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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Verizon Communications, Sanofi, Novo-Nordisk, Johnson & Johnson and Roche

CHICAGO, Dec. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com 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 Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), Sanofi (NYSE:SNY), Novo-Nordisk (NYSE:NVO), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Roche (OTC:RHHBY).

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Here are highlights from Thursday's Analyst Blog:

Verizon Expands 100G Technology

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) seems to be on an expansion spree as it has extended its 100G network in the U.S. and Europe besides deploying 4G LTE network in several U.S. markets. The rapidly growing telecom traffic demand is forcing the company to expand its network infrastructure. The largest telecom operator in the U.S. has expanded by a massive 20,921 kilometers in the U.S. and by 2,600 kilometers in Europe.

In the U.S., Verizon has deployed its 100G technology in some select markets like Atlanta-Tampa, Kansas-Dallas and Salt Lake City-Seattle, where data demand is the highest. Alongside, within Europe, the company expanded its 100G technology in two new routes including the lucrative London-Paris and London-Frankfurt route.

100G or 100 Gigabyte Ethernet is a high speed computer network standard that supports data transfer at a speed of 100GB per second, which is 10 times better than the previous fastest Ethernet standard with a speed of 10GB per second. 100G technology supports both fixed and wireless services to create a high capacity network, which allows super-fast data transfer in multiple locations.

In November, 2007, Verizon became the first operator in the U.S. to successfully complete the trial of 100G technology. Several trials followed and in March 2011, the company deployed the 100G network in Europe, thereby expanding the infrastructure and performance for its customers. Following the European launch, Verizon successfully launched the network technology in several U.S. markets.

Sanofi Presents Positive Results

Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) recently announced positive results from a phase II trial evaluating the efficacy of its hematology candidate, SAR302503 (selective JAK2 inhibitor) in three dose strengths (300 mg, 400 mg, and 500 mg) for the reduction of spleen volume and improvement in constitutional symptoms in intermediate-2 or high-risk primary or secondary myelofibrosis (MF) patients. The data was presented at the American Society of Hematology's (ASH) annual meeting.
    
The open label, randomized dose-ranging phase II trial evaluated SAR302503 in 31 patients. The candidate met the primary endpoint of reducing spleen volume.

Currently, the phase III JAKARTA trial, evaluating the use of SAR302503 in 289 patients, is underway. Initial data from the trial should be out by the second quarter of 2013. Two dose strengths (400 mg and 500 mg) of SAR302503 are being studied in the JAKARTA trial.

We are pleased with Sanofi's progress with its pipeline. Over the last few months, several of Sanofi's pipeline candidates gained approval including US approval of Aubagio (teriflunomide) for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (RMS) and US approval of Zaltrap (aflibercept) as a combination therapy for treatment-experienced patients suffering from metastatic colorectal cancer.

We expect Sanofi to continue to contain operating costs in order to increase earnings in the face of weakening sales of some of its biggest products. We also expect the company to pursue bolt-on acquisitions.

Our Recommendation

Currently, we have a Neutral recommendation on Sanofi. Sanofi carries a Zacks #2 Rank (Buy) in the short run.

Large-cap pharma stocks currently holding a Zacks #2 Rank include companies like Novo-Nordisk (NYSE:NVO), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Roche (OTC:RHHBY).

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