Robert Hanley

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  • Should You Follow the Big Money Into the Web Analytics Biz?

    By Robert Hanley - July 18, 2013 | Tickers: CPWR, IBM, KEYN

    As businesses, both large and small, move their operations online, they are looking to software companies for the ability to track user experiences and gain an advantage over the competition. Specialists like Keynote Systems (NASDAQ: KEYN) and Compuware’s (NASDAQ: CPWR) Gomez unit have built their businesses around ensuring that companies’ websites are delivering value at a continuously high performance level.  As growth rates in the sector decline, private equity more »

  • Should You Follow China Into the Meat Processing Biz?

    By Robert Hanley - July 16, 2013

    In May 2013, Chinese meat processor Shuanghui International offered to acquire U.S. pork processing giant Smithfield Foods (NYSE: SFD) for $34 per share in cash or roughly $4.7 billion.  While the deal has led to Congressional hearings and a mandatory CFIUS review, Congress didn’t have a problem with Brazilian meat processor JBS’ acquisition of a majority stake in U.S. chicken processing giant Pilgrim’s Pride (NASDAQ: PPCmore »)

  • Can Fish Oil Help This Drug Giant Regain its Mojo?

    By Robert Hanley - July 15, 2013 | Tickers: ACT, AZN, OMTH

    AstraZeneca’s (NYSE: AZN) financial results have been on a downward spiral lately, as patent expirations have led to sharp declines in sales of its leading drugs.  In 2012, the company lost $4.5 billion of sales due to exclusivity expirations in various regions, a portion of which was attributable to its top-selling Crestor cholesterol drug.  In response, management went outside the company to try to protect its cardiovascular franchise more »

  • Can You Find Profits at the Local Cemetery?

    By Robert Hanley - July 12, 2013 | Tickers: CSV, SCI, STEI

    While most people probably don’t want to spend too much time at a cemetery, at least until their number is called, there are profit opportunities at the nation’s resting places. Municipalities own most local cemeteries, but national death services companies have also made this segment a core part of their business.  The death services sector also enjoys steady, low growth economic characteristics, with the U.S. Census Bureau more »

  • Finding Opportunity in the Milk Trade

    By Robert Hanley - July 11, 2013 | Tickers: DF, LWAY, WWAV

    Despite milk’s omni-presence in the majority of Americans' refrigerators, the industry has been a tough place to do business with volatile commodity prices and low margins due to food retailers’ negotiating power.  According to the USDA, per capita consumption of milk products continued to fall in 2012, although the organic and premium dairy segments enjoyed volume growth.  The creamer category also enjoyed a pickup in sales, as caffeine-addicted consumers more »

  • Is This Telecom Services Contractor Worth More Than You Think?

    By Robert Hanley - July 10, 2013 | Tickers: DTV, DISH, MBND | Editor's Choice

    Telecom services contractor Multiband (NASDAQ: MBND) agreed to sell out to privately-held Goodman Networks in May 2013 for roughly $70 million, or $3.25 per share in cash.  Goodman, an engineering services company, seems to have been attracted to Multiband’s growing engineering services unit that constructs public telecom and energy infrastructure assets on a project basis.  However, Multiband is also the #2 field services provider for DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTVmore »)

  • Does This Retail Icon Have a Bullseye on Its Back?

    By Robert Hanley - July 8, 2013 | Tickers: KSS, M, SKS

    Saks’ (NYSE: SKS) share price jumped sharply in May 2013, based on speculation about possible merger and acquisition moves by strategic buyers.  The upscale retailer competes directly in the luxury category with privately-held Neiman Marcus Group, which was itself acquired in a leveraged buyout for roughly $5.1 billion in 2005.  While Neiman Marcus seems to have little interest in a tie-up, with a future initial public offering in the more »

  • Should You Follow This Title Insurer Into Mortgage Processing?

    By Robert Hanley - July 8, 2013 | Tickers: ELLI, FNF, LPS

    Fidelity National Financial (NYSE: FNF), the country’s largest title insurer, split up its empire last decade in a bid to simplify operations and increase shareholder value.  The spinoff unit, payments technology provider Fidelity National Information Services, subsequently completed its own spinoff in 2008, floating its mortgage processing and technology subsidiary Lender Processing Services (NYSE: LPS), based on the same shareholder value rationale. However, with yields on its fixed income more »

  • Can You Find Value in the Teen Retailers?

    By Robert Hanley - July 8, 2013 | Tickers: ARO, PSUN, RUE

    Large institutional investors have been circling the teen retail sector in 2013 looking for value from retail chains with solid finances and national footprints. While teens’ fashion choices change as frequently as the weather, the teen cohort as a group has meaningful disposable income and the proclivity to spend rather than to save money.  In March, retail-focused investment firm Sycamore Partners agreed to buy teen retailer Hot Topic for roughly more »

  • Should You Invest in the Investment Bank Survivors?

    By Robert Hanley - July 2, 2013 | Tickers: SCHW, GS, MS | Editor's Choice

    The financial crisis irrevocably changed the investment banking landscape, leading to the demise of Lehman Brothers and the acquisition of Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch by commercial banks. The two major survivors, Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), were able to maintain their independence thanks to federal liquidity programs and timely conversions to bank holding companies in 2008. However, the devil is in the details, as the more »

  • Is There Investment Opportunity in the Prison Sector?

