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TSC Ratings' Updates: Alberto-Culver

TSC Ratings provides exclusive stock, ETF and mutual fund ratings and commentary based on award-winning, proprietary tools. Its "safety first" approach to investing aims to reduce risk while seeking solid outperformance on a total return basis.

The following ratings changes were generated on Friday, June 19.

We've upgraded Alberto-Culver (ACV) from hold to buy, driven by its largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, growth in earnings per share and expanding profit margins. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.

Alberto-Culver's debt-to-equity ratio of 0 is below the industry average, implying very successful management of debt levels. The 2.6 quick ratio clearly demonstrates an ability to cover short-term cash needs. Earnings per share improved slightly from the year-ago quarter, and we feel that the company's two-year trend of positive EPS growth should continue. Revenue dropped by 1.4% from the year-ago quarter. A 51.8% gross profit margin is rather high, though it has decreased from the same period last year. The 8.2% net profit margin compares favorably with the industry average. Net income fell by 3.3% from the same quarter last year, from $29 million to $28.1 million.

We've upgraded Embarq (EQ) from sell to buy, driven by its expanding profit margins, 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. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook.

The company's gross profit margin of 73% is very high, having increased from the same period last year, and its 12.9% net profit margin is above the industry average. Net operating cash flow rose 6.9% to $634 million, while revenue fell 7.5%. Quarterly EPS were flat compared with last year's quarter, and fiscal-year earnings rose to $5.21 from $4.44. We feel that the company's two-year trend of positive EPS growth should continue. The company's 0.6 quick ratio demonstrates weak liquidity.

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