UBS Makes Big Changes to Equity Focus List For March

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The higher the markets go, the more the major Wall Street firms are becoming content to really start taking some profits off the table and shifting allocations to stocks that hold a better valuation proposition for their clients. A new report from UBS shows some serious changes made to the firm’s Equity Focus list for March.

The UBS team makes one of the largest changes in recent memory. Eight stocks in all are part of the movement, and some long-time members of the list are removed. The analysts are eliminating Celanese Corp. (NYSE: CE), Express Scripts Holding Co. (NASDAQ: ESRX), Marriott International Inc. (NYSE: MAR) and Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX). The firm remains bullish on the stocks, as all four remain rated Outperform. The removals are mostly related to valuation and sector weighting.

The four new stocks added to the UBS list are Actavis PLC (NYSE: ACT), Delphi Automotive PLC (NYSE: DLPH), Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW) and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HLT).

Actavis

Actavis is a member of the UBS quality growth at a reasonable price (Q-GARP) list, and now makes the jump to the firm’s Equity Focus list. The company is a top generic-drug maker and continues to see unprecedented growth. The projected earnings growth from 2014 to 2016 is posted at 18.7%. Some Wall Street analysts feel that this Irish-domiciled company could have earnings per share as high as $20 by 2017.

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A key element to Actavis’ growth has been the so-called patent cliff, a period when many of the world’s best-selling drugs are losing patent protection. In fact, Actavis has specifically mentioned in the past the new generic introduction of drugs such as Suboxone, Lidoderm and Concerta as growth drivers.

The UBS price target for the stock is $333. The Thomson/First Call consensus price target is lower at $313.11. Shares closed Tuesday at $296.23.

Delphi Automotive

This leader in the automotive parts arena also is added to the Equity Focus list. The company added a separate production line last fall to expedite the supply of replacement parts for the huge GM recalls. The UBS team believes the current strong automobile cycle has further upside, especially in Europe, where Delphi has substantial exposure. They also expect the company to benefit from growth in China and from secular shifts in the industry.

Delphi investors are paid a 1.25% dividend. While the UBS price target is $90, the consensus estimate is $88. The stock was changing hands at $80.02 on Tuesday’s close.

Dow Chemical

Over the past six months, Dow Chemical has reported strong results on thicker plastics margins and higher agricultural sales. The UBS team thinks that the price of oil will stabilize, which should help chemical pricing over the next year.

UBS analysts also point to the involvement of hedge fund activist investor Dan Loeb of Third Point as helping to keep a floor under the stock. The company also continues to benefit from low domestic natural gas prices, relative to overseas competitors that are forced to use more expensive oil as a feedstock.

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Dow investors are paid a very solid 3.45% dividend. The UBS price objective is $60. The consensus price target for the chemical giant is $51.50. The stock closed Tuesday at $49.25 a share.

Hilton Worldwide

This is another stock on the Q-GARP list that made the jump to the Equity Focus list. The company is expected to have 2014 to 2016 earnings growth of a very solid 21.5%, and it is the world’s largest hotel operator.

Hilton recently announced plans to buy San Francisco’s Parc 55 and four other properties for $1.76 billion to help defer capital gains taxes from its sale of New York’s Waldorf Astoria. In addition to the Parc 55 purchase, the company is buying two hotels in Orlando and two in Key West that are already managed by Hilton. The sellers in the transaction include Hilton’s majority owner, Blackstone Group.

The UBS price target for the stock is $33, and the consensus estimate is at $31.52. Shares ended the day Tuesday at $29.27.

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UBS is basically rotating to stocks that have better upside potential. After a long rally, this is a very solid path for the company to take for clients. The overall equity outlook is bullish, but the markets need a breather, and taking some profits and moving to better valuations is never a bad plan.