), Bank of America (BAC
), Strong Capital, and BankOne (ONE
). Last Wednesday, the New York State Attorney General filed a complaint alleging that these prominent firms had agreed to grant special trading access to a hedge fund, which may have hurt investors in the process. In the aftermath of the claim, Robert Gordon stepped down as Bank of America's mutual-funds chief. Merrill Lynch downgraded Janus to neutral from buy, citing in part the investigation of these trading misdeeds, as well as disappointing August-end assets under management. Janus shares fell.
Canadian aluminium company Alcan 's (AL
) shares are higher on news that French rival Pechiney has accepted Alcan's third buyout offer. Pechiney's board of directors voted in favor of a sweetened takeover offer that's valued at around $4.4 billion. The terms are 48.50 euros in cash and stock per Pechiney share. S&P reiterates its accumulate ranking on Alcan.
Correction: Merrill upgraded Qualcomm (QCOM
) to buy from neutral and set a 12-month price target of $50. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Merrill had downgraded the stock.
RBC Capital upgraded ManTech International (MANT
) to outperform from sector perform. On Thursday ManTech said it was one of three prime contractors chosen by the U.S. Defense Department for the creation of an office automation project.
Database software giant Oracle 's (ORCL
) earnings matched expectations, but revenue fell short. Oracle posted 8 cents, vs. 6 cents, first-quarter earnings per share (GAAP) on a 2.2% revenue rise. New software license sales were down 7%, while software license updates and product support were up 14%. S&P reiterates hold.
Goldman upgraded U.S. Steel (USX
) to outperform from underperform.
USB Piper downgraded Activision (ATVI
) to market perform.
Raymond James downgraded Stanley Furniture (STLY
) to market perform from strong buy.
Banc of America downgraded Actel (ACTL
) to neutral.
Silicon Valley (SIVB
) is raising the 27 cents to 31 cents third-quarter earnings per share guidance to 45 cents to 49 cents. Also, the company says it has settled all remaining entertainment-lending litigation, and sees a 13 cents impact on third-quarter earnings per share.
Northwest Bancorp, the parent of Northwest Savings Bank, will acquire Skibo Financial'(SKBO
), a small community bank, in a $23 million deal. Terms: Skibo holders will receive $17 cash for each Skibo share.
USB Piper downgraded VeriSign (VRSN
) to market perform.
KLM Royal Dutch (KLM
) reportedly says it's in very advanced talks with Air France on forming a business alliance.
Scientific Games (SGMS
) agreed to acquire IGT OnLine Entertainment Systems, from International Game Technology, for $143 million cash.
Software company Microsoft (MSFT
) raised its annual dividend to 16 cents earnings per share from 8 cents earnings per share.
) will take non-cash charges in the fourth quarter related to inventory write-downs of $15 million to $17 million, and widened the anticipated 8-cent to 11-cent fourth-quarter loss to a 40-cent to 47-cent loss.
) raised the second-quarter revenue forecast to $40.5 million to $42.5 million. The company says these increased revenues, coupled with continued cost management, are expected to have a positive impact on income from operations.
Credit Suisse First Boston raised its price target on Cisco Systems (CSCO
) to $24 from $20, on expectations of earnings at the top end of expectations in 2004 and 2005.
SG Cowen forecast strong sales growth for Biogen (BGEN
) and Amgen (AMGN
), for their drugs to treat psoriasis.
Gildan Activewear (GIL
) cut the $2.70 to $2.80 fiscal 2003 earnings per share guidance to $2.55 to $2.60 due to lower-than-projected unit sales into its distributor channel.
FPL Group (FPL
) will buy British Energy's 50% ownership in AmerGen Energy Company for $276.5 million.
Dow Chemical agreed to acquire Celanese 's (CZ
) acrylic business for undisclosed amount.