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Zacks #1 Stocks on the Move 05/28/2015

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Analyst Blog

Simon Property Eyes Portfolio Improvement: Is It a Hold?

Posted Thu May 28, 02:55 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

We updated our research report on Simon Property Group Inc. SPG on May 27, 2015.

This Indianapolis, IN-based retail real estate investment trust (“REIT”) constantly aims to enhance its portfolio quality. The company reported first-quarter 2015 comparable funds from operations (“FFO”) of $2.28 per share, which beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.23. The bottom line comfortably beat the prior-year quarter figure of $2.14 per share. The year-over-year improvement was mainly driven by growth in comparable net operating income (“NOI”) as well as occupancy rates.

Notably, Simon Property was recently in the news for making a $16.8-billion takeover bid for its rival The Macerich Company MAC. The bid was, however, rejected by the latter on grounds of undervaluation.

More lately, Simon Property announced its plans at the RECon Global Retail Real Estate Convention to expand several marquee properties for enhancing its portfolio across the country.  In fact, the REIT is undergoing unprecedented redevelopment and expansion across all its segments – Malls, Premium Outlets, and The Mills – investing around $1 billion annually for further improving its portfolio.

The company also announced the opening of a 25-store expansion at Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. This expansion is expected to take the company’s already strong portfolio to greater heights. This move will also be accretive to the REIT’s financials, going forward.

Nevertheless, a large redevelopment and expansion pipeline, comprising high-end projects both on the national and international levels, raises operational hazards for the company, exposing it to rising construction costs, entitlement delays and lease-up risks. Further, stiff competition and anticipation of interest rate hikes in the medium term pose challenges before Simon Property.

Over the past 7 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the stock has remained unchanged at $9.77 for 2015 and $10.66 for 2016.

Currently, Simon Property carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), while Macerich holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Key Picks from the Sector

Investors interested in the retail REIT industry may consider stocks like Agree Realty Corp. ADC and American Assets Trust, Inc. AAT. Both these stocks carry the same Zacks Rank as Macerich.

Note: FFO, a widely used metric to gauge the performance of REITs, is obtained after adding depreciation and amortization and other non-cash expenses to net income.

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Ford (F) Announces Two Safety Recalls in North America

Posted Thu May 28, 02:50 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Ford Motor Co. F announced two new safety recalls in North America. One of these glitches hasreportedly led to four minor accidents.  

The first recall by Ford involves 422,814 vehicles. Of these, 393,622 vehicles were recalled in the U.S and federalized territories; 25,195 in Canada; and 3,997 in Mexico. The affected vehicles include certain 2011–2013 Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT vehicles which were manufactured at the Oakville Assembly Plant from Sep 7, 2010 through Feb 28, 2012; certain 2011–2012 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles produced at the Hermosillo Assembly Plant from Sep 7, 2010 through Feb 28, 2012; certain 2011 Mercury Milan vehicles built at the Hermosillo Assembly Plant from Sep 7, 2010 through Dec 10, 2010; and certain 2011–2013 Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS vehicles built at the Chicago Assembly Plant from Sep 7, 2010 through Feb 28, 2012.

Ford is recalling these vehicles due to a problem with the power steering. Irregular electrical connection in the steering gear may lead to the loss of electric power steering assist while driving. In such a situation, the steering system defaults to the manual steering mode. This makes it difficult to steer the vehicle at lower speeds, thereby increasing the risk of a crash. Four minor accidents related to this issue have been reported.

Ford stated that dealers will either update the software of the power steering control module or replace the steering gear of the affected vehicles.

The second recall involves around 19,486 2015 Ford Mustang vehicles, featuring a 2.3 liter engine. These vehicles have been recalled in North America due to high underbody temperatures. These were produced at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant from Feb 14, 2014 through Feb 10, 2015. Of the total vehicles recalled, 19,095 vehicles were recalled in the U.S and federalized territories; and 391 in Canada.

Ford stated that extended exposure to high underbody temperatures may lead to degradation of the fuel tank and fuel vapor lines. This may ultimately lead to a fuel leak, thereby increasing the risk of a fire. Also, the exposure to elevated underbody temperatures may cause damage to the parking brake cable seals, thus affecting parking brake functions. This malfunctioning may lead to unexpected vehicle movement, which may increase the probability of injury. Meanwhile, there have been no reports of casualties related to this issue.

Ford announced that dealers will replace the current fuel tank shield with another one that has better insulating capability. In addition, the company will install thermal patches on the fuel tank and parking brake cable, and install thermal wraps on the fuel vapor lines.

