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Inside the Market’s roundup of some of today’s key analyst actions

Though its fourth-quarter fiscal 2021 financial results fell below his expectations, Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley thinks the building blocks are “coming together” for Blackberry Ltd. (BB-T, BB-N), leading him to upgrade the Waterloo, Ont.-based tech firm to “hold” from “sell.”

After the bell on Tuesday, BlackBerry reported non-GAAP revenue for the quarter of US$215-million, missing Mr. Walkley’s US$246-million estimate by 14 per cent due largely to lower-than-anticipated licensing revenue (US$50-million versus his US$71-million projection).

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“The weakness in licensing was due to headwinds caused by negotiations with a North American company for the potential sale of part of its mobile device patent portfolio,” he said.

“Should management reach a deal to sell the licensing business, we believe this could help unlock value and provide a capital infusion to drive accelerated software and services growth. While we believe management has created a cogent long-term strategy and the business is turning the corner towards stronger trends, we await more proof in execution on the new product roadmap, evidence of cross-selling opportunities emerging, growing overall software and services revenue, and the potential for upside to our estimates before becoming more constructive on the shares. However, we believe the software and services fundamentals should improve throughout F2022, leading us to upgrade from Sell to HOLD.”

The analyst reduced his estimates for fiscal 2022, citing “potential licensing sale somewhat offset by expectations for stronger software and services growth trends.”

“In the event the licensing negotiations do not close, management expects total revenue of $775-million- $815-million for F2022 with licensing revenue coming in at $100-million or $10-million-$15-million per quarter while negotiations are ongoing and recovering to higher levels in 2H/F2022 should the company not reach a deal. Given this outlook, we are reducing our F2022 Licensing estimates from $250-million to $100-million and slightly reduce our F2023 estimates from $250-million to $225-million. We are encouraged by the 9-15-per-cent growth in Software and Services with expectations for double digit billings growth in F2022, leading us to increase our software estimates. The net results of these changes lead us to reduce our F2022 total revenue estimates from $944-million to $794-million and slightly increase or F023 revenue estimate from $996-millionto $999-million.”

Mr. Walkley also trimmed his target for BlackBerry shares by US$1 to US$9. The average target on the Street is currently US$7.44, according to Refinitiv data.

Elsewhere, Scotia Capital’s Paul Steep also trimmed his target by US$1 to US$7.50 with a “sector underperform” rating, while Raymond James’ Steven Li raised his target to US$9.50 from US$8 with a “market perform” recommendation.

“We see BlackBerry as holding potential in terms of various areas of the business (e.g., security software, QNX) along with having the balance sheet to navigate through the ongoing pandemic,” said Mr. Steep. “However, we would need to see a material improvement in the firm’s performance within its software businesses to become more constructive on the shares. We remain Sector Underperform given the share price appreciation in recent weeks that appears to be overdone in the short term given fundamentals of the business.”

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RBC Dominion Securities analyst Sam Crittenden expects Hudbay Minerals Inc. (HBM-T) to reach a free cash flow inflection point in the second half of the year following its investments in Manitoba and Peru, which he expects to drive “strong” gold and copper production growth over the next three years.

Seeing its shares trading at a discount to its peers and feeling they “do not yet reflect this potential upside in production,” he upgraded the Toronto-based miner to “outperform” from “sector perform.”

“Hudbay’s updated mine plans for Peru and Manitoba confirm strong growth potential through 2023 with copper production in Peru growing to 118 thousand tons from 73 thousand tons in 2020 (61 per cent) and gold in Manitoba to 185 thousand ounces from 112 thousand ounces in 2020 (65 per cent),” said Mr. Crittenden. “The updated mine plans had a modest 1-per-cent impact, taking our NAVPS to $9.85 as increased production was offset by higher costs and opex than we had previously modeled. Highlights of the mine plans include: Increased throughput at Lalor (5,300 tons peer day from 4,500 tpd previously) taking gold production up to 180 thousand ounces for the first six years from 160 thousand ounces previously while the Constancia North zone extends the medium-term copper production at Constancia (up 15 per cent 2021–28).”

“At spot commodity prices, we forecast FCF to turn positive in Q3/21 and overall FCF for the year of $232-million or FCF yield of 13 per cent, vs. peers at 13 per cent in 2021. For 2022, we forecast FCF of $515-million or 30-per-cent yield at spot prices.”

Mr. Crittenden maintained a $13 target for Hudbay shares. The average on the Street is $12.27.

