CHICAGO, Jan. 15, 2013 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. (AMZN), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc. (GOOG), Fossil, Inc. (FOSL), and Guess, Inc (GES).
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Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:
Amazon Enhances Cloud Music Service
The world's largest online retailer, Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), recently launched a new music service, Amazon AutoRip, in a bid to expand its Cloud music offerings to better compete with rivals like Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc. (GOOG).
This new service allows anyone who has ever purchased an album on Amazon to download a free digital copy. The music files will automatically get saved on customer libraries at Amazon's datacenters, available for download or play through Amazon's Cloud Player.
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, iPhone, iPod Touch, Mac and PCs.
Despite being the pioneer of facilitating music storage on the Internet for access on any device, Amazon's Cloud Player is still far behind Apple's iTunes. New rivals like Google as well as streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer and Rdio have also entered the market. According to the market research company, NPD Group, in the second quarter, Apple accounted for 64% of U.S. music sales online, followed by Amazon at 16%, Google at 5% and other services making up the rest.
Amazon's strategy of offering users free digital copies of CDs bought on its site makes its service more ambitious. This new feature will bring in more users to the Amazon cloud, giving a boost to its digital music sales and also drive sales of Amazon's other digital goods.
Also, recently Amazon announced that its Cloud Player can now stream music wirelessly through Roku streaming players. Amazon offers Roku's customers free download of the Amazon Cloud Player channel from Roku Channel Store for free.
Therefore, while iTunes still leads in the segment, Amazon's tactics, its ongoing efforts and new ideas could help the company pick up some market share.
Amazon is one of the leading players in the extremely fast-growing retail ecommerce market and its strength lies in its huge scale of offerings, its broad reach and platform approach. While the strong growth prospects are making the market more competitive, Amazon continues to maintain and even grow its share on the back of its consistent and reliable services. In the third quarter, Amazon's revenue of $13.81 billion were up, both on a sequential as well as year-over-year basis.
Currently, Amazon retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
Fossil Acquires Distribution Biz
Texas-based Fossil, Inc. (FOSL) has acquired the Latin American distribution business from Florida-based Bentrani Watches, LLC, the company's largest third-party distributor. Bentrani has been associated with Fossil for the past 10 years and has distributed some of the company's proprietary and licensed brand products in 16 Latin American countries, including Chile, Argentina, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Uruguay.
With this acquisition, the company expects to gain from Bentrani's exposure in Latin America, which is one of the company's fastest growing regions in the world. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Besides the distribution business, Fossil has also been acquiring and developing new brands and licensing agreements to customer preference and lifestyle. In 2011, the company signed an exclusive global licensing agreement with Karl Lagerfeld for watches, which are expected to be launched worldwide in the first quarter of 2013. Later in August 2012, Fossil completed the acquisition of privately-held Nevada-based Skagen Designs, Ltd. and certain subsidiaries, which helped Fossil to expand its brands in the European markets and other emerging markets of East Asia, where Skagen has a significant presence.
The continued strength across North American watch business and Fossil's acquisition of Skagen also boosted its third quarter 2012 earnings, which exceeded both the year-ago earnings and the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 9.4% and 17.4%, respectively. The results also exceeded management's guidance range. Top-line growth, improved margins, increases in comparable store sales and prudent expense management also contributed to the increase.
Despite robust results, Fossil experienced a rise in costs of watch components and labor costs resulting in weak gross margins. Increasing currency headwinds also negatively impacted sales and gross margins in the quarter. In addition, an uncertain economic environment in Europe might pose a threat to the expanding brands in European markets. Fossil currently holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), while its close peer Guess, Inc (GES) carry a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell).
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