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December 2017

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Tesla Motors Inc Model X windshield creates a double-vision effect for drivers, as they see two sets of headlights and brake lights of other cars at night

In an earlier post, The Country Caller discussed how Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) created “The Perfect Family Car” with the Model X, its safest and fastest-produced SUV to date. Now, some officials have gone on to claim that it is the most complex car to be built in the world. After the auto maker received a number of complaints related to the Model X’s falcon-wing doors, second and third-row seats, Jalopnik and CNET recently revealed that a number of Model X owners have been facing issues with the vehicle’s gigantic windshield.

After Tesla Motors Club (TMC) member rmiggins pointed out that he has experienced double vision at night through the vehicle’s windshield, a few more owners confirmed the same problem. The user stated that he saw two sets of headlights and brake lights of other vehicles through the windshield at night. He ensured that the problem had nothing to do with his vision, his 43 years of age, or even fatigue, as he blamed his 6’5” height and the windshield’s curve for the nuisance. However, he also added that moving his head roughly three inches solved the problem.

Another Model X user, Jeff McClure, reported facing the same issue this month, and suggested the company should either replace the compromised windshields or maybe add a tinted film to resolve the problem. Last month, another TMC member quartzav said: “I also see the astigmatism-like double slightly superimposed at superior to the actual tail lights of the cars in the front when its about 1000 feet. More noticeable when the cars’ tail lamp is LED light stripes such as Honda insight or Toyota Prius.”

In contrast, one of the affected members said that although the double vision at night was distracting, it did not seem serious enough to be called dangerous. Some owners have fixed the issue by changing seating positions or glasses or by tinting the window. However, it seems like the windshield’s “double vision” issue could be more widespread.

On a rather positive note, Tesla has acknowledged the issue. “Reflections (ghosting) occurs in all laminated glass to varying degrees,” said a Tesla spokesperson in an emailed statement to Jalopnik. “This is most frequently seen at night and can affect some drivers more than others. We have received only a small number of questions from Model X customers about the windshield and have taken action to address these unique cases.”

According to JMP Securities, 2017 and half of 2018 appear to be difficult transitioning years

JMP Securities offered bearish comments on First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) in a recent note and downgraded the stock to Underperform from a prior Market Perform rating. The firm also affirmed a price target of $28 on FSLR, implying 13.92% downside potential on the latest closing price of $32.53.

JMP Securities MD, Joseph Osha, said, “We are downgrading our investment recommendation for First Solar from Market Perform to Market Underperform and establishing a price target of $28 per share. We believe the company is taking the right measures to position itself for an eventual return to growth, but 2017 and most of 2018 look to be difficult transition years, in our opinion.”

With the aggressive pricing of utility-scale solar projects, Mr. Osha believes the most probable result is that First Solar may struggle in competitive operation until it brings out its own new Series 6 solar panel manufacturing completely on line in late 2018. He believes monetizing current backlog may facilitate the accounts but he still sees First Solar’s QoQ revenue run-rate declining to $300 million in the second half of CY17, which is likely to persist through the first half of 2018.

On the other hand, the Street analysts also anticipate major declines in the company’s production in 2017 and 2018. First Solar management has forecasted over 18% of panel efficiency by the time Series 6 is launched. With the ramping mono-PERC technology, the launch of Series 6 by First Solar may just be to keep up with larger peers, especially Chinese manufacturers.

First Solar is a solar panel manufacturer based in Tempe that has a total market valuation of $3.30 billion. FSLR shares have 6.72 price-to-earnings ratio, while the 52-week trading range stands at $74.29 – $28.60.

Cowen presented key highlights from Apple’s WWDC 2016

Following Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) 2016 on Monday afternoon, sell-side firm, Cowen, has reiterated Outperform rating for the company along with a price target of $125. Analyst Tim Arcuri at Cowen presented key notes from Apple’s WWDC, which are presented below.

Firstly, on watchOS 3 improvements, Apple demonstrated new Operating System (OS) while maintaining its key focus towards personal wellbeing. This appears to be a major improvement over Apple’s current watchOS 2 in terms of its functionality and speed.

The additional features in the new watch include in-app Apple Pay integration and method for unlocking nearby Macintosh. According to the demo, it appears that the user experience would be improved via the new OS, while sell-sides units forecast for the company remain unchanged at around 21 million units for the year, higher than 12 million on Year-over-Year (YoY) basis.

