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Upcoming Earnings: Industrial Conglomerate GE Reports Friday Morning

Industrial conglomerate General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) is scheduled to report earnings before market open on Friday, Apr. 20.

CEO John Flannery has faced plenty of challenges since he took over in August 2017, working to streamline the massive company and improve transparency. In recent quarters, GE’s issues have been numerous and well publicized.

In the time that Flannery has been at the helm, GE has halved its dividend; it took a surprise $6.2 billion after-tax charge in Q4 2017 related to GE Capital’s insurance portfolio, while adding $15 billion to its reserves  for future payouts over the next seven years; and recently restated 2016 and 2017 financials, reducing earnings by $0.30 per share. The restated financials also included adjustments related to pensions, cash flows and income taxes.

Clearly, the company’s turnaround efforts, which include a multi-year plan to improve GE Power as well as exiting more than $20 billion worth of business over the next several years, are going to take time.

There have been some signs of progress from Flannery’s plan so far. When GE reported Q4 2017 results, it generated $9.7 billion in adjusted cash flow from operating activities for fiscal 2017, compared to guidance of $7 billion.

Since announcing plans to exit $20 billion in business, it has sold its industrial solution business in a $2.6 billion deal to ABB (ABB) and recently announced a $1.05 billion deal to sell healthcare IT businesses to private equity firm Veritas.  And Bloomberg reported that several companies are considering a bid for GE’s Jenbacher unit for more than $3 billion.

On tomorrow’s calls, analysts are likely to be digging in to get a better idea of restructuring progress.

GE Earnings

For Q1 2018, GE is expected to report adjusted EPS of $0.11 on revenue of $27.88 billion, according to third-party consensus estimates. In Q4 2017, revenue missed estimates, coming in at $31.4 billion versus expectations for $32.7 billion, and earnings also came up short by a penny at $0.27 per share after removing charges and one-time items.

GE previously lowered its earnings guidance for all of fiscal 2018 to a range of $1.00 to $1.07, but analysts seem to think that’s a little optimistic given they have an average estimate of $0.95. Out of 17 analyst ratings, earnings estimates range from $0.87 to $1.04 per share.

GE Options Trading Activity

Around GE’s upcoming report, options traders have priced in a 4.8% share price move in either direction, according to the Market Maker Move indicator on the thinkorswim® platform. Implied volatility was at the 76th percentile as of this morning. 

general-electric-ge-stock-chart-q1-2018.png
GE 1-YEAR CHART. GE shares have dropped from a 52-week high of $30.54 all the way to a new 52-week low of $12.73 on March 26. The stock has bounced a little bit off that level and has been trading around the mid-$13 range for the past few sessions. Chart source: thinkorswim® by TD Ameritrade.  Not a recommendation. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

In short-term trading at the Apr. 20 monthly expiration and the next several weekly expirations, a lot of the activity has been concentrated at the 14 strike for both puts and calls, just out of the money. At the May 20 expiration, trading has also been heavier at the 14-strike call, while activity on the put side has been mostly at the 13 and 14 strikes. 

Overall during yesterday’s session, trading was heavier on the call side, with a put/call ratio of 0.476.

Note: Call options represent the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying security at a predetermined price over a set period of time. Put options represent the right, but not the obligation to sell the underlying security at a predetermined price over a set period of time.

What’s Coming Up

Next week brings results from many of the largest companies in the tech sector:

Google-parent Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG) reports after the close Monday, Apr. 23
Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) reports before market open Wednesday, Apr. 25 and Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) reports after the close the same day
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) report after the close Thursday, Apr. 26

In addition to the tech-heavy week, some of the other companies on the docket are Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), General Motors Company (NYSE: GM), Caterpillar Inc (NYSE: CAT), Boeing Co (NYSE: BA), Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) and Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM). If you have time, make sure to check out today’s market update for a look at what else is going on.

Information from TDA is not intended to be investment advice or construed as a recommendation or endorsement of any particular investment or investment strategy, and is for illustrative purposes only. Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade.

Earnings: 3 Tech Stocks to Watch This Month

It’s earnings season again — and tech giants are readying their latest quarterly releases. This month, in particular, is packed with action, including earnings reports from Alphabet(NASDAQ:GOOGL)(NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook(NASDAQ:FB), andMicrosoft(NASDAQ:MSFT).The three will report earnings on April 23, 25, and 26, respectively.

For Alphabet, investors will want to see strength in search and more sharp growth from the company’s “Google other” segment. In Microsoft’s report, they’ll be watching for sustained momentum in commercial cloud revenue. Finally, Facebook’s guidance will come into focus amid the company’s public image challenges.

