Here's a one page summary of leading stories from this weekend's (July 15) Barron's (paid sub. req.), noting stocks to watch for Monday morning when the market opens and brief comments on the Barron's articles. Note: clicking on a stock ticker pulls up opinion, analysis and a quote for that stock; clicking on a headline takes you to the full Barron's article (paid sub. req'd.).
Mac Attack - Beyond the iPod By Mark Veverka
Highlighted companies: Apple Computer (AAPL)
Summary: Following its remarkable 3-year runup of 10x gains, Apple stock's recent plunge is largely a reflection of concerns that iPod sales are finally starting to cool off. But investors seem to be discounting the resurgence of Apple's desktop and notebook PC lines, now outfitted with fast Intel chips and the ability to run Microsoft Windows. Apple Macintosh PCs, aimed primarily at the high-end market, should begin to win over more students and business customers as the so-called 'halo effect' (the iPod's positive impact on Mac sales) finally begins to take hold. The iPod now provides Apple with over half of its $17.3 billion in yearly sales, but growth should slow to about 60% this year, down from 213% in 2005 and 469% in 2004. Valuation: Apple stock is currently trading at a 'reasonable' 25x this year's earnings, down from an average of 61 P/E since the beginning of 2004. The balance sheet is 'pristine', with more than $9/share in cash. While there could be more downside for Apple stock following July 19 earnings, encouraging news could also emerge then. The success of Apple stores and a new distribution deal with Best Buy are two more reasons to believe Apple can command a much larger market share in the PC arena, and jumpstart its stock price in the near future.
Quick comment: The upbeat, optimistic tone of Veverka's piece should give Apple stock a boost Monday morning. Two things to consider, however: the article mentions Microsoft's newly-announced MP3 player only in passing, but others believe it's an outright iPod killer. And Dell's new ad campaign and 'personalized' marketing effort will exert more pressure on Apple at the very moment it leans on the Mac for new revenue growth.
Running Low on Yeast? By Neal A. Martin
Highlighted companies: Panera Bread (PNRA), P.F. Chang's China Bistro (PFCB), Starbucks (SBUX)
Summary: Bakery/cafe chain Panera Bread has seen torrid growth over the past five years, with its 319 company-owned and 578 franchised stores producing over 300% sales growth and 400% profit growth over that period. Panera stock has responded with a 435% gain since 2001, but with same-store sales growth down to the low single digits, the stock price has declined 20% since early May, and could very well fall further. Its valuation remains high: P/E is 31 times this year's earnings -- almost twice the sector average -- while enterprise value to EBITDAR stands at 14.6, versus an average restaurant industry multiple of 9.6. P.F. Chang's profit warning may indicate a more general slowdown in this sector of the restaurant market. While Panera's unit volume (sales per store) is 2.5x what Starbucks does, it's rapidly declining alongside the increased number of new store openings. In summary, 'With sales growth declining, the stock is likely to fall, perhaps by 30%.'
Quick comment: Look for Panera shares to take a hit on Monday in response to this article. Jim Cramer, for one, thinks Panera will recover on the back of its new lunch and dinner menus -- a contrarian sell signal?
Highlighted companies: Gabelli Global Multimedia Trust (GGT), Yahoo! (YHOO), Station Casinos (STN), Boyd Gaming (BYD), Las Vegas Sands (LVS), MGM Mirage (MGM), Harrah's Entertainment (HET), Pinnacle Entertainment (PNK), Intl Game Tech (IGT), Apple Computer (AAPL), Home Depot (HD), E.W. Scripps (SSP)
Summary: Haverty, an 'investment king' in the retail and leisure sectors, has a strong track record of making money in these markets 'no matter what'. Having predicted the ongoing strength of consumer spending in 2005, he now believes we're in the midst of a consumer recession, pointing to Wal-Mart's same store sales slump, and weakness in autos, restaurants and leisure parks for evidence. The question is whether we'll repeat 1982 (soft landing) or 1974 (hard landing), but either way, Haverty sees tremendous opportunity in stocks of companies that continue to post strong numbers despite the downturn. Those stocks are listed above, and are heavily weighted toward the gaming sector -- Haverty is very bullish on Vegas. Investors have wrongly punished Scripps for its newspaper businesses, failing to understand its 'new media' elements such as Shopzilla; Scripps and Home Depot are 'easily 50%-return opportunities'.
Quick comment: Note that the only smallcap among Haverty's picks is Pinnacle Entertainment (PNK). Haverty likes Yahoo over Google because he believes Yahoo's better positioned to gain from the ongoing boom in online advertising, while paid search has seen its peak.
Diamond in the Rubbish By Christopher Williams
Highlighted companies: Republic Services (RSG), Allied Waste Industries (AW), Waste Managment (WMI)
Summary: The solid waste removal business has been booming the past three years, due to steady price increases that have boosted profits and attracted new investors. Republic, the number three business in the field in the U.S., has seen its stock jump nearly 80% in the past three years. Bill Gates, via his investment vehicle Cascade, has become the largest investor in the company with a 13% stake built up over the past eight years. Despite the runup, Republic is still the most attractive stock in the field, with margins that beat its competitors due to its lucrative positioning in the Sun-belt states and its ability to pass on high energy costs to customers. In conclusion, '[Republic] shares could climb at least 20%, to the high $40s, in a year.'
Quick comment: Republic stock should jump on Monday following this favorable writeup.
TECHNOLOGY TRADER: ImClone Patent Ruling Due By Bill Alpert
Highlighted companies: Imclone (IMCL)
Summary: Imclone, 'the stock that dressed Martha Stewart in prison stripes', has managed to weather the biotech sector downturn, due to strength in its cancer drug, and its January announcement that it's open to takeover offers (which it has, apparently, already received). But Imclone investors should be aware of a pending lawsuit brought by scientists from Israel's prestigious Weizmann Institute, who claim that Imclone's cancer drug makes use of a patent that was stolen from their midst. Closing arguments are next week, and if the judge rules in favor of Weizmann, the impact on Imclone's earnings could be very significant.
Quick comment: Imclone is on the high end among biotech companies for annual revenue growth.
PLUGGED IN: A Week of Disappointments Arrives By Mark Veverka
Highlighted companies: eBay (EBAY), CDW (CDWC), Juniper Networks (JNPR), Motorola (MOT), Qualcomm (QCOM) Apple Computer (AAPL), IBM (IBM), Nokia (NOK)
Summary: Tech's been a wreck, with the most recent warnings coming from giants EMC and SAP. Veverka quotes a handful of analysts on this coming week's earnings reports from some leading companies. In short: IBM should slightly beat on revenue and earnings due to cost-cutting and favorable currency environment, but will report weak bookings; MOT should also slightly beat, but describe a challenging end of the year due to competitive pressures; QCOM should meet its raised guidance, but describe weakness in the 3G market that will impact its Q3 and Q4; and NOK may be the only bright spot, cashing in on its expanded capacity and reporting strength in its handset sales.
Quick comment: You can read the conference calls for all of these leading companies shortly after they take place right here on Seeking Alpha -- for free, of course.
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Just posted on Seeking Alpha: Earnings conference calls from General Electric and EMC; a look at Intel's blazingly-fast new processors from Andrew Schmitt; William Trent is bearish on Garmin, and feeling less lonely about it.
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