The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Humana, Novo Nordisk, Merck, Bristol-Myers and Sanofi

 The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Humana, Novo Nordisk, Merck, Bristol-Myers
                                  and Sanofi

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Nov. 30, 2012

CHICAGO, Nov. 30, 2012 /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 Humana Inc. (NYSE:HUM), Novo
Nordisk (NYSE:NVO), Merck (NYSE:MRK), Bristol-Myers' (NYSE:BMY) and Sanofi
(NYSE:SNY).

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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Humana Upgraded to Neutral

We have upgraded our recommendation on Humana Inc. (NYSE:HUM) to 'Neutral'
from 'Underperform' on the back enhanced membership, earnings and Medicare
coverage driven by strategic acquisitions and alliances. Improved 2012
earnings guidance also provides optimism. Strong financials and sturdy ratings
are the other positives.

Humana's third-quarter 2012 operating earnings per share outperformed the
Zacks Consensus Estimate by nearly 18%. The company expects to deliver
earnings in the range of $7.25–$7.35 per share in 2012. It raised the
expectation from $6.90–$7.10 per share guided earlier mainly due to favorable
development in the prior-year medical claims reserve and enhanced results in
the stand-alone prescription drug plan business.

Humana has maintained a strong cash and short-term investment position over
the past several years. The company has been utilizing its excess cash to
repurchase shares, pay dividends or for other corporate purposes.

Additionally, with the acquisition of Arcadian, SeniorBridge, Concentra and MD
Care, Humana has increased its focus on its core business as a health care
provider, expanded its Medicare coverage, enhanced the quality of its
healthcare services, expanded its provider network in various regions and
reduced its exposure to health care overhaul regulations. The deal to buy
Metropolitan Health, announced in November 2012, will add 35 state-of-the-art
primary care medical centers to Humana's primary care network.

Novo Reports Positive Victoza Data

Novo Nordisk (NYSE:NVO) recently announced data from the post-hoc analysis of
two phase III b studies on Victoza (liraglutide) in patients suffering from
type II diabetes. While one study evaluated patients treated with Victoza
versus those treated with Merck's (NYSE:MRK) Januvia, the other evaluated
patients on Victoza versus those on Bristol-Myers' (NYSE:BMY) Byetta.

Results from the studies showed that a higher number of patients achieved the
study target (HbA1c<7%) for the first time at each time point (12, 20 and 26
weeks of treatment) on being treated with Victoza (once daily) versus Januvia
(once daily) or Byetta (twice daily).

Novo Nordisk also reported data from another post-hoc analysis in type II
diabetes patients. The results from the analysis showed that a higher
proportion of patients on Victoza and metformin, with baseline HbA1c less than
8.0%, achieved HbA1c targets than those on Januvia and Byetta.

We note that Victoza is a once-daily human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1)
analogue approved for improving blood sugar (glucose) levels in adult type II
diabetes patients along with lifestyle management. The drug is approved and
launched in more than 50 countries including the US.

We note that the GLP-1 market is getting pretty crowded. Existing companies in
this market include Merck, Bristol-Myers andSanofi (NYSE:SNY), among others.

Our Recommendation

We are encouraged by the performance of Victoza in the US and Europe since
launch. Victoza revenues were up 74% year over year in the first nine months
of 2012.

We have an Outperform recommendation on Novo Nordisk. The stock carries a
Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy rating) in the short term.

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