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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Microsoft, VIVUS, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Orexigen Therapeutics and UCB

CHICAGO, April 19, 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 Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT), VIVUS, Inc. (Nasdaq:VVUS), Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq:ARNA), Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq:OREX) and UCB (OTC:UCBJF).

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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Microsoft Posts Strong Earnings

The world's largest software company Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) reported earnings just after the bell, EPS $0.72, surpassing Zacks consensus estimate of $0.67.  Revenues came in just below Zacks estimate of $20.5 billion, at $20.49 billion.

Analysts were concerned about PC sales/demand; Q1 was the fourth consecutive quarter with Y/Y decline in PC sales, the single worse quarter in PC sales history since 1994.  In addition to PC sales, analysts were also concerned with the tepid reception of Windows 8, and weakness in emerging markets.  These issues caused a significant negative agreement amongst covering analysts, but MSFT was able to outperform their expectations.  

The earnings beat caused the stock to jump 1.77% in afterhours trading.  While MSFT beat the earnings consensus estimates, expense management was the major driver in the strong earnings numbers.  Furthermore, revenue growth remains a major concern for future quarters, as well as the disappointing Windows 8 OS.  The combination of these two factors, have analysts worried that there is no clear option as a driver of future growth over the near term.

While Microsoft has attempted to find more avenues for revenues, for example the patent licensing deal with Hon Hai (producer of 40% of the world's consumer electronics), they have not produced a strong game changing product for an elongated period of time.  More significantly, MSFT emergence in the mobile device remains a weakness for the company.

On a positive note, Microsoft continues to reduce costs, and sees decent sales of their Windows 7 and 8 operating systems.   

Expanded Access for VVUS' Qsymia

VIVUS, Inc. (Nasdaq:VVUS) recently announced that the amendment and modification to the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) of its obesity drug, Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate extended-release) has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

As per the modification to the REMS, Qsymia can now be distributed through certified retail pharmacies apart from the existing certified mail-order pharmacy network. VIVUS had launched Qsymia through some of the leading home delivery networks. We believe the approval of the amended REMS will increase access to Qsymia and thus boost sales.

We remind investors that Qsymia, VIVUS' sole marketed product, was launched in Sep 2012. The FDA cleared Qsymia in Jul 2012 as an adjunct to a healthy diet (low on calories) and increased physical activity for chronic weight management in obese (Body Mass Index, or BMI - 30 or more) or overweight (BMI - 27 or more) adults suffering from at least one weight-related co-morbid condition.

Qsymia revenues in the fourth quarter of 2012 were only $2 million. The uptake has been slow due to the high out-of-pocket cost burden on patients owing to a lack of reimbursement for the product. Although, the company is working on resolving the issue, we believe that it may take some time given that obesity is a new and underdeveloped market.

We remind investors that apart from Qsymia, another weight-loss drug, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq:ARNA) Belviq, also received approval in the US last year. Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq:OREX) is also developing a candidate, Contrave, targeting the lucrative obesity market.

VIVUS, a biopharmaceutical company, carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Biopharma stocks that currently look attractive include companies like UCB (OTC:UCBJF) carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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