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“Hudbay provides investors with significant exposure to copper (47 per cent of 2021 revenue), zinc (24 per cent), gold, silver & other (29 per cent),” he said. “For each 10 cents per pound increase in Cu and Zn prices in 2021, our EBITDA estimate increases by 11 per cent or $49-million. For each $50 per ounce increase in Au price in 2021, our EBITDA estimate increases by 2 per cent or $7-million.

“The assets in the Flin Flon camp in Northern Manitoba provide exposure to copper, zinc, and precious metals production from the 777 Mine (to close end of 2021), the Lalor mine (10 years of mine life), and the Flin Flon Zinc plant and refinery. The Constancia copper project in Peru provides geographic diversification and scale. The Rosemont copper project in Arizona has potential for 2026 copper production growth.”

Elsewhere, Credit Suisse’s Fahad Tariq raised his target to $12.50 from $12 also with an “outperform” recommendation, while Canaccord Genuity’s Dalton Baretto cut his target by a loonie to $11 with a “buy” rating. The average is $12.27.

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With oil holding recent gains “driven by resilient demand, COVID vaccine optimism and OPEC+ support,” Canaccord Genuity analyst Anthony Petrucci expects prices to “remain propped-up over the near to medium term.”

In a research report released Wednesday, he increased his oil price assumptions across his forecast horizon. He’s now projecting US$57.50 per barrel WTI through the rest of 2021, up from US$50 previously. His long-term price jumped to US$55.00 from US$50.

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“Outside of OPEC, there has been a limited supply response to the rebound in pricing, making the market hopeful these gains can be largely maintained (or extended) in the near to medium term,” he said. “Current EIA forecasts suggest global oil demand of 98.3 million barrels per day over the next 12 months, only modestly below pre-pandemic levels of 101 million bbl/d. EIA supply forecasts remain modestly below expected demand levels, suggesting a continued decline in world oil inventories.

“In our view, recent OPEC+ policy decisions have reflected its desire to support stronger oil prices, so long as there is no material supply response from non-OPEC nations (including US shale production). We believe larger corporate producers appear unwilling to sanction significant new development spending due to oil price volatility, investor pressure and energy transition policy uncertainty. While the U.S. rig count continues to creep higher, we believe oilfield activity remains well below levels needed to support sustained production growth.”

With the price deck changes, Mr. Petrucci cut his rating for Tamarack Valley Energy Ltd. (TVE-T) to “hold” from “speculative buy” with a $2.50 target, rising from $1.75. The average on the Street is $2.98.

“TVE’s share price has been on a remarkable run since December, with it up over 150 per cent in the last 4 months,” he said. “In our view, the appreciation in share price was well warranted, given an attractive asset base, compelling valuation and strong balance sheet. At current levels, however, the stock is largely in line with our updated target, and is now trading at a slight premium to the peer group (2021 estimated EV/DACF of 4.0 times vs peers at 3.7 times). As such, we are reducing our rating to HOLD (from Spec Buy).”

Mr. Petrucci also made these target price adjustments:

  • Whitecap Resources Inc. (WCP-T, “buy”) to $7.50 from $7. Average: $7.41.
  • PrairieSky Royalty Ltd. (PSK-T, “buy”) to $15 from $13.50. Average: $14.22.
  • Crescent Point Energy Corp. (CPG-T, “buy”) to $6.50 from $6. Average: $5.93.
  • Baytex Energy Corp. (BTE-T, “hold”) to $1.50 from $1.25. Average: $1.45.
  • Bonterra Energy Corp. (BNE-T, “hold”) to $3.50 from $3. Average: $3.66.
  • Arc Resources Ltd. (ARX-T, “buy”) to $9.50 from $9. Average: $11.11.

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Seeing outperformance in the near term as unlikely, Credit Suisse analyst Andrew Kuske cut Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (BAM-N, BAM.A-T) to “neutral” from “outperform” on Wednesday.

“We believe limited conditions support the Brookfield Asset Management (BAM) absolute or relative outperformance versus a number of relevant groups,” he said.. As a result, we downgrade the stock.

“A few of the issues facing BAM’s near-term, include: (a) dynamics associated with BAM’s proposal to buy the portion of Brookfield Property Partners LP (BPY) not already owned; (b) considerations for early success of the forthcoming Brookfield Asset Management Reinsurance Partners on a near-term basis (albeit as a “paired” security); (c) the perceived impact (more relative basis) of rising interest rates versus other parts of the capital market. With this backdrop, we downgrade the stock.”

Despite the downgrade, Mr. Kuske sees the potential for a “strong” second half of 2021.

“At this time, we view the Brookfield Group’s overall activity levels as tilting towards the back half of the year from intertwined reality of deployments, fund raising and monetizations,” he said. “A successful BPY deal close is likely to result in active ‘repackaging’ of the assets to drive gains and capital efficiency. Such efforts are not embedded in our BAM expectations and could provide upside. In the context of history, recent increases in interest rates are largely inconsequential, however, they look to act as a relative headwind versus other capital market options. Given Brookfield’s real asset tilt versus other market options with a greater financial focus, the Group is less well positioned. Despite that reality, we continue to believe the available real assets yields will maintain momentum with shifting allocations away from traditional fixed income and into real asset classes.”

He raised his target to US$54 from US$52. The average on the Street is US$53.50.

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Elsewhere, JP Morgan analyst Kenneth Worthington increased his target to US$57 from US$55 with an “overweight rating.

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Lululemon Athletica Inc. (LULU-Q) “capped off a solid year” with better-than-anticipated fourth-quarter results despite pandemic-related disruptions, according to Citi’s Paul Lejuez.

However, though he sees its core business as “strong” and thinks investments in its in-home fitness company Mirror “make sense,” the analyst thinks a lack of margin upside is likely to limit share price gains in the near term. That led him to conclude the risk-reward proposition is “balanced at current levels.”

Mr. Lejuez was one of several equity analysts on the Street to reduce their target prices for the Vancouver-based apparel maker on Wednesday.

After the bell on Thursday, Lululemon reported adjusted earnings per share for the quarter of US$2.58, topping both Mr. Lejuez’s US$2.56 estimate and the consensus projection of $2.49. Comparable same-store sales grew 20 per cent, also exceeding expectations (16 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively).

The company also guided EPS for the first quarter to a range of 86-90 US cents, versus the Street’s forecast of US$82. However, its full-year 2022 estimate of US$6.30-$6.45 fell below the consensus of US$6.71.

That led Mr. Lejuez to trim his 2022, 2023 and 2024. EPS estimates to US$6.65, US$8.16 and US$9.09, respectively, from US$7.23, US$8.41 and US$9.58.

Keeping a “neutral” rating, he lowered his target to US$350 from US$385. The average on the Street is US$393.69.

“Comp momentum has been among the best in retail and margins have expanded almost 400 basis points since 2015,” said Mr. Lejuez. “Product innovation continues to drive strong results in seemingly developed categories such as women’s pants, the men’s business is a big opportunity, and the customer has given LULU license to broaden into new categories. While Covid-19 disruptions will be a near-term headwind, there is no change to LULU’s long-term earnings power. However, with the LULU being valued as one of the most expensive specialty retail concepts ever, we believe the risk/reward is fairly balanced.”=

Other analysts making target changes included:

* RBC Dominion Securities’ Kate Fitzsimons to US$380 from US$435 with an “outperform” rating.

“With category tailwinds continuing, strong brand health, and ongoing innovation focuses, we see LULU’s momentum as strong into 2021 given multiple growth levers between ecommerce, international, men’s, innovation, and MIRROR,” she said. “That said, stepped-up spending behind MIRROR this year is likely to mitigate the flow-through even as the top line (in our expectation) continues to outperform in a recovery. Looking to 2022 and beyond, we see opportunities for pent-up earnings power to be unleashed as MIRROR’s investment cycle wanes and the core business continues to resonate. Attractive risk/reward at current levels.”

* BTIG’s Camilo Lyon to US$434 from US$453 with a “buy” rating.

* Jefferies’ to US$330 from US$370 with a “hold” rating.

* Cowen and Co.’s John Kernan to US$385 from US$389 with an “outperform” rating.

* Piper Sandler’s Erinn Murphy to US$465 from US$478 with an “overweight” rating.

* B. Riley’s Susan Anderson to US$374 from US$409 with a “buy” rating.

* Deutsche Bank’s Paul Trussell to US$390 from US$396 with a “buy” rating

* MKM Partners’ Omar Saad to US$388 from US$446 with an “outperform” rating.

* BoA Global Research’s Lorraine Hutchinson to US$410 from US$425 with a “buy” rating.

* Bernstein’s Jamie Merriman to US$351 from US$379 with a “marketperform” rating.

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Though he expects its earnings for the first half of 2021 to blow past the Street’s expectations, Scotia Capital analyst Michael Doumet downgraded Russel Metals Inc. (RUS-T) to “sector perform” from “sector outperform” on Wednesday, seeing a lack of further near-term catalysts.

