Business Outlook Just Got Better at HD, STM, RALY

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While concerns regarding an abrupt halt to quantitative easing are running high, corporate results continue to paint an upbeat picture of ground reality. The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD), STMicroelectronics N.V. (ADR) (NYSE:STM) (EPA:STM) (BIT:STM) and Rally Software Development Corp (NYSE:RALY) are some such companies where business prospects have started looking much better now. Here is a closer look:

Business Outlook Just Got Better at HD, STM, RALY

The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) shattered analysts expectations by posting a higher than expected 18.5 percent growth in profits to $1.2 billion for the first quarter. Revenue growth was solid at 7.4 percent as more people turned to the home improvement retailer following continued recovery in the US housing market. The company not only saw margin improvements during the quarter, but also upped its full year sales guidance to project 2.8 percent sales growth.

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However, the biggest positive was the bottom-line enhancement which is projected at 17 percent growth on a per share basis. In addition to growth in profits, this will be made possible by share repurchases amounting to $4.4 billion over the remaining months of the year. The stock has advanced in a liner fashion over the last 12 months and there are good reasons this trajectory will likely remain the same over the next several quarters. Following quarterly results announcement, brokerages have increased their target prices on the stock beyond $85.

Phoenix rises from ashes

Semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics N.V. (ADR) (NYSE:STM) (EPA:STM) (BIT:STM) took a severe beating during 2011 after it became clear that Nokia – its biggest customer – had missed the smartphone rally and was faced with deep financial issues. STMicroelectronics itself saw a sharp reduction in revenues in 2011 and 2012 which has resulted in the company swinging to losses now. For the full year 2012, it booked a loss of $1.16 billion on sales of $8.5 billion.

However, the situation seems to have stabilized now with a visible traction in order books. STMicroelectronics shares surged after chief executive Carlo Bozotti said the company expects order growth of 5 percent to 10 percent for the current year. This builds on the 5 percent growth seen in the latest quarter. Full year revenues are expected to be around $9 billion, not a great jump from last year’s $8.5 billion but the resulting effect on margins can send the shares high. At current prices, the stock trades at forward price earnings ratio of 13.2 while price by sales ratio of 1.01 indicates the stock has more room for growth.

Agility can take Rally Software (RALY) higher

Colorado based Rally Software Development Corp (NYSE:RALY) offers cloud computing solutions for managing Agile software development. Introduced in 2001, Agile is hardly a new technology; however it is now that this market is exploding. The Standish Group estimates that Agile techniques were used for 29 percent of new software development projects in 2011. The company, recording all of its revenues from solutions built around Agile, had a fairly successful listing through an initial public offer (IPO) in April.

As on January 31, 2013, Rally Software Development Corp (NYSE:RALY) had 168,562 paid users and more than 1,000 customers, including 34 of the Fortune 100 companies. While this gives a rough idea about the company’s business clientele, fundamental numbers are not bad either. During the last four years, its annual revenues have grown from $18.4 million to $56.9 million. Bottom-line has not kept with swelling revenues, but it is not prudent to expect profits during the growth phase when the company is ramping up operations. While booming revenues will eventually pull the company out of the red, Raly is also working on an add-on product called Rally Portfolio Manager which increases its addressable market.

Overall, these companies are good examples of further improvements in business operations. While The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) would be a safe bet, STMicroelectronics N.V. (ADR) (NYSE:STM) (EPA:STM) (BIT:STM) and Rally Software Development Corp (NYSE:RALY) also have potential to surprise on the higher side.

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