Secondly, the company focused on Apple Pay. It announced to open its Apple Pay for online transactions via Macintosh OS, which would help the company to tap the online or mobile payment markets, which according to PayPal is estimated at around $1.3 trillion.

By the help of Apple Pay, Macintosh users would be able to shop and purchase online, and later pay in order to complete the transaction through Apple Pay via a touch ID on iPhone. Apple Pay offers enhanced online payment security compared to its competitors.

Moreover, sell-side mentioned that assuming 0.15% fee for Apple Pay, it would mean additional $2 billion in revenues (which is lower than 1% of company’s total revenues) if all the business flowed via Apple. In addition, it mentioned that Apple would like to maximize its revenue from Apple Pay, but in order to strengthen its footing and expand, the key is to sell more hardware.

Thirdly, key focus was towards Macintosh OS ecosystem integration. As per company’s announcement, it has introduced several Mac OS features that would integrate Apple ecosystem and provide convenience by enabling and facilitating simultaneous use and seamless integration of workflow of many Apple devices such as Siri integration, iCloud drive, etc.

Despite posting strong results, shares of the $177 billion company dropped over 5%, as the guidance for Q4FY16 came out weak

Semi-conductor giant Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) reported earnings for the third quarter of 2016, beating the Street’s topline and bottom-line estimates. Intel reported revenue of $15.8 billion vs. the Street’s estimate of $15.55 billion, this translates into a 9% YoY increase in its topline. The bottom-line of the company stood at $3.4 billion, which also implies a 9% YoY increase. The Santa Clara-based company reported a quarterly EPS of $0.80 vs. the Street’s estimate of $0.77. Despite posting strong results, shares of the $177 billion company dropped over 5%, as the guidance for Q4FY16 came out weak.

Client computing group and Internet of Things divisions reported over 20% growth, contributing to the topline of the company. Operations were impressive, as they generated cash of $5.8 billion. CEO Brian Krzanich expressed his gratitude over the earnings, while he said that the company was able to break many records in its quarter.

Future guidance remains weak, as the company expects revenue of $15.7 billion for Q4FY16, while the gross margins are also expected to drop. The Country Caller is pretty convinced with the numbers, while stock prices are expected to stabilize after a few bearish sessions. The company’s financial management appears strong, while it seems to be a lucrative option for long term investors, as cloud computing might lure its benefits in the future.

The Street remains optimistic about the company’s future, as renowned brokerages such as Wells Fargo and Barclays PLC reckon higher upsides. However, a few brokerages such as Sanford C. Bernstein reckon downsides from the current levels. The consensus price target (PT) on the stock is $39.94, which offers a decent upside from yesterday’s close.

The Country Caller will closely watch the operations of the 18-year-old company, as they have been a problematic area it in the past

Streaming giant Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is due to release its earnings for 4QFY16, while the Los Gatos based company is expected to end the year on a positive note. The street expects an EPS of $0.13 for the quarter while the revenues are expected to be $2.46 billion. While the bottom-line estimate is the highest in the last eight quarters, the odds of an earnings beat are also high given the sound track record. The Country Caller will closely watch the operations of the 18-year-old company, as they have been a problematic area it in the past.

Operations have continued to consume the liquid resources of the Scotts Valley based company.  last quarter, Netflix lost over $900 million in operations, which added to our concern even though the market responded in a bullish manner. Those concerns still remain until we see improvements in this area. CFO, David Wells, has already said that the company intends to increase its reliance on original content, as costs will be lower.

Apart from operations, the company’s presence in international regions will also stay in focus as Mr. Hastings has emphasized on the need for growth in this segment if the company is to prosper. Sell side firm Wedbush has also raised its concerns in this area, as it believes that the company is not well poised to attract viewers outside the US.

TCC renders the upcoming earnings as a defining moment for investors as a lot about the $59 billion company’s current position is dependent on the numbers. Optimism can be seen on the expected numbers as shares of the company have registered an all-time high of $135 in the pre-market as at 4:02 AM EDT. Considering the reaction in last earnings, it is quite likely that we may witness a hyper increase in share prices, if the company is able to lure investors through numbers.

Apple is tipped to introduce huge changes in its next-gen iPhone models

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) might have recently announced its latest and greatest iPhone models but that has not slowed down rumors regarding the upcoming iPhone 8. Interestingly, the $581.6 billion company is expected to introduce revolutionary changes in its yet-to-be-released smartphone to commemorate the 10th anniversary of its first-generation iPhone.

