Seeing a rating change on Friday was Lazard (LAZ - Get Report); it was upgraded to buy from hold. Based out of Hamilton, Bermuda LAZ operates as a financial advisory and asset management firm. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover.
Compared with other companies in the Capital Markets industry and the overall market, Lazard's return on equity, or ROE, significantly exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
The revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 48.9%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenue rose by 12.1%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Capital Markets industry. The net income increased by 17.1% when compared with the same quarter year over year, going from $29.3 million to $34.3 million.The stock has not only risen over the past year, it has done so at a faster pace than the S&P 500, reflecting the earnings growth and other positive factors similar to those we have cited here. Looking ahead, unless broad bear market conditions prevail, we still see more upside potential for this stock, despite the fact that it has already risen over the past year. LAZ's earnings per share improvement from the most-recent quarter was slightly positive. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past year. However, we anticipate underperformance relative to this pattern in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, Lazard increased its bottom line by earning $2.76 vs. $2.22 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 27.9% in earnings ($1.99 vs. $2.76). LAZ had been rated a hold as of July 8, 2008.