Ford currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Better-ranked automobile stocks include Daimler AG DDAIF, Valeo SA VLEEY and Wabash National Corp. WNC. All these stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>

Qiagen Launches Clinical Insight Bioinformatics Platform

Posted Thu May 28, 02:45 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

QIAGEN NV QGEN recently launched its Qiagen Clinical Insight (QCI) bioinformatics platform to facilitate clinical testing labs study genomic variants identified through next-generation sequencing (NGS) data. This indicates the company’s efforts to bolster its footprint in the rapidly evolving global bioinformatics market.

QCI is a comprehensive, bioinformatics content and software platform that can analyze genomic variants available in published biomedical literature, professional association guidelines, public databases and annotations, drug labels and clinical trials. This platform holds immense value in the multi-billion dollar oncology market, as it supports both somatic and hereditary cancer testing.

The platform’s strong software base, secure web application and the company’s private data center jointly allow clinicians to rapidly categorize genomic variants and perform geographical clinical trial matching. This, in turn, aids faster interpretations of gene-based data and consequently expedites the delivery of appropriate treatment for patients.

The QCI platform also offers clinicians access to the Allele Frequency Community – the world's largest repository of ancestral and ethnic diversity data – thus promising a crucial role in genomic clinical trials. Per management, QCI is the latest addition to Qiagen’s portfolio of Sample to Insight solutions that are significant contributors to NGS growth across clinical research and diagnostic lab spaces.

Per reliable resources, accurate and timely extraction of clinically actionable genomic variants from raw sequencing data and then reporting it in a user-friendly way is a daunting task in molecular testing procedures. This latest QCI platform allows clinicians to produce useful, scalable outcomes that address this so-far-unmet bioinformatics challenges.

Clinical labs performing NGS-based tests particularly face time and cost hurdles when transforming genetic information into clinically relevant analyses for physicians. Through its collaboration with leading labs, Qiagen has successfully deployed the QCI platform offering accurate workflow support at a reduced time and cost.

Per management, in bioinformatics and NGS, Qiagen is leaving no stone unturned to expand its portfolio with universal solutions. The company is also preparing for commercialization of the GeneReader NGS workflow in the latter half of 2015.

Moreover, Qiagen is signing new commercialization agreements to strengthen itself in the bioinformatics space. Its latest collaboration with BGI – the world’s largest genomics organization – is one such effort. Under this agreement, BGI will offer Qiagen’s Ingenuity Variant Analysis solution to its sequencing services customers, thus boosting Qiagen’s overall customer base.

The global bioinformatics market accounted for $4.2 billion in 2014 and is poised to reach $13.3 billion by 2020 at a CAGR of 20.9% during 2015–2020 (according to Research and Markets). We believe Qiagen’s positive efforts adequately positions it to capture a larger share of this market, going ahead.

Currently, the stock carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked med-biomed/generic stocks are Actelion Ltd. ALIOF, Gilead Sciences Inc. GILD and Illumina Inc. ILMN. All the three stocks carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>

Valeant Pharmaceuticals Gets FDA Nod for Xifaxan for IBS-D

Posted Thu May 28, 02:40 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. VRX recently announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Salix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has received FDA approval for Xifaxan 550 mg for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D) in adults.

The approval was based on encouraging results from three phase III studies – TARGET 1, TARGET 2 and TARGET 3, wherein Xifaxan 550 mg showed efficacy and safety in repeat therapy following the completion of a two-week course of treatment.

As per an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, approximately 35 million adults in America may suffer from IBS, and 40% IBS patients suffer from diarrhea-like symptoms that include urgency, loose, watery stool and abdominal pain.

Hence, the approval of Xifaxan 550 mg will provide patients access to a treatment that may provide relief from these symptoms. We note that Xifaxan 550 mg is already approved in the U.S. to manage hepatic encephalopathy. Given the immense market opportunity, a label expansion of the drug will further boost Xifaxan’s sales.

We remind investors that Valeant acquired erstwhile Salix Pharmaceuticals in Apr 2015 in a bid to enter the lucrative gastrointestinal (GI) market. Salix was a leader in the GI market armed with a wide variety of drugs such as Xifaxan 550, Uceris (for controlling mild or moderate ulcerative colitis), Relistor (for opioid-induced constipation) and Apriso (for ulcerative colitis).

Meanwhile, Actavis plc ACT received FDA approval for Viberzi as a twice-daily, oral treatment for adults suffering from IBS-D.