Google Home speakers lined up in seven colors

Image source: Alphabet.

Here’s a preview of each company’s earnings report:

1. Alphabet

Alphabet’s year-over-year quarterly revenue growth rates accelerated throughout 2017, setting the bar high going into the company’s first-quarter earnings report.

In Alphabet’s fourth quarter of 2017, the Google parent reported a 24% higher revenue and 15% higher operating income compared to the fourth quarter of 2016. Earnings per share increased 28% year over year when excluding the impact of the Tax Act.

Though Alphabet’s strong performance was helped by a nice 21% increase in advertising revenue from its core search business, Alphabet’sGoogle other segment, which is primarily driven by the Android app store, Google Cloud, and Google-branded hardware, is playing an increasingly larger role in the company’s results. Google other revenue jumped 38% year over year in Q4. Look for a similar trend in Q1.

2. Microsoft

In its second quarter of fiscal 2018 (the fourth calendar quarter of 2017), Microsoft continued to reap the benefits of its ongoing transformation to a cloudcentric business model. Revenue and operating income were both up double digits on a year-over-year basis, climbing 12% and 10%, respectively.

But the biggest highlight from the quarter was arguably Microsoft’s 56% year-over-year increase in commercial cloud revenue. Surging to $5.3 billion during the period, commercial cloud revenue now represents a meaningful 18% of revenue. Investors should expect this catalyst to keep its momentum in Q3.

3. Facebook

Social network Facebook has been forced into the spotlight recently. Its press release in March about user data that had been mishandled by a third-party developersent shockwaves in the media, as pressure mounted for the CEO to testify before Congress about the company’s user data and privacy policies. The CEO has cooperated with requests to testify and has taken responsibility for the company’s shortfalls in its efforts to mitigate abuse, fake news, hate speech, and foreign influence in elections.

With most of this negative media attention occurring toward the end of Q1 and the beginning of Q2, the company’s first-quarter results won’t likely be materially impacted by any headwinds with users or advertisers. But it will be interesting to see how the scandal will impact the social network’s guidance, particularly its outlook for spending on user data and privacy protection. Facebook had already committed to a 45% to 60% jump in operating expenses in 2018 compared to 2017, driven in part by “sizable security investments in people and technology to strengthen our systems and prevent abuse.”

Will Facebook forecast an even larger increase in expenses after its user data scandal?

Top 5 Stocks To Own For 2018

Investment company Benson Investment Management Company, Inc. buys Goldcorp Inc, CVS Health Corp, Time Warner Inc, Alerian MLP, The Kraft Heinz Co, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co, Macquarie Infrastructure Corp, Wells Fargo, Whirlpool Corp, Bank of America Corporation, sells General Motors Co, American International Group Inc, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, Occidental Petroleum Corp, NXP Semiconductors NV during the 3-months ended 2017-12-31, according to the most recent filings of the investment company, Benson Investment Management Company, Inc.. As of 2017-12-31, Benson Investment Management Company, Inc. owns 55 stocks with a total value of $131 million. These are the details of the buys and sells.

New Purchases: GG, CVS, TWX, AMLP, GT, MIC, WFCPL, WHR, BACPL, TEN, Added Positions: KHC, VZ, MRK, T, PPG, MDT, HHC, DIS, WPC, OKE, Reduced Positions: LRCX, GOOG, AAPL, BWA, TEL, TOL, Sold Out: GM, AIG, FOXA, OXY, NXPI, KR, NWL, MSI, GOOGL, PG,

For the details of Benson Investment Management Company, Inc.’s stock buys and sells, go to www.gurufocus.com/StockBuy.php?GuruName=Benson+Investment+Management+Company%2C+Inc.

Top 5 Stocks To Own For 2018: Google Inc.(GOOG)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Adam Levy]

    Google recently released a device similar to Echo, Google Home, in order to take advantage of the trend. Additionally, the Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary said voice searches tripled over the last two years.

  • [By Travis Hoium]

    Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google subsidiary started the Project Sunroof initiative in 2015 to try to give customers and installers an easy view of the solar potential of homes around the country. Initially, the project covered just a few cities, but the idea was to eventually roll it out nationwide. This week, that happened.

  • [By ]

    Missing from the tech rodeo are the FAANG stocks. Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), and Google (Alphabet) (Nasdaq: GOOG). These companies are too busy reshaping global consumerism.

Top 5 Stocks To Own For 2018: Hooker Furniture Corporation(HOFT)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    Hooker Furniture Corporation (NASDAQ: HOFT) shares were also up, gaining 27 percent to $39.80 after the company reported strong results for its fourth quarter.

