry, which is important for longevity in the corporate world.

global reach of msft azure

Strong Growth Across the Board

MSFT is experiencing growth in most of their key areas, and in most of the key growth opportunities for the industry. Azure will be a huge opportunity for them, as well as gaming and hardware offerings. They missed on revenue for Personal Computing in the most recent quarter, with the company pointing to a supply chain mishap as the reason behind the this. However, their Intelligent Cloud segment beat expectations by 10.7%.

product and services growth

Source: CNBC

Office 365 Commercial has also been a strong growth segment for the company, with the subscriber base growing 2.5% from Q1. They have had trouble with Office consumer products, and will have to consider how to handle the competition in that space. Okta, which is an integration network for different cloud platforms, has seen an extreme increase in popularity for Microsoft Office 365.


Source: Okta

The Surface device also just posted its “biggest quarter ever“, with $1.86 billion in revenue for Q219, which is a 39% increase year over year. The CFO is expecting 20% revenue growth next quarter. There have been several new devices in the product line, with whispers of a product called “Andromeda,” a “foldable, dual-screen device” that might be Microsoft’s next attempt at penetrating the smartphone market.

surface revenue

Source: Geek Wire

Hiking through the AMZN: A Peer to Peer Comparison

A benefit that Microsoft carries relative to competitors is their product differentiation and their geographical reach. The company gets about equal revenue streams from their Productivity and Business Processes, Intelligent Cloud, and More Personal Computing segments. The latter segment has experienced the slowest growth year-over-year at 7.6%, but the other two segments are line-in-line, at 20.1% and 17.6%, respectively.

segmentation of the market

Source: Capital IQ

For comparison, Amazon gets approximately 50% of their sales from online stores, but they have experienced monumental growth in each of their respective categories. AWS growth numbers, as discussed throughout this article, is going to be a continued benchmark that the rest of the industry will try to meet.

amazon net sales

Source: Amazon 10K

Amazon is much more reliant on US based sales, with 68% of their revenue coming from domestic sources. MSFT gets approximately 50.7% of their revenue from the US, and the other half from other countries. Amazon gets 20.6% of their revenue from Germany, the UK, and Japan, with the rest of the world representing 10.5% of a revenue source.

Amazon has outperformed Microsoft and the industry over the past three years. Microsoft has moved right in line with the S&P 500 Software Index, returning 111.8% versus the index’s 115.18% performance. This means that Microsoft has room to close the gap, and potentially catch up to Amazon’s 215.79% return.


Source: Capital IQ

In terms of valuation, it is common knowledge that Amazon is expensively traded. The tech sector as a whole has carried massive valuations for the past several years. Microsoft has a TEV / EBITDA of 15.44 as compared to Amazon’s 28.43. The industry, represented by the orange line, has a value of 19.92, so using that metric, MSFT trades at a less expensive valuation as compared to the industry as a whole.

msft valuation

Source: Capital IQ

Diving into the Data: The Financials of Microsoft

Microsoft is strong in terms of operational performance and liquidity, but they lag behind their peers in terms of solvency. Their interest coverage ratios are lower than their competitors, notably their EBITDA/Interest Expense and FFO to Total Debt. Total Debt to Capital is almost double that of their peers, as well as Total Debt to Revenue.

msft solvency

Source: Capital IQ

The company has been heavily investing in R&D, which is good for their continued growth. It is also important that they do this in the face of the competitive power that Amazon carries in the cloud space.

rd for msft

Their cash flows haven’t been as strong as they used to be, with year over year growth compressing almost 9% for the most recent quarter. Their free cash flow has also compressed, but only by 1.8% for year-over-year in December 18. That’s a much stronger metric than the 17.2% negative growth that occurred in the earlier part of 2018.

avory and co

Source: Avory and Co

Conclusion: MSFT Has Room to Grow

Microsoft has a strong brand name, and a diversified product portfolio. They are open to collaboration and partnerships. They are exposed to some weaknesses, like not taking advantage of potential economies of scale, and potential overexposure in some aspects of the industry that they underperform in, such as consumer products.

If we enter into a global slowdown, demand for products that Microsoft offers will more than likely decline, and there is the potential for regulatory framework to hurt the business. But overall, the cloud space offers them continued growth, they are fairly valued, and they have a number of growth opportunities outside the cloud space through gaming and the expansion of their Surface product line.

