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3M (MMM): A Likely Winner Among Losers This Earnings Season?

The first-quarter 2016 earnings season is anticipated to start off on a lukewarm note plagued by a plethora of macroeconomic issues and continued volatility in the equity market. Initial feelers portray yet another earnings decline for the S&P 500 index, probably making it the fourth consecutive quarter to report such a decline.

Earnings estimates for the S&P 500 index for the first quarter have gone downhill over the last three months. The trend is likely to aggravate further as companies report their earnings. What is more alarming is that the likely dismal earnings performance this time is not attributable to the inherent weakness of the Energy sector alone. Rather, downward estimate revisions are expected to be witnessed in almost all sectors barring a few, thereby portraying a grim Q1 earnings picture.

3M: A Likely Winner Among Losers?

Amid the rubble, there are still some potential winners that can beat the earnings blues. Instead of searching for such stocks like a needle in a haystack, we have shortlisted some large cap stocks with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or Rank #2 (Buy) that have witnessed positive earnings estimate revisions for Q1. With a liquidity of over $10 billion offering some cushion against the vagaries of the market, these stocks inspire investor confidence. In addition, a positive Earnings ESP increases the likelihood of a beat for these stocks.  

In order to improve its earnings, diversified conglomerate 3M Company MMM has been focusing on restructuring initiatives to transfer capital from low-margin businesses to more lucrative opportunities, thus generating better return on capital. 3M has taken some prudent steps to strengthen its core portfolio of businesses.

Since 2012, the company has pruned its businesses from 40 to 26, thereby improving customer relevance, productivity and speed through a leaner operating structure. At the same time, 3M has maintained steady investment in R&D. In 2016, it expects to invest $1.8 billion in R&D for higher organic growth.

Portfolio management, investment in innovation and business transformation are the three key levers on which 3M intends to focus to gain a competitive advantage in the industry. 3M also intends to continue investing in capital expenditures and research and development to support organic growth as it aims at a prudent capital structure strategy and increased capital deployment.

Furthermore, 3M is standardizing its business processes through a new, global ERP system. The company expects these efforts to result in $500 million to $700 million in annual operational savings by 2020, and an additional $500 million reduction in working capital.

With such focused initiatives, 3M expects 8–11% growth in earnings per share during the five-year period from 2016–2020 driven by organic sales growth of 2–5%. The company expects about 20% return on invested capital during this tenure with a free cash flow conversion rate of 100%. This Zacks Rank #2 stock has a market cap of over $100 billion with an earnings ESP of +2.08%.

4 Other Large-Cap Picks

Canadian Pacific Railway Limited CP: Founded in 1881 and headquartered in Calgary, Canada, Canadian Pacific operates a transcontinental railway network in Canada and the U.S. The company focuses on providing logistics and supply chain expertise services.

This Zacks Rank #2 stock has a market cap of nearly $20 billion and an earnings ESP of +4.02%. Earnings estimates for Canadian Pacific have steadily moved north in the last 30 days (up 4.2%) to the current $1.74.

Edison International EIX: California-based Edison International is the parent holding company of Southern California Edison, which supplies electricity to an approximately 50,000 square-mile area of southern California. Edison International is also the parent company of subsidiaries that are engaged in competitive businesses related to the delivery or use of electricity.

With a portfolio of regulated utility assets and well-managed merchant energy operations, Edison International presents a lower risk profile compared to its utility-only peers. In addition, this Zacks Rank #2 stock boasts a solid financial position backed by strong cash generation capacity. Edison International has a market cap of about $23 billion with an earnings ESP of +9.78%. Earnings estimate revisions for the first quarter have increased by 8.2% in the last 30 days to 92 cents, signifying solid investor confidence.

CGI Group Inc. GIB: Founded in 1976, CGI Group is the fifth largest information technology and business process services firm in the world. The company offers a comprehensive portfolio of services including high-end business and IT consulting, systems integration, infrastructure management, application development and maintenance.

This Zacks Rank #2 stock has a market cap of over $13 billion and an earnings ESP of +4.69%. Earnings estimate revisions for CGI Group have improved in the last 30 days and is currently pegged at 64 cents.

Gilead Sciences Inc. GILD: Gilead focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of drugs for several indications including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), liver diseases such as chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, oncology and inflammation, and serious cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. This biopharmaceutical firm operates in North America, South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

A robust product portfolio, impressive pipeline and healthy inorganic growth have led this Zacks Rank #1 stock to record impressive results. Gilead has a market cap of about $132 billion with an earnings ESP of +6.21%. Earnings estimates for the first quarter have moved up in the last 30 days to $2.90, representing a solid momentum.

Moving Forward

Ahead of a shaky Q1 earnings season, these large-cap outperformers backed by a solid Zacks Rank and a positive Earnings ESP could be a great way to beat the markets.

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CDN PAC RLWY (CP): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
EDISON INTL (EIX): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CGI GRP INC -A (GIB): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
3M CO (MMM): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
GILEAD SCIENCES (GILD): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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