The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Pandora Media, SIRIUS XM Radio, Apple, Google and Walgreen

Zacks

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – July 12, 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 Pandora Media Inc. (P-Free Report), SIRIUS XM Radio Inc. (SIRI-Free Report), Apple Inc. (AAPL-Free Report), Google Inc. (GOOG-Free Report) and Walgreen Co. (WAG-Free Report).

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Thursday’s Analyst Blog:

Fierce Competition Threatens Pandora

Pandora Media Inc. (P-Free Report), the largest online radio streaming service provider in the U.S., is suffering from growing competition in the broadcast radio industry. Despite a healthy auto industry, the driving force of broadcast radio services, the stock price of Pandora slides by 8.55% to $17.97 yesterday. This somber condition is mainly due to growing competition from satellite radio operator, SIRIUS XM Radio Inc. (SIRI-Free Report), and the upcoming iTunes online radio service of Apple Inc. (AAPL-Free Report).

Pandora provides music services to laptops and next-generation smartphones, mainly, iPhone and Google Inc. (GOOG-Free Report) developed Android-based mobile devices. Pandora is currently available in 100 different car models. The company had 71.1 million active listeners at the end of Jun 2013.

Meanwhile, Pandora is expected to face a major challenge from Apple. The company is on the verge of introducing iTunes radio service, which will offer hands-free voice control in automobiles. The connected car concept generates majority part of its revenues from the broadcast radio industry. While Apple will enter this segment with online streaming services, the satellite radio operator, SIRIUS XM, is continuously gaining market share.

SIRIUS XM recently announced that it has added a net 715,000 customers in the second quarter of 2013. This is a record-breaking achievement for the company. Its total subscriber base has crossed 25 million. On the other hand, Pandora stated that its listener’s hours in Jun 2013 were 1.25 billion, which was 100 million less compared with May 2013. Similarly, Pandora’s share of the total U.S. radio listening market slid to 7.04% in Jun from 7.29% in May 2013.

Nevertheless, Pandora has also made significant inroads into the automotive aftermarket sector. Currently, it has business agreements with 8 manufacturers. Management seems confident to counter the competitive threats with new innovative products but that may raise the company’s marketing and R&D expenditures. Currently, Pandora has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Walgreens Hikes Dividend Again

 

In an effort to boost shareholders’ wealth, Walgreen Co. (WAG-Free Report) recently announced a 14.5% hike in its quarterly dividend. The drug retailer will now pay a dividend of 31.5 cents per share, higher than the earlier rate of 27.5 cents per share.

Subsequent to the dividend hike, the annual dividend rose to $1.26 from $1.10 earlier. The increased dividend will be paid on Sep 12, 2013 to stockholders of record on Aug 20.

The news sparked investor optimism as the stock price alleviated 3.01% (or $1.40) on the day of the announcement. The company’s dividend yield improved to 2.6% following the dividend hike. The current dividend payout ratio hovers over 37% for Walgreens.

The recent dividend raise is in line with the company’s strategy to maintain long-term dividend payout ratio of 30%-35%. The hike reflects a compound annual growth rate (
CAGR) of about 23% for dividends over the last 5 years.

It is encouraging to note that the company has been paying dividends for more than 80 years and the recent hike marks the 38th successive year of dividend increase for the company. Notably, Walgreens is positioned on a healthy dividend growth track. Thus, the solid dividend payouts should appear attractive to investors.

Walgreens’ cash and cash equivalents were almost $3 billion in the third-quarter fiscal 2013, up 50.1% from the year-ago quarter. Moreover, it generated operating cash flow of $1.4 billion and free cash flow of $1.1 million, reflecting sequential improvement from the second quarter.

With a strong cash position, the company always strives to benefit its shareholders through dividend payments and share repurchases. Walgreens’ strong balance sheet has enabled it to consistently hike dividends.

We note that fiscal year-to date, Walgreens did not repurchase any shares under its current buyback program to repurchase up to $2 billion of its common stock through Dec 31, 2015. Investors may also look forward to rewards in the form of considerable share repurchases with optimism.

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