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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: AT&T, Apple, Google, Microsoft and NCR

CHICAGO, Dec. 7, 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 AT&T (NYSE:T), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL), Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (Nasdaq:MSFT) and NCR Corporation (NYSE:NCR).

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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

AT&T Raises Smartphone Goal

 Experiencing robust sales so far in the quarter and foreseeing strong demand in the coming days, AT&T (NYSE:T) expects its 2012 smartphone sales to reach 26 million. Earlier, the company expected smartphone sales of 25 million.

For the first two months of the fourth quarter, AT&T sold almost 6.4 million smartphones compared to 9.4 million for the whole of fourth quarter 2011. During third quarter 2012, the company recorded smartphone sales of 6.1 million.

Strong sales of Apple Inc's (Nasdaq:AAPL) iPhone 5 and Google Inc's (Nasdaq:GOOG) Android-operated handsets including LG Optimus G and HTC One X buoyed the October-November sales figure. With the ongoing holiday season, AT&T is optimistic about impressive sales of Microsoft Corporation's (Nasdaq:MSFT) Windows Phone8 based smartphone such as Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X.

San Antonio, Texas based AT&T also confirmed that nearly 5 million customers have signed up for the shared data plan called Mobile Share – that enables subscribers to attach several devices to a single data connection – in less than 4 months. About 25% of these people have opted for the allowance that gives 10 GB or more data each month.

According to IDG (International Data Group), smartphone sales during the festive period will be about 224.5 million, 39.5% higher than the last quarter of 2011. The group also predicts worldwide smartphone shipment to grow 45% year over year to 717 million in 2012.

We maintain our long-term Neutral recommendation on AT&T. The company, currently, retains a Zacks #3 Rank, implying a short-term Hold rating on the stock.

We believe that AT&T's growth prospects are strong driven by subscriber accretion, higher smartphones adoption, Long-term Evolution mobile broadband network, iPhone sales and U-verse expansion. However, persistent access line losses, competitive pressures and heavy iPhone subsidies might drag near-term margins and earnings.

NCR Acquires Retalix

 NCR Corporation (NYSE:NCR) recently announced the acquisition of retail software and services company Retalix Ltd. for $30.00 per share in cash, totaling approximately $650 million.

NCR is treading the acquisition route for growth and the recent acquisition is consistent with this strategy. Through this acquisition, NCR seeks to migrate to a hardware-enabled, software-driven business model, thereby delivering solutions that would improve business operations, resulting in enhanced customer satisfaction. NCR primarily intends to shift its business mix in the higher-margin software and services. Moreover, the company wants to provide better value added services to its customers.

NCR will also deploy Retalix's software to strengthen and enhance its enterprise software platform, thereby creating a new software base to be used across the retail industry, and ultimately influencing NCR's financial, travel and hospitality industries all over the world.

The company is also focusing on its core ATM business, which is seeing an improvement in business volume, as regional banks are upgrading their ATMs. Moreover, the recently acquired Radiant System is also making a meaningful contribution in this particular segment. This apart, the company is also tightening its grip on the ATM and Point-of-Sale (POS) markets in Europe, particularly in Germany.

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