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Hindustan Unilever trades higher for seventh straight day, hits record high



Shares of Hindustan Unilever (HUL) were trading higher for the seventh straight day, up 2 per cent at Rs 2,108 on the BSE on Thursday, after the company reported better-than-expected September quarter (Q2FY20) results.

The stock of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company surpassed its previous high of Rs 2,102 touched on September 23, 2019. In the past eight days, it has rallied 12 per cent, as compared to a 3 per cent rise in the S&P BSE Sensex.

HUL’s net profit grew 21 per cent at Rs 1,840 crore, while sales revenue rose 6 per cent at Rs 9,708 crore relative to the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal. EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) margin, too, expanded 293 bps year on year to 24.8 per cent in Q2FY20. Benign input cost, improved product-mix, cost saving initiatives, lower employee cost and higher operating leverage contributed to better operating performance despite higher advertising expenses, the company’s financial statement showed.

“The company took measures such as price cuts (soaps/detergents), passed on the benefits of lower palm oil prices to consumers to keep volumes intact, took cost savings initiatives and also benefitted from an overall benign commodity price environment. The fall in crude prices and other cost cutting initiatives undertaken by the company will lead to further EBITDA margin expansion to around 25 per cent by FY21,” analysts at KR Choksey Shares and Securities said in a result’s update. The brokerage firm has assigned ‘accumulate’ rating on the stock with target price of Rs 2,203 per share.

Furthermore, analysts at Reliance Securities believe even with a likely pick-up in rural volume, the organic nominal growth will decline as the company will pass on the benefit of lower input cost to the consumers. With decrease in nominal growth rate, its earnings growth trajectory is unlikely to sustain at the current elevated levels, it added.



Target is the retail trade of 2019, with the stock up nearly 90%



Target CEO Brian Cornell appears on CNBC after ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on the morning of November 28, 2014 in New York City.

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Target is far and away the best performing retail stock of 2019.

After reporting third-quarter results on Wednesday that crushed Wall Street’s expectation, Target shares rose 12% from its previous close of $110.85. Target’s shares are up nearly 90% this year, topping even the strong performances of TJX Companies and Walmart, and is this year’s sixth-best performing stock on the S&P 500 index.

«We thought the market was already pricing in more of TGT’s progress, but today’s results (esp. margin expansion) came in well above even the most bullish expectations,» Goldman Sachs wrote in a note to investors.

Target also raised its profit outlook for the full year, ahead of the all-important holiday shopping season, while cutting the cost of handling online orders.

«Overall, we believe Target’s strategic transformation initiatives—price investment in everyday items, differentiating merchandising with new private brands, remodeling stores, and investing in digital and delivery, including Shipt—are resonating with consumers,» Telsey Advisory Group wrote in a note to investors.

Options trader Pete Najarian believes Target’s stock will climb even higher, saying on CNBC’s «Halftime Report» that he expects more strong revenue from the company’s investment in private label products.

«When you look at what’s going on with Target – whether it’s in the grocery space or the rest of the store, and there’s five different segments to their store in terms of revenue streams – they have private label everywhere and that is something that will be huge for them. That just helps and is something that’s going to kick in for Target in the future as well,» Najarian said.

– CNBC’s Michael Bloom and Lauren Thomas contributed to this report.


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Electric truck company Nikola claims battery technology advancements



Nikola Corp., the upstart manufacturer of zero-emission heavy trucks and other vehicles, claims to have achieved «game-changing» advancements in battery-cell technology that will enable its hydrogen-electric trucks to drive farther between charges for lower cost and with reduced environmental impact.

The Phoenix-based company, which plans to begin commercial truck production at a plant in central Arizona in 2022, said it has created the world’s first free-standing electrode automotive battery, with heightened «energy density» or storage capacity.

The factory, in Coolidge, could employ more than 3,000 people. It is scheduled to break ground near the middle of next year.

After 800 cycles or charges, a conventional lithium-ion battery will be degraded, Trevor Milton, Nikola’s CEO and founder, said in an interview Tuesday. But the company’s newly developed battery can hit 2,000 cycles, which translates to about 1 million truck miles driven over seven to eight years of typical use, he said.

Large, fully loaded electric trucks powered by Nikola’s prototype battery could drive 800 miles between charges, while trucks powered by its new hydrogen-electric fuel cells could travel 1,000 miles between stops and can be refueled with hydrogen in 15 minutes.

The privately held company claims to have $14 billion of hydrogen-electric truck reservations from customers including Anheuser-Busch and US Xpress. «It will take us 10 years to get caught up» fulfilling those orders, Milton said.

The company plans to unveil the new battery technology in greater detail at its Nikola World 2020 demonstration. This year’s event was held in Scottsdale in April. The venue and date of next year’s conference have yet to be announced.

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Longer range, no emissions

The technology also could extend the range of existing electric passenger cars to 600 miles from around 300 miles, with little or no increase in battery size and weight, though Milton said Nikola won’t engage in passenger-vehicle production.

However, the company does plan to share the intellectual property with other manufacturers, including automakers, that pay to be part of a licensing consortium.

«Our goal is to eliminate emissions around the globe,» Milton said. «But we can’t do it all by ourselves.»

According to Nikola, the company’s batteries are lighter, less expensive to produce and less prone to short-circuiting (which can start fires) compared to conventional lithium-ion battery cells. Also, their components are easy to recycle and more environmentally friendly for landfills because they don’t contain toxic elements such as nickel, cobalt, magnesium and aluminum, Milton said.

Eliminating those components also makes for less-expensive production, he said.

To bring the new battery closer to production, Nikola is purchasing a company with approximately 20 key employees, including 15 battery engineers with doctorate degrees and five with master’s degrees. They will not be headquartered in Phoenix, Milton said, who didn’t name the company.

By year-end, Nikola will employ around 240 people in Phoenix, at its headquarters and testing center south of Sky Harbor International Airport, Milton said.

Big, bold promises

Nikola, a company just 6 years old, has upended the automotive world with its claims of higher-powered, less expensive, more environmentally friendly batteries and other technology.

In an interview, Milton conceded the claims might seem far-fetched.

However, «everything we’ve ever promised, we have delivered on,» he said.

That has included the world’s largest hydrogen fueling station, at the company’s Phoenix headquarters, the most advanced fuel-cell heavy truck and the most advanced off-road vehicles, also powered by zero-emissions technology.

Among other ventures, the company is developing all-electric off-road vehicles, jet skis and Hummer-like military vehicles, and it plans to develop a North American network of hydrogen fueling stations.

«We’ve made claims that seem crazy, but we’ve lived up to every one of them,» Milton said while transitioning to another one: «We’ve made the biggest impact on zero-emissions compared to anyone in the world.»

At least some big investors seem to agree: Industrial companies Bosch, Hanwha and CNH Industrial in recent weeks have announced investments totaling $100 million or more each in Nikola.

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-8616. 

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