If you don’t know already, the current-generation iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are selling like hot cakes, especially the newly-introduced jet Black version of the device. However, there are numerous users who are unsure between purchasing the new iPhone 7 or wait for next year’s model. In order to help you make the right choice, here is a quick review of the current-generation iPhone with its upgraded successor.  

Design

Here is where the next-generation iPhone will really stand out against its competition. If earlier reports are to believed, Apple is currently developing a bezel-less “all-glass” design for its upcoming iPhone 8. Interestingly, an all-glass display will mean that Apple is going to incorporate the home button of its upcoming iPhone model within the touch screen of the device. The ever-reliable Ming-Chi Kuo has also reaffirmed that the upcoming iPhone could sport a bezel-less design. It seems an exciting times lies ahead!

Display

Apple has made it a habit to incorporate an IPS LCD display in its leading devices, including the current iPhone models, but that could all change with the release of the upcoming iPhone 8. The Cupertino-based company has already implemented an OLED Touch Bar in its new MacBook Pro models, which suggests that Apple is finally ready to move on from its LCD display days. It’s no secret that OLED technology produces sharper and more vivid colors compared to LCD displays, so such a change would represent a huge step-up from Apple’s end.

Camera

The current-generation iPhone models sport some of the best-performing cameras in the market. The dual-camera lens in the larger iPhone 7 Plus is capable of rivaling budget DSLR cameras. Hence, it is quite improbable that the company would bother revamping the camera in its upcoming iPhone 8. However, Apple would want to bring slight improvement to the camera performance in its next-generation iPhone models.

Unfortunately, Apple’s secrecy regarding its upcoming projects has made it a challenging task to speculate about the upcoming iPhone 8. However, users can be rest assured with the fact that the upcoming iPhone 8 will be more different (in a good way) from its predecessors. Stay tuned for more news and updates regarding the next-generation iPhones.

Stifel reduced price target to reflect implied delays in the de-risking event, as well as increased R&D expenditure for upsized trials

Stifel analyst Thomas Shrader evaluated Esperion Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:ESPR) post 035 study data release conducted for testing ETC-1002 in low dose statins. In its updated thesis, the research firm stated that the data announced could provide case for both bulls and bears, leaving them happy.

The shares traded in green on Thursday, October 13, rising about 5.6% during the active trading session. Mr. Thomas Shrader maintained his Buy rating but he used the updated data as an opportunity to lower price target by 53.13% from $64 to $30.

According to Thomas, the data was overall positive. The results indicated 22% reduction in LDL-C relative to placebo along with a benign safety profile. However, the results also indicated a downside, whereby unexpected 9% increase was included in 22% of the placebo group. 

Also, the firm noted that the timeline that would serve as a major de-risking event in the stock has been pushed out. The analyst further stated that in either cases, whether the investors hate the stock due to its complexity or love the stock for having a reasonable chance in the huge market, the results released on Thursday would not change their minds.

The analyst further commented that the above mentioned reduction in price target was undertaken to reflect implied delays in the news as well as increased R&D expenditure for covering upsized trials. Also, PCSK9 CVOT readouts could serve as the next major catalyst for the $280.19 million business over the period of next six months.

The Street analysts have affirmed the stock at $22.85, reflecting its upside potential of 75.63% over the last close. Also, the 10 analysts covering the stock at the Street have given four Buy, five Hold, and one Sell ratings for Esperion.

Comments follow recent gains in the stock that were tied in part to news that FTC Chair and critic Edith Ramirez will step down next month

Pivotal Research remained convinced with a Buy rating and $90 price target on Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) soon after the news of FTC chairperson and critic Edith Ramirez’s departure came. Following the news, HLF shares gained heavily on Friday trading session to close at $52. Pivotal Research’s price target implies to a 73.07% upside potential over the latest closing price.

Herbalife shareholders see the departure of Ms. Ramirez’s from the FTC panel as positive. Ms. Ramirez had strong opposition against businesses that adopt multi-level marketing. “With the departure of Chair Ramirez, the FTC will have three empty seats which means the Trump administration and its appointees will clearly influence the future course of the FTC for many years,” said Timothy Ramey of Pivotal Research.  

