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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Shaw Communications, Apple, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman

CHICAGO, Jan. 4, 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 Shaw Communications Inc. (NYSE:SJR), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL), The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA), Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC).

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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Shaw Communications to Outperform

We reaffirm our Outperform recommendation on Shaw Communications Inc. (NYSE:SJR), primarily based on the company's improving EBITDA margin and free cash flow due to the discontinuation of promotional activities.  The company's fourth quarter results topped the Zacks Consensus Estimates. The loss of basic video and digital TV subscribers were more than offset by huge gain of high-speed Internet and cable telephony subscribers. Management has provided a rosy financial outlook for the ensuing fiscal 2013.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012, Shaw Communications performed impressively with respect to net customer additions on several fronts. DTH customer base was 910,023, representing a quarterly net addition of 1,155 customers. Digital phone lines were 1,363,744, reflecting a year-over-year net addition of 24,185. High-speed Internet customer base stood at 1,912,230, reflecting quarterly net addition of 6,062 customers. Furthermore, Digital TV penetration rate is now 86.4% of basic cable TV.

Quarterly EBITDA increased 4% year over year. However, whenever the company tried to reduce its promotional activities it lost a large amount of pricier subscribers. On the other hand, higher promotional activities are impairing the company's bottom line and free cash flow. It seems management has finally found out an appropriate trade-off between these two situations. Management has forecasted that the company's revenue and EBITDA will further improve in fiscal 2013 whereas free cash flow will remain same with that of the previous year.

Shaw Communications has launched - "Shaw Go" - an innovative TV Everywhere service, which is available only on Apple Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL) developed iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Initially, this service will only offer the company's Movie Central applications. However, in the near future, the company will also offer streaming live TV, on-demand content and several family-focused programs through Shaw Go.

More Orders for Boeing's 737 MAX

The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) has received an order worth $6 billion at current list prices for 60 737 MAX airplanes from Aviation Capital Group ("ACG"). The order, consisting of 50 737 MAX 8s and 10 737 MAX 9s was finalized last month.

The Boeing 737 MAX – is a new family of aircraft being developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It is based on the Boeing 737 Next-Generation family and is the fourth generation of the 737 family.

The Boeing 737 MAX is an improvised version of the Next-Generation 737. It has more advanced fuel efficiency as it is equipped with new LEAP-1B engines from CFM International and improvements such as the Advanced Technology Winglet. Apart from maintaining an 8% operating cost advantage, Boeing 737 MAX's developed technology reduces fuel burn and CO2 emissions by nearly 13%. Moreover, its noise footprint is 40% smaller than other current single-aisle airplanes. The first delivery of 737 MAX is expected in 2017.

These non-comparable efficiencies have helped Boeing in creating a remarkable number of orders. With this order in hand, Boeing now has orders for 1,029 737 MAX airplanes from airlines and leasing companies worldwide. In October 2012, Boeing had also received an order worth $5 billion for 20 737 MAX 8s, 17 737 MAX 9s and 13 Next-Generation 737-900ERs.

Boeing is trying to move hand in hand with the growing number of orders. During the first quarter of 2012, production had increased from 31.5 to 35 airplanes per month. The company continues to increase the production rate to 38 airplanes per month beginning in 2013 and 42 airplanes per month beginning in 2014. In first half of 2012, the majority of orders received were for 737 MAX.

Based in Chicago, Boeing Company is a premier jet aircraft manufacturer and one of the largest defense contractors in the U.S. The company's customers include domestic and foreign airlines, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, other aerospace prime contractors, and certain U.S. government and commercial communications customers.

The Boeing Company is among the best positioned in its sector due to its balanced exposure to commercial aircraft and defense equipment. Boeing's revenue exposure is spread across more than 90 countries around the globe.

Due to the continuing recovery of the global economy, demand for Boeing's Commercial Airplanes is benefiting from a steady improvement in passenger and freight traffic. Moreover, this continuous increase in number of orders would boost the company's top and bottom lines.

However, headwinds over the global airline industry along with expected cutbacks in the U.S. defense budget are the major concerns. The company presently retains a short-term Zacks #3 Rank (Hold) that corresponds with our long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock.

The company mainly competes with Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) and Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC).

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