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Stock Opinions by Charles Lannon

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Markets. The potential for higher interest rates and the stronger US$ has affected the performance of the markets. US markets are up 2% year-to-date, essentially unchanged, whereas European and Japan are up mid-teen rates year-to-date. Most of his US holdings are up and down, basically sideways. The strong contributors to performance have been European and Japanese names. Typically, expanding interest rates coincide with more rapid economic growth, and he sees economic growth continuing to stabilize and pick up on a global basis. Once you focus through the headwinds, profit outlook will improve into 2016. US and Canadian equity markets should start to pick up again as we get closer to 2016-2017. European growth was basically zero last year and will probably be around 1% this year, which is a horrible growth. It’s the incremental change of growth that is very, very positive for risk assets and how stocks will behave.


Largest developer/manufacturer of synthetic insulins globally. Has been a great way of participating in the global diabetes pandemic. Has done well this year because there is heightened expectation that the US is going to approve a long lasting insulin Tresaba. If this gets launched in the US, growth could be in the low teens again next year. This is a hold.

biotechnology / pharmaceutical
Aegon N.V.

A large Dutch insurer. Like many insurers, business has been hurt by persistently low insurance rates. European interest rates are going to rise sometime over the next 5 years, but he doesn’t expect this to be material. He would be cautious on this one.

Financial Services
Banco Santander SA

A very large Spanish based bank. Have big franchises throughout Latin America as well as a British bank. Had to do a large and unexpected capital raise this year. There had been a bit of a relief rally in the Spanish market in 2013 and this did well, but still has too many dead assets on the balance sheet.

WSP Global Inc.

An engineering services company. They focus just on design and don’t have a construction arm, which means they can be a lot more nimble. This has been a growth through acquisition story. The outlook for dividend growth is pretty well muted.

Total SA

Assets are very dispersed, so they have lower cost production. The disadvantage with this company is that growth is not great. Dividend is attractive, but you are not getting any tax benefit.

integrated oils

(A Top Pick June 11/14. Up 53.07%.) There are 3 Japanese telcos and they don’t compete particularly hard. Japan is just in the early stages of the smart phone rollout, so they are still seeing good growth. He continues to like this name.

communications / media

(A Top Pick June 11/14. Up 40.82%.) Even though movie ticket sales are anaemic, the industry has done a very good job of up-charging you on concessions. Still has plenty of space to go both in their British and central European operations.

entertainment services
Toronto Dominion

(A Top Pick June 11/14. Up 3.03%.) Returns have been flat as expectations for economic growth in Canada subside because of the collapse in oil prices. He mulled over using this as a Top Pick again. Not particularly expensive.


Very large European software company. They do enterprise software, putting in big systems for very large corporations. A very solid company. Very good company, but wouldn’t be his top pick.

computer software / processing

In the last 6 weeks or so, this bank has announced pretty significant restructuring, significant cost cuttings and are going to cut their way in order to get some kind of earnings growth. Have had many operational and regulatory challenges. Prefers Toronto Dominion (TD-T) which still has the opportunity to grow. This one is growth constrained, and potentially has some regulatory issues if they try to relocate their headquarters from London back to Hong Kong.

Novartis AG

Healthcare. Has a decent vaccine business as well as a decent generics business. This would be a good solid hold. Organic growth will have to be a big part of the equation in order to continue to grow EPS. Good stock.

biotechnology / pharmaceutical

Makes everything from over-the-counter birth-control products to food sauces. This has probably been the most popular European consumer staples stock. Very respected management team. Unfortunately most of that has been caught up in the price. Wouldn’t recommend at these price levels.

misc consumer products
Apple Inc

It is important to separate the outlook for the stock versus the company. They both have challenges. At the company level, it is no longer a fast growth company. The key areas where it makes its profits are pretty mature. It is hoping to develop new revenue lines through music streams, watches, etc. As the stock goes through the transition of being a very high growth company, to being a lower growth company, to being an average growth company you are going to get a rotation in their shareholder base. It is tough to see how the stock will do well over a sustained period of time.

electrical / electronic
Unilever NV

Compared to Reckitt Benckiser (RB-LSE), it doesn’t have nearly as many high growth product categories, and is kind of overweight in a lot of slow growth categories. Difficult to see where growth is to come by, that he sees better opportunities elsewhere.

food processing
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