The analyst believes Trump administration would be less activist and more business-friendly than it was during Obama’s presidency. He says so on the basis of strong relations between Mr. Trump and Carl Icahn, largest shareholder of HLF.

Moreover, with the strengthening US dollar since the election, Mr. Ramey feels compelled to reduce EPS estimates by 35 cents in 2017. However he believes organic growth is more than anticipated on constant currency and powerful unit growth. According to him, HLF business has a solid tone, while powerful drivers like share repurchase lie ahead.

Pivotal Research’s baseline assumption suggests 5% to 7% organic growth over the upcoming three years. However, Mr. Ramey noted that Herbalife’s balance sheet continues to remain strong.  

The Cayman Islands based nutrition provider has a total market capitalization of $5.15 billion. The HLF stock has 18.71 price to earnings ratio and a 52 week high-low range of $72.22 – $42.26.

The new service platform will combine depository accounts with investment accounts for better synergic solution

Barclays PLC (ADR) (NYSE:BCS) looks to combine its banking and investment services with its brokerage platform called Barclays Stock Brokers, according to Financial Times. It will combine with Barclays Direct Investing, which will launch in 2017, as Barclays looks to provide one platform solution for all kinds of investments.

Barclay’s competitor, Hargreaves Lansdown, has similar platform for its clients. Barclays states that it looks to address the advice gap that exists in the financial services industry. The aim of the platform is to help the less experienced investors. Therefore, it includes the investment tools with better usability and understandably.

The new platform will be open for all retail banking customers with savings and current accounts. The investment accounts will also be included which would make it easier for clients to transfer money from their depository accounts to investing accounts. Such platforms are usually provided in wealth management as clients have larger accounts comparatively. Therefore, this kind of platform is novel to the banking and investment services.

The stockbroker operations have been running for three decades, which will end with the introduction of Direct Investing. According to the sources, the supporting staff of stockbrokers will continue to work at the new platform except a few to be deployed within the bank.

The managing director at Direct Services, Rupert Dickinson, said, “You’ll struggle to find any other player in the marketplace that provides a full investment offering fully integrated with banking. This is an investment proposition that everyone will be able to access, even non-banking customers.”

Barclays will be able to target a broader range of clients through its new service platform, which will open trading and investing for self-directed investors. Trading revenues have been low lately due to volatile markets, particularly for the retail clients. This one of a kind service platform can provide solutions for such clients.

UBS has updated its thesis and estimates on Chesapeake, after the company’s second quarter earnings release last week

UBS analyst William Featherston raised his price target on Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) from $4 to $4.25 today, a week after the company released its second quarter of fiscal year 2016 earnings. The analyst’s raised price target still reflects 11.46% downside potential for the shares based on their last close.

For the second quarter, Chesapeake posted $1.6 billion in sales, missing the consensus of $2 billion and reflecting 46.67% year-on-year decline in revenue. For its bottom line, the company posted a loss of 14 cents per share, missing the 11-cent per share loss the Street had forecasted.

The analyst pointed out that the company raised its production guidance for 2016 from 625-650 Million Barrels of Oil Equivalents per Day (MBOED) to 611-638 MBOED. Chesapeake also issued a 532-562 MBOED production volume guidance for the beginning of 2017.

Mr. Featherston pointed out that the $3.88 billion company “agreed to convey its Barnet assets to First Reserve-backed Saddle Barnet Resources.” He further added that Chesapeake had also consented to halt its existing gathering deal with Williams Partners, and had also forecasted a shortfall in minimum volume commitment (MVC) payments. The company is also going to pay $66 million to Williams Partners to lower its “Mid-Continent cost-of-service gas gathering agreement to a fixed-fee arrangement, expected to reduce its Mid-Continent gas gathering cost by 36% starting 3Q16.” In all, the company owes $400 million to Williams Partners; in order to fund it, Chesapeake has sold “a long-term gas supply agreement with $4/MMBTU floor pricing for $146 million.” The analyst believes these agreements bring $500 million of NAV at a cost of $400 million, raising the company’s NAV by approximately $20 per share.

As per the data on FactSet Fundamentals, the Street has a predominantly Neutral stance on Chesapeake shares. Of the 34 analysts covering the stock, four maintain a Buy, one has an Overweight rating, 18 have a Hold, two analysts maintain an Underweight, while the remaining nine hold a Sell rating on the stock. The consensus also holds a mean 12-month price target of $4.90, reflecting 2.08% upside potential over the last close.