TSC Ratings' Updates: Buckeye

The following ratings changes were generated on Monday, Jan. 26.

We've upgraded Buckeye Partners ( BPL), which engages in the transportation, terminalling and storage of refined petroleum products for integrated oil companies, from hold to buy, driven by its robust revenue growth, growth in earnings per share, compelling growth in net income, good cash flow from operations and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally poor debt management on most measures that we evaluated.

Revenue leaped by 294.9% since the same quarter a year ago, and EPS improved by 11.3%. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years, and we feel that this trend should continue. Net income is up 28.1% compared with the year-ago quarter, rising from #36.4 million to $46.6 million. Net operating cash flow increased by 109.2% to $71.2 million. Return on equity has improved slightly, outperforming the S&P 500 but underperforming the oil, gas and consumable fuels industry.

We've upgraded public utility company CenterPoint Energy ( CNP) from hold to buy, driven by its compelling growth in net income, robust revenue growth, notable return on equity, impressive record of earnings per share growth 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 has had generally poor debt management on most measures that we evaluated.

Net income rose 49.5% compared with the same quarter a year ago, from $91 million to $136 million. Revenue rose by 33.6%, and ROE improved slightly. EPS are up 44.4% in the most recent quarter compared with the same quarter last year. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently, but we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year.

Shares are down 18% on the year, in part reflecting the overall market's decline. Looking ahead, although the push and pull of the overall market trend could certainly make a critical difference, we do not see any strong reason stemming from the company's fundamentals that would cause a continuation of last year's decline. In fact, the stock is now selling for less than others in its industry in relation to its current earnings.

We've upgraded NetScout Systems ( NTCT), which designs, develops,manufactures, markets, sells and supports network performance management solutions worldwide, from hold to buy, driven by its robust revenue growth, compelling growth in net income, solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook.

Revenue rose by 34.1% since the year-ago quarter, and net income grew 355.5%. EPS are up 322%. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently, but we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. NetScout's debt-to-equity ratio of 0.4 is low, but it's higher than that of the industry average. The company's quick ratio of 1.16 is sturdy.

Shares are up 53.6% on the year, outperforming the S&P 500. We feel that the stock's sharp appreciation over the last year has driven it to a price level which is now somewhat expensive compared to the rest of its industry. The other strengths this company shows, however, justify the higher price levels.

We've upgraded Plains All American Pipeline ( PAA), which engages in the transportation, storage, terminalling, and marketing of crude oil, refined products, and liquefied petroleum gas and other natural gas-related petroleum products, from hold to buy, driven by its robust revenue growth, compelling growth in net income, growth in earnings per share and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally poor debt management on most measures that we evaluated.

Revenue is up an impressive 52.8% since the same quarter a year ago, and net income is up 109.3%, from $98.4 million to $206 million. ROE has improved slightly, and EPS are up significantly. We feel the company is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. Plains All American's gross profit margin of 3.8% is extremely low, though it has increased from the same period last year, and its net profit margin of 2.3% trails the industry average.

We've downgraded UCBH Holdings ( UCBH), which operates as the bank holding company for United Commercial Bank, from hold to sell, driven by its deteriorating net income, disappointing return on equity, generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself and feeble growth in its earnings per share.

Net income decreased significantly compared with the same quarter a year ago, falling from $16.2 million to -$53.72 million. ROE also greatly decreased, a signal of major weakness. Revenue fell by 10.8%. EPS experienced a steep decline of 440% in the most recent quarter compared with the year-ago quarter. The company has reported a trend of declining EPS over the past two years, but the consensus estimate suggest that it should reverse in the coming year.

Shares are down 82.7% on the year, underperforming the S&P 500. Naturally, the overall market trend is bound to be a significant factor, and in one sense, the stock's sharp decline last year is a positive for future investors, making it cheaper (in proportion to its earnings over the past year) than most other stocks in its industry. But due to other concerns, we feel the stock is still not a good buy right now.

Other ratings changes include First Busey ( BUSE), downgraded from buy to hold, and EHealth ( EHTH), upgraded from sell to hold.

All ratings changes generated on Jan. 23 are listed below.

Ticker
Company
Current
Change
Previous
BOGA
Baseline Oil & Gas
SELL
Initiated
BPL
Buckeye Partners
BUY
Upgrade
HOLD
BUSE
First Busey
HOLD
Downgrade
BUY
BXS
BancorpSouth
HOLD
Downgrade
BUY
CNP
Centerpoint Energy
BUY
Upgrade
HOLD
EHTH
EHealth
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
GRNB
Green Bankshares
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
HICKA
Hickok
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD
NTCT
NetScout Systems
BUY
Upgrade
HOLD
PAA
Plains All American Pipeline
BUY
Upgrade
HOLD
PSA.A
Public Storage
BUY
Upgrade
HOLD
TOFC
Tower Financial
HOLD
Upgrade
SELL
UCBH
UCBH Holdigns
SELL
Downgrade
HOLD

Each business day, TheStreet.com Ratings updates its ratings on the stocks it covers. The proprietary ratings model projects a stock's total return potential over a 12-month period, including both price appreciation and dividends. Buy, hold or sell ratings designate how the Ratings group expects these stocks to perform against a general benchmark of the equities market and interest rates.

While the ratings model is quantitative, it uses both subjective and objective elements. For instance, subjective elements include expected equities market returns, future interest rates, implied industry outlook and company earnings forecasts. Objective elements include volatility of past operating revenue, financial strength and company cash flows.

However, the rating does not incorporate all of the factors that can alter a stock's performance. For example, it doesn't always factor in recent corporate or industry events that could affect the stock price, nor does it include recent technology developments and competitive dynamics that may affect the company.

For those reasons, we believe a rating alone cannot tell the whole story, and that it should be part of an investor's overall research.

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