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People celebrate the collapse of the Gadhafi regime in Benghazi, Libya, Aug. 22, 2011. (Alexandre Meneghini/AP)
People celebrate the collapse of the Gadhafi regime in Benghazi, Libya, Aug. 22, 2011. (Alexandre Meneghini/AP)

Eye on Equities

SNC-Lavalin upgraded as Gadhafi regime nears apparent end Add to ...

The rebel advance in Libya and the probable end to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime means SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. could soon resume work on engineering projects it had suspended this spring in the war-torn country.

The Canadian company said on Monday its Libyan projects, which include a prison, a water pipeline and an airport, are still on hold for now until the situation in the country stabilizes.

But Raymond James Ltd. analyst Frederic Bastien has little doubt that the company will return to the oil-rich country to finish the jobs it was forced to abandon. Despite what will no doubt be ongoing political uncertainty, SNC-Lavalin’s projects in Libya are essential to the people and prosperity of the country, he points out.

It’s just one of several positive developments that should mark an end to the company’s recent sluggish performance, suggests Mr. Bastien, who upgraded the stock today to “strong buy” from the already bullish rating of “outperform.”

“We urge investors to buy the common shares of this globally diversified and consistently strong performer,” he said in a research note. “We reason SNC-Lavalin can better withstand the stock market’s volatility than most of the stocks comprising our infrastructure and construction coverage universe, and eventually lead the group.”

He notes that shares are down roughly 18 per cent since hitting an intraday high of $59.97 on July 5 of this year, while the S&P/TSX index is only down 10 per cent - a stock decline he suggests is “excessive.”

Upside: Mr. Bastien maintained a $60 price target.

The long-awaited merger of XM Canada and Sirius Canada, along with the refinancing of debt, has resulted in Canadian Satellite Radio becoming “a stronger and more viable company, both operationally and financially,” said RBC Dominion Securities Inc. analyst Drew McReynolds. The combined 1.3 million subscribers “provides a visible path to meaningful profitability,” he said.

Upside: Mr. McReynolds upgraded the stock to “outperform” from “sector perform” while raising his price target to $4.75 from $2.50.

Canfor Corp. shares have been caught in the downdraft of general market uncertainty, “shifting the risk/reward proposition back in investors’ favour,” said Desjardins Securities Inc. analyst Pierre Lacroix. He expects market conditions for lumber to improve over the next six to nine months on the back of tighter production, continued strong demand from China, and a slight improvement in U.S. housing. “The company’s long-term growth profile remains compelling, as we expect the shares to double during the next peak in lumber prices,” he said.

Upside: Mr. Lacroix upgraded Canfor to “buy” from “hold” while maintaining a $12.50 price target.

After surging to a new all-time high earlier this year, West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. is now flirting with 52-week lows amid a downward trend in lumber and pulp prices and global market fears. Desjardins' Mr. Lacroix suggests this is a good time to load up on the stock, expecting seasonal strength in lumber markets to emerge around October, especially if market fears gradually dissipate.

Upside: Mr. Lacroix upgraded West Fraser to “buy” from “hold” and reiterated a $58 price target.

Triangle Petroleum Corp. stock “is too cheap for a company with its asset base, liquidity and relative growth potential,” argued Canaccord analyst John Gerdes. Triangle is Mr. Gerdes favourite company involved in the prolific Bakken formation, which straddles the U.S.-Western Canada border, thanks in part to its fully funded development schedule.

Upside: Mr. Gerdes cut his price target by $1 to $10 and reiterated a “buy” rating.

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