Top 10 International Companies To Watch For 2015

A few years ago, Andrew W. Lo from the MIT Sloan School of Management gave a lengthy talk at a meet-and-greet for prospective students of the Master of Finance program. His speech offered a glimpse into the future of financial engineering for the benefit of society. Greed, he argues, was at the heart of the recent financial crisis and unsustainable run-up in real estate prices. But if we can invent novel financial vehicles that align individual incentives (financial gain) with solving some of society’s biggest problems, everyone can get paid along the way to doing something truly transformative (and Foolish). Perhaps something as big as curing cancer. 

The status quo isn’t good enough
Lo believes that financial engineering could cure cancer in the next 20 years. It may sound unreasonable, but the probabilities actually support the bold claim. The status quo of cancer treatment development is accompanied by some pretty dismal statistics. The average cancer drug takes approximately 10 years and $500 million to develop, according to Lo. Additionally, each oncology drug screened by scientists may only have a 5% chance at success. While many companies have brought innovative drugs to the market in recent years, big pharma cannot possibly pursue each cancer-fighting mechanism drafted on a laboratory whiteboard.

Top 10 International Companies To Watch For 2015: Wet Seal Inc (WTSL)

The Wet Seal, Inc., incorporated in 1990, is a specialty retailer operating stores selling apparel and accessory items designed for female customers aged 15 to 39 years old. As of January 28, 2012, the Company operated 558 retail stores in 47 states and Puerto Rico. Its products can also be purchased online through its Websites. It operates two nationwide, primarily mall-based, chains of retail stores under the names Wet Seal and Arden B. Wet Seal is a junior apparel brand for teenage girls who seek trend-focused clothing, with a target customer age range of 15 to 23 years old. Arden B is a fashion brand for the feminine contemporary woman. Arden B targets customers aged 25 to 39 years old and seeks to deliver collections of fashion and basic separates and accessories for various aspects of the customers’ lifestyles. During fiscal year ended January 28, 2012 (fiscal 2011), the Company opened 28 and closed six Wet Seal stores and opened four and closed one Arden B stores.

The Company maintains a Web-based store located at www.wetseal.com, offering Wet Seal merchandise comparable to that carried in its stores, to customers over the Internet. The Company also maintains a Web-based store located at www.ardenb.com, offering Arden B merchandise comparable to that carried in its stores, to customers over the Internet. Its online stores are designed to serve as an extension of the in-store experience and offer a range of merchandise. Wet Seal stores average approximately 4,000 square feet in size. As of January 28, 2012, the Company operated 472 Wet Seal stores and Arden B stores average approximately 3,100 square feet in size.

The Company competes with Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, BCBG, bebe, Body Central, Charlotte Russe, Express, Forever 21, Gap, Guess?, H&M, Nordstrom, Old Navy, Pacific Sunwear, Rue 21, Target, Urban Outfitters and Zara. As of April 28, 2012, the Co mpany operated a total of 553 stores in 47 states and Puerto! Rico, including 469 Wet Seal stores and 84 Arden B stores.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Shares of Abercrombie & Fitch have gained 11% to $36.78 today, even as Aeropostale (ARO) has dropped 5.2% to $8.50, and Zumiez (ZUMZ) has fallen 5.6% to $22.85. Wet Seal (WTSL), meanwhile, has gained 0.8% to $2.60 and American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) has advanced 0.9% to %15.46.

  • [By Casey Kelly-Barton]

    Wet Seal (NASDAQ: WTSL  ) earned raves last year in the press and the disability community for its ads featuring 17-year-old Karrie Brown, an aspiring model who has Down syndrome. Target  (NYSE: TGT  ) and Nordstrom  (NYSE: JWN  ) both featured a 6-year-old with Down syndrome named Ryan in their catalogs without any fanfare, but shoppers and parents noticed and appreciated it.

