(52-week-high stock article and poll updated with additional information.)
NEW YORK (
) -- A roster of blue-chip stocks hit fresh 52-week highs last week, with
Philip Morris International
British American Tobacco
extending their gains repeatedly. Which do you think will outperform this week?
First, a brief look at what's been driving these stocks higher.
By market capitalization, the largest company to reach new annual heights this week was
. The mobile communications company's stock gained to $24.92 on Wednesday, closing Friday slightly slower at $24.78.
Earlier last week, Indian courts decided the nation's tax officials have the authority to ask the U.K.-based firm to pay taxes on its $11.2 billion acquisition of
Hutchison Telecommunications International Limited's
( HTX) majority stake in joint venture Hutchison-Essar, which it bought in 2007.
After the deal, India's tax authorities contended that Vodafone was liable to pay capital gains tax on the deal as it involved the transfer of assets in India through an overseas transaction. However, Vodafone maintained it wasn't obligated to pay the tax as
Vodafone International Holdings BV
, a Dutch subsidiary of the group, acquired the stake from Cayman Islands-based
, which, in turn, held Hutchison's India assets. On Wednesday, the Bombay High Court ruled that Vodafone pay a $2.6 billion tax from the acquisition.
>> India Could Tax GE, AT&T, After Vodafone Ruling
Vodafone currently is the second-largest cellular service provider in India and crossed 100 million subscribers during April. India is an important market for Vodafone as it accounts for around 7% of the group's revenue share.
Over the weekend Vodafone said it was preparing to sell its multibillion-pound stake in French telecom firm
reported that Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao chose to sell the French holding in a deal that could be worth as much as 7 billion pounds, or $10.82 billion at current exchange.
The upcoming sale is part of Vodafone's strategy to divest noncore assets. It recently sold its stake in China Mobile for 4.3 billion pounds, or $6.65 billion. Colao has not been as quick to divest Vodafone's U.S. interests. It's stake in
Verizon Wireless could be worth as much as $35 billion, the
Philip Morris hit fresh 52-week highs on Tuesday and again on Friday, reaching a share price as high as $54.87.
The cigarette maker said Friday its board agreed to raise its quarterly dividend by 10.3% to 64 cents per share. It will be payable Oct. 8 to shareholders of record on Sept. 24. That brings the stock's dividend yield to 4.7% as of Friday's closing price of $54.60.
brewed up a fresh 52-week high of $55.98 on Wednesday. On Friday, the stock closed at $54.80.
The beer behemoth got an initial rating of overweight by HSBC Securities on Wednesday. On Friday Jefferies initiated coverage of the Budweiser maker with a buy rating. "The #1 global brewer with dominant profit pool share should see continued opportunity to leverage its scale both locally and from its core international brands," the research firm noted. "Unrivaled management track record suggests upside to current $2.25 billion cost saving target and value creation through further M&A potential."
Vote: Which 52-week-high stock do you think will outperform this week?
There was also speculation swirling that Anheuser-Busch may be looking to acquire
Craft Brewers Alliance
( HOOK), a small-cap brewer of Widmer Brothers, Red Hook, Kona Brewing and Goose Island beers.
Deutsche Bank analysts noted Friday that Anheuser-Busch continues to emphasize global brands, focusing on profitability over volume. The research firm sees long-term growth of U.S. beer volume despite declines in 2009.
American depositary receipts of Colombian oil and gas company Ecopetrol continually topped their own 52-week highs on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, hitting a share price of $42.68 at the end of the week before closing the session at $41.47.
The Colombian government revised the results of a June auction of rights to seek oil and gas at certain areas in the country, and granted the state-controlled Ecopetrol rights to seek oil and gas from an additional field, bringing its won bids to 15, from the 14 it had won in June, the
Wall Street Journal
McDonald's hit fresh annual highs on Tuesday and again on Wednesday last week
, reaching a peak of $76.26. The burger-and-fries chain's stock closed Friday at $75.01.
On Thursday the Golden Arches said its global comparable sales, or sales at stores open at least one year, grew 4.9% in August, including growth of 4.6% in the U.S., 2.2% in Europe, and 7.8% in Asia, Middle East and Africa.
On Friday, Moody's Investor Services said it may raise its ratings on McDonald's because of its solid operating performance and growth prospects.
American depositary receipts of
touched a fresh 52-week high of $182.40 on Friday, before closing at $181.62.
The Hong Kong-based investment holding company and
were bidding for stakes in assets owned by
OGX Petroleo e Gas Participacoes
in a potential $7 billion deal, according to a report in
. OGX was considering selling stakes in some of its oil blocks after discovering several deposits of hydrocarbon in recent months.
British American Tobacco tapped fresh 52-week highs in three consecutive sessions last week, reaching as high as $72.91 on Friday before closing the day at $72.77.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch
upgraded its rating on British American's stock to buy from neutral earlier this week, noting the maker of Dunhill, Kent, Lucky Strike and Pall Mall cigarettes should be able to deliver total shareholder returns of 14% per year over time.
"Further cost savings potential and emerging market exposure (estimated at 60% of sales) enhance British American Tobacco's medium-term growth prospects," the equity research firm noted. "Clearly, British American Tobacco's relative share price performance will be impacted in the short term by sector rotation into or out of defensive sectors."
Vote: Which 52-week-high stock do you think will outperform this week?
, a mobile telecommunication services provider owned by Tokyo-based
Nippon Telegraph & Telephone
, also repeatedly topped fresh 52-week highs this week. ADRs rose as high as $17.32 on Thursday, closing Friday at $17.26.
A Japanese government advisory panel said earlier this week it favored a team led by NTT DoCoMo over one led by
(KDDIY.PK) to operate the island nation's next-generation mobile broadcasting service. The decision ended a prolonged battle between Japan's two biggest wireless carriers, the
Companhia de Bebidas das Americas
, a Brazilian beer brewer, was another repeat high-performer last week. Its ADRs reached fresh 52-week heights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, rising as high as $115.91 before closing at $115.34.
Brazil reported earlier this month a better-than-expected second quarter GDP growth of 8.8% year-over-year and a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 5.1%, outstripping expectations.
The strong growth rate prompted Roubini Global Economics to revise its 2010 growth forecast to 7.5% from 7.25% to 7.75%. However, growth has cooled from 9% year over year and 11.3% SAAR during the first quarter of 2010.
According to the Brazilian Central Bank, the country will record economic growth of 6.3% this year and 4.5% in 2011. Playing host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, private and public sector spending in Brazil is bound accelerate beginning this year.
Finally, ADRs of
, a Danish health care company saw its U.S.-listed shares reach fresh annual heights on Thursday and again on Friday, rising to $92.23 before closing the week at $92.08.
On Thursday Novo said the United Kingdom National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended the daily use of one of its diabetes drugs, Victoza.
>> 24 Breakout Stocks: Flying in the Face of the Hindenburg Omen
With all this in mind, which of these recent 52-week-high stocks do you think will outperform the others this week? Take our poll below then check back later to see what
-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.
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