How would fictional entrepreneurs fare in today’s economy?

As the owner of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Charles Montgomery Burns AKA ‘Mr. Burns’ has been sitting relatively comfortably in recent years. With coal politically renounced as a dirty form of electricity production, nuclear energy was back in fashion after a thirty year hiatus. It was in such high demand that energy companies were planning to build twenty-nine new reactors in the U.S. at a cost of many billions of dollars over the next couple of decades.

Unfortunately for Mr. Burns, and like all good things, circumstances changed against his favor. The U.S. energy market has since been flooded with cheap natural gas, which is considered a safer option by utilities companies and is considerably more friendly to the environment than coal. In addition, the entire U.S. nuclear energy industry is the subject of a variety of public health reviews that address concerns introduced into public consciousness by the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering introducing new safety regulations that will require substantial capital expenditure and ongoing costs to meet, a situation that would push costs so high for the ageing Springfield plant that it would become uncompetitive.

As one of the largest shareholders in Stark Industries [NYSE:SIA] Mr. Stark has seen profits swell over the last decade. Ongoing conflict in the Middle East has kept demand high for unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and long range precision missile systems. Mr. Stark’s capture by terrorists in 2008, which led to the development of the Iron Man suit, has been a fantastic success story for the company which has seen its profile raised and is now viewed as the definitive advanced weapons manufacturer by NATO members.

Stark Industries stock is currently trading down 2.8% against its six month average on news that the U.S. defense budget could be cut by as much as 10% over the next decade. While the spending cuts are likely to target advanced weapons contractors such as Stark Industries, it is thought that technological development and specialist equipment orders will continue at their current pace. Mr. Stark has been advising the President on such matters and intends to reduce costs for the government through increased fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance costs.

As a privately held company that discloses little to no information about its operations, a very limited amount of data is available concerning Willy Wonka’s chocolate empire. According to sources familiar with the matter, Mr. Wonka does not even have an email address. The infamously reclusive entrepreneur rejected social media as “séance for the 21st century” and refuses to allow his company to interact with the general public via platforms such as Facebook and Twitter; something that is now regarded as a necessity by major brands.

World production of cocoa and sugar cane has outstripped demand in recent years, keeping prices low. This is expected to have boosted gross margins for the chocolate producer by 15-20%. While other confectioners have reduced the size of their chocolate bars in recent years, Mr. Wonka has not followed the trend, which is believed to have been a strategic move to maintain his loyal customer base.

Bottom line: While Mr. Wonka refuses to adhere to a shift in marketing practices to the digital landscape, the Wonka brand is as strong ever due to its patented chocolate manufacturing methods and secretive behaviour, which continues to drive strong demand through perceived exclusivity. 

The master of insider trading and stock speculation was released from prison in 2001 and published his first book ‘Is greed good?: Why Wall Street has gone too far‘, which became a New York Times bestseller, seven years later. Shortly thereafter, in 2008, the Wall Street veteran setup an immensely successful investment fund in London, England that generated huge profits from shorting the mortgage-backed securities market and later Greek sovereign debt.

While returns for his fund have been minimal year-to-date compared to prior years, Mr. Gekko made headlines earlier this year when his firm made millions of dollars ‘overnight’ by shorting stock of Facebook Inc [NASDAQ:FB] on its first day of trading. Although Mr. Gekko has publicly stated his positions in the deal were legitimate, noting their was a “tremendous amount of financially unsubstantiated hype surrounding the company, anyone with a pair of eyes and a desk calculator could have seen that”, some analysts believe the high IPO price and subsequent price crash were engineered by Mr. Gekko acting in unison with a handful of individuals at the investment banks structuring the deal.

The majority of Forrest Gump’s net worth stems from his holding of millions of Apple Inc [NASDAQ:AAPL] shares. The Cupertino, California based company was trading at $565 a share recently, down from $591 in July 2012, which made the former shrimp company owner’s wallet $100m+ lighter. Fortunately for investors the stock has made a comeback and is now trading at $589 a share. Mr. Gump has minimal contact with the company on a day-to-day basis but is occasionally used as a product tester by Apple engineers.

Ironically, after mistaking Apple Inc for “some kind of fruit company”, the Alabaman entrepreneur is now a vendor of fresh fruit smoothies. After spending free time planting and growing fruit trees with his son during childhood, the pair were inundated with enormous amounts of fruit several years later. This developed into a beverage company that sells fresh fruit smoothies to busy office workers across the country. Mr. Gump now has a quiet life participating in various hobbies and lets his son, Forrest Gump Jr., run the company.

Bottom line: With mostly ‘buy’ calls on Apple stock from Wall Street analysts and a 50% stake in a fledgling smoothie company with huge growth prospects, the semi-retired entrepreneur is in a great position to see enormous success over coming years. 

Scrooge McDuck is mostly known for his ‘Money Bin’; a tall hollow building with a huge dollar sign mounted on the front in which is stuffed a vast sum of gold coins. The feathery businessman has had a lot to smile about recently as the price of the yellow metal is up by over 400% since 2002; which means his fortune has increased handsomely over the past decade… to put it modestly.

Very little is known of Scrooge McDuck’s other investments, but those familiar with the matter advise the cash in his Money Bin represents the working capital of his holding company, McDuck Enterprises. The conglomerate has interests in fisheries, newspapers, radio stations, sawmills, retail outlets and a variety of other businesses.

With a 51% stake in a huge international conglomerate, Bruce Wayne has weathered the financial storm in style due to his company’s diversified portfolio of income streams. Wayne Enterprises has interests in food processing, shipping, medical equipment, mining, heavy manufacturing, clean energy, consumer electronics and entertainment, to name but a few.

Revenue generated from consumer goods has been robust. Although a decent portion of Wayne Electronic’s market share of smart phones has been lost to Apple and Samsung, this has been offset by a gain in market share in TVs, cameras and printers from struggling Japanese manufacturers that used to dominate the sector. Wayne Foods, a purveyor of high-end speciality foods, has seen sales tumble 2.2% year-to-date but management predict they can woo punters back by price-matching cheaper competitors on everyday items.

A number of key government and municipal contracts, where Wayne Industries and Wayne Medical generate a significant amount of their profits, are due to expire between now and 2017 are expected to be renewed. Similar to the majority of other companies in the S&P 500, Wayne Enterprises is sitting on a ten-year high net free cashflow position. This is because most of the funds were generated through sales outside the U.S. and cannot be brought back into the country without incurring a higher tax rate. Sources familiar with the matter advise that the board will use the funds to acquire strategic assets located outside of the U.S. that are of significant interest to the company.