The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Encana, Ford Motor, General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota Motor

Zacks

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – April 22, 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 Encana Corporation (ECA), Ford Motor Co. (F), General Motors Company (GM), Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) and Toyota Motor Corp. (TM).

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Here are highlights from Friday’s Analyst Blog:

Encana Likely to Miss 1Q Earnings

Natural gas exploration and production (E&P) company Encana Corporation (ECA) is scheduled to report its first-quarter 2013 results on Tuesday, Apr 23, before the opening bell.

In the fourth quarter 2012, Encana delivered a negative 3.12% earnings surprise, due to low natural gas volumes and hedging loss. Moreover, Encana delivered negative earnings surprises in 3 of the last 4 quarters, with an average miss of 261.96%. Let’s see how things are shaping up prior to this announcement.

Factors to Consider This Quarter

As is the case with other E&P companies, Encana’s results are directly exposed to oil and gas prices, which are inherently volatile and subject to complex market forces. Realized prices could differ significantly from our estimates, thereby affecting the company’s revenues, earnings and cash flows.

Additionally, with the growing popularity of renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, the operators of natural gas resources are facing tough competition. Although expensive, many customers are opting this sustainable source of energy for its environmental friendly nature.

Although, Encana focuses on the prolific unconventional natural gas reservoirs throughout North America, the large scale development of these resources is technically challenging and capital intensive.

Earnings Whispers

Our proven model does not conclusively show that Encana is likely to beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate in the first quarter. That is because a stock needs to have both a positive earnings Expected Surprise Prediction or ESP (Read: Zacks Earnings ESP: A Better Method) and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or at least 2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold) for this to happen. But this is not the case here as elaborated below.

Negative Zacks ESP:This is because the Most Accurate estimate stands at 3 cents while the Zacks Consensus Estimate is higher at 4 cents. This results in a difference of -25.0%.

Zacks Rank #3 (Hold): Encana’s Zacks Rank #3, however, increases the forecasting power of ESP. That said we also need to have a positive ESP to be confident of an earnings surprise call.

 Ford Raises Stake in Chinese JV

Ford Motor Co. (F) announced that has raised its stake in Chinese light commercial vehicles joint venture, Jiangling Motors Corp., to 31.5% from 30.0%. The Detroit-based automaker purchased 13.0 million Hong Kong dollar-denominated B-shares of Jiangling Motors, which manufactures JMC light trucks, SUVs, and Ford Transit van in China.

After the purchase, Ford’s stake in the joint venture went up to $705 million. The company is also looking forward to raise its stake in the joint venture further by 0.5% to 32.0% – the maximum limit allowed by the securities regulator – within a year.

Ford continues to post robust sales growth in China. Last month, the automaker posted a staggering 65% rise in sales to 81,387 vehicles.

Considering the first quarter of the year, Ford’s sales went up 54% to 186,000 vehicles. In the same period, Jiangling sold 56,420 vehicles, up 7.1% from the year-ago period.

Ford’s archrival, General Motors Company (GM) and its Chinese joint venture partners sold 290,538 vehicles in the month, up 12.6% from March 2012. It was the company’s second-highest monthly sales ever recorded in China.

In the first quarter of the year, GM’s sales increased 9.6% to 816,373 vehicles, overtaking Volkswagen AG (VLKAY), led by burgeoning demand for its Buick lineups. Volkswagen reported a 21% rise in sales to 770,000 vehicles in the same period.

Japanese automakers continued to be the losers due to the political conflict between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Sales of Japanese brands, including Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), fell 17.8% during the month.

Overall passenger vehicle sales in China slowed down in March compared to the first two months of the year, mainly due to the stricter regulation imposed by the government on vehicle ownership aimed at controlling increasing pollution and traffic congestion in the country. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (:CAAM), passenger vehicle (cars, multipurpose and sport- utility vehicles) sales rose 13.3% to 1.59 million units in March compared with a 19.5% increase in Jan–Feb this year.

Passenger vehicle sales grew 17.2% to 4.42 million units in the first quarter of the year, which is higher than 7.1% growth registered in 2012. Thanks to the steep discounts that kept passenger vehicle sales at a higher level in the world’s biggest auto market. Total vehicle (passenger vehicles, buses and trucks) sales grew 13.2% to 5.4 million units in the first three months of the year compared with 4.3% to 19.3 million vehicles in 2012.

Ford has embarked upon an aggressive expansion plan in China that includes plans to triple its lineup in China by introducing 15 models, including the Kuga small sport utility vehicle by 2015. Currently, the company sells seven models in the country.

In order to develop the new models, Ford will build new plants raising its capital spending to about $6 billion annually by mid-decade from $4.3 billion in 2011. In order to keep pace with the expansion, Ford also plans to double its workforce by hiring 1,200 employees by 2015.

Ford anticipates global sales to expand by 50% to 8 million vehicles by 2015 given the potential growth in Asia, mainly China and India; and rising demand for small cars. The automaker anticipates small cars to account for 55% of the total sales by 2020 compared with 48% presently. One third of the small car sales are expected to come from Asia.

Currently, shares of Ford retain a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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Read the analyst report on ECA

Read the analyst report on F

Read the analyst report on GM

Read the analyst report on VLKAY

Read the analyst report on TM

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