The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Laclede Group, Google, Intersil, KLA-Tencor and Qualcomm

Mar 26, 2013, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, March 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 The Laclede Group, Inc. (NYSE: LG), Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), Intersil Corp. (Nasdaq: ISIL), KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC) and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM).


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Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Laclede Group: Strong Buy

Zacks Investment Research upgraded The Laclede Group, Inc. (NYSE: LG) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) on Mar 21, 2013.

Why the Upgrade? The Laclede Group reported its financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2013 (ended December 31, 2012) on Feb 5, 2013. The company's results were impressive with earnings per share coming in at $1.25, up compared with $1.11 in the year-ago quarter and 14.7% above the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.09.

Total operating revenue in the quarter fell 25.3% year over year, due primarily to a 65.2% fall in Gas Marketing revenue and a flat Gas Utility revenue performance. Despite the poor revenue performance, a fall of 28% in operating expenses kept the momentum strong for The Laclede Group. Operating margin came in at 13.7% as against 10.5% in the year-ago quarter.

Acquisitions, over time, have been The Laclede Group's one of the favored mode for expansion. In the first quarter of fiscal 2013, the company finalized the acquisitions of Missouri Gas Energy and New England Gas Company from Southern Union Company. The completion is expected before the fiscal year 2013 closes.  

Solid quarter results as well as positive earnings surprise in three out of four trailing quarters, with an average of 37.2%, have raised optimism for better financial results for The Laclede Group. We have an Earnings ESP (Read:

Zacks Earnings ESP: A Better Method

) of +3.5% for fiscal 2013 and 3.6% for fiscal 2014.

In the last 60 days, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for The Laclede Group increased by 2.5% to $2.86 for 2013 while that for 2014 the estimate went up 6.0% to $3.02.    

Google Expands Fiber Net Service

Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) has announced that it will expand its high-speed Internet service through its fiber-optic network to Olathe, a Kansas City suburb with around 125,000 residents.

The Internet and video service named Google Fiber will mark the company's first expansion that will compete with local cable companies outside of Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Miss.

Google stated that its proposed rollout of the Internet service has been approved by the council of the Olathe city but did not specify the time by which the service would be available. Google Fiber will provide speed of 1 gigabit (GB) per second, significantly faster than the average U.S. Internet speed.

Google offers its Internet service under three plans. In the first one, the residents have to pay $70.0 a month solely for the Internet connection. The second one is for $120.0, which offers TV service, a digital video recorder and a set- top box along with a tablet-computer remote control. The third option offers seven years of free Internet access at slower speeds and the customers need to pay a one-time installation fee of $300.

Google is banking on its speed to attract users. This can open further avenues for other new online services and can help Google to expand its online offerings.

According to Global Industry Analysts, Inc. (GIA), the fiber optic components market is expected to reach $42.0 billion by 2017 globally. Fiber optic technology is witnessing decent growth as the speed of data transfer offered by the networks is highly prioritized. Advanced applications, PCs and network servers demand high speed and the optical fiber cable can support high transmission speeds.

Google has always spent handsomely on research and development to launch new and innovative products. Recently, Google announced a new product, Google Keep, a tool that allows users to create notes and lists that are synced across all the devices.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012, Google's gross revenue (including TAC) touched a record $14.4 billion, representing sequential and year-over-year increases of 2.3% and 36.2%, respectively. Excluding the $1.5 billion contribution from Motorola, revenues were up 21.9% from the year-ago quarter.

Google has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other stocks that have been performing well and are worth considering include Intersil Corp. (Nasdaq: ISIL), KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC) and Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), all carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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