The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Verizon Communications, Microsoft, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and 3M

Dec 19, 2013, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, Dec. 19, 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 Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ-Free Report), Microsoft Corporation (Nasdaq: MSFT-Free Report), Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA-Free Report), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC-Free Report) and 3M Company (NYSE: MMM-Free Report).


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Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

Verizon FiOS Partners with Xbox

The Christmas spirit has set in early for Verizon Communications Inc.'s (NYSE: VZ-Free Report) FiOS customers as the TV app of the same is now available on Microsoft Corporation's (Nasdaq: MSFT-Free Report) Xbox One gaming console. Notably, FiOS is the fibre optic based bundled internet, telephony and video service of Verizon.

The app is available only in the U.S. and can be downloaded by FiOS Internet and TV subscribers, who are also Xbox Live gold members. Subscribers can watch live cable television on their Xbox by using the free app. Customers can choose up to 74 different channels depending on their package and include some of the most popular ones like HBO, NFL Network and Comedy Central.

No additional cable box is required for the service and customers can avail the voice and gesture commands to control the TV through Xbox One Kinect. Customers can customize their personal favourite programs through Xbox OneGuide or can place their favourite apps and contents to the home screen.     

Cable rivals Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA-Free Report) launched its Xfinity app on Xbox in Mar 2012, while Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC-Free Report) released TWC TV app in the summer of 2013. However, none of the other companies have so far tried their TV app on the new gaming console, making Verizon the first company to launch it on Xbox One. Verizon initially launched its FiOS TV app on Xbox 360 in Dec 2011.

Verizon reported solid FiOS sales in the third quarter of 2013. During the reported quarter, Verizon added 135,000 and 173,000 new customers to its FiOS Video and FiOS Internet services, respectively. The company exited the quarter with 5.2 million (up 12.6% year over year) FiOS Video customers and 5.9 million (up 12.6%) FiOS Internet subscribers.

With Christmas around the corner, the sale of console is only expected to rise. We believe Verizon has strategically timed the release of the app on the console to tap new gaming customers. With Verizon's superfast speed and reliability as well as Microsoft's technological advancement, customers can expect a seamless video streaming experience on their console.

Verizon currently holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

3M Offers 2014 Outlook, Ups Dividend

3M Company (NYSE: MMM-Free Report) recently updated its five-year plan and provided its 2014 outlook. 3M continues to deliver sustainable increases in sales, earnings and free cash flow, benefiting from its long-term strategy of accelerating investment in higher growth programs. Going forward, 3M expects 9% to 11% growth in earnings per share, 4% to 6% organic revenue growth, 20% return on invested capital and approximately 100% free cash flow conversion in the period from 2013 -2017

Despite a challenging macroeconomic environment, 3M expects earnings in 2014 to be in the range of $7.30 to $7.55 per share with organic local currency sales growth of 3% to 6%. The company expects that free cash flow conversion will be in the range of 90% to 100%. The company remains focused on inventing new products as it enjoys a competitive advantage worldwide.

3M also increased its quarterly dividend by 35% for the first quarter of 2014. The company expects its 2013-2017 share repurchases to be in the range of $17 billion to $22 billion, up from its previous guidance of $7.5 billion to $15 billion. The company expects to further leverage its balance sheet and aims to provide increasing returns to shareholders.

Portfolio management, investment in innovation and business transformation are the three key levers on which the company intends to focus moving forward. 3M will also continue to invest in capital expenditures and research and development to support organic growth as it aims a capital structure strategy and increased capital deployment. 3M expects to invest between $5 billion and $10 billion for acquisitions through 2017.

3M, together with its subsidiaries, operates as a diversified technology company with manufacturing operations spread over 70 countries. The company aims to deliver innovative security solutions to businesses and governments worldwide, thus maintaining the security of people and documents.

3M currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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