2014

The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Amazon.com, Ford Motors, Google, Apple and Loews

CHICAGO, Feb. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com 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 Amazon.com, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), Ford Motors Co. (NYSE: F), Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Loews Corporation (NYSE: L).

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Here are highlights from Friday's Analyst Blog:

Amazon Cloud Player in Ford Vehicles

Amazon.com, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) recently announced that its Cloud Player can now stream music wirelessly through Ford Motors Co.'s (NYSE: F) SYNC Applink-equipped vehicles.

Owners of Ford automobiles can enjoy music wirelessly by downloading the Amazon MP3 app on their Android smartphone devices, powered by Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) OS. The owners of the 2013 Ford Fiesta, Mustang, Focus, E-Series, C-MAX Hybrid, Expedition, Fusion, F-150 and Super Duty models can enjoy music from the Cloud Player music library in their vehicles.

Amazon's Cloud Player is a web storage application, which allows people to listen to music from any computer or Android device with Internet access. It allows streaming on devices such as Kindle Fire, Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac and PCs. Amazon does not share the exact numbers, but the Cloud Player has apparently roped in millions of users since its launch in early 2011.

Amazon has been offering its Cloud Player on Sonos home entertainment systems, Roku streaming players and Samsung smart TVs. Further, it has extended its reach to Apple's smart devices.

Thus, Amazon's strategy of widening its reach is quite smart. It is hoping to add more users to the Amazon cloud and drive the sale of Amazon's other digital goods. Therefore, while iTunes still leads in the segment, Amazon's tactics could help the company gain larger market share.

Amazon is now following Apple's model, as it does not charge anything annually, but only for what users download. A song costs around 99 cents in the iTunes store, but is available for playback on any iCloud registered device at no extra cost.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012, Amazon reported revenues of $21.3 billion, up 54.0% sequentially and 22.0% from the year-ago quarter. This was in line with the guidance for the quarter of $20.3–22.8 billion (up 55.7% sequentially, or up 23.3% year over year at the mid-point), although short of our expectations. Year-over-year revenue growth was 23% excluding unfavorable currency impact.

Amazon is one of the leading players in the extremely fast-growing retail ecommerce market. While the strong growth prospects are making the market more competitive by the day, Amazon continues to maintain and even grow its share on the back of its consistent and reliable service. Amazon's scale of offerings, its broad reach and platform approach are the keys to its success.

Loews Closes Back Bay Buyout

Loews Hotels & Resorts, a wholly owned-subsidiary of Loews Corporation (NYSE: L), closed the purchase of Back Bay Hotel from The Doyle Collection. Concurrently, the hotel was re-branded under the Loews Hotels brand.

Loews Hotels also intends to renovate the property, which will cost nearly $8 million. The refurbishment work is expected to begin in fall 2013.

Back Bay Hotel comprises 225 guestrooms, a meeting and event space, two dining options, Cuffs, an Irish Bar and The Stanhope Grille, and is located at the corner of Berkeley and Stuart Streets.

Apart from nearly doubling its hotel count, the company expects a threefold increase in its net income in the next three years. As a part of the goal, Loews Hotels & Resorts acquired two hotels - Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. and Renaissance Hotel & Spa in Hollywood, Calif. - in 2012. It has another two hotels - The Loews Chicago Hotel, scheduled to open in Jan 2015 and Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando, scheduled to open in 2014 – under construction. With this buy, Loews tally reaches 21 hotels.

Loews, in fourth quarter 2012, posted operating net income of 18 cents per share, which lagged the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 29 cents by a significant margin and plummeted 77% year over year. Lower earnings at Diamond Offshore and CNA Financial along with lower parent company investment income weighed on the results.

However, in the last reported quarter, Loews Hotels posted the highest growth in revenue, up 45.3% year over year to $125 million. However, net loss was $2 million.

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