They will need to focus on improving their cash flow, but they have experienced strong revenue growth that is expected to remain stable into the future, large gross profit margins, and strong net income margins. All of their profitability margins improved over the course of 2018, and it seems as though the company is ironing out some problems it had in the past. MSFT is a constant in a constantly changing industry, and would be a great value-add to portfolios that need a less risky way to get exposure to the tech industry.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Off-Duty Flight Attendants Perform Sexy Number for Charity – Inside Edition

Four American Airlines flight attendants let loose in a burlesque-style number caught on camera. The four women, who were off duty, sang and danced to “Big Spender” as they surrounded a man playing an “Executive Platinum” customer while the American Airlines logo was displayed prominently in the background. Video of the moment was posted to Twitter, where it went viral. Now, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants is demanding an investigation into what it called a “demeaning” video.

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Blackmores share price crashes lower on slowing China growth – Motley Fool Australia

In morning trade the Blackmores Limited (ASX: BKL) share price has crashed lower following the release of its half year results. At the time of writing the health supplements company’s shares are down 34.5% to $80.91. What happened in the first half? For the six months ended December 31, Blackmores achieved record half year revenue of $319 million and a net profit after tax of $34 million. Revenue was up 11% on the prior corresponding period, whereas net profit was flat. The company’s CEO, Richard Henfrey, blamed the lack of profit growth on its investment in advertising and promotion and…

In morning trade the Blackmores Limited (ASX: BKL) share price has crashed lower following the release of its half year results.

At the time of writing the health supplements company’s shares are down 34.5% to $80.91.

What happened in the first half?

For the six months ended December 31, Blackmores achieved record half year revenue of $319 million and a net profit after tax of $34 million. Revenue was up 11% on the prior corresponding period, whereas net profit was flat.

The company’s CEO, Richard Henfrey, blamed the lack of profit growth on its investment in advertising and promotion and softening growth in China.

He said: “Achieving record sales is a very significant result for our business and highlights the benefits of our continued investment in advertising and promotion in recent months. However, due to this planned investment in the period and a softening of growth in China, there has been a short-term impact on profit growth.”

Revenue in Australia and New Zealand came in at $144 million during the half, which was up $23 million or 19% on the prior corresponding period. This was driven by both domestic growth and continued increased levels of sales through Australian retailers focused on servicing China export channels.

Excluding Australian retailers selling overseas, domestic sales growth is estimated to have been around 6% for the half year.

The company’s China segment posted an 11% decline in half year sales. However, when China-influenced sales through Australian retailers are taken into account, the company estimates growth in sales to Chinese consumers to be around 8%.

Across the rest of Asia the company recorded strong levels of sales growth in a number of markets. In Korea sales increased 67%, in Taiwan they rose 150%, and in Hong Kong they were up 39% on the prior corresponding period.

Finally, supporting this growth was the company’s BioCeuticals business which grew sales by 7% during the half.

However, due to the increased investments and softer China sales, this ultimately led to flat earnings per share of 198.9 cents and an interim dividend of $1.50 per share. The latter was in line with the prior period.


Management’s outlook for the second half and full year was reasonably underwhelming. It expects modest full year revenue growth after warning that Chinese sales in the third quarter have been impacted by changing ways that consumers purchase its products, higher inventory levels, and softening consumer sentiment.

In light of this, it does “not expect the second half profit performance to be ahead of the first half result.”

One small positive is that a Business Improvement Program has been established and is targeting $60 million of savings over the next three years.

Should you invest?

I thought the company’s performance in the first half of FY 2019 was bitterly disappointing. Blackmores has been given the benefit of the doubt from many investors over the last two to three years, but I suspect this result could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

I intend to stay clear of its shares until its performance both improves and becomes more consistent. Until then, I’ll be looking at fellow export-focused companies A2 Milk Company Ltd (ASX: A2M) and Treasury Wine Estates Ltd (ASX: TWE) instead.

In addition to a2 Milk and Treasury Wine Estates, I think these growth shares could be great options for growth investors.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended Blackmores Limited and Treasury Wine Estates Limited. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of A2 Milk. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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Airlines will add new gender options for non-binary passengers – CNN

(CNN) — US airline passengers who don’t identify as “male” or “female” will soon have more gender options to choose when booking tickets.

