The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Merck, Telefonica, BT Group, Vodafone Group and Liberty Global

The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Merck, Telefonica, BT Group, Vodafone Group
                              and Liberty Global

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, July 18, 2013

CHICAGO, July 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ 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 Merck (NYSE:MRK-Free Report),
Telefonica (NYSE:TEF-Free Report), BT Group Plc. (NYSE:BT-Free Report),
Vodafone Group Plc. (Nasdaq:VOD-Free Report) and Liberty Global Plc.
(Nasdaq:LBTYA-Free Report).


Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of
the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Wednesday's Analyst Blog:

Merck Candidate Faces Delay

Merck (NYSE:MRK-Free Report) suffered another pipeline-related setback
recently with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cancelling an advisory
panel meeting for sugammadex. Merck is looking to get sugammadex approved for
the reversal of neuromuscular blockade (NMB) induced by rocuronium or

Merck said that the FDA cancelled the Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products
Advisory Committee (AADPAC) meeting which was scheduled to be held on Jul 18.
The agency said that it needs more time to evaluate the results of a recently
completed inspection of a clinical trial site. The site is one of four sites
where a hypersensitivity study was conducted as per the FDA's requirements.

Merck is currently in discussions with the FDA regarding the path forward. The
delay in sugammadex' approval is disappointing. We note that Merck had failed
to gain US approval for sugammadex earlier in 2008. At that time, the FDA had
asked for additional data related to hypersensitivity reactions and bleeding

Sugammadex, however, is marketed in 40 countries other than the US under the
trade name Bridion. Bridion sales were $261 million in 2012, up 29.9%.

The delay in sugammadex's US approval is the second regulatory setback for
Merck this month. Earlier this month, Merck had received a complete response
letter (CRL) from the agency for its insomnia candidate, suvorexant.

Merck currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

O2, Virgin Media Ink Backhaul Deal

O2, the European subsidiary of Telefonica (NYSE:TEF-Free Report), has signed a
long-term backhaul deal with U.K.-based cable provider, Virgin Media Business.
The deal will allow O2 customers across the U.K. to enjoy faster network

In a ten-year deal, Virgin Media Business will connect O2's base stations with
its fibre network, via an Ethernet-based backhaul service. The high capacity
Ethernet service will deliver 1Gbps data speed across cell sites and different
parts of O2's network.

Recently, Telefonica paid nearly $830.6 million (£550 million) to secure 4G
spectrums in the 800 MHz band and plans to launch 4G mobile service later this
year. Other than Telefonica, Everything Everywhere (EE), Hutchison Whampoa,BT
Group Plc. (NYSE:BT-Free Report) andVodafone Group Plc. (Nasdaq:VOD-Free
Report) have also acquired 4G spectrum in the U.K.

Over the last couple of years, Virgin Media Business, a subsidiary of Liberty
Global Plc. (Nasdaq:LBTYA-Free Report), has secured mobile backhaul deals from
the four major mobile operators in the U.K. According to the company, the deal
signifies the importance of backhaul network for supporting wireless services.
Earlier this year, the company signed a $74 million (£49 million) deal with
Sky U.K. to enhance its backhaul capacity.

In the last few years, there has been unprecedented adaptation of smartphones
and tablets, which in turn has led to increased data demand. Higher
proliferation of smartphones and tablets along with increased games and
HD-movie downloads are pressurizing networks, resulting in slower network

Last year, O2's rival, EE, launched nationwide 4G service based on its 1800
MHz band and is planning to increase its 4G speed to 150 MB per second. O2
believes that tying up with Virgin Media Business will boost its network speed
and ease data congestion, satisfying customers.

With the expansion of 4G services, the demand for data is expected to rise.
The partnership with Virgin Media Business will strengthen O2's position
against EE. However, an indebted balance sheet of the parent company remains
the primary concern for O2, which might force the company to delay the launch
of its 4G service.

Currently, Telefonica carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of
the Day pick for free.

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