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5 Picks for 2011 With Upside Up to 143%

Itron is engaged in providing a portfolio of products and services to utilities in the global energy and water markets. Operating through subsidiaries, the company provides metering, data collection, and utility software solutions. The company accounts for a 46% share of the smart meter market in North America, and a 35% share of the global meter-management software market.

Itron and Silver Spring Networks recently announced an expanded agreement to integrate Itron's Centron II electricity meters with Silver Spring's Smart Energy platform. While the integration is underway, customer orders will be accepted for delivery by mid-2011.

For 2010, earnings per share are likely to jump 90% from a year earlier. Revenue growth is estimated to be in the range of mid-20s, higher than analysts' estimates. The European Union is keen to replace its conventional meters with smart meters by 2020. Industry analysts believe that this could eventually lead to big contract wins for Itron during the upcoming years.

Smart meters are expected to support the shift to electric cars and allow for the storage of power produced by renewable sources like wind and solar. Of the 2.7 billion meters installed worldwide only 9% are automated, which clearly reflects the huge untapped market for Itron.

Itron has entered into an agreement to acquire Asais, an energy information management software and consulting services provider for an undisclosed sum. The deal is likely to close during the first quarter of 2011.

Analysts believe that this is a value stock with a high earnings growth rate. Of the 32 analysts covering the stock, 56% recommend a buy with a target price of $74.87, implying an upside of 34.8% from current levels. Meanwhile, 41% of analysts recommend a hold.
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