  • [By Caroline Chen]

    CEOs were replaced at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) and Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) after activist investor Bill Ackman pushed for shakeups. Greg Taxin’s Clinton Group Inc. prompted management changes at Nutrisystem Inc. (NTRI) and Wet Seal Inc. (WTSL) in the past year.

  • [By Seth Jayson]

    Wet Seal (Nasdaq: WTSL  ) reported earnings on May 28. Here are the numbers you need to know.

    The 10-second takeaway
    For the quarter ended May 4 (Q1), Wet Seal met expectations on revenues and met expectations on earnings per share.

Top 10 International Companies To Watch For 2015: Exelon Corp (EXC)

Exelon Corporation (Exelon) is an energy provider and holding company for several energy businesses. Exelon is engaged in the energy generation business through its Exelon Generation Company, LLC (Generation) subsidiary; wholesale and retail energy sales through its Constellation business unit, and the energy delivery business through its Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) and PECO Energy Company (PECO) subsidiaries. It operates in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. Exelon Generation has approximately 35,000 megawatts of owned capacity. Constellation provides energy products and services to approximately 100,000 business and public sector customers and approximately 1 million residential customers. Exelon’s utilities deliver electricity and natural gas to more than 6.6 million customers in central Maryland, northern Illinois and southeastern Pennsylvania. On March 12, 2012, Constellation Energy Group, Inc. merged into Exelon. In December 2012, the Company sold its three Maryland coal-fired power plants to Raven Power Holdings LLC (Raven Power).

In August 2012, the Company sold its interest in five California power plants to IHI Corp. It includes two coal-powered and three biomass-based plants-with a total generation capacity of 70 megawatts. IHI acquired Exelon’s 50% interest in four power plants and 45% interest in one plant. On September 30, 2011, Generation acquired Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One. On August 24, 2011, Generation acquired Wolf Hollow, LLC.

Exelon Generation Company, LLC

Generation is an electric generation company. Generation’s business consists of its owned and contracted electric generating facilities, its wholesale energy marketing operations and its retail supply operations. Generation has three reportable segments, which consists of the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and South and West regions. As of December 31, 2011, Generation owned g eneration resources with an aggregate net capacity of 25,544! megawatt, including 17,115 megawatt of nuclear capacity. Generation controlled another 5,025 megawatt of capacity through long-term contracts. Generation’s retail business provides retail electric and gas services as an unregulated retail energy supplier in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.

Mid-Atlantic represents Generation’s operations primarily in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland (approximately 35% of capacity); Midwest includes the operations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota (approximately 45% of capacity); and the South and West includes operations primarily in Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Idaho and Oregon (approximately 20% of capacity). As of December 31, 2011, Generation had ownership interests in 11 nuclear generating stations in service, consists of 19 units with an aggregate of 17,115 megawatt of capacity. Generation wholly owns all of its nuclear generating stations, except for Quad Cities Generating Stat ion (75% ownership), Peach Bottom Generating Station (50% ownership) and Salem Generating Station (Salem) (42.59% ownership).

Commonwealth Edison Company

Commonwealth Edison Company is engaged principally in the purchase and regulated retail sale of electricity and the provision of distribution and transmission services to a diverse base of residential, commercial and industrial customers in northern Illinois. ComEd’s retail service has an area of approximately 11,400 square miles and an estimated population of nine million. The service territory includes the City of Chicago, an area of about 225 square miles with an estimated population of three million. As of December 31, 2011, ComEd had approximately 3.8 million customers.

PECO Energy Company

PECO is engaged principally in the purchase and regulated retail sale of electricity and the provision of transmission and distribution services to retail customers in southeast ern Pennsylvania, including the City of Philadelphia, as wel! l as the ! purchase and regulated retail sale of natural gas and the provision of distribution services to retail customers in the Pennsylvania counties surrounding the City of Philadelphia. PECO’s combined electric and natural gas retail service territory has an area of approximately 2,100 square miles and an estimated population of four million. PECO provides electric distribution service in an area of approximately 1,900 square miles, with a population of approximately 3.9 million, including approximately 1.5 million in the City of Philadelphia. PECO provides natural gas distribution service in an area of approximately 1,900 square miles in southeastern Pennsylvania adjacent to the City of Philadelphia, with a population of approximately 2.4 million. PECO delivers electricity to approximately 1.6 million customers and natural gas to approximately 4,94,000 customers.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By David Dittman]

    Question: Is Exelon Corp (NYSE: EXC) a buy now?