  • [By Monica Gerson]

    Hooker Furniture Corporation (NASDAQ: HOFT) is estimated to report its quarterly earnings at $0.40 per share on revenue of $62.20 million.

    SeaChange International (NASDAQ: SEAC) is projected to post its quarterly earnings at $0.01 per share on revenue of $30.49 million.

Top 5 Stocks To Own For 2018: Callon Petroleum Company(CPE)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    Benzinga's newsdesk monitors options activity to notice unusual patterns. These large volume (and often out of the money) trades were initially published intraday in Benzinga Professional . These trades were placed during Thursday’s regular session.

Top 5 Stocks To Own For 2018: Territorial Bancorp Inc.(TBNK)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    Territorial Bancorp (NASDAQ: TBNK) shares touched a new 52-week low of $21.31. Territorial Bancorp shares have dropped 9.43% over the past 52 weeks, while the S&P 500 index has gained 16.18% in the same period.

Top 5 Stocks To Own For 2018: Chesapeake Utilities Corporation(CPK)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    On Tuesday, utilities shares slipped by just 0.5 percent. Meanwhile, top gainers in the sector included Pampa Energia S.A. (ADR) (NYSE: PAM), up 2 percent, and Chesapeake Utilities Corporation (NYSE: CPK) up 3 percent.

No Need To Drop Box

With the IPO of Dropbox (DBX) last week, Box (BOX) saw an initial dip due to competitive fears and probably some traders using the stock as a source of funds for the hot new stock. Despite competitive threats, the fears appear unnecessary as the market isn’t applying the same logic to Box as the hot IPO.


Source: Box website

Not The Same

If one believes CEO Aaron Levie, Box and Dropbox are not the same. Box aims to service the secure content sharing needs of large enterprises, while Dropbox focuses on consumer subscriptions and is slowing moving into small corporations.

The market though doesn’t buy this comparison and appears to favor the ability of Dropbox to land and expand via initial exposure to employees of these large corporations. All while both companies increasingly face competitive threats from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iCloud, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Drive, and aggressive offers from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) OneDrive and others.

Both companies would probably tell a different story on whether enterprise customers would trust the security and compliance of Dropbox. For those outside the technology world, the numbers will have to speak volumes.

Meeting In The Middle

Box has been public for 3 years now, so the financials are more mature than those of Dropbox with the market demanding a focus on free cash flows. Just after an IPO, the market tends to be overly bullish about the prospects of a company without the profitable demands.

Box hit my radar as the stock dipped following the IPO due to the negative cash flows. The recent results though tell a far better story as the content management company is now consistently producing strong cash flow margins. The stock might dip, but the investment thesis remains solidly in the buy the dip category.


Source: Box FQ4’18 presentation

Dropbox has some impressive numbers that drive the enthusiasm for the stock. The market can be overly obsessed with active users and subscriber numbers that aren’t always legitimate. The 500 million registered users on Dropbox no doubt helps drive the market value that tips the scale at $13 billion.


Source: Dropbox S-1

Dropbox generated revenues of $1.1 billion last year from 11 million paying customers and, the market value with over 400 million shares outstanding after the IPO is now far in excess of the only $3 billion value of Box. So, Box had roughly half the revenue base of Dropbox in 2017 on 82,000 customers and now has a quarter of the market value.

Where Levie has a point and investors need to pay attention are the margins. Dropbox only produces gross margins of 67% in comparison to the 76% margins of Box. Not a massive difference, but a sign of the scale of having larger customers.

Surprisingly, though, Dropbox actually produced a profit after excluding stock-based compensation. The company had a large operating loss of $112 million or about 10% of revenues, but SBC came in at $164 million on the year.

Box is considerably better off at this scale of the business of around $500 million in revenues, but the company doesn’t have the 30% growth rate of Dropbox despite being smaller. Conversely, Box is already generating free cash flow at revenue levels of $500 million where Dropbox had a massive loss. Revenue in the 20% growth rate (despite ASC 606 impact) for a cloud software provider will generate solid margin growth and cash flows.

Chart
BOX data by YCharts

Quality cloud companies just don’t trade at forward P/S multiples below 4 for very long, especially when the closest market comp is now closer to 10x.

