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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Microsoft, VMware, Apple, Google and BioScrip

CHICAGO, April 11, 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 Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT), VMware (NYSE:VMW), Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL), Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) and BioScrip (Nasdaq:BIOS).

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Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

More Customers for Microsoft Cloud

The world's largest software maker Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT) announced that it won customers such as Domino's Pizza, Xerox India and Pedcor Co. for its cloud and server services, Windows Server Hyper-V.

The Windows Server Hyper-V infrastructure software equips organizations with advanced cloud-based technologies that increase the efficiency of their operations by solving complex business challenges and improving resource allocation. It also facilitates communication and collaboration among companies and reduces IT expenses of these organizations and partners across the world.

The suite won on different counts at these players. Domino's Pizza deployed Windows Server Hyper-V to manage its in-store servers, which will make Domino's Pulse point-of-sale (POS) application run smoothly. The server system was initially deployed at 750 stores with another 4,000 around the world expected to join soon. Following the installation of the system, virtualization-related desk calls have reduced 99% at Dominos.

The Xerox India Development Center ("IDC"), which supports its customers' software development activities all over the world, deployed the service to collaborate efficiently with its customers.

Further, Pedcor Co. replaced its VMware (NYSE:VMW) infrastructure with a Microsoft private cloud, built with Windows Server and System Center to improve its datacenter availability and install an efficient communication system for its employees located in 77 remote offices.

Currently, just like other PC makers, Microsoft is also battling the slump in the PC market caused by the sluggish economy. In addition, the popularity of smartphones and tablets from Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) have been cannibalizing its core PC market. However, its server and tools business remains as strong as ever, which is evident from the series of wins it has announced in the recent past.

Microsoft remains one of the best positioned software vendors, given its wide range of products, emerging markets strength, continued technology deployment at data centers and growth in cloud computing. We believe that Microsoft's current investments are supported by its strong balance sheet and expect these to drive the next growth phase, improving prospects of market share gains.

Microsoft reported revenues, excluding deferrals, of $21.46 billion in the second quarter of fiscal 2013, up 34.0% sequentially and 2.7% from last year, in line with our estimates. All except the Entertainment & Devices segment grew both sequentially and from the year-ago quarter.

Microsoft has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

BioScrip Raised to Outperform

On Apr 9, we upgraded our long-term recommendation on BioScrip (Nasdaq:BIOS) to Outperform from Neutral. The upgrade is based on the avid outlook for 2013, strong potential of its operating platforms and favorable market trends. We are optimistic that this provider of infusion, home healthcare and pharmacy benefit management (PBM) services can keep the momentum going over the long haul.

Why the Upgrade?

As reported earlier, BioScrip's revenue guidance for 2013 of $830–$865 million, reflects growth in the range of 25% to 30% and outpaced the then Zacks Consensus Estimate of $770 million. The robust expectations are based on the solid ongoing growth momentum. The company is confident about witnessing stronger business momentum going forward on the back of strategic acquisitions.

On a segment basis, BioScrip has been recording persistent growth in the Infusion Services segment over the past few quarters. Further, the company surpassed its forecast of annual revenues of $100–$105 million from the PBM franchise. BioScrip is taking several strategic initiatives to bolster its business through further market expansion.

BioScrip has significant opportunities for growth in three operating areas with several catalysts to accelerate growth in the future. Factors such as demographic tailwinds, increasing healthcare coverage in the U.S. and a fast growing PBM industry are material upsides for the company.

With respect to earnings trend, BioScrip delivered positive earnings surprise in 2 of 4 quarters in 2012 with an average beat of 100%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the first quarter 2013 is currently pegged at 3 cents.

This drug store retailer carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Our proven model does not conclusively show that BioScrip is likely to beat earnings this quarter. This is because though the stock carries Zacks Rank #3 (which increases the probability of positive earnings surprise), Earnings ESP (Read: Zacks Earnings ESP: A Better Method) is zero for the quarter.

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Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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