    Answer: Richard Stavros, Ari Charney and I had a long conversation about Exelon in the aftermath of the announcement of its proposed acquisition of Pepco Holdings (NYSE: POM).

  • [By Jake L’Ecuyer]

    Meanwhile, top losers in the sector included Exelon (NYSE: EXC), down 1.2 percent, and Vectren (NYSE: VVC), off 2.3 percent.

    Top Headline
    Hillshire Brands Co (NYSE: HSH) announced its plans to buy Pinnacle Foods (NYSE: PF) for around $6.6 billion including debt. Hillshire will offer $18.00 in cash and 0.50 shares of its common stock for each Pinnacle share.

  • [By Jake L’Ecuyer]

    Meanwhile, top losers in the sector included Exelon (NYSE: EXC), down 1.2 percent, and Vectren (NYSE: VVC), off 2.3 percent.

    Top Headline
    Hillshire Brands Co (NYSE: HSH) announced its plans to buy Pinnacle Foods (NYSE: PF) for around $6.6 billion including debt. Hillshire will offer $18.00 in cash and 0.50 shares of its common stock for each Pinnacle share.

Top 10 International Companies To Watch For 2015: Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.(TTWO)

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. publishes, develops, and distributes interactive entertainment software, hardware, and accessories worldwide. The company develops and publishes software titles for various gaming and entertainment hardware platforms, including PlayStation3 and PlayStation2 computer entertainment systems, PlayStation Portable system, Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system, and Wii and DS systems, as well as for the personal computer and games for Windows. It offers products through its wholly owned labels Rockstar Games and 2K, which publishes titles under 2K Games, 2K Sports, and 2K Play. The company, through its subsidiary, Jack of All Games, also distributes software, hardware, and accessories in North America. Its proprietary brand franchises include Grand Theft Auto; Sid Meier’s Civilization; Max Payne; Midnight Club; Manhunt; Red Dead Revolver; Bully; BioShock; Sid Meier’s Railroads!; Sid Meier’s Pirates!; Carnival Games; and Top Spin, as wel l as licensed brands comprise the sports games Major League Baseball 2K; NBA 2K; and NHL 2K. The company sells its software titles to retail outlets through direct relationships with large retail customers and third party distributors. Its customers include mass merchandisers, specialty retailers, video stores, electronics stores, toy stores, national and regional drug stores, and supermarket and discount store chains. The company was founded in 1993 and is headquartered in New York, New York.

Advisors’ Opinion:

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    Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.(TTWO) swung to a fourth-quarter loss on a drop of nearly 35% in revenue, but topped analyst expectations and pointed to steady sales of new videogame titles including “Grand Theft Auto.”  Shares fell 3.4% to $19.93 premarket.

  • [By Jake L’Ecuyer]

    Take-Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ: TTWO) was down, falling 3.32 percent to $19.95 after the company issued a weak outlook. For the first quarter, the company expected an adjusted loss of $0.35 to $0.25 per share on revenue of $120 million to $125 million. However, analysts expected a loss of $0.12 per share on revenue of $209.6 million.

