Top US stocks to watch before the bell: AT&T, Biogen and airlines

AT&T poaches subscribers from its rivals, Southwest and American Airlines expect the recovery in travel to continue, Biogen profits plunge as generics weigh on Tecfidera sales, Dow benefits from higher chemical prices, and the battle for Kansas City Southern heats up.

USA (1)

AT&T

AT&T revealed it acquired 595,000 net wireless phone subscribers during the first quarter of 2021, more than double what was expected by analysts, helping the telecoms giant beat expectations.

Analysts had expected the firm to secure 268,900 new subscribers in the period. Revenue rose 3% to $43.9 billion and came in above the $42.69 billion expected.

It comes as AT&T invests in its 5G offering and bundles extras into contracts, such as streaming service HBO Max, to attract customers. Verizon said yesterday it lost subscribers during the quarter because of intense competition from AT&T and T-Mobile.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines said it is optimistic about a rebound in travel this summer after reporting a smaller-than-expected loss in the first quarter and expected to burn through less cash than previously thought in the second.

The airline reported a net loss of $1.72 per share in the first quarter compared to a $0.15 loss the year before. However, that was better than the $1.85 loss expected by analysts. Southwest Airlines said it expects to burn through $2 million to $4 million per day in cash during the second quarter, far less than the $13 million it was burning through daily during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Chief executive Gary Kelly said he is expecting ‘steady weekly improvements in domestic leisure bookings’ as the US vaccination programme progresses and hospitalisations decrease.

American Airlines

Improving conditions in the travel industry were supported by a separate update from American Airlines, which also reported a smaller loss in the first quarter as more people travelled.

The airline reported a net loss of $1.97 per share in the quarter compared to a $5.26 loss the year before.

Chief executive Dough Parker said he believes the momentum built in the first quarter shows ‘signs of continued recovery in demand’.

Biogen

Biogen revealed profits plunged in the first quarter of 2021 after a wave of generic multiple sclerosis drugs entered the market and undercut its leading Tecfidera drug, but raised its expectations for the full year on hopes it can start selling its new Alzheimer’s drug.

Tecfidera accounted for over 28% of Biogen’s revenue in 2020 but is expected to fall significantly this year as generics enter the market. Sales of Tecfidera more than halved in the first quarter but came in higher than expected. Overall net income fell to $2.69 per share from $8.08 the year before.

Still, Biogen said it now expects to report annual adjusted net profit of $17.50 to $19.00 per share in 2021 rather than its previous forecast range of $17.00 to $18.50, but this is on the assumption it can start selling a new Alzheimer’s drug that is currently being reviewed by regulators.

Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse outlined plans to raise over $2 billion to strengthen the business after taking a further hit from the collapse of investment fund Archegos.

The company has been caught up in the crises at Archegos and British finance firm Greenshill, dragging it into the red as rivals reap the rewards of increased trading and dealmaking. Credit Suisse said it expects to take a CHF600 million hit in the three months to the end of June, which will be on top of the CHF4.4 billion hit recorded in the first three months of the year.

Dow

Dow Inc said profits surged in the first quarter as demand for plastics and packaging continued to rise whilst supply remained tight, partly because of the major winter storm that hit Texas back in February.

The chemicals company said net operating income rose to $1.36 per share in the quarter from $0.81 in the fourth quarter of 2020. That was on the back of prices rising by an average of 14%, driven by several chemical plants, including Dow’s, having to be shutdown during the storm.

Valero

Refining firm Valero did not fare as well during the quarter as it reported wider losses after its operations were severely impacted by the storm in February.

The company said it refining output was down about 8% in the first quarter as a result to around 2.4 million barrels per day. It reported a net loss of $1.73 per share compared to an $0.88 loss in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Chipotle

Chipotle on Wednesday said sales in the second quarter could grow as much as 30% on hopes that more consumers will return to its restaurants as the country’s vaccination programme progresses as it reported as 17.2% rise in sales during the first.

Growth in the first quarter was helped by new menu items and an increase in online orders, with digital sales rising 134% and accounting for half of overall sales. Revenue rose 23% to $1.74 billion and met analyst expectations.

DR Horton

Housebuilder DR Horton raised expectations after reporting better than expected quarterly results as the housing market remains ‘robust’ through the pandemic.

Home orders leapt 35% in the second quarter of its financial year to 27,059, well ahead of the 23,239 homes forecast by analysts. The company said it expects to deliver between 82,500 and 84,500 homes over the year as a whole, higher than the previous range of 80,000 to 82,000.

Net income in the quarter climbed to $2.53 per share from $1.30 a year earlier on the back of a 43% rise in revenue. That came in higher than the $2.15 expected by analysts.

Canadian Pacific, Kansas City and Canadian National

Canadian Pacific has said it will not raise its $25 billion bid for Kansas City Southern after being trumped by a rival bid from Canadian National.

Canadian National tabled a bid of just under $34 billion for Kansas City earlier this week. However, Canadian Pacific has said the higher offer for Kansas City from Canadian National is ‘not a real deal’ and described it as ‘illusionary and inferior’ as it outlined reasons why its offer makes more sense.

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