The new gender options to be added include “unspecified” and “undisclosed.”

Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade group, made the announcement that A4A and International Air Transport Association members recently approved a new international standard for non-binary passengers effective June 1.

“U.S. airlines value a culture of diversity and inclusion, both in the workplace and for our passengers, and we work hard each day to accommodate the needs of all travelers, while delivering a safe, secure and enjoyable flight experience,” Airlines for America said in a statement.

Major airlines are making the additions to be more inclusive for diverse passengers and the news is being praised by advocacy groups.

“NCTE applauds the A4A for adding gender options that are reflective of the diversity of their passengers,” Arli Christian spokesperson for The National Center for Transgender Equality said in a statement.

“Non-binary people face unnecessary, invasive, and discriminatory scrutiny by airlines,airports, and security services alike. A4A’s work is in line with other states who offer gender neutral designations on IDs and is an important step toward ensuring safe and smooth travel for all passengers regardless of their gender.”

These additions come as many states are adding more gender options on identification cards and birth certificates.

Implementation of the new gender options is up to each individual carrier, according to A4A. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest and United are all members of A4A.

American Airlines confirmed to CNN they are working to on implementing the change to accommodate passengers.

“In the coming weeks, customers will be able to select the gender with which they most closely identify during the booking process,” United Airlines tweeted.

Delta Airlines is not part of A4A, but they are also working on adding non-binary options for their customers.

“As part of Delta’s ongoing efforts to accommodate the needs of diverse customers throughout our business, we are planning to offer a non-binary gender option during the booking process,” Delta said in a statement.

CNN’s Marnie Hunter and Katia Hetter contributed to this report.

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Honda to shut UK Swindon plant, imperiling 3500 jobs – The Japan Times

Honda will close its car factory in western England with the potential loss of 3,500 jobs, British media and a local lawmaker said Monday, in another blow to a British economy made jittery by Brexit.

Sky News said the Japanese carmaker is to announce Tuesday that the Swindon plant will close in 2022. Honda makes its popular Civic model at the factory, 70 miles (115 km) west of London.

Local lawmaker Justin Tomlinson confirmed the news in a series of tweets. He said he had spoken to Honda, and the company said the decision “is based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021.”

He said no job losses at the plant were expected until 2021.

Honda said it could not comment “at this stage.”

“We take our responsibilities to our associates very seriously and will always communicate any significant news with them first,” the firm said in a statement.

The Unite trade union, which represents workers at the plant, said it was looking into the reports. Des Quinn, the union’s automotive-sector national officer, said the plant’s closure “would be a shattering body blow at the heart of U.K. manufacturing.”

The news comes as British businesses are issuing increasingly urgent warnings about the damage being done by the uncertainty around Britain’s looming exit from the European Union. The U.K. is set to leave the bloc on March 29 but has yet to seal a deal laying out the divorce terms and establishing what trade rules will apply after Brexit.

Many businesses fear economic chaos if there isn’t an agreement on the rules and conditions that will replace the 45 years of frictionless trade that came with being an EU member. The uncertainty has already led many firms to shift some operations abroad, stockpile goods or defer investment decisions.

Earlier this month, Nissan announced that it would not build a new SUV at its plant in Sunderland, England, as previously planned.

Nissan said it had made the decision “for business reasons,” but added that “the continued uncertainty around the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future.”

Last week Ford said that if Britain left the EU without a deal on smooth future relations, it would be “catastrophic for the U.K. auto industry and Ford’s manufacturing operations in the country.”

Christian Stadler, professor of strategic management at Warwick Business School, said automakers were being hit by several factors, including a cooling global economy and a European crackdown on diesel engines.

“Add the fact that the supply chain for most British-made cars crosses the Channel several times as parts are shipped back and forth, so any delays at the border after Brexit could severely disrupt the industry’s ‘just in time’ production method, and the U.K. starts to look like a less attractive place for international companies to build cars,” he said.

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Navient rejects $3.2 billion takeover bid from Canyon Capital and Platinum Equity – CNBC

Student-loan servicer Navient Corp has rejected a $3.2 billion takeover bid from two investors, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Navient’s board voted on Monday to reject the $12.50 per share offer from hedge fund Canyon Capital Advisors and private-equity firm Platinum Equity Advisors, believing it undervalues the company, according to the source.

