Upgrades, Downgrades: MEMC Electronics, Sohu, Eastman Chemical, PolyOne

by: David Ristau

Earnings season is coming to a close, and we are starting to take a look at the companies we cover in our EquityAnalytics department. We are updating price targets and upgrades/downgrades for our 125+ companies we cover. Today, we are looking at the following companies from our coverage - Eastman Chemical (NYSE:EMN), PolyOne (NYSE:POL), Sohu.com (NASDAQ:SOHU), and MEMC Electronics (WFR).

The chart below shows new ratings, price targets, and buy/sell ranges versus old ones:

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EMN - Downgrade from Buy to Hold, Increase PT from $50 to $52

Eastman Chemical has made quite a move over the past couple of months with the market rally, and we believe that EMN looks mostly fair valued at this point. The company's latest earnings actually missed our latest expectations, but we did see a solid increase in sales and acquisition of Solutia. The company's acquisition helps Eastman diversify their lineup and add more specialty chemicals, which is crucial to creating economic moats in a commoditized industry. We believe that EMN should get a small boost from it, but we did drop our expectations for the year a bit as margins seemed to have slipped. The company is creating more FCF, but it seems to be cautious of the first half of 2012. We do not see a ton of upside right now as the company has priced in a lot of the Solutia acquisition and growth potential for the year.

POL - Upgrade from Hold to Buy, Increase PT from $12.50 to $19

The latest quarter for PolyOne was another solid one, and the hot 2011 for PolyOne seems to be a hot 2012 for the company. It is one of the highest growth names in the industry, and it had a stellar Q4 that beat our expectations. The company does worry some about Europe, but they are still expecting very solid EPS growth for the year. We see it as one of the best values in the industry with a PE at 7.6. It is going to continue to increase EPS this year and push PE lower. This PE ratio is far below the industry, and we do not see why it gets such treatment. We believe it is only a matter of time till PolyOne is playing catch up.

SOHU - Maintain at Buy, Decrease PT from $98 to $70

Sohu.com still remains one of our favorites in the Chinese internet space, but the sector is coming back to Earth. Sohu looks like it is still undervalued at the current valuations, and the market is pricing in too much of a dip in 2012. We believe a slowdown may occur in Sohu earnings this year, but to expect a drop in earnings YoY with 25%+ growth in sales seems to be a bit overdone in our opinion. The latest quarter showed very solid growth, but a drop in margins that was due to acquisition costs of video/media. The company is expanding a lot, and that growth even with dropping margins will mean more earnings. We believe Sohu is one of the best positioned in the industry. It is growing its search engine and is looking to move into second in streaming content. Unlike other Chinese internet companies, it has proven it can make money, and we see the latest round of margin issues as a short-term problem.

WFR - Maintain at Sell, Increase PT from $2.50 to $3

We upped our PT on WFR due to our company's removal of half dollars in our price targets. MEMC continues to be a company that we believe is far from being an investment that any one would want to make. It is struggling greatly to make money and now is going through major restructuring. Its latest quarter was a disaster with one-time losses that made operating income drop significantly. Excluding one-time charges, the company still missed our very conservative estimates. The issue for MEMC is falling demand and prices that are still not coming back for them. The polysilicon producer is trying to restructure, but it is at the whim of the market at this point. We want to invest in companies that will not completely fall apart when prices go against them or have less exposure to price changes. For now, stay far away!

Good Investing,

The Oxen Group

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

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