Applebee's Climbs on Stronger Earnings Outlook

Liz Clairborne advances; Ericsson drops; plus more of today's stocks in the news

Applebee's (APPB ) posted 45 cents, vs. 37 cents, third-quarter earnings per share on 4.8% higher system-wide comparison sales. The restaurant operator raised the 2003 system-wide comparison sales growth guidance to 3.5% to 4%, and upped the earnings per share estimate to $1.73 to $1.75, which excludes a 10 cents charge. S&P reiterates hold.

Liz Claiborne (LIZ ) posted 89 cents, