Markets & Finance

Washington Mutual Sinks


Financial-services company Washington Mutual (WM) says due to lower mortgage loan volume, and increasingly competitive pricing, as well as a greater emphasis on the origination of adjustable-rate mortgages, it now sees $4.15 to $4.25 2003 earnings per share. WaMu also sees $4.30 to $4.80 earnings per share in 2004.

Brown Shoe (BWS), the maker of Naturalizer and LifeStride brands, says it will close its Canadian plant and cut 300 jobs. The footwear retailer will take a 20 cents to 22 cents fourth-quarter charge related to the closing. As a result, Brown now sees higher 2004 gross margins and operating earnings per share. In separate news, the company was ordered by a Colorado state court to pay $1 million for its role in environmental impacts at locations near a former plant; but the award award didn't include any punitive damages or damages for loss of property values.

Credit Suisse First Boston raised its estimates and target on Carnival (CCL).

Ctrip.com International (CTRP), a China-based travel-services company, priced an initial 4.2 million American depositary shares at $18 per ADS.

CCBT Financial (CCBT), the operator of Cape Cod Bank and Trust Co., agreed to be acquired by Banknorth Group (BNK) in a $300 million deal. The terms are 1.084 Banknorth shares for each CCBT share.

Wedbush Morgan added bed distributor Select Comfort (SCSS) to its Focus List. The broker thinks recent stock price weakness has created a buying opportunity.

Interstate Bakeries (IBC), the owner of Wonder and Hostess brands, sees second-quarter operating income down 30% and net sales down 1%. Bear Stearns downgraded to underperform from peer perform.

Wachovia upgraded Amgen (AMGN) to outperform from market perform.

Kroger (KR) posted 15 cents, vs. 33 cents (including a charge) third-quarter earnings per share despite 3.8% higher total sales. The grocery chain says labor disputes reduced the current earnings per share by 12 cents. Kroger also withdrew its fiscal 2004 guidance.

Goldman upgraded General Motors (GM) to outperform from in-line.

Chipmaker Texas Instruments (TXN) raised the 14 cents to 19 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share guidance (excluding the Micron sale) to 25 cents to 27 cents earnings per share (including a 7 cents contribution from the Micron sale). T-I raised the fourth-quarter revenue guidance to a range of $2.640 billion to $2.765 billion. S&P reiterates buy.

Agilent Technologies (A) says it's comfortable with the current 65 cents to 85 cents fiscal 2004 earnings per share (non-GAAP) guidance, with an average of 70 cents, on revenues of $6.5 billion to $6.9 billion, with an average of $6.7 billion.

Costco Wholesale (COST) posted 34 cents, vs. 31 cents first-quarter earnings per share on an 11% same store sales rise and a 14% total sales rise.

Comtech Telecommunications (CMTL) posted 37 cents, vs. 7 cents first-quarter earnings per share on an 80% net sales rise. Needham maintains its hold rating.

Business-software company Akamai Technologies (AKAM) sees a $43 million to $45 million fourth-quarter revenue rise, up from the previous guidance of $42 million to $44 million.

Dycom Industries (DY) sees 14 cents to 18 cents second-quarter earnings per share on $170 million to $185 million revenue, and 18 cents to 23 cents third-quarter earnings per share on $180 million to $195 million in revenue.

Newell Rubbermaid (NWL) sees lower-than-expected $1.46 to $1.49 2003 earnings per share, excluding items. Newell notes sales reductions, softness in reorders, and operating margin reductions from the damage of a tornado. The plastics-storage distributor and retailer also sees $1.48 to $1.58 2004 operating earnings per share. S&P reiterates avoid.

Homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV) posted $2.79, vs. $1.66 fourth-quarter earnings per share on a 26% net sales rise. The company raised the $8.25 2004 earnings per share guidance to $9.00.

Furniture Brands (FBN) reaffirmed the 38 cents to 42 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share guidance, and the $1.66 to $1.70 in 2003. S&P reiterates hold.

Internet-service provider Earthlink (ELNK) reaffirmed the fourth-quarter revenue guidance of comparable with the third quarter, sees $27 million to $33 million fourth-quarter EBITDA, and expects to be GAAP net income positive.

Advertising company Interpublic Group (IPG) plans to raise about $650 million of capital through the issuance of about $325 million of common stock and about $325 million of Series A mandatory convertible preferred stock.


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