Valeant currently carries a Zacks Rank #1(Strong Buy). Other favorably placed stocks in the health care sector include Actelion Ltd. ALIOF and Gilead Sciences Inc. GILD. Both carry the same rank as Valeant.

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>


Baxter Faces Moody's Rating Action on Impending Split

Posted Thu May 28, 02:35 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

Baxter International Inc.’s BAX senior unsecured ratings of A3 were recently downgraded to Baa2 by credit rating agency Moody’s MCO, reflecting apprehensions over the upcoming split of the company into two separate entities. However, Moody’s has maintained Prime-2 short term ratings on Baxter and is likely to rate Baxalta Baa2.

Credit rating downgrade from a reputed agency like Moody’s has its implications as it limits borrowing capacity. The rating downgrade follows Baxter’s recent (May 19) disclosure related to the capital structure and financial details of both the companies. The spilt process is set to be complete by mid-2015 (Jul 1, 2015).

At the time of the initial announcement (Mar 2014), Moody’s had slashed Baxter’s rating outlook to negative from stable, but maintained A3 and Prime-2 ratings. However, in March, this year, Moody’s put both the ratings under review owing to concerns over Baxter’s business model and leverage issues.

Notably, Baxter’s bioscience division currently contributes a significant portion to the company’s sales and profits (36.2% of revenues in the first quarter of 2015). Also, many of the company's key pipeline products are from its bioscience segment. Thus, Moody’s believes that the separation would be a material event for the company.

Per Moody’s, the recent downgrade takes into account Baxter's smaller, lesser diverse, and lower margin business as well as its high leverage (total debt of $10 billion as of Mar 31, 2015), which is not sufficient for maintaining the A3 rating. However, Moody’s believes that Baxter will be able to de-leverage over the next 18-20 months.

The credit rating agency expects Baxter to lower its leverage from an initial figure of 4.5x debt/EBITDA (post split) to 3.0x during this period. The expectation is based on lower debt, which Baxter plans to achieve by using the $4 billion cash dividend it will receive from Baxalta. Baxter will also retain an approximately 19.5% equity stake in Baxalta, which it plans to contribute to its domestic pension plan.

Moreover, improving top-line growth driven by synergies from the Gambro acquisition and margin expansion along with lower debt can improve Baxter’s leverage to 2.5x debt/EBITDA, which per Moody’s will propel a rate upgrade. On the other hand, debt-financed acquisitions, aggressive share buybacks and/or leverage above 3.0x debt/EBITDA can call for a further downgrade.

In this regard, we note that Moody’s regarded Baxter’s recent acquisition of Oncaspar oncology product portfolio from Sigma-Tau Finanziaria as credit negative. This was due to the fact that the deal was partially debt-funded. Moody’s also noted that 9x sales multiple were quite high for the product category.

Meanwhile, Baxalta’s Baa2 rating primarily reflects a dominant position in hemophilia drugs. The company’s presence in orphan drugs, strong margins and moderate leverage (2.7x at the time of spin) are other criterions.

Baxalta’s targeted gross debt/EBITDA multiple of 2.0 times is quite good according to Moody’s. However, high dependence on ADVATE and risks related to the split are primary headwinds.

Stocks to Consider

Currently, Baxter carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Better-ranked stocks in the medical products industry include Hospira HSP and Vascular Solutions VASC. Both the stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>


GlobeImmune-Gilead's Hepatitis B Drug Fails in Phase II

Posted Thu May 28, 02:30 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

GlobeImmune, Inc.’s GBIM shares plummeted 51.3% following the company’s announcement that a randomized, open-label phase II study (0101) on investigational hepatitis B virus (HBV) candidate GS-4774 has failed to meet the primary endpoint.  

The study compared three doses of GS-4774 (2YU, 10YU or 40YU) in combination with oral antiviral therapy (OAV) versus only antiviral treatment in chronic HBV patients, who were on long-term viral suppression and undergoing an OAV. Top-line results showed that patients treated with the highest dose of GS-4774 in combination with an ongoing OAV failed to achieve any reduction in hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) after 24 weeks of treatment. Furthermore, the company revealed that there was no difference in HBsAg reduction between the two lower-dose treatment arms in comparison to the control arm at week 48.

We remind investors that GlobeImmune has a global agreement with Gilead Sciences, Inc. GILD for the development of therapies for chronic HBV infection based on GlobeImmune’s proprietary Tarmogen platform. Under this agreement, GS-4774 is exclusively licensed to Gilead Sciences.

