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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: MasterCard, Western Union, hhgregg, Verizon and Best Buy

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – September 20, 2012 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include MasterCard Inc. (MA - Free Report) , Western Union Co. (WU - Free Report) , hhgregg, Inc. , Verizon (VZ - Free Report) and Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY - Free Report) .


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Here are highlights from Wednesday’s Analyst Blog:


Mastercard, Western Union Form Largest Reload Network


In an effort to provide easy recharge facility to its MasterCard rePower cardholders, MasterCard Inc. (MA - Free Report) has made an agreement with the world’s leading money transfer company, Western Union Co. (WU - Free Report) .

Per the agreement, the cardholders can reload funds on their cards at any of the 45,000 Western Union agent locations in the U.S.

The agreement with Western Union will enable MasterCard to offer its customers with the largest reload network in the U.S with more than 100,000 locations. The agreement will also make it very convenient for other cardholders to recharge their card by visiting the nearest Western Union agent locations and getting funds loaded within a few minutes. 


Last year, Western Union and MasterCard formed an alliance to offer consumer-friendly prepaid card service across the latter’s multiple non-US locations.  According to the agreement, the prepaid card enabled cardholders to move money from Western Union directly to MasterCard’s credit, debit and prepaid cards, and vice versa. The prepaid card could be refilled at all MasterCard rePower locations as well as at about 485,000 global agent locations of Western Union.


Yesterday’s announcement to add Western Union’s US locations is a second step of the global partnership of the two companies. Both companies are comfortable with the partnership, with MasterCard preferring Western Union the most for money transfer service and Western Union preferring MasterCard for offering its prepaid programs across the globe.


MasterCard is aggressively penetrating the prepaid market. There is an unexplored market for prepaid cards for the senior group of the society, whereby MasterCard estimated about 2.5 billion adults being underserved within the U.S. itself, while about 25% of this group is devoid of any kind of a conventional financial payment service.


Hence, while a highly developed nation like the U.S. generates a healthy opportunity for the simplified prepaid debit cards, we believe that ample opportunities lay ahead for both these companies in unbanked regions and other under-developed and developing nations across the globe, where ATMs are absent.




hhgregg Stores Add Workforce


Leading specialty retailer of premium video products, branded appliances, audio products and accessories, hhgregg, Inc.  is hiring people in sales and hourly positions for its new stores across U.S.

The company recently announced new job openings for its stores. On September 17, 2012, it announced the need for 60 sales and hourly positions for a new store in Louisiana and 120 sales and hourly positions for two new stores in Los Angeles, scheduled to open this fall. 

The new recruits will work as commissioned sales associates, managers-in-training, warehouse staff and customer service merchandisers for the company’s new stores.

The selected employees will undergo a comprehensive training program to be well equipped to answer all product-related questions to customers.

The requirement for the new employees is obviously the result of new store openings. hhgregg is busy expanding its network throughout U.S. so that it can reach more and more customers and boost its sales. On September 13, 2012, the company opened two new stores in the Springfield-Champaign area.

On the same day it also inaugurated four new stores in the St. Louis, Missouri area. The new store openings are part of the company’s ongoing commitment to expanding operations in the Midwest.

The new stores will display wide range of televisions, appliances and electronics for sale.

During its fiscal 2013 earnings call, management announced that it is launching new categories of products including home entertainment, related furniture, and fitness equipment. The company has also arranged for special financing options for its customers.

hhgregg implemented several initiatives in fiscal 2012 to drive additional traffic and increase sales. The company expanded its computing and mobile phones category, which previously only included computers and tablets. It has also introduced notebooks and desktops along with Verizon (VZ - Free Report) smartphones in its stores. The company also restructured its in-store management team to include an appliance sales manager and a dedicated consumer electronics manager.

Further, hhgregg plans to open 20 to 22 new stores in fiscal 2013, predominately in the markets of St. Louis, Missouri and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We appreciate the decision to open new stores as it creates new jobs in the area and also indicates a gradual recovery in economic conditions.

hhgregg primarily competes with Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY - Free Report) . We currently have a long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock with a Zacks #3 Rank (short-term Hold rating) on the stock.



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