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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: ViroPharma, ExxonMobil, Summit Midstream Partners, Enerplus and Ferrellgas Partners

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – June 13, 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 ViroPharma Inc. (VPHM-Free Report), ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM-Free Report), Summit Midstream Partners, LP (SMLP-Free Report), Enerplus Corporation (ERF-Free Report) and Ferrellgas Partners LP (FGP-Free Report).

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

Here are highlights from Wednesday’s Analyst Blog:

Orphan Drug Status for ViroPharma’s Maribavir

ViroPharma Inc. (VPHM-Free Report) recently received ‘orphan drug designation’ in the EU for its pipeline candidate, maribavir, for the treatment of cytomegaloviral (:CMV) in patients suffering from impaired cell mediated immunity.

We note that maribavir was granted the same designation in the US in May 2011 for the treatment of clinically significant CMV and disease in at-risk patients.

We remind investors that ViroPharma was previously developing maribavir as an anti-CMV agent to prevent CMV disease in transplant patients. However, results from phase III studies showed that maribavir failed to meet its efficacy endpoints at a lower dose.

Nevertheless, studies are ongoing as ViroPharma expects that higher doses might provide clinical activity based on overall safety profile of maribavir and limited data from cases in which open-label maribavir was used as CMV treatment.

The company also discontinued a study evaluating maribavir in liver transplant patients.

ViroPharma initiated two phase II studies in 2012 to evaluate maribavir at different doses for the treatment of CMV infections in transplant recipients. The studies are being conducted in Europe and the US.

The study conducted in Europe focuses on hematopoietic stem cell or solid organ transplant recipients who carry CMV viremia but do not have CMV organ disease, whereas the study in the US focuses on patients who have resistant or refractory CMV viremia with or without CMV organ disease.

Exxon, Rosneft Team Up

ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM-Free Report) and Rosneft – Russia’s biggest oil producer – have agreed to establish a joint Arctic Research Center (ARC) in Russia. The duo also agreed to share technologies for their existing joint ventures (JVs). The agreements support the companies’ August 2011 long-term strategic cooperation agreement. In ARC, Rosneft would hold a 66.7% stake while the rest will be held by ExxonMobil.

Going forward, ARC would provide the Rosneft and ExxonMobil JVs a full range of research, development and technical services, with near-term focus on the Kara Sea.

The research center would initially focus on safety and environmental protection; ice, metocean and geotechnical surveys; sea ice management; development of design criteria; and the evaluation and design of development concepts.

ExxonMobil would dish out $200 million in funding for the center’s initial research work. The next lot of funding of $250 million for the joint research work would be shared equally by Rosneft and ExxonMobil.

Exxon Mobil is the world’s largest publicly-traded oil company, engaged in oil and natural gas exploration and production, petroleum products refining and marketing, chemicals manufacture, and other energy-related businesses. Approximately 83% of Exxon Mobil’s earnings come from its operations outside the U.S.

Exxon Mobil is one of the world’s best-run integrated oil company given its track record of superior returns on the capital employed. The energy giant has long been a core holding for investors seeking a defensive name with continued dividend growth. Exxon Mobil is fairly active in its investment program. The company plans to spend about $185 billion over the next five years, up 29% from the last five-year period.

The capital expenditure covers as many as 21 important oil and gas projects currently under the anvil and are estimated to accumulate over 1 million net oil-equivalent barrels per day by 2016. It includes the Kearl Oil Sands development project in Canada, four in West Africa and Kashagan Phase 1 in Kazakhstan. Exxon is also engaged in a large liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea, which is expected to begin deliveries in 2014. It will unearth more oil from the development of the Hebron oil field, offshore the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The development will help in recovering over 700 million barrels of oil and the platform is expected to yield its first oil towards the end of 2017.

Exxon Mobil holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). However, in the near term, stocks like Summit Midstream Partners, LP (SMLP-Free Report), Enerplus Corporation (ERF-Free Report) and Ferrellgas Partners LP (FGP-Free Report) with Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) are expected to outperform the market over the next few months.

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