The following ratings changes were generated on Tuesday, Feb. 17.
We've upgraded Amphenol (APH - Get Report), which designs, manufactures and markets electrical, electronic and fiber optic connectors, interconnect systems and coaxial and flat-ribbon cable worldwide, from hold to buy. This rating is driven by the company's notable return on equity, good cash flow from operations, growth in earnings per share, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and relatively strong performance when compared with the S&P 500 during the past year. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows low profit margins.
Return on equity has improved slightly compared with the year-ago quarter, which can be construed as a modest strength in the organization, significantly outperforming the S&P 500 and the electronic equipment, instruments and components industry. Net operating cash flow has increased 28.4% to $170.8 million, though revenue fell slightly by 2.8%, underperforming the industry average. Earnings per share improved slightly, but while the company has demonstrated a pattern of positive EPS growth over the past two years, we anticipate underperformance relative to this pattern in the coming year.
Amphenol has a low debt-to-equity ratio of 0.6, but it is higher than the industry average. The company's 1.2 quick ratio is sturdy.We've downgraded communications solutions provider BT Group (BT - Get Report) from hold to sell, driven by its feeble growth in its earnings per share, deteriorating net income, generally weak debt management, poor profit margins and weak operating cash flow. Net income decreased from $875 million in the year-ago quarter to -$112 million in the most recent quarter, significantly underperforming the S&P 500 and the diversified telecommunication services industry. Net operating cash flow decreased by 44.9% to $1,038.8 million. BT Group experienced a steep decline in EPS in the most recent quarter, a continuation of a yearlong pattern of declining EPS, which we anticipate should continue in the coming year. BT's debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 5.4 and currently higher than the industry average, implying very poor management of debt levels. BT also has a quick ratio of 0.6, demonstrating its lack of ability to cover short-term liquidity needs. Bt's gross profit margin of 23.5% is rateher low, having decreased from the year-ago quarter, and its net profit margin of -2.4% is significantly below the industry average.