Top 10 International Companies To Watch For 2015: CNO Financial Group Inc. (CNO)

CNO Financial Group, Inc., through its subsidiaries, engages in the development, marketing, and administration of health insurance, annuity, individual life insurance, and other insurance products for senior and middle-income markets in the United States. The company markets and distributes Medicare supplement insurance, interest-sensitive and traditional life insurance, fixed annuities, and long-term care insurance products; Medicare advantage plans through a distribution arrangement with Humana Inc.; and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans through a distribution and reinsurance arrangement with Coventry Health Care. It also markets and distributes supplemental health, including specified disease, accident, and hospital indemnity insurance products; and life insurance to middle-income consumers at home and the worksite through independent marketing organizations and insurance agencies. In addition, the company markets primarily graded benefit and simplified issue life insurance products directly to customers through television advertising, direct mail, Internet, and telemarketing. It sells its products through career agents, independent producers, direct marketing, and sales managers. CNO Financial Group, Inc. has strategic alliances with Coventry and Humana. The company was formerly known as Conseco, Inc. and changed its name to CNO Financial Group, Inc. in May 2010. CNO Financial Group, Inc. was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Carmel, Indiana.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Jonas Elmerraji]

    Up first is CNO Financial Group (CNO), a mid-cap financial stock that’s rocketed close to 60% higher since the calendar flipped over to January. Yup, it’s been a great year for the market, but it’s been a far better one for investors who own CNO. But that strong performance isn’t showing any signs of slowing yet. In fact, CNO looks primed for even more upside in the fourth quarter.

    That’s because CNO is currently forming a bullish pattern called an ascending triangle. The ascending triangle pattern is formed by a horizontal resistance level above shares — in this case at $14.75 — and uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as CNO bounces in between those two technical price levels, it’s getting squeezed closer and closer to a breakout above that $14.75 resistance level. When that breakout happens, it’s time to become a buyer.

    ACCO’s price action isn’t exactly textbook. After all, the pattern is coming in at the bottom of a downtrend, not after an uptrend. But ultimately, that doesn’t change the trading implications of a move through that $7.50 level.

    Whenever you’re looking at any technical price pattern, it’s critical to think in terms of those buyers and sellers. Ascending triangles and other pattern names are a good quick way to explain what’s going on in a stock, but they’re not the reason it’s tradable. Instead, it all comes down to supply and demand for shares.

    That $7.50 resistance level is a price where there has been an excess of supply of shares; in other words, it’s a place where sellers have been more eager to step in and take gains than buyers have been to buy. That’s what makes a breakout above it so significant. The move means that buyers are finally strong enough to absorb all of the excess supply above that price level.

    Don’t be early on this trade.

  • [By Vanin Aegea]

    I have heard many people comment about the insurance policies for cars, houses, life, assets, etc. The arguments always revolve around the same issue: Is it really necessary? What are the chances to be hit by a Hurricane, or to meet a sudden death? Well, nobody really knows. Some individuals however, sleep better when they know a policy backs their life investments. Here, I will look into three insurance companies that concentrate on different policies, or geographies. These are: China Life (LFC), and Conseco (CNO).

  • [By David Fried, Editor, The Buyback Letter]

    Insurance holding company CNO Financial Group (CNO) and its insurance subsidiaries—principally Bankers Life and Casualty Company, Washington National, and Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company—serve pre-retiree and retired Americans.

Top 10 International Companies To Watch For 2015: Electro Scientific Industries Inc (ESIO)

Electro Scientific Industries, Inc. (ESI) incorporated on April 19, 1949, is a supplier of laser-based manufacturing solutions for the microtechnology industry. The Company operates high-technology manufacturing equipment, which consists of products that are organized in three groups: interconnect & microfabrication, semiconductor and components. The Company’s laser systems enable precise structuring of micron to submicron features in components and devices which are used in a wide variety of end products in the consumer electronics, computer, semiconductor, communications and other markets. Its laser microfabrication systems allow microelectronics, semiconductor, and other microtechnology manufacturers to physically alter select device features during high-volume production. In June 2012, it acquired Eolite Systems.

The Company’s laser-based systems improve production yields or enable improved performance for flexible and rigid high density interconnect printed circuit boards, semiconductor devices, light emitting diodes (LEDs), advanced semiconductor packaging, touch-panel glass, flat panel liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and other high value components. Additionally, it produces high-capacity test and inspection equipment that is critical to control process during the production of multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs). Its equipment ensures that each component meets the electrical and physical tolerances required to perform properly. Lastly, it produces systems that use photonic technology to perform precision inspection for control and defect identification. The Company’s Interconnect & Microfabrication Group products address an expanding number of applications and materials on a broad set of substrates, including panels, continuous-feed reels, and discrete three dimensional components or devices.