“The stage is set for strong 1H21 EPS as we expect record metal prices to lift Metal Service Centers (MSC) margins to peak levels,” he said. “And, while we expect a more protracted recovery for Energy Products (EP) – our 2021 EPS is comfortably ahead of consensus.

“Then, why are we downgrading? Russel shares, which correlate with metal prices, are up 100 per cent in the last 12 months reflecting the improved fundamentals. And, while we expect metal prices to stay ‘higher-for-longer’, a portion of the profit increase in the 1H21 will be driven by ‘inventory gains’ ... The structural improvement to the business that we expect to come from the reallocation of capital from OCTG into higher-return areas (i.e. MSC) is a longer-term consideration, in our view. As such, given RUS’s share appreciation and valuation – which reflects a 15-per-cent P/E premium (using our mid-cycle estimate) and a 12-per-cent P/B premium to historicals – we see risk/reward as neutral.

He maintained a $26.50 target, falling below the $26.93 average.

In a separate note, Mr. Doumet increased his Stelco Holdings Inc. (STLC-T) target to $32 from $30 with a “sector outperform” rating. The average is $30.07.

“Steel prices have risen higher (and stayed higher) versus forecasts made just a few months ago,” he said. “Demand continues to outstrip supply and the U.S. storms (in February) appear to have disrupted supply, which, in our view, will help sustain an elevated metal price through 2Q21. We have increased our 2021E EBITDA by $200-million (or 20 per cent). Although our forecast reflects HRC price moderation in 3Q21 (due to projected supply increases), pent-up infrastructure demand could help sustain elevated prices through the 2H21.

“While we fully recognize HRC is in the latter innings of its price cycle, we see continued upside to Stelco shares at these levels. We forecast FCF of $8.15 per share in 2021E (approximately 30 per cent of the market cap). Beyond 2021, Stelco’s improved cost position nearly ensures profitability through the cycle and industry supply discipline and increased demand for scrap will likely strengthen its earnings power longer-term. Further, significant cash generation provides ample room for return of capital and opportunities to acquire assets that capture more of the value chain.”

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5N Plus Inc.’s (VNP-T) acquisition of AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH is a “strategically important step” in its evolution, according to Desjardins Securities analyst Frederic Tremblay.

On Tuesday, the Montreal-based producer of specialty semiconductors and performance materials announced the deal for the German company, which it sees as a “global leader” in developing and manufacturing multi‐junction solar cells for space and terrestrial concentrated photovoltaic (“PV”) applications.

“With a history of close to 60 years, Germany-based AZUR has solid space and renewable energy businesses supported by know-how and patents,” said Mr. Tremblay. “AZUR’s most recent annual revenue was in excess of EUR50-million and its average three-year annual EBITDA was approximately EUR6-million, according to VNP.”

“Beyond the benefits associated with acquiring AZUR’s current activities in space and renewable energy, a very exciting part of this transaction is the mid-term upside potential associated with new market opportunities. AZUR adds a layer to VNP’s semiconductor supply chain (epitaxy) and newly acquired assets/competencies are applicable to wide-bandgap materials that enable energy efficiency, chip miniaturization and rapid transfer of data. This is expected to unlock various opportunities over time representing an incremental addressable market of over US$500-million by 2030 (vs the current addressable market of legacy operations of US$400-million.”

Mr. Tremblay thinks the acquisition brings “significant upside potential in a few years related to promising opportunities such as electronics, wireless charging, defence and advanced communications.” He sees the transaction “well-aligned” with its “desire to accelerate growth and access larger addressable markets.”

After raising his 2021 and 2022 earnings and revenue estimates, he increased his target for 5N Plus shares to $5.75 from $5.50, keeping a “buy” recommendation. The average on the Street is $5.65.

“From a valuation perspective, we believe that the AZUR acquisition should have positive implications on VNP’s multiples as it represents a significant step in transforming the company into a leading provider of specialty semiconductors and performance materials and propelling it into its next phase of growth,” said Mr. Tremblay. “We are therefore increasing our valuation multiple to 12 times (from 10 times) on our revised 2022 estimates, which include the impact of AZUR and of the 6.5 million additional share.”

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Canaccord Genuity analyst Tania Gonsalves expects shares of Eupraxia Pharmaceuticals Inc. (EPRX-T) to “start moving” once trials begin on its EP-104IAR treatment of pain associated with knee osteoarthritis with the expectation of positive results in late 2022.