Takeaway

The key investor takeaway is that the company is in an increasingly competitive sector. CEO Aaron Levie is probably accurate that large enterprises aren’t going to abandon Box for a more consumer offering like Dropbox, but the bigger fear is the aggressive push of Microsoft and others. Regardless, Box is too cheap to be dropped, while the market is distracted by the shiny new offering in the sector.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as a solicitation to purchase or sell securities. Before buying or selling any stock you should do your own research and reach your own conclusion or consult a financial advisor. Investing includes risks, including loss of principal.

Amazon Widening Moat With Prime, Alexa And Echo Integration


source: Cnet

For the first time ever, Amazon recently released its full-year shipping numbers for Amazon Prime, saying for 2017 it delivered more than 5 billion products around the world, and increased its prime subscriber base at a pace it never has reached in the past.

It also said in the Christmas season of 2016 it delivered 1 billion products – although it didn’t release full 2016 shipping figures.

It also said the biggest seller among its Prime members in the U.S. was Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV Stick can communicate with Alexa if the remote has a Voice button, further locking in consumers to Amazon’s ecosystem. Most if not all the things you can do using an Echo can be done with a Fire TV is you want.

Besides the lock-in, Amazon (AMZN) has revealed where it’s taking all of this: Developing an ad model around the devices it makes that use Alexa. The significance of Prime members buying the two devices in large numbers points to Amazon having a sizable consumer base to work from.

Combined with other Prime perks, it’s going to be difficult for competitors to dislodge customers from the integrated services and products.

Ad potential

Even though Amazon is easily the market leader in e-commerce, that’s not the case with its advertising business, which is fifth among U.S.. companies. The bulk of Amazon’s ad revenue comes from sponsored placements on its website.

In the third quarter of 2017 ad sales came in at over $1 billion. According to eMarketer, that will grow by 42 percent in 2018, to $2.4 billion. That pales in comparison to Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) $21.6 billion and Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) $40.1 billion. From that reference point, Amazon has nowhere to go but up with its ad growth.

As for voice search and related ad potential, Google said as far back as May 2016 that 20 percent of searches on mobile were from voice. Looking ahead, comScore has said it believes voice-initiated searches will account for about half of all searches by 2020.

This is a powerful ad revenue catalyst for Amazon, which holds close to 75 percent market share at this time, and may have increased that in the Christmas shopping season.

A report from CNBC noted that sources tell them it is in negotiations with a number of large brands, including Clorox (NYSE:CLX) and P&G (NYSE:PG), either to promote products within Alexa skills, or to sponsor products when Alexa provides suggestions. That would be similar to shopping within the existing Amazon interface, with the exception of it being a combination of audio, and now it appears video, with the move toward offering Echo with a screen.

It’ll be interesting to see if it innovates with Fire TV and moves in a similar direction.

The future of Alexa and Echo will probably be immersive

Based upon the response of Amazon to audio ads launched by VoiceLabs in May 2017 for devices using Alexa, it appears the company wasn’t impressed with the results, as it was shut down by Amazon.

Interestingly, CEO Adam Marchick said consumers were highly receptive to the audio ads. He also said there was a lot of advertiser demand from CPG companies, to prompt people to add products to their shopping carts.

It’s possible the results were OK, but Amazon may have been looking for a lot more. I think Amazon sees video being a part of the future of Alexa and Echo, and is probably positioning itself to offer a more immersive ad experience for consumer, by which I mean one that includes all the senses.

The strong sales of Echo Dot doesn’t lend itself to that, since it doesn’t include a screen at this time. But the strategy to me seems to be to get the devices in the home and grow and retain hefty market share, and then promote the idea of a premium device and experience, led now by Amazon Echo Show, which does have a screen.

I think we’ll probably see Amazon eventually roll out a lower cost Echo with a screen in the not-too-distant future, if it is in fact looking to ramp up its video business by including visuals with the audio of Alexa.

Conclusion

Not to be lost in all of this is the ongoing growth of Amazon Prime. While we all know a percentage of the people getting temporary free Prime subscriptions during the Christmas season are going to drop out, but a significant number will stay on as well.

Amazon is obviously building an ecosystem with its Prime, Alexa, Echo, and probably Fire TV, which will make it extremely difficult to compete against.

As it builds that out, not only is it generating more revenue from its Prime members, which most investors know about, but it seems like those using Alexa are highly engaged when ordering from the e-commerce giant.

This is prepping Prime subscribers for the convenience of using Alexa and Echo to accept ads in the future on the device. Ads that won’t be considered intrusive, but part of the experience of being offered suggestions that are based upon the comprehensive database Amazon has on its customer’s buying habits and interests.

Once again, I think Amazon has outmaneuvered its competitors and is about to become a strong player in the digital ad space. This should add yet another solid revenue stream to its growing business.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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