Our Take

Phase II study data on GS-4774 is extremely disappointing since GS-4774 is the only mid-stage candidate in GlobeImmune’s pipeline. With its failure to meet the primary study endpoints, we have low visibility on the future development status of the candidate. We note that GS-4774 is being evaluated in another phase II study (1401) for the treatment of chronic HBV infection patients who are not receiving any other treatment. 48-week data from the study, which is enrolling patients, is expected to be available in mid-2016.

According to GlobeImmune, chronic HBV infection is the most common serious liver infection affecting nearly 400 million people across the world. Given that no therapy is yet approved for the vast majority of chronically-infected HBV patients, if developed successfully, GS-4774 could gain an opportunity to cater to a large market.

We expect investors to keep an eye on updates from the company on the 1401 study and further development plans for GS-4774.

Investors looking for well-ranked stocks in the health care sector may consider Actelion Ltd. ALIOF and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. VRX. Both carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>

Honda's Global Output Dips in April, Japan Sales Dwindle

Posted Thu May 28, 02:20 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

Honda Motor Co., Ltd.’s HMC reported worldwide production volume for Apr 2015 at 379,053 units, down 1.4% from Apr 2014. Production outside Japan was up 7% at 327,109 units, reflecting growth for the second consecutive month. This also represents an all-time high production level for the month of April. Meanwhile, production in Japan plunged 34.1% to 51,944 units in the month, marking the ninth continuous month of decline.

The improvement in production outside Japan resulted from a 5.3% increase in production in North America to 162,641 units, a 9.4% rise in Asia to 138,623 units and a 16.9% improvement in other regions to 14,465 units. Production in China increased 1.4% to 79,762 units and in the U.S., the same was up marginally by 0.7% to 113,357 units. However, these positives were partially offset by a 6.1% fall in production in Europe to 11,380 units.

Sales in the Japanese market declined 23.1% year over year to 41,667 units in April, marking the seventh continuous month of decline. New vehicle registrations plunged 29.3% to 22,155 units. Mini vehicles’ sales fell 14.6% to 19,512 units.

The Honda Fit, which recorded sales of 8,372 units, was the third best-selling vehicle in the industry among new vehicle registrations (excluding mini vehicles) in Apr 2015.  In the Mini vehicles category (under 660cc), N-BOX was the best-selling vehicle, with sales of 10,218 units. N-WGN was the ninth best-selling vehicle in the industry, recording sales of 4,204 units.

Exports from Japan decreased 52.1% year over year to 1,376 units in April. This is the second consecutive month of decrease.

Currently, Honda carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Better-ranked automobile stocks include Daimler AG DDAIF, Valeo SA VLEEY and Wabash National Corp. WNC. All these stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>

TiVo Buys Cubiware to Boost International Distribution

Posted Thu May 28, 02:15 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

TiVo Inc. TIVO, a provider of software and technology for set-top boxes, smartphones and tablets, recently announced the acquisition of pay TV software solutions provider, Cubiware. Following the takeover, management expects an increase in TiVo’s adjusted EBITDA for the current fiscal year.

Cubiware is a provider of software solutions for digital TV devices and systems. Currently, it works with international service providers including pay TV operators in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa and has roughly 12 million pay TV subscribers. This means that the acquisition of Cubiware will expand TiVo's international existence in more than 25 countries and will enable it to offer cost effective solutions for Pay-TV operators worldwide.

The acquisition would be beneficial for TiVo as the company would provide information to its clients about the target audience. Eventually, this would improve TiVo’s chances of boosting ad revenues.

Also, it would enable TiVo to commercialize its cloud-based services and technologies to operators in an extremely cost effective way, either independently or in conjunction with its popular user interface. TiVo also expects rapid growth from increased penetration within Cubiware's current customer base as well as through addition of new customers.

Moreover, Cubiware’s incremental revenues would positively impact TiVo in the long run. Cubiware’s clientele includes approximately 40 brand clients like Columbus Communications and Cablemas in Latin America to name a few.

Both TiVo and Cubiware are focused on improving the viewing experience and believe that cloud or service are the most important mediums through which this goal can be achieved.

Our Take

We are optimistic about TiVo’s long-term growth potential due to new partnerships, product launches, international expansion and accretive acquisitions. We remain optimistic about its future prospects due to sustained focus on product innovations and subscriber acquisition. Further, a higher number of distribution deals with cable companies will support TiVo’s expansion plans and strengthen its customer base, which in turn will boost revenues.