Interconnect Via Drilling

For electrical interconnect applications, The Company’s laser via mic ro fabrication systems target applications that require the ! highest accuracy and smallest via (hole) dimensions to create electrical connections between layers in flexible circuits, high-density circuit boards and IC packages. The Company’s microvia drilling technology addresses the rapidly changing applications in IC packages, multichip modules and HDI circuit boards. Its ultraviolet (UV) laser processing systems employ technology in lasers, optics and motion control.

Advanced Microfabrication

The Company offers several platforms that enable customers to perform precision drilling, scribing, cutting, etching, routing or marking on many different types of materials and devices including glass, metal, plastic, paint and ceramics. It also offer laser ablation systems that ablate material for identification and analysis applications, including forensics, mineral analysis and research.

Semiconductor Group (SG)

The Company’s Semiconductor Group products address multiple applicatio ns that utilize laser energy to process materials on wafer-based substrates. This includes traditional silicon wafers, LEDs wafers, and new ultrathin silicon wafers used in the three-dimensional (3D) packaging applications. Semiconductor Memory Yield Improvement Systems includes semiconductor memory yield improvement products are designed to cost-effectively enable post-repair yield improvements in the manufacturing of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) memory devices.

3D Semiconductor Wafer Processing

The 3D chip packaging technologies is driving the need for silicon wafers to become thinner in order to allow for stacking of wafers within the same packaging geometry. As wafers become thinner, they become more challenging to cut into discrete chips using traditional mechanical saws. The Company’s model 9900 uses a laser to dice ultra-thin silicon wafers, those with a thickness of 50 microns or below, and to singulate interposers. In addition, th is platform can be used to scribe next generation thin film ! materials! that lend themselves to laser processing.

LED Wafer Scribing

The Company’s AccuScribe line of sapphire wafer scribing systems is a key component in the manufacture of LEDs. During production, LEDs are created on a thin wafer of synthetic sapphire crystal that must be broken into individual units at the end of the process. The brittle nature of the sapphire wafer requires that it be carefully cut in order to prevent unwanted fractures, yield losses, and lower light output when the wafer is broken apart into discrete LEDs. The AccuScribe systems use a laser to scribe the wafer with a precise groove between individual LEDs. When mechanical force is applied to the wafer, it fractures along these grooves and allows the wafer to be split apart into discrete LEDs. These systems are capable of scribing both standard and high brightness designs for general illumination applications. In addition, this platform can be used to address singulation of various LED packaging materials.

LCD Repair

The Comapny’s laser LCD repair systems are critical to improving yields in the manufacture of flat panel displays. During production, individual pixels of a display may develop electrical defects that result in no light emission or the emission of only a steady white light. To correct these defects, flat panel display producers employ a laser repair process to isolate the electrical defects during production by cutting the inputs to the pixel. Its laser systems are primarily sold to the manufacturers of LCD repair tools as a key component of their products.

Semiconductor Systems

The products include industry wafer marking equipment, wafer and circuit trim tools, and LCD repair tools. Wafer marking equipment is used for serialization and wafer identification by both manufacturers of semiconductor wafers and within semiconductor fabs. Wafer and circuit trim tools are laser systems t hat adjust the electrical performance of semiconductor devic! es or hyb! rid circuits by removing a precise amount of material from one or more circuit components.

Components Group (CG)

The Company designs and manufactures products that combine high-speed small parts handling technology with real-time control systems to provide automated, cost-effective inspection solutions for manufacturers of MLCC and other passive components such as capacitor arrays, inductors, resistors, varistors and hybrid circuits. These components, produced in quantities of trillions of units per year, process analog, digital and high-frequency signals and are used in all electronic products.

