International Briefs...

12/09/2005 12:00 am EST


Here, we offer a variety of international ideas. Ken Kam finds value in a London pharmaceutical firm. Paul Tracy "banks" on Australia.  Stephen Biggar upgrades a global mining firm. And Nikhil Hutheesing sees a wireless opportunity in China. Here are their reviews.

Kam, Ken"Based in London, AstraZeneca (AZN NYSE) is a large pharmaceutical company. It products include controversial cholesterol drug Crestor, gastrointestinal therapy Nexium, and several other drugs that are growing more than 30% on a year-over-year basis. AZN trades at 14 times next year's earnings and has a 2.1% yield. The company surpassed earnings estimates in the most recent quarter. The Best Investors-among the more than 60,000 stock pickers we monitor- have been aggressively buying AZN over the past several months, increasing their holdings by 213%. That activity has placed AstraZeneca in the top 9% of 'The Best Portfolios'."

Tracy, Paul"National Australia Bank (NAB NYSE), Australia's biggest bank, posted net income growth of 30% during its 2005 fiscal year ended September 2006," notes Paul Tracy in StreetAuthority Market Advisor. "Gains on the sale earlier this year of two subsidiary banks helped boost the bottom line. The results bode well for the bank's turnaround efforts after a foreign-exchange trading scandal last year. As part of its three-year recovery effort, the bank has vowed to control costs and plans to cut 4,660 jobs worldwide over the next two years. The shares, which plummeted to $90 in the summer of 2004, have since gained 35% on the company's bullish outlook. The bank still has work to do in its recovery program, but the shares are rapidly rising and medium-risk investors may want to capture the 5.1% yield while they still can."

Biggar, Stephen"We recently upgraded Toronto-based Barrick Gold (ABX NYSE), a major global gold producer,  to buy from hold," says Stephen Biggar, in Standard & Poor's The Outlook. "The company has operating and development properties in the US, Canada, Australia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Tanzania. We project gold production of 5.6 million ounces for Barrick in 2006 vs. an estimated 5.5 million ounces for 2005. This stock was upgraded because our expectations for per-share earnings growth have risen, and we believe the company's costs will go down. In our opinion, production from new lower-cost mines will offset rising costs at older facilities. Barrick Gold recently announced plans to acquire Placer Dome, another global producer. We think the proposed deal would help lower Barrick's operating costs and give Barrick some exposure to copper. Our 12-month target is $32."

Hutheesing, Nikhil"Tom Online (TOMO NASDAQ) says that during its third quarter, the company achieved record levels of revenues and profits and continued to extend its business in China's wireless Internet marketplace," notes Nikhil Hutheesing, editor of the Forbes Wireless Stock Watch. "The company's revenues were $45.94 million, an increase of 46.3% from the same period last year and up 7.4% from last quarter. Wireless Internet service revenues were $ 43.16 million, representing a 52.7% increase over the same period last year and a 6.1% increase over the previous quarter. Net income was $12.88 million, an increase of 76.9% from the same period last year and up 25.8% from the last quarter. The stock remains a buy in our model portfolio."

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