Speaking of financials, AZN boasts a strong balance sheet too, with close to $7 billion in cash that helps to offset $11 billion in debt built up from an acquisition-hungry approach. That liquidity leaves the firm with ample dry powder to buy a bigger drug pipeline. With rising analyst sentiment in play this week, we're betting on shares.
As the holiday season kicks into high gear, Costco Wholesale (COST) is readying itself for the rush. The standard bearer in the club store business, Costco boasts more than 430 warehouse stores with sales per square foot that come in at nearly twice what its biggest competitor (Wal-Mart (WMT) subsidiary Sam's Club) can pull off.
Costco's not willing to take just anyone's money -- you have to be a member. While that model sounds like sacrilege to most folks with retail experience, Costco has proven that it works. By selling exclusively to its 64 million members, the firm can cut its margins to nearly zero, while still earning tidy profits on its $55 and $110 annual membership fees (for regular and executive memberships, respectively). Because consumers are less likely to carry memberships from competing wholesale clubs, Costco's existing base of higher-spending customers gives the firm a shallow economic moat versus its peers.Where other firms have struggled bringing the warehouse store abroad, Costco's international locations are actually profitable, a testament to this chain's ability to perform in geographic regions with starkly different cost structures. Costco's balance sheet currently sports a deep net cash position, with almost $5 billion in cold hard cash offsetting a $1.3 billion debt load. Stair step sales and income growth over the last several years (and in spite of the Great Recession) give this firm a stellar trajectory for 2013. Target Target (TGT) is another retail name that's making our Rocket Stocks list this week. The big box store chain operates under a very different model than Costco's, but it's equally impressive as consumers start gearing up on Red Bull and NoDoz for the Black Friday rush. Target has a much bigger reach too -- the firm boasts approximately 1,800 stores in North America.
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