The Company provides several types of products and solutions in this market. Its MLCC test systems employ high-speed handling and positioning techniques to precisely load, test and sort MLCCs based on their electrical energy storage capacity, or capacitance, and their electrical energy leakage, or dissipation factor. Its 35XX series is the prod uctive tester. Its 3510 model enables high speed testing of the industry’s smallest metric 0402 capacitors used primarily in advanced cell phone and tablet designs. It also produces consumable products, such as carrier plates and termination belts, both of which are used to hold MLCCs during the manufacturing and testing process.

The Company competes with Mechanics, Ltd., LPKF Laser & Electronics AG, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Orbotech Ltd., InnoLas Systems GmbH, DISCO Corporation, Laser Solutions, Inc., Quantel USA, Inc., Humo Laboratory, Ltd. and HOYA Corporation.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Eric Volkman]

    Electro Scientific Industries (NASDAQ: ESIO  ) has a new division under its corporate wing. The company has inked a definitive agreement to purchase the semiconductor systems unit of GSI Group (NASDAQ: GSIG  ) . The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

  • [By Evan Niu, CFA]

    What: Shares of Electro Scientific (NASDAQ: ESIO  ) popped briefly today, up by 11% at the high, after the company reported earnings.

    So what: Revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter totaled $39.6 million, which translated into a non-GAAP net loss of $1 million, or $0.03 per share. Both figures came out better than expected, as consensus estimates were calling for $38.1 million in revenue and an adjusted loss of $0.07 per share.

Top 10 International Companies To Watch For 2015: Rhino Resource Partners LP(RNO)

Rhino Resource Partners LP produces, processes, and sells coal of various steam and metallurgical grades in the United States. The company holds interests in various surface and underground coal mines located in Central Appalachia, Northern Appalachia, the Illinois Basin, and the Western Bituminous region. As of December 31, 2010, it operated 10 mines, including 5 underground and 5 surface mines located in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. The company markets its steam coal primarily to electric utility companies as fuel for their steam-powered generators; and metallurgical coal for steel and coke producers. It also engages in mining limestone from reserves located at its Sands Hill mining complex and sells it as aggregate to various construction companies and road builders. The company was founded in 2003 and is based in Lexington, Kentucky.

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Robert Rapier]

    The National Association of Publicly Traded Partnerships (NAPTP) lists five MLPs in the category “Natural Resources – Coal,” although two of the five are Alliance Holdings (NYSE: AHGP) and its operating affiliate, Alliance Resource Partners (NYSE: ARLP). The other three are Natural Resource Partners (NYSE: NRP), Rhino Resource Partners (NYSE: RNO), and Oxford Resource Partners (NYSE: OXF).

  • [By Namitha Jagadeesh]

    Peugeot gained 3.7 percent to 10.61 euros after two people familiar with the matter said CEO Philippe Varin plans to step down next year and hire former Renault SA (RNO) Chief Operating Officer Carlos Tavares as his replacement. Pierre-Olivier Salmon, a Peugeot spokesman, declined to comment. Europe’s second-largest carmaker is also likely to benefit from the Iran accord. Peugeot sold 458,000 vehicles in Iran in 2011, before the trade sanctions, making it the company’s second-biggest market after France.

Top 10 International Companies To Watch For 2015: Gordmans Stores Inc.(GMAN)

Gordmans Stores, Inc. operates department stores under the Gordmans name in the United States. Its merchandise selection includes a range of apparel, footwear, home fashions products, and accessories, including fragrances. The company offers apparels, including young men?s, men?s, juniors?, women?s, team, plus sizes, maternity, and children?s clothing comprising offerings for infants, toddlers, boys, and girls; and accessories consisting of designer fragrances, intimate apparel, handbags, sunglasses, fashion jewelry, legwear, and sleepwear. Its home fashions products consist of wall art, photo frames, accent furniture, accent lighting, candles, ceramics, vases, seasonal d