Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: General Motors, Ford Motor, Toyota Motor, Fiserv and Visa

Mar 18, 2011, 10:01 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, March 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com Analyst Blog features: General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), Fiserv, Inc. (Nasdaq: FISV) and Visa Inc. (NYSE: V).

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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Europe Car Sales Grow

The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association reported a 1.4% rise in sales to 1.01 million vehicles during February for the first time in 11 months. The sales gain was led by impressive sales of Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM)'s Opel branded cars and strong demand for new models in Germany and France -- two largest markets in the European Union (EU) -- as well as in Poland.

Sales by Volkswagen Group grew 9.1% to 226,126 vehicles driven by higher sales of its namesake and Audi brands. The company's recently introduced upgraded version of Passat has been well received in the EU markets.

General Motors sold 85,366 vehicles during the month, up 8.3% from the year-ago level. Sales of the company's Opel branded cars escalated 8.9% to 72,542 units while that of Chevrolet lineup rose 5.4% to 12,771 units during the month.

Nick Reilly, the head of Opel brand in Germany and its sister brand Vauxhall in the U.K., has revealed that revamped version of Meriva minivan and the Astra Sports Tourer helped the company to win market share in the region.

Apart from these two major automakers, sales at Renault SA, Daimler AG and BMW did not show any significant improvement during the month under study. Sales by Renault SA went up 3.1% to 113,342 vehicles as sales of its namesake brand increased 2.7% to 94,616 units and that of Dacia rose 5.4% to 18,726 units.

Daimler AG sold 42,724 vehicles during the month, up 3.2% from the prior year. Sales of Mercedes Benz cars scaled up 3.3% to 37,108 units while that of smart USA inched up 2.1% to 5,616 units. Meanwhile, BMW's sales zoomed 13.4% to 49,683 units.

PSA Group, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Fiat SpA and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) lost sales during the month. Sales at PSA Group dipped 5% to 141,894 units driven by lower sales of Citroen. Meanwhile, sales at Ford fell 12.1% to 73,133 vehicles, Fiat slashed 16.7% to 76,808 vehicles and Toyota slid 3.1% to 43,018 units.

Automakers are concerned about car sales in Europe in the near term. They expect rising prices of steel and oil to adversely affect sales and shift consumer preference towards a particular class of cars.

Visa Makes Deal with Fiserv

Fiserv, Inc. (Nasdaq: FISV) recently announced an agreement with Visa Inc. (NYSE: V), which will enable users of ZashPay to send money to and receive money from eligible Visa account holders through their primary financial institution.

In 2010, Fiserv introduced ZashPay – a person-to-person payments service that enables the secure, electronic movement of money between bank accounts based in the U.S., typically within one to three business days.

This agreement will expand the ZashPay network with a potential customer base of more than one billion Visa account holders. This service will initially focus on payment delivery to eligible credit and debit account holders. Both the companies will further expand it to prepaid and international account holders.

Earlier in the month, Fiserv recently announced that it has acquired Credit Union On-Line Inc. (CUOL), which has been providing data processing solutions to credit unions since 1980.

Co-owned by CEO Connie Boretti and two credit unions – RTN Federal Credit Union and Medical Area Federal Credit Union, CUOL is a credit union service organization that runs an outsourced version of the XP2 account processing solution of Fiserv. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Management stated that the acquisition of CUOL will provide Fiserv clients with a choice of either in-house or outsourced delivery of XP2.

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