Markets & Finance

Movers: Merrill Lynch, Yahoo, Boeing, Office Depot, RadioShack


Monday's stocks in the news

From Standard & Poor's Equity ResearchMerrill Lynch (MER) CEO Stan O'Neal was negotiating terms of his forced departure Sunday afternoon in the wake of a multibillion-dollar write-off he announced last week, according to a person briefed on the negotiations, reports the Wall Street Journal. Merrill's board is expected to consider external candidates and current Merrill executives in its search for a successor. O'Neal's resignation is expected to be announced as early as today. S&P maintains buy.

A Yahoo (YHOO) spokeswoman says Yahoo will not discuss stock-related activity, but confirms that in a prospectus, the company stated that it will purchase approximately $100 million worth of stock in Alibaba.com. S&P equity analyst Scott Kessler downgrades the stock to sell from hold on valuation; notes recent 30% stock appreciation.

Boeing (BA) says its board of directors has approved a new repurchase plan for up to $7 billion of common stock.

Verizon Communications (VZ) posts third quarter operating EPS of $0.63, vs. $0.55 a year ago, on 5.8% revenue rise. S&P maintains hold.

Office Depot (ODP) delays third quarter earnings release, related conference call previously scheduled to take place on Oct. 30. Cites independent review by the Audit Committee of the company's vendor program funds. JP Morgan reportedly downgrades.

RadioShack (RSH) posts $0.34 third quarter EPS, vs. $0.12 loss per share a year ago, despite 8.6% same-store sales decline, 9.4% total sales decline. It cites negative sales trend in the Sprint post-paid wireless and related wireless accessory businesses which partially offset by strong performance in prepaid wireless phones and global positioning systems.

Weyerhaeuser (WY) gains as the forest-products giant, which arguably has the richest collection of assets in the industry, sold off its fine-paper business earlier this year, and bulls are betting the transaction is but the start of an intensive restructuring that could lift its shares above $100, according to Barron's.

Nissan Motor (NSANY) posts yen 209B vs. yen 204B second quarter ordinary income on 13% sales rise. S&P upgrades to buy from hold.

Chiquita Brands International (CQB) sets restructuring plan, management changes; it expects to generate cost reductions of $60-80 million annually, beginning in 2008, after a one-time charge of $25 million in the fourth quarter of 2007 for severance costs, certain asset write-downs. It is exploring alternatives for Atlanta AG biz.

Winn-Dixie Stores (WINN) posts $0.01 first quarter loss, vs. $0.17 loss per share, on 0.2% identical store sales rise from continuing operations, 0.7% total sales rise. It sees fiscal year 2008 adjusted EBITDA of $90-$115 million, with identical store sales expected to be slightly positive, gross margin slightly higher than in fiscal year 2007.

UBS AG (UBS) reconfirms that it will report overall group loss in third quarter (due out tomorrow) within the range of CHF 600-800 mln. Notes while the fourth quarter has started with good results from all businesses, including Investment Bank, the FICC business remains exposed to further deterioration in U.S. housing and mortgage markets as well as rating downgrades for mortgage-related securities, which could lead to further write-downs. As a result, UBS is not assuming that the fourth quarter4 will continue as positively as it has begun, or that the current difficulties will be resolved in the short term.

Alon USA Energy (ALJ) sees third quarter EPS of $0.23-$0.29. Notes negative impact of record crude oil prices, which resulted in lower margins, particularly in co.'s asphalt segment. Substantially lower West Coast refinery margins also adversely affected earnings.

Ashland (ASH) posts fourth quarter EPS from continuing operations (preliminary) of $0.51, vs. $0.79 a year ago, on 9.2% lower revenue.

Louisiana-Pacific (LPX) posts $0.65 third quarter loss per share, vs. $0.09 EPS from continuing operations on 10% lower sales.

Oracle's (ORCL) offer to acquire BEA Systems (BEAS) for $17 per share expired Oct. 28, 2007, at 5:00 pm. Separately, BEAS sends a letter to Carl Icahn, stating that BEAS management felt Oracle's $17 per share bid was unacceptable because "it significantly undervalues BEA." BEAS says it is prepared to authorize talks to sell at $21 per share. Morgan Stanley reportedly downgrades BEAS shares to equal weight from overweight.

Superior Bancorp (SUPR) posts $0.04, vs. $0.04 a year ago, third quarter EPS as higher loan loss provision offset a rise in net interest income. Sets 1 million share buyback.

WellCare Health Plans (WCG) Announces its Board of Directors has formed a special committee in response to the ongoing investigation of the company by certain federal and state agencies, and to other governmental or private proceedings.

Humana (HUM) posts $1.78, vs. $0.95 a year ago, third quarter EPS on 12% revenue rise. It now sees 2007 EPS of $4.75-$4.80, '08 EPS of $5.30-$5.50.

Host Hotels & Resorts (HST) names W. Edward Walter as President and CEO, replacing Christopher J. Nassetta, who has resigned to become President and CEO of Hilton Hotels. Mr. Nassetta will remain at the company until the end of November to assist in the transition of duties to the new CEO.


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