The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Safeway, Juniper Networks, Cisco Systems, F5 Networks and Alcatel-Lucent

CHICAGO, March 20, 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 Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).

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Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

Safeway Upgraded to Outperform

On Mar 15, 2013, we upgraded Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) to Outperform following its robust results in the fourth quarter of 2012. With three consecutive positive earnings surprises and agreement among analysts, the stock also carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

On Feb 21, Safeway's fourth-quarter results surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a sizeable margin. Earnings per share rose 58.2% year over year to $1.06, representing a solid double-digit beat over the Zacks Consensus Estimate, while revenues inched up 1.2% to $13.8 billion, edging past the respective Zacks Consensus Estimate.
 
In the fourth quarter, we were keeping an eye on the "Just for U" loyalty program and its potential to turn the tables for Safeway, as predicted by management. The success of the program is reflected in the higher identical-store (ID) sales (excluding fuel) growth and 5.4 million household registrants (higher than Safeway's expectations).

Evidently, the loyalty program did not disappoint as it was a major positive catalyst increasing the market share and profitability for the company. We expect the trend to continue going forward.

Moreover, Safeway has undertaken several initiatives to catalyze future growth. The company plans to spin off its subsidiary Blackhawk into a public company. Safeway is likely to launch a Wellness initiative in the second quarter of 2013 to tap growth opportunities in the fast growing health care market in the U.S.

The company's holistic approach to providing wellness products as well as services to its clientele reflects a deft plan to combine growth potential of the retail space with that of the burgeoning healthcare industry.

Juniper's T4000 Finds a Taker

Networking giant Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) recently announced that it has provided the China Education and Research Network ('CERNET') with its advanced core routing solutions (T4000). Financial terms of the deal were kept confidential.

The Chinese government and the Chinese Ministry of Education jointly set up a nationwide education and research computer network, the CERNET. The network is constructed and operated by Tsinghua and other leading Chinese universities. CERNET interconnects a number of Chinese Universities, educational institutes and research centers and is dedicated to support the country's higher education institutions.

With Juniper's T4000 routers, CERNET is now delivering ultra-fast broadband services to educational institutions and is helping the government to achieve the objectives of its education Project 211, initiated in 1995. The project was intended to improve the research standards of leading Chinese universities. As many as 20,000,000 students in 2000 universities across China are benefiting from the broadband services.

Juniper's association with CERNET dates back to 2005. Prior to this deal, the institute tasted success using Juniper's T-series routers.

Juniper's T4000 core routers were introduced as a next iteration of its flagship T-series routers in 2010. The launch of T4000 was made to compete with Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) Carrier Routing System 3 (CRS 3).

Juniper's T-series, M-series, E-series, MX-series, and J-series families of routers form an integral part of its networking architecture, which runs on the Junos operating software. The software simplifies networking operations and reduces the cost of ownership. Moreover, the platform provides room for enhancement of capabilities without additional capital outlay.

We remain encouraged by the rapid deployment of Juniper's networking products and services by organizations and government verticals to meet growing business demand. We also appreciate Juniper's continuous efforts to make strategic acquisitions, which enrich its product portfolio.

Despite stiff competition from F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV), Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), we are positive on Juniper's new product traction, focus on revenue growth, cost reduction initiatives specially aided by headcount reduction and improving execution on supply chain and procurement activities.

Currently, Juniper has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

 

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