The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: ConocoPhillips, Talisman Energy, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble - Press Releases

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL - December 13, 2011 - announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include ConocoPhillips ( COP ), Talisman Energy ( TLM ), Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. ( VRTX ), Kimberly-Clark Corporation ( KMB ) and Procter & Gamble Co. ( PG ).

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Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Conoco Strikes North Sea Gas

ConocoPhillips ( COP ) announced the discovery of gas at the Peking Duck prospect in the southern North Sea off Norway. However, the company did not reveal the estimated amount of gas found.

In its first drilling on the block, ConocoPhillips' 7/11-12 S wildcat hit a 40-metre gas column in a Jurassic reservoir in the Ula formation. The reservoir quality in Triassic rocks was substandard than expected. The other wildcat 7/11-12 A sidetrack struck a 34-metre gas column in the same structure.

Located in water depth of 236.2 feet, both discoveries were drilled by the rig Maersk Gallant. Further evaluation and appraisal will conclude the actual size of the field.

ConocoPhillips controls a 22% operating interest in the license, while partners OMV, Dong and Talisman Energy ( TLM ) hold a respective 30%, 28% and 20% stake.

Houston, Texas-based ConocoPhillips is a major globally integrated oil company engaged in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas, refining and marketing of petroleum products, manufacturing of chemicals, and other energy-related businesses.

With leading positions in both natural gas and heavy crude oil in North America, as well as a legacy position in the North Sea and growing exposure to lucrative international regions, ConocoPhillips expects to replace reserves and sustain production growth over the long term.

We appreciate ConocoPhillips' emphasis on creating shareholder value through operational excellence, strong project execution, dividend payout and utilization of its excess cash flow to repurchase shares. Furthermore, strong proceeds from asset sales, disposal of low-profit generating properties and cancellation of potentially less profitable projects add to the company's drive to sustain its growth trajectory.

Despite these positive factors, the company's performances are expected to be weighed down by unpredictable global economic conditions and uncertain oil & natural gas prices. We also remain cautious about the geopolitical risks associated with international activates and operational challenges.

We believe there are limited positive catalysts for ConocoPhillips and expect it to perform in line with the broader market. Hence, we maintain a Neutral rating on the stock for the long term.

Pipeline Progress at Vertex Pharma

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. ( VRTX ) along with partner Alios BioPharma, Inc. recently announced the initiation of two early-stage trials with candidates ALS-2200 and ALS-2158. The companies are studying the two candidates as a treatment for chronic genotype-1 hepatitis C (HCV). Expectedly, data from the trials will be presented in the second quarter of 2012.

Following the release of the data from these phase I trials, Vertex Pharma and Alios BioPharma plan to initiate mid-stage combinations studies in the second half of 2012, to evaluate multiple all-oral, interferon-free combination regimens for HCV. These phase II trials will evaluate the combination regimens of ALS-2200 or ALS-2158 with Vertex Pharma's lead product Incivek (telaprevir) or pipeline candidate VX-222, and ribavirin, in order to generate sustained viral response (viral cure) data.

Incivek is used in combination with pegylated-interferon and ribavirin for the treatment of HCV in both treatment-naïve and treatment-failed adult patients. It is available in the European Union ( EU ) and certain other countries under the brand name of Incivo. VX-222 is currently in mid-stage trials, being evaluated in combination with Incivek as a treatment for HCV.

Vertex Pharma acquired the worldwide rights to ALS-2200 and ALS-2158 from Alios BioPharma in June 2011, as a part of an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement. The agreement also includes a research program that will focus on the discovery of additional HCV treatments.

Lobbying Charges Up for Kimberly-Clark

Kimberly-Clark Corporation ( KMB ) reported that it has spent $110,000 during the third quarter 2011 on issues related to taxes and environment. Lobbying charges increased from the previous quarter to $50,000 and from the second quarter of 2010 to $80,000.

According to the filing with the House clerk's office, Kimberly-Clark lobbied the Congress and opposed proposals to increase the use of natural gas in transportation and power generation.

The company also opposes the strict government rules on the release of mercury, carbon monoxide and other harmful gases from industrial boilers.

Further, Kimberly-Clark lobbied to remove certain taxes and was in favor of comprehensive tax reform. The companies want to get rid of an excise tax on medical devices and expect the government to retain tax deductions for manufacturers.

The maker of well-known household brands like Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissues - Kimberly-Clark posted in-line results with the Zacks Consensus Estimate of adjusted earnings of $1.26 per share in the third quarter 2011.

The adjusted earnings in the third quarter of 2011 exclude the adjustment of charges related to the pulp and tissue restructuring of 17 cents per share. The results benefited from sales growth, cost savings, a lower share count and a reduced tax rate.

For fiscal 2011, Kimberly-Clark has reduced the high end of its earnings forecast to the range of $4.80 to $4.90 per share, compared with the company's previous expectations of $4.80 to $5.05.

Kimberly-Clark currently holds a Zacks #3 Rank, and competes with Procter & Gamble Co. ( PG ). On a long-term basis, we maintain a Neutral rating on the stock, which translates into a short-term Hold rating.

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CONOCOPHILLIPS ( COP ): Free Stock Analysis Report

KIMBERLY CLARK ( KMB ): Free Stock Analysis Report

PROCTER & GAMBL ( PG ): Free Stock Analysis Report

TALISMAN ENERGY ( TLM ): Free Stock Analysis Report

VERTEX PHARM (VRTX): Free Stock Analysis Report

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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