The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Nokia, Microsoft, Google, Apple and CNO Financial Group

Zacks

For Immediate Release
 
Chicago, IL – December 04, 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 the Nokia Corporation (NOK-Free Report), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT-Free Report), Google Inc. (GOOG-Free Report), Apple Inc. (AAPL-Free Report) and CNO Financial Group Inc. (CNO-Free Report).
 
Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Tuesday’s Analyst Blog:

Nokia Nears Merger Closure with Microsoft
 
Finnish handset manufacturer, Nokia Corporation (NOK-Free Report) cleared another major hurdle by getting clearance from both the US Department of Justice (:DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding the sale of its Nokia handset business to Microsoft Corp. (MSFT-Free Report) for $7.2 billion (5.44 billion euros).
 
Nokia’s shareholders have already approved the deal. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, subject to EU approval.
 
Upon the completion of the transaction, it is to be seen how Microsoft differentiate with Nokia’s newly launched tablets and its own Surface tablets. As the inclusion of the Lumia 2520 tablet into its product portfolio may encourage cannibalism of both devices.
 
Earlier, stiff competition from Google Inc.’s (GOOG-Free Report) Android-based smartphones and Apple Inc.’s (AAPL-Free Report) iPhones compelled Nokia to collaborate with Microsoft to offer user-friendly Lumia smartphones powered with the Windows operating platform, thereby sidelining its own Symbian operating system.
 
Such strategic partnerships have aided Nokia improve to its smartphone sales. In the recently concluded third-quarter 2013, the company sold 8.8 million Lumia smartphones, up 40% from the prior-year quarter.
 
During this holiday season, Nokia launched its latest tablet and two new 6-inch smartphones, Lumia 1320 and 1520. Moreover, the company has launched 3 Asha flagship phones, Asha 500, 502 and 503, costing $69, $89 and $99, respectively. Thus, the company is expected to generate strong sales during the upcoming quarters.
 
Nokia currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
 
 
 
CNO Financial Upgraded to Buy
 
On Dec 3, Zacks Investment Research upgraded CNO Financial Group Inc. (CNO-Free Report) to a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
 
Why the Upgrade?
 
CNO Financial has been witnessing rising earnings estimates on the back of strong third-quarter 2013 results, which included a 22.2% positive earnings surprise. Moreover, this multiline insurer delivered positive earnings surprises in 3 out of the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 15.4%.
 
CNO Financial reported its third-quarter results on Oct 28, 2013. Operating earnings per share came in at 33 cents per share surpassing, the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 27 cents per share. Results also reported a sharp improvement of 200% year over year from 11 cents per share earned in the third quarter of 2012.
 
Although top line were almost in line with the year-ago numbers, it comfortably surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Total annualized premiums also reported an improvement during the quarter whereas total benefits and expenses declined significantly leading to a margin expansion.
 
 Further, strong capital generation positions CNO Financial to undertake strategic investments and focus on profit generation.
 
CNO Financial further expects to spend $250–$300 million on the repurchase of securities in 2013. We expect efficient capital deployment to consistently cushion future buybacks and help the company achieve its long term Return on Equity goal of 9% by 2015.
 
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 2.7% to $1.13 per share as some estimates were revised higher over the last 30 days. The estimate also represents a year-over-year increase of 63.77%. Over the same period, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2014 increased 0.8% to $1.23 as some estimates moved north. This estimate translates into a year-over-year improvement of 9.03%.

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