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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Sanderson Farms, Omega Protein Foods and Wendy's

CHICAGO, Dec. 31, 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 the Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE:TSN-Free Report), Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (Nasdaq:PPC-Free Report), Sanderson Farms Inc. (Nasdaq:SAFM-Free Report), Omega Protein Foods (NYSE:OME-Free Report) and Wendy's Co. (Nasdaq:WEN-Free Report).

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Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

China Accepts WTO Ruling

China is geared to re-examine anti-dumping duties on chicken imported from the U.S. The Chinese government reached this decision after the World Trade Organization's (WTO) unfavorable ruling against the country anti-dumping duties.

China's Ministry of Commerce initiated anti-dumping and countervailing investigations of imports of "broiler products" from the U.S. on Sep 27, 2009.  Broiler products include most chicken products, with the exception of live chickens and chicken products such as cooked and canned chicken.

Although the U.S. offered to settle the disputes through consultations, the parties failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion. The U.S. appealed to the WTO for redressing China's violation of numerous procedural and substantive obligations under the WTO's Anti-Dumping Agreement and Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.

In Oct 2013, the WTO concluded that China had unfairly imposed tariffs on chicken imported from the U.S. Disputes between China and the U.S. over trade and the U.S. decision to levy tariffs on several Chinese products impelled China to turn against U.S. imports.

The decision has raised the hopes of U.S. meat processors like Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE:TSN-Free Report), Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (Nasdaq:PPC-Free Report), Sanderson Farms Inc. (Nasdaq:SAFM-Free Report), Omega Protein Foods (NYSE:OME-Free Report) and Cargill Inc. regarding increasing exports of meat products to China. According to the Wall Street Journal, Tyson has recently invested heavily to build its own farms in China. The farms, scheduled to become operational in 2014, will strengthen the company's position in the booming meat processing market.

Moreover, the outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) in the country has prompted people to refrain from buying local chicken products. This has opened up new opportunities for Tyson to increase export to China.

In Sep 2013, Cargill Inc. built a world-class integrated poultry operation in Lai'an Anhui, China. The project is part of the company's continuous efforts to bolster its presence in China's growing market and support the modernization of agriculture and food safety in China.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has decided to look into the evidence and information obtained in the original anti-dumping and countervailing investigations. Further, it will carry out reinvestigations through questionnaires, hearings and other measures.

U.S. chicken exports to China have plunged 80% after China imposed high anti-dumping duties.

Wendy's Divests More Units

The Wendy's Co. (Nasdaq:WEN-Free Report) recently completed the divestiture of 30 units in Austin, Texas to HAZA Foods, LLC. The company shares a longstanding relationship with HAZA Foods, which currently franchises 34 Wendy's outlets in the Texas market of which 31 are located in the greater Houston area.

In another agreement, the company completed the sale of its 19 restaurants in Sacramento, Calif. to Desmond Foods, L.P. The company's association with Desmond Foods dates back to more than two decades. The franchisee currently manages 24 Wendy's units in the state of California with 17 units located in Fresno.

The terms of neither of the deals were disclosed. HAZA Foods and Desmond Foods' adequate local market knowledge and strong financial position make them a perfect fit for franchising in Austin and Sacramento, respectively.

These divestments were in line with Wendy's' System Optimization Initiative started in July to modify its restaurant portfolio. As part of its brand revitalization initiative, the company seeks to franchise about 425 company-operated restaurants in 13 U.S. markets, of which 282 units have already been divested. The company is mainly concentrating on divesting its units located in the West. This entire process is expected to complete by the end of second-quarter 2014.

Apart from divesting restaurants, the company also plans to renovate some of its existing units based on the Image Activation format. Operators with a proven track record and conforming to the company's reimaging program are being chosen for this transition.

The company has also been closing its underperforming restaurants to gain operational efficiency. These moves will help the company to streamline its operations while boosting its operating margin and generate more free cash flow. Moreover, this will help the company to grow through franchising, thus driving earnings and top-line expansion in the form of royalty and rental income.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit http://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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