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Vivendi Tries to End Management Mess

Vivendi (V) says its board agreed Wednesday to create a special "corporate governance" committee that is likely to lead to greater oversight of how the company is run.

A unit of StanCorp Financial (SFG) agreed to acquire the group insurance business of Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association for $75 million. Morgan Stanley raised its estimate and price target on StanCorp.

AG Edwards upgraded Engineered Support (EASI) to buy from hold. On Wednesday the company posted $0.61 vs. $0.44 second quarter EPS from continuing operations, and raised fiscal 2002 guidance to $2.40-$2.45.

CACI International (CACI) rose after setting initial guidance for fiscal 2003 (June) at $1.37-$1.43 EPS on $800-$830 million revenues. Adams Harkness raised estimates. Banc of America says guidance is better than expected, and reiterates buy.

Prudential cut its weighting on the specialty softlines group to market underperform from market perform, and cut AnnTaylor (ANN) to hold from buy.

Federal Agriculture (AGM ) held a conference call in order to reconfirm that it's on track to meet or exceed analysts' estimates for the second quarter of 2002, although there's no company developments to account for the recent decline in its stock.

Lehman downgraded Equity Resident (EQR ) to market underperform.

Merrill downgraded Omnicom Group (OMC ) to near-term buy from strong buy.

Philip Morris (MO) will merge its Miller Brewing unit into South African Breweries PLC in a $5.6 billion deal ($3.6 billion in stock, $2.0 billion in Miller debt). Philip Morris will receive 430 million shares in SABMiller, representing a 36% economic interest.

Panera Bread (PNRA) posted $0.35 vs. $0.21 first quarter EPS on a 5.5% rise in system-wide comparable bakery-cafe sales, and a 45% total revenue rise. Panera raised its 2002 EPS forecast to $1.40.

SeaChange International (SEAC) says due to a ruling against the company in a patent infringement suit filed by nCube, it will delay the release of first quarter results until the beginning of next week.

Alloy (ALOY) posted $0.09 first quarter EPS (before income tax and amortization, or EBTA) vs. a $0.21 loss on 79% revenue rise. Alloy sees $0.03-$0.05 third quarter EBTA, and $0.77-$0.82 for fiscal 2003. WR Hambrecht reiterates strong buy.

USB Piper and Prudential cut its estimates and the price target on Genesis Microchip (GNSS).

La-Z-Boy (LZB) posted $0.50 vs. $0.28 fourth quarter EPS from operations as widened margins offset flat sales. The company sees $0.22-$0.27 first quarter EPS vs. a year ago's $0.05, and $1.60-$1.75 for fiscal 2003.

Costco Wholesale (COST) posted $0.28 vs. $0.23 third quarter EPS on a 6% same store sales rise, and a 12% total sales rise.

Newfield Exploration (NFX) agreed to acquire EEX Corp. in a deal valued at $640 million, including the assumption of debt, net of cash and other existing obligations. Terms: 0.05703 Newfield share per EEX share.

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