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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Verizon Communications, CBS, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and UnitedHealth Group

CHICAGO, June 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS), AT&T, Inc. (NYSE:T), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) and UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH).

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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Verizon Extends Ties with NFL

Leading telecom carrier, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) has extended its multi-year agreement with National Football League (NFL) for content delivery. The renewed agreement is expected to extend the partnership between the two entities to include live afternoon coverage of games aired by CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS) and Fox on Sunday and as well as off-season games.

Customers subscribing for Verizon's video and broadband offerings would also be able to access NFL programs on their PCs, televisions and laptops. Additionally, customers of both Verizon's FiOS Internet Service and Verizon Online's DSL service would get access to NFL Network programming including weekly previews, game highlights and post-season programming and links to an NFL.com fantasy football game.

We believe Verizon's expansion of the existing partnerships and winning new ones are supported by its strong foothold in the wireless business.  The company continues to capture additional market share via robust deployment of the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network.

This leads to improved operating and capital efficiency. The company is leading the industry in terms of 4G deployment. As of Apr 18, 2013, it covered 491 markets and more than 287 million people (nearly 95% of the total 3G network).

Verizon expects to convert the entire nationwide 3G footprint to 4G by the year-end. We also appreciate the various strategic initiatives that the company has taken over the last two years.

The company's new data plan — Share Everything — has almost 30% of its post-paid account base and is expected to generate high revenues over the long term. The company is also contemplating the buyout of the remaining 45% stake of Verizon Wireless, currently controlled by Vodafone Group Plc.

Additionally, Verizon is seeking new ways such as new pricing actions, FiOS Quantum, copper-to-fiber migration and cost-cutting measures to drive FiOS revenue growth and maximize profitability. The new FiOS pricing plans (set-top boxes and planned bundled changes) would accelerate consumer revenue growth for the next several quarters.

Verizon also collaborated with Starz – a top-notch global media and entertainment company – to launch STARZ PLAY and ENCORE PLAY for its customers. Overall, we believe that these combined efforts would lead to improved revenues, high operating margins and greater market share.

Verizon that operates with other players like AT&T, Inc. (NYSE:T) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) currently retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

UnitedHealth Boosts Investor Value

 

U.S. health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) announced that its board of directors has authorized a substantial hike of 32% in its quarterly dividend to 28 cents per share.

 

The increased dividend will be paid on Jun 26, 2013, to the shareholders of record on Jun 17. 

 

The dividend hike is supported by UnitedHealth's strong balance sheet with a moderate leverage and its ability to generate significant cash flow. The recent quarter saw a cash flow of $1.6 billion.

 

UnitedHealth has been regular at paying dividend and has been doing so for the past several years. The company's dividend yield stands at 1.4% which is substantially higher than the industry average yield of 0.88%. 

 

Previously, in Jun last year, UnitedHealth announced a substantial hike of 30% in its quarterly dividend to 21.25 cents per share.

 

UnitedHealth has always been in favor of share buybacks and mergers as a way to deploy capital. Therefore, the company's board has also approved the repurchase of 110 million shares, which is about 10% of UnitedHealth's outstanding shares.

 

UnitedHealth has replaced its current share repurchase authorization. At the end of May 2013, there were 63 million shares remaining under the previous authorization plan.

 

The huge investments made by the company, over the past couple of years, will incrementally benefit earnings going forward. These investments have been made in higher margin service segments, which have the potential of driving above-average long-term earnings growth.

 

 

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Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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