Sunday, May 20, 2007

Barron's Summary

Barron’s out saying that without the burden of Chrysler, Daimler (DCX) stock could continue the rise that began last year. The shares, now around 86, could hit 100 or more in a year. Some savvy investors figure that the new Daimler is still a bargain. "Doing a sum-of-the-parts valuation, Mercedes is in Daimler for free," argues Adam Jonas, of Morgan Stanley, who values that car unit alone at between $30-40 a share.

Fund manager likes COP, AMGN and PFE.

Genworth's (GNW) shares, laggards over the past year, could climb more than 24% over the next 18 to 24 months as the company allocates more capital to higher-return businesses.

USG's (USG) earnings could rebound to $5 or $6 share in coming years. If the company trades again for 15 times earnings - its historic norm - the stock could climb to 90, from today's 40.

Bulls on Clorox (CLX) argue that the stock, now in the high 60s, could go as high as 85 in a year if the company improves its product lineup and starts selling more abroad.

According to the “The Trader” column Rob Haines, of CreditSights, is among those who expects more mergers in life-insurance sector, as co’s look to put money to work. Potential acquirers include American Intl. Group (AIG), which ended last quarter with $15-20bn in excess capital; Prudential (PRU), which has a good merger track record and more than $6bn in untapped debt capacity; and MetLife (MET), which until recently had been busy integrating its Travelers acquisition. Screening for likely targets among co’s with more than $10bn in assets, essentially those with attractive heft but which may lack the scale to compete in the long run, Haines came up with names including Conesco (CNO), Phoenix (PNX), Protective Life (PL) and Unum (UNM). These stocks trade at 0.7-1.5x BV and "could be fairly easy to digest by any one of the larger industry leaders," he notes.

“The Trader” section also highlights Chiquita Brands (CQB), which has found a way to improve one of nature's perfect foods. Working with Landec (LNDC), Chiquita is introducing "intelligent packaging" to extend the shelf life of ripe bananas by up to 12 days. This allows bananas to be sold more widely at convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and Starbucks. It is also rolling out new products like "Chiquita Fruit in a Bottle," which has snagged a 5% share in its first mkt, Belgium. The push to transform the co "from a commodity produce supplier to a more value-added, healthy consumer products co" bodes well for profit growth, says Oppenheimer analyst Barry Sine, who expects per-share earnings to double to $1.50 next year from 75c in ‘07. Given the steps that Chiquita is taking to reduce profit volatility, Oppenheimer's Sine reckons that the co's shares are worth 22. Separately, Landec shares have climbed steadily to about 13.25, up 512% since ‘03, as the co worked off its debt, improved profits and boosted its cash stash to more than $2.25 a share.

“Follow Up” section out saying that Micron (MU) looks cheap. With a tangible book value of about $8.60 a share (including the coming debt), the stock's downside risk is diminishing. It could be 6-9 mo’s before Micron sees profits again, but with spot prices of 512Mb DRAM chips, now around $1.75, approaching the marginal cost of production, price declines will slow. Such low prices, not only for DRAMs but the flash-memory chips that Micron also makes, could lift demand anew, and with it, Micron's shares.

“Sizing Up Small Caps” section discusses regional banks, which are flat in ’07. "The catalyst is not there, at least not yet," to reverse the banks' slide, says David Ellison, of FBR Small Cap Financial Fund. "But you don't know when the catalyst is going to show up," he says, so it's best to purchase reasonably-priced shares in anticipation of the improvement, even if that's a ways off. "As long as you are buying good deposit franchises, you're not going to wake up one day and find out they can't fund themselves," Ellison says. Two banking operations that fit Ellison's description are Cullen/Frost Bankers (CFR) and Seacoast Banking (SBCF). In both cases, the shares have dipped after prolonged gains that some investors believe will resume once the economy picks up and the extent of recent real-estate problems is better defined. Investors in these shares should also benefit from both institutions' attractiveness to bigger players interested in expanding their franchises.

“Technology Trader” section highlights Xinhua Finance Media (XFML), which has collected some influential US assets this year, including Glass Lewis that's staffed with veterans of the SEC and the WSJ...or at least it was until last week. That's when 2 of the most prestigious staffers at Glass Lewis resigned after apparently concluding that their new parent co, Xinhua Finance, would have flunked a Glass Lewis review of its corporate transparency. It turns out that Xinhua Finance's IPO prospectus failed to mention some awkward facts about the co's then-CFO, Shelly Singhal. Singhal was simultaneously the co's CFO and an investment banker and stock broker who runs the Bedrock Securities. And since Apr’06, Singhal's firm has been under a cease- and-desist order from the NASD, as the regulators seek to suspend Bedrock for violating several SEC rules.

“Plugged In” column out saying that it looks like Nokia (NOK) wants to cool off its serious relationship with Texas Instruments (TXN) and start dating other chip suppliers. This isn't a new phenomenon. First, Motorola (MOT) weaned itself from Freescale (FSL), by launching a relationship with Qualcomm (QCOM). Then, in Feb, Nokia announced that Infineon (IFX) would provide a single-chip platform for its entry-level handsets in emerging mkts. TI has been a near-exclusive supplier of power mgmt and baseband chips to Nokia. But it appears that the Infineon deal was only the first blow. Now there's speculation that Nokia is turning to the likes of Freescale and Broadcom (BRCM) to serve as alternative chip suppliers for higher-end handsets. The speculation is that Broadcom will win 2.5G phone business and perhaps some 3G business. "In ‘07, our goal is to win designs. In ‘08, you should start seeing products come out, and ‘09 has to be all about gain in mkt share," CEO of Broadcom, Scott McGregor, told analysts and investors. "You'll see some other products come out later in the year, [but] I can't say too much about them," he said.

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