The offer represents a 6.6 percent premium over Navient’s Friday closing price of $11.73 a share.

Navient’s advisers had told Canyon it would require a price of more than $15, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.

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Troubled Wyoming coal producer trims salaried positions – Casper Star-Tribune Online

Wyoming’s Cloud Peak Energy, one of the state’s largest coal producers, eliminated 15 salaried positions last week including most of its government affairs team, the company confirmed Monday to the Star-Tribune.

All affected employees were offered severance packages.

The Gillette-based firm owns the Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines in Campbell County, the nonoperational Youngs Creek mine in Sheridan County and the Spring Creek mine in Montana. It has struggled more than some of the other large coal producers in Wyoming to face the narrowing coal market since the downturn due, in part, to debt.

In a note sent to employees last week, the company explained that the reduction of positions was in response to challenges in the current coal market, noting the company’s recent decision to hire advisers who will considers options for Cloud Peak’s immediate future, like selling the firm.

“This reduction is part of our ongoing efforts to adjust our company to challenging industry conditions and the smaller size of our business,” the note states. “Along with our recently announced engagement of outside advisers, we believe these steps — although difficult — are necessary to help position our company for the future.”

The cuts will reduce the company’s government affairs activities — lobbying efforts from Cheyenne to D.C. — and eliminate most of the expenses in that department. Public affairs positions will be reduced, with remaining staff focused on local operations, according to the note.

Cloud Peak’s employee political action committee will be closed soon “as the remaining funds are contributed,” the note states.

The company’s press office did not immediately comment on emailed questions asking for more details on the layoffs.

Layoffs at Cloud Peak are not the first sign of distress from the firm. Cloud Peak’s Altman Z-score, a rating used to determine risk of bankruptcy, is in the distress zone. In November, the company announced that it would lighten its balance sheet by cutting retired employees’ health care benefits. Late that month, the company announced it had hired consultants to consider a range of options for the company’s future, including sale. By December, the New York Stock Exchange had warned the firm that its consistently low stock price would result in a delisting if not improved. Most recently, the company eliminated corporate bonuses that were to be paid out over a period of years and replaced them with lump-sum retention payments to be handed out immediately.

Cloud Peak was the only large publicly traded coal firm in Wyoming that did not buckle during the coal downturn. Unlike neighbors Peabody Energy, Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, Cloud Peak had not invested in the metallurgical coal boom that busted in 2015. But while it had not gotten itself into that particular trouble, Cloud Peak did not then benefit from the balance sheet cleansing of bankruptcy. It held on to its debt.

The ongoing pressures on Cloud Peak, and others in the coal industry, are the reduced number of customers to buy their coal, cheap competition in the power sector from natural gas and renewables, and the near-elimination of the long-term coal contracts with the power industry that producers once depended on.

A record number of coal-fired power plant closures occurred in 2015, with last year recording the second-highest number of retirements. A number of the plant closures in recent years had been recent buyers of Cloud Peak’s coal, including two Texas plants that announced closure in 2017, and a large coal-fired plant in Wisconsin that closed the same year.

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Girl Scout markets Samoa cookies with Jason Momoa’s picture, says Momoa Samoas are a big hit – Fox News

A clever Girl Scout in Colorado is accelerating cookie sales by using the tried-and-true method of augmenting the box with a photo of a buff, shirtless man and his glistening pecs.

Charlotte Holmberg, identified as a Top Cookie CEO by the Girl Scouts of Colorado, is using “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa’s picture to move boxes of Samoas — and it’s working, according to Charlotte.


“The moms are getting really excited and they’re saying that they need them,” Charlotte told Denver’s KUSA.


Charlotte’s mom, who works in marketing, helped her daughter out with the project, after getting the Mamoa/Samoa idea from memes on the Internet.

The two then created the box art by printing out photos of Momoa and affixing them to the cookies, which have been renamed “Momoas” as part of the promotional efforts.

Charlotte’s “Momoas” have plenty of fans — including a couple of her fellow Girl Scouts, who offered to buy some.


News of Charlotte’s clever tactic follows reports of Girl Scouts selling their treats outside pot dispensaries around the country. Last year, a Girl Scout and her father claimed to have sold 312 boxes in only six hours while stationed outside of a marijuana dispensary in San Diego.

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