Markets & Finance

Movers: Monsanto, GM, CVS, Overstock.com, Solarfun Energy


Thursday's stocks in the news

From Standard & Poor's Equity ResearchMonsanto Company (MON) posts better-than-expected $0.46 vs. $0.16 a year ago, first quarter EPS on 36% revenue rise. It sees fiscal year 2008 EPS of $2.50-$2.60, excluding the impact of Solutia's emergence from bankruptcy, both on reported and ongoing basis.

General Motors (GM) are lower on a report GM's CEO Wagoner said he expects 2008 U.S. auto sales to be near 2007 levels, with weakness likely in the first half. Also, GM reports decline in U.S. Dec. vehicle volumes: 5.2% decline in total vehicle, 4.4% in light vehicle.

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) shares were down in after-hours trading after the retailer reported third quarter results. EPS was $0.52, vs. $0.50 a year ago, while total sales rose 11% to $1.795 billion. Same-store sales rose 0.8%, down from 4.6% a year ago. It sees fourth quarter EPS of $0.64-$0.67 based on a projected flat comparable store sales percentage for the quarter. This would bring the company's full year EPS estimate to a range of $2.08 to $2.11.

Panera Bread (PNRA) posts 1.2% higher December system-wide comp bakery-cafe sales. Posts 2.7% higher December co-owned sales, 1.2% higher total system sales. It posts 2.6% higher fourth quarter company-owned sales, 1.7% higher total system sales. PNRA estimates that its fourth quarter system-wide comparable bakery-cafe sales were about 1%-1.2% lower than expected due to extreme weather experienced in its core markets. The impact experienced was similar for co.-owned and franchise-operated bakery-cafes.

CVS Caremark (CVS) says December sales were lighter than anticipated due to adverse weather conditions early in the month, a slowly developing flu season, and general economic conditions. However, given favorable operating expenses, improved margins, it expects to report fourth quarter GAAP EPS of $0.54-$0.55, 2007 EPS of $1.91 to $1.92.

Meritage Homes (MTH) falls, as S&P Equity Research believes MTH is exposed to new asset impairment charges in the fourth quarter; cuts target price, maintains sell. Also, yesterday S&P Ratings Services, which operates separately from S&P Equity Research, lowered its ratings on 23 classes of mortgage-backed certificates from Meritage Mortgage Loan Trust.

ConocoPhillips (COP) says fourth quarter production on a barrel-of-oil-equivalent (BOE) per day basis, including Syncrude and excluding Lukoil, is expected to be about 60,000 BOE per day higher than the third quarter. Also, it says fourth quarter results are expected to be positively impacted by about $350 million due to a tax rate reduction recently enacted in Canada and the release of escrowed funds in connection with the extinguishment of the Hamaca project financing indebtedness.

Walgreen (WAG) posts 2.6% higher December same-store sales, 7.8% higher total sales.

Overstock.com (OSTK) says Jason Lindsey resigned as president, chief operating officer and a board member, effective Dec. 31, 2007, and will now oversee special projects at OSTK on a part-time basis. Broadpoint Capital maintains neutral, although views this news as "a clear negative for OSTK."

Solarfun Power Holdings (SOLF) announces signing of three contracts for sale, delivery of wafers totaling $230 million over a seven-year period with a major Korean conglomerate.

FMC Technologies (FTI) receives award valued at about $980 million to supply deepwater subsea processing and production systems to Total Exploration & Production Angola. Wachovia upgrades to market perform from market underperform.

Digital River (DRIV) rises after Credit Suisse upgrades to outperform from neutral.

Netflix (NFLX) and LG Electronics plan to develop a set-top box for consumers to stream movies and other programming from the Internet to HDTVs -- bypassing the need to use a personal computer.

Superior Energy Services (SPN) announces that its subsidiary, Wild Well Control Inc., has signed contracts with subsidiaries of BP PLC (BP), Chevron (CVX), and Apache (APA) to decommission seven downed platforms and related well facilities located offshore Louisiana for a fixed sum of $750 million. S&P reiterates strong buy. Bear Stearns raises estimates.

Activist investor Nelson Peltz's Trian Partners LP has taken a small stake in Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC), the giant insurance broker, which late last year announced that it was seeking a new chief executive, according to a person familiar with the matter: WSJ.

State Street (STT) says it plans to record net charge, after taxes, in the fourth quarter of 2007 of $279 million, or $0.71 per share, to establish a reserve to address legal exposure, other costs associated with the underperformance of certain active fixed-income strategies managed by its State Street Global Advisors unit. It sees $3.42-$3.45 2007 GAAP EPS.

Schering-Plough (SGP) says the FDA has assigned priority review status to its New Drug Application for sugammadex. Notes sugammadex is a drug specifically designed to reverse the effects of certain muscle relaxants, marketed in the U.S. as Zemuron and vecuronium bromide, which are used as part of general anesthesia during surgical procedures.

E*Trade Financial (ETFC) announces the resignation of Mitchell Caplan from ETFC's Board of Directors, effective 12/31/07. Caplan resigned as CEO on 11/29. ETFC is to pay Mr. Caplan $10.9 million (2 times the sum of his base salary and bonus during 2006, plus 2 years of medical, life and disability insurance coverage), reimbursement of certain legal fees. ETFC expects to announce its new CEO within the next 30-60 days.

Novatel Wireless (NVTL) says it expects no significant impact to its business as a result of the Dec. 31, 2007 ruling regarding Broadcom's (BRCM) U.S. patent infringement suit against Qualcomm (QCOM).

Voyager Learning (VLCY) announces that it has retained Allen & Co. to assist it in evaluating strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company.


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