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Westlake Chemical Upped to Strong Buy on Solid Prospects


On Jul 11, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Westlake Chemical Corporation WLK to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). Going by the Zacks model, companies sporting a Zacks Rank #1 have strong chances of outperforming the broader market.

Market sentiments have been favoring Westlake Chemical for quite some time now, especially on the back of its financial performance and future prospects. Notably, in the last three months, the company’s shares have yielded nearly 8.82% return, outperforming the gain of 7.61% recorded by the Zacks categorized Chemicals Plastics industry.

Why the Upgrade?

Westlake Chemical delivered a positive earnings surprise of 57.50% in the first quarter of 2017 while pulling off an average positive earnings surprise of 24.11% for the last four quarters. Throughout 2017, the company anticipates benefiting from its expansion work in Calvert City ethylene plant and from new plant startups. Also, demand for all major products, including chlor-alkali, is predicted to be healthy. Capital spending will likely be in a $550−$600 million range in 2017.

Westlake Chemical is committed toward boosting shareholder value through dividend payments. Also, improving its product portfolio remains a priority. Notably, the company is on the verge of completing a multi-year investment program of approximately $6 billion. It intends to maintain strong liquidity for funding growth investments in the quarters ahead.

In addition, Westlake Chemical is progressing well toward integrating Axiall assets, acquired in Aug 2016. The buyout has diversified the company’s product portfolio and geographical operations, creating a North American leader in Olefins and Vinyls. The company is on track to realize approximately $200 million in synergies and cost savings, including roughly $125 million anticipated in 2017.

Over the last 60 days, the stock’s Zacks Consensus Estimate increased roughly 3% to $4.50 for 2017 and 2.4% to $4.71 for 2018. These estimates represent year-over-year growth of 16.3% for 2017 and 4.6% for 2018 while its earnings are predicted to grow approximately 7.2% in the next three to five years.

For the second quarter of 2017, the company has an Earnings ESP of +5.04%. You can uncover the best stocks to buy or sell before they’re reported with our Earnings ESP Filter. Earnings release anticipated on Jul 27.

Other Stocks to Consider

Westlake Chemical Corporation has a market capitalization of $8.8 billion. Other stocks worth considering in the chemical industry include Kuraray Co. KURRY, Landec Corporation LNDC and KMG Chemicals, Inc. KMG. While Kuraray sports a Zacks Rank #1, both Landec and is KMG Chemicals carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Kuraray’s earnings estimates for 2017 and 2018 have been revised upward, over the last 60 days.

Landec Corporation pulled off an average positive earnings surprise of 6.25% for the last four quarters. Its earnings for fiscal 2018 are predicted to grow 94.9% year over year.

KMG Chemicals delivered a positive earnings surprise of 12.54% in the last quarter. Its earnings estimates for fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 have been revised upward, over the last 60 days.

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