2014

The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple, Google, Schlumberger, Total and Royal Dutch Shell

CHICAGO, Oct. 25, 2012 /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 Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google Inc (Nasdaq: GOOG), Schlumberger Limited (NYSE: SLB), Total SA (NYSE: TOT) and Royal Dutch Shell plc (NYSE: RDS.A).

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Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

Earnings Preview: Apple, Inc.

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) will release its fiscal fourth quarter 2012 results on October 25, 2012. Apple has an average earnings surprise of 11.72% over the past four quarters. We don't expect a major change in the earnings trend pattern for the current quarter.

Prior Quarter Highlights

In the third quarter, Apple's top line expanded 22.6% year over year to $35.02 billion and beat the company's forecast of $34.00 billion primarily driven by strong iPad sales in the quarter. However, revenue fell shy of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $37.49 billion.

Though the company's bottom line of $9.32 per share increased 19.6% from $7.79 per share in the year-ago quarter, it missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 10%. However, reported earnings were ahead of management's conservative guidance of $8.68.

For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012, Apple expects revenues of approximately $34.0 billion, lower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $36.3 billion. Earnings are projected at approximately $7.65 per share. Apple expects gross margin to be 38.5%, reflecting stock-based compensation expense of approximately $70.0 million.

For further details please read: Apple Shares Fall on 3Q Miss

Estimate Revision Trend

In the last 30 days, eight out of the 36 analysts covering the stock revised their estimates upward, while six downward revisions were noticed for the fourth quarter. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the quarter remained at $8.93 per share for the same period of time.

Analysts expect iPhones to be the major catalyst for the company this quarter. The recent unveiling of iPhone 5 and the price cuts of the earlier version of the iPhones would help expand its top line. However, supply related constrains are the near-term headwinds for the company. Moreover, weak PC shipment is expected to impact the top line.

Recommendation

We believe that Apple remains the biggest growth story over the long term based on its superior product pipeline, Apps, iCloud and loyal customer base. Apple is also well positioned to gain from international expansion going forward. Additionally, the recent shareholder friendly moves such as dividend payment and share buyback are expected to drive the stock going forward.

Nevertheless, we believe that Apple's ability to spur the popularity of its products in developing nations such as China, where pricing is often an important consideration, will go a long way in deciding the company's future growth.

However, Apple continues to face increasing competition from Google Inc's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android based products manufactured by Asian handset and tablet makers like Samsung and HTC. Although Apple has been trying to block the sales of products from these companies all over the world, its efforts have not been entirely successful.

We have a Neutral recommendation over the long term (6-12 months). Currently, Apple has a Zacks #3 Rank, which implies a Hold rating in the near term.

Sclumberger in $200M Angola Deal

Schlumberger Limited's (NYSE: SLB) subsidiary Framo Engineering entered into a $200 million contract with Total E&P Angola, wholly-owned subsidiary of Total SA (NYSE: TOT).

Per the deal, Framo Engineering will deliver subsea multiphase pumping system for the Girassol Resources Initiatives (GirRI) Project. The pump system will be installed in Block 17, offshore Angola at a water depth of 4,429 feet. It will augment the rates for two production flow loops.

The agreement also includes two subsea pump modules and a full system of topside power and control. The multiphase pump system incorporates the latest helico-axial technology. It can record differential pressure of up to 120 bar.

This is Schlumberger's third contract with Total E&P Angola for its Block 17 asset.

Assembling and testing of the system will be done at Framo Engineering's advanced test facility at Horsoy, Norway. It is expected that the pump system will be delivered in summer of 2014.

Earlier in August, Framo Engineering won a $100 million contract from A/S Norske Shell — subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc (NYSE: RDS.A) for supply of booster pump system for its Draugen Field in Norway.

Houston, Texas-based Schlumberger Limited is a leading oilfield services company, providing technology, project management and information services to the global oil and gas industry.

We believe Schlumberger will benefit in the next several quarters from its strong product and services portfolio. We also believe the company is favorably positioned to benefit from current trends in oilfield services, given improving activity levels and greater need for stimulation and completion of services in North America.

However, seasonal and adverse weather conditions, such as hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and extreme winter conditions in the U.S., Canada, Russia, and the North Sea, may adversely affect demand for the company's services and operations.

Hence, we maintain our long term Neutral recommendation on the stock.

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Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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