Seeing the Victoria-based clinical-stage biotechnology company, which began trading on the TSX earlier this month, aiming to fill a “large unmet need,” she initiated coverage with a “speculative buy” recommendation.

“OA is the leading cause of disability in older adults, with knees being the most commonly affected joints,” said Ms. Gonsalves. “Although IA corticosteroids are one of only two pharmacotherapies strongly recommended by guidelines for the treatment of knee OA, their usage and sales have been limited by safety concerns. For instance, currently marketed IA corticosteroids produce a burst in drug concentration upon injection that, with repeat administration, leads to sustained cortisol suppression and cartilage erosion, thereby exacerbating OA progression. As such, the number of doses of IA corticosteroids a patient can receive per year and the number of joints treated simultaneously is capped. This is problematic considering efficacy is short-lasting and up to 80 per cent of knee OA patients are affected in both knees.”

Calling EP-104IAR “a potential solution,” she added: “Data to date highlight four key benefits over currently marketed IA corticosteroids, including (1) no evidence of cartilage damage; (2) local and systemic tolerability, suggesting the potential for long-term repeat dosing; (3) minimal and transient cortisol suppression, which could permit bilateral knee OA treatment; and (4) sustained drug levels in the knees, providing for a patient-friendly schedule of only one to two doses annually.”

Currently the lone analyst covering the stock, Ms. Gonsalves set a $10.25 per share target.

“While the 105-per-cent implied upside is attractive, 80 per cent of our price target hinges on the success of EP-104IAR,” she said.

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In other analyst actions:

* National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen upgraded Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP-T) to “outperform” from “sector perform” with a $515 target, rising from $490. The average on the Street is $521.43.

* Mr. Doerksen also raised his Canadian National Railway Co. (CNR-T) target to $147 from $137, maintaining a “sector perform” recommendation. The average is $135.79.

* Mackie Research analyst Andre Uddin downgraded Algernon Pharmaceuticals Inc. (AGN-CN) to “hold” from “speculative buy” after its disappointing results from its phase 2b/3 trial for its Ifenprodil treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. His target slid to 25 cents from 80 cents.

* Scotia’s Phil Hardie raised his target for shares of Element Fleet Management Corp. (EFN-T) to $16 from $14.50, maintaining a “sector outperform” rating. The current average is $16.13.

“The transition to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) across commercial fleets is likely to create attractive growth opportunities for leading fleet management and leasing companies,” said Mr. Hardie. “The transition for passenger vehicles is likely to accelerate over the coming years. Despite the benefits, we expect the conversion for commercial fleet vehicles to likely play out over a more prolonged period given a number of barriers and challenges. A successful evolution will likely require partnerships across the value chain and stakeholders, and over the near-to-mid-term, commercial fleets are likely to resemble a mixed approach. We believe the transition to BEV will reduce operating costs and emissions, but add complexity for fleet operators. We believe the shift to BEV across commercial fleets is likely to create attractive growth opportunities for leading fleet management and leasing companies, although the composition of services and assets financed is likely to change.”

* Raymond James analyst Brad Sturges raised his target for Minto Apartment REIT (MI.UN-T) to $25 from $23, keeping an “outperform” rating. The average is currently $23.81.

“While Minto may see some operating choppiness in 1H21, we believe the REIT’s strategy of maintaining its pricing power by sacrificing some occupancy in the short term could set up the REIT to capture potential green shoots in the Canadian economy” said Mr. Sturges. “We believe a return of key Canadian multifamily rental demand drivers could position Minto’s organic growth prospects to return to pre-COVID SP-NOI growth levels, which were previously in the mid-single digit range year-over-year.”

* CIBC World Markets analyst Alex Hunchak lowered his Marathon Gold Corp. (MOZ-T) to $3.75 from $4 with an “outperformer” rating, while TD Securities’ Arun Lamba cut his target to $4 from $4.25 with a “speculative buy” recommendation. The average is $4.06.

* Calling it “a Cu-Au giant chaser,” PI Financial analyst Chris Thompson initiated coverage of Filo Mining Corp. (FIL-X) with a “buy” rating and $5.75 target The current average is $3.80.

FIL offers development upside realized through its Filo del Sol project which hosts HS epithermal Cu-Au-Ag mineralization and a potentially large porphyry Cu-Au system that straddles the Argentina/Chile border,” he said. “Our investment thesis captures value offered by a 4.7B lb CuEq oxide resource with little value for sulphide upside. Drill results are pending and we expect a decision to proceed to a FS by year end.”

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