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As Consumers Demand ‘Natural,’ Stevia Set to Become Blockbuster Product

stevia_plantWith the introduction of a reformulated Sprite, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) is taking a risk with one of its important brands to find new ways to retain customers more sensitive than ever about the adverse health effects of sugar and sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners make up a significant portion of the soft drink market, and both Coke’s and PepsiCo’s (NYSE:PEP) last earnings reports revealed stagnant growth in major markets while emerging market growth is still proceeding apace.  The need to find ways to stimulate demand in the US and Europe is becoming acute, and the drive toward higher perceived food quality is one vector to turn around shrinking margins.

Stevia, unlike aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose is an extract from a plant, and therefore carries the connotation of being natural, which is becoming more and more important in today’s food and beverage market.  Ben & Jerry’s, a division of Unilever (NYSE:UL), made headlines recently with its pledge to eschew the use of GMO foods in its ice cream’s supply chain by 2015.

Nvidia Looks Vulnerable After Nexus Loss

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) is in a difficult position long term.  While its discrete graphics card business is still relatively strong, taking market share in 2012 from rival AMD (NYSE:AMD), this is a market that, overall, will continue to shrink in the coming months and years.  To its credit Nvidia has attempted to move into different markets, most notably the low-power mobile SoC (system on a chip) market with its Tegra line of ARM-based solutions.  Now, it is in the process of launching its fourth generation of the Tegra based on the Cortex A-15 core, for which early benchmarks are long on big numbers and short on context.  The news last month confirming rumors that the company would not be supplying the SoC at the heart of the next Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexus 7 tablet deals a serious blow to the company’s projected sales for the rest of 2013.

NVIDIA-Grid

Read the rest over at Minyanville.

AMD Pounces on Intel with Jaguar

intel_vs_amdAMD (NYSE:$AMD) has had possibly one of the roughest couple of years that a company can have and still be functional.  Serious underperformance of the last two top-end CPU cores – “Bulldozer” and “Piledriver” – versus Intel’s (NASDAQ:$INTC) Sandy Bridge derivatives have seriously degraded market share in the personal computing space due to real-world single-threaded performance among other issues.  Only in the low-power, low-cost – and therefore low-margin – business could AMD compete with anything Intel had to offer.  Its Brazos E-series APU’s built on the 40nm ‘Bobcat’ core were head and shoulders above anything Intel could muster from its aging Atom line. And it’s there where the hopes of AMD’s resurrection will be placed.

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HP Gets Through A Quarter Without Drama

Last year, was the year of the write down at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). New CEO Meg Whitman finally began cleaning up the messes of her predecessors and took an $8.8 billion write down on Autonomy and another $10.8 billion related to the 2008 acquisition of EDS and the stock retreated back to 2002 levels, the year when HP acquired Compaq for $25 billion ushering in the days of cheap laptops and board room squabbles. But to start 2013 HP finally delivered news that wasn’t outright awful and for that the market responded with a ma296x223xHp1_2.JPG.pagespeed.ic.9HAugPmzEyssive short-covering rally.

Its latest quarterly results beat analysts’ estimates and it raised its FY-2013 outlook somewhat. After destroying more than $30 billion in ill-advised M&A deals over the past decade, HP finally showed up for work. I hate to be mean about this but, frankly, the situation is embarrassing for one of the truly innovative companies of all time.

Read the rest over at Seeking Alpha.

Texas Instruments Rises On Long-Term Plans

NB_05LAB2_20054957Texas Instruments (TXN), the world’s leading analog chipmaker and third largest semiconductor manufacturer, reported an 11% drop in quarterly income to $264 million as revenues dropped by 13% to $2.98 billion, just managing to beat the revenue estimates by around $30 million. Operating profits have dropped by 62% from $365 million in Q4-2011 to $139 million in Q4 2012. Excluding a tax benefit of $0.15 per share, the earnings per share was $0.08, 1 cent more than analysts’ estimate. The long-term story for TI has been its unwillingness to commit to the future in mobile computing which ultimately pushed its OMAP SoC to the fringes of the ARM (ARMH) revolution in smartphones.

Read the rest over at Seeking Alpha.

Peter Pham is an author, international fund manager, and a registered financial director by the Cayman Monetary Authority (CIMA). In 2013 he published his first book entitled, The Big Trade: Simple Strategies for Maximum Market Returns. He currently manages the portfolio of a global hedge fund and runs an asset management company, Phoenix Capital.  (read more)

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