The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Boston Scientific, Abbott Laboratories, Cyberonics, Given Imaging and Aflac

  The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Boston Scientific, Abbott Laboratories,
                     Cyberonics, Given Imaging and Aflac

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, March 14, 2013

CHICAGO, March 14, 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 Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX),
Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), Cyberonics Inc. (Nasdaq:CYBX), Given Imaging.
(Nasdaq:GIVN) and Aflac Inc. (NYSE:AFL).

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101027/ZIRLOGO)

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Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

BSX Stent Tops Abbott's

Boston Scientific's (NYSE:BSX) recently released endpoint data of a clinical
trial showed the impressive results of the company's Promus Element
Everolimus-Eluting Platinum Chromium (PtCr) Coronary Stent System over its
major peer Abbott Laboratories' (NYSE:ABT) Cobalt Chromium (CoCr) Xience V
Everolimus-Eluting Coronary Stent System.

This was a huge achievement for BSX. The data, which was tracked for a period
of three years, was presented in the American College of Cardiology in San
Francisco. The report reflects the efficiency of Promus Element over Abbott's
Xience V over that period of time.

The 3-year trial reported a 3.5% target lesion revascularization (TLR) rate
for the Promus Element Stent, compared to 4.9% for the Xience V Stent.
Moreover, keeping at par with the company's earlier data, the trial result
portrayed that unplanned stenting has been significantly reduced with Promus
Element compared to Xience V including a significantly lower rate of
inadequate lesion coverage.A separate data showed improved blood flow through
Promus Element as it has less vessel straightening characteristics compared to
Xience V.

The drug-eluting stent business in the U.S. continues to witness challenges of
pricing pressure, lower procedural volume and lower penetration rates. Global
sales of the coronary stent system (within Interventional Cardiology) declined
12.6% to $333 million. The downside was due to disappointing performances of
the drug-eluting stents that declined 12.4% to $312 million and the bare-metal
stents that plunged 16% to $21 million.

However, Boston Scientific is resorting to all available means to return to
growth. The company has a strong pipeline of products under development, the
launch of which should drive the top line. Last month, BSX received CE Mark
approval for the Promus PREMIER Everolimus-Eluting Platinum Chromium Coronary
Stent System. Subsequent to the approval, the company has been working on the
European market launch of this next-generation durable polymer drug-eluting
stent.

We also note that Boston Scientific is striving to penetrate the emerging
markets, including India, Brazil and China, with its Element platform. The
company expects this to continue to accelerate growth through the end of the
current fiscal. We expect these factors to benefit the company over the long
term. With approximately 4 million people across the world suffering from
cardiovascular disease and being treated with stents, Boston Scientific is
optimistic about delivering better numbers in the upcoming quarters.

Boston Scientific now carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other medical device
stocks worth a look are Cyberonics Inc. (Nasdaq:CYBX) and Given Imaging.
(Nasdaq:GIVN). Both the stocks carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Aflac Downgraded to Strong Sell

On Mar 12, the Zacks Investment Research downgraded Aflac Inc. (NYSE:AFL) to a
Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell).

Why the downgrade?
Aflac has witnessed sharp downward estimate revisions after reporting
disappointing fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 results. Shares of this life
and health insurer are likely to continue fluctuating given the absence of any
major growth catalyst in the near future.

On Feb 5, Aflac reported fourth-quarter 2012 operating earnings per share of
$1.48, which came in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate and were slightly
ahead of $1.45 recorded in the year-ago quarter.

However, total revenue of $6.38 billion fell short of the Zacks Consensus
Estimate of $6.61 billion, although it rose 6.6% from the prior-year period.
An unfavorable dollar/yen exchange rate and the low-rate environment marred
most of the upside.

Alongside, higher operating expenses and strong sales of low-margin general
health products in Japan have moderated the improvement in benefit ratio,
which adversely affects the margins.

Further, Aflac's indulgence in de-risking activities has shifted its portfolio
toward investments with less risk and lower yields, which will further lessen
investment income. Management's guidance also reflects difficult comps and
continuation of the sluggish growth period in 2013.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 decreased 6.0% to $6.39 per share over
the last 60 days, with all 14 estimates being revised downward. For 2014, 7 of
17 estimates were revised downward, over the last 60 days, sinking the Zacks
Consensus Estimate by 4.8% to $6.91 per share. No upward revisions have been
witnessed for both the years.

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