    By Robert Hanley - July 2, 2013 | Tickers: MMM, CXW, GEO

    While death and taxes are the only guarantees in life, it’s a good bet that crime will always be a fact of life, even if it doesn’t pay. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of sentenced offenders per 100,000 residents was 492 in 2011, versus 500 in 2010. The constant stream of prisoners has led to overcrowding, with the federal government and 24 more »

  • Is It Time to Place Bets on the Gambling Supply Chain?

    By Robert Hanley - June 28, 2013 | Tickers: BYI, MGAM, SHFL

    Four years into the economic recovery, Las Vegas and its casino operators continue to deal with the effects of their pre-crisis, excessive building activities, as well as a slower stream of travelers into Sin City.  In contrast, the global gambling business seems to be on a more solid growth path, as international locations like Macau and Singapore pick up the slack.  Meanwhile, domestic areas outside Vegas have also caught the more »

  • Can You Profit From This Pharma Tie-Up

    By Robert Hanley - June 27, 2013 | Tickers: ACT, CBM, WCRX

    Niche biotech company Warner Chilcott (NASDAQ: WCRX) has been looking for an exit strategy ever since announcing strategic alternatives back in August 2012.  The company has strong product lines in women’s health and gastroenterology, but it has had trouble finding success in its quest for new blockbuster drugs.  Compounding Warner’s problems, the generic drugmakers have been nipping away at its market share in key areas, including its osteoporosis more »

  • This Niche Industry Continues to Defy Skeptics

    By Robert Hanley - June 25, 2013 | Tickers: NGVC, TFM, WFM

    According to data provider Nielson, the organic and natural food segment now accounts for roughly 13% of the grocery business’ total sales. While organic products were once considered to be a passing fad, they have entered the mainstream due to an aging population’s need for improved health through diet. In addition, a rise in childhood health problems, including food allergies, is prompting parents to rethink their children’s food more »

  • Should You Take a Ride With These Theme Parks?

    By Robert Hanley - June 22, 2013 | Tickers: FUN, SEAS, SIX

    Much like their roller coasters’ harrowing first drops, the theme park operators’ stock prices dropped sharply during the financial crisis, as high debt loads and falling attendance proved to be a bad combination.  Six Flags (NYSE: SIX) made its way to bankruptcy court in 2009, while the other major operators like Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN) and SeaWorld (NYSE: SEAS) scaled back their capital expansion plans.  However, the economic recovery has more »

  • Do Solar Stocks Deserve a Place in Your Portfolio?

    By Robert Hanley - June 20, 2013 | Tickers: FSLR, SUNE, SPWR

    While solar technology was once confined to pipe dreams and college kit car races, technological advances and government mandates have moved the solar business into the mainstream.  Consumer demand generated by healthy tax credits has allowed companies to gain manufacturing efficiencies and lower unit costs, helping to move the industry closer to parity with fossil fuels.  Even the utility sector has finally taken notice, as giants like NRG Energy, Exelon more »

  • Can Shareholders Light a Fire Under This Icon?

    By Robert Hanley - June 19, 2013 | Tickers: SNE, TWX, DIS

    Sony (NYSE: SNE) became an industry icon through a focus on high-quality, innovative products, which provided profits to build out its media empire, including leading positions in music and motion pictures. However, its electronic product portfolio has been in free fall lately, with lower sales of televisions, PCs, and cameras leading to red ink on its income statement. Of course, Sony has some valuable assets, like Sony Pictures and its more »

  • Should You Buy Into the Forex Brokerage Sector?

    By Robert Hanley - June 18, 2013 | Tickers: FXCM, GCAP, ICE

    Betting on movements in currencies has always been the domain of large, global investment banks and hedge funds.  Given enhanced leverage, currently limited to 50-1 in the U.S. for major currencies, investors have the opportunity to make fortunes as they try to mimic investor George Soros, who famously made $1 billion betting against the British pound in 1992.  Smaller investors’ rising interest in alternative asset categories, including currencies, has more »

  • Should This Company Split in Two?

    By Robert Hanley - June 13, 2013 | Tickers: BKS, MSFT, PSO

    Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) has been one of the interesting stories of 2013, as rumors abound and potential acquirers lob around indications of interest.  Estimates of the company’s value run the gamut, from virtually nothing to a sizable premium above its current valuation.  Some big name investors have their hat in the ring, including Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Pearson (NYSE: PSO), and Liberty Media.  The only certainty is that Barnes more »

  • Finding Opportunity in the Real Estate Portal Biz

    By Robert Hanley - June 11, 2013 | Tickers: LEDR, TRLA, Z

    The real estate search portal business is on fire, with rising U.S. property values fueling home buyer inquiries and greater amounts of transactions.  According to the National Association of Realtors, consumers are increasingly using the internet in their research process, with 90% of buyers performing online searches.  However, a rising percentage of the search activity is going to the mega portals, led by Zillow (NASDAQ: Z) and Trulia (NYSE: TRLAmore »)