TiVo recently reported better-than-expected results for the first quarter of fiscal 2016. Also, year-over-year comparisons on both counts were favorable. Year-over-year growth was primarily driven by higher service and technology revenues (81% of revenues), which rose 7.5% to $92.4 million.

We also believe that TiVo’s strong balance sheet will enable it to pursue strategic acquisitions and aggressive share buyback programs, thereby boosting near-term growth.

However, increasing competition from the likes of Dish Network DISH and Cablevision Systems Corporation CVC seems to be the primary headwind in the near term.

Currently, TiVo has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). A better-ranked stock in the technology sector is Cirrus Logic Inc. CRUS, sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>


Dump CH Robinson (CHRW) from Your Portfolio: Here's Why

Posted Thu May 28, 02:10 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

On May 27, 2015, we issued an updated research report on third-party logistics company, CH Robinson Worldwide Inc. CHRW.

The Eden Prairie, MN-based company disappointed investors with its first-quarter 2015 results missing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of both earnings and revenues. The company reported first-quarter earnings per share of 73 cents, missing the consensus estimate by a penny. Total revenue of $3,300.9 million also fell short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 3.56%.                   

Following the dismal first quarter results, earnings estimates for this Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) stock have been on the downswing. Over the last 60 days, the 2015 Zacks Consensus Estimate of earnings has gone down 11 cents to $3.33 per share on the back of downward revisions by 15 analysts. Likewise, the estimate for 2016 has moved south by 12 cents over the same time frame to $3.68 per share, with 14 analysts slashing their respective earnings estimate for the period.

We note that a competitive freight market and a declining truckload market share will continue to adversely impact the company, going forward. Increasing cost of transportation is another challenge even as CH Robinson struggles to pass on the higher transportation costs to customers. To add to that, adverse foreign currency movement, courtesy a strong dollar, is another hurdle facing the company. A weak balance sheet further poses concern. We also expect a rise in employee count, increased incentive compensation and investment in network infrastructure to weigh on margins in the near future.

In view of the above negatives, we believe there is significant possibility of stock price depreciation at CH Robinson in the near term. Consequently, we advise investors to avoid the stock for the time being.

Key Picks in the Sector

Not all stocks are performing as badly as CH Robinson. Some better-ranked players in the transportation sector are Matson, Inc. MATX, Echo Global Logistics, Inc. ECHO and Expeditors International of Washington Inc. EXPD. Echo Global Logistics and Expeditors International carry a Zacks Rank#2 (Buy) while Matson sports a Zacks Rank#1 (Strong Buy).

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>

WPX Energy Sells Marcellus Assets; Focus on Core Business

Posted Thu May 28, 02:05 pm ET

by Zacks Equity Research

Oil and gas company WPX Energy Inc. WPX continues to monetize its Marcellus Shale assets, lower its long-term debts and concentrate on its core operations. The company completed its third divestiture of the year, selling a bundle of Marcellus Shale marketing contracts and releasing certain related firm transportation capacity to an undisclosed buyer. The agreement for sale of these assets was entered earlier this month.

Per the divesture, WPX Energy received more than $200 million in cash for various long-term natural gas purchase and sales agreements and was released from nearly $390 million in future demand payment obligations associated with 135 million Btu per day of firm transportation capacity on Transco’s Northeast Supply Link project.

The company has been streamlining its operations over the last 12 months including acquisition and divestiture deals exceeding $1.5 billion in transaction amount. In the first quarter, WPX Energy utilized the net proceeds from asset sale to replenish earlier borrowings on its $1.5 billion senior unsecured credit facility and to reduce its long-term debt by 12%. These initiatives will enhance the financial flexibility of the company.

WPX Energy entered 2015 with an intention of divesting its Marcellus Shale assets and focusing on developing its highest returning core oil and gas properties in North Dakota and New Mexico. In addition, the company is concentrating on its natural gas operations in Colorado.

WPX Energy has plans to make capital investment of nearly $725 million in 2015 in its core assets. Out of the planned expenditure, more than 50% will be directed toward boosting its oil operations.

The company’s remaining assets in the Marcellus Shale primarily consist of its physical operations in Westmoreland County in southwestern Pennsylvania. WPX Energy intends to divest these assets in due course.

During the first quarter, WPX Energy completed the sale of its operations in northeast Pennsylvania and released certain firm transportation capacity to Southwestern Energy Company SWN for nearly $300 million in cash.

WPX Energy currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Other stocks in the oil and gas space sharing the same rank with WPX Energy are Carrizo Oil & Gas Inc. CRZO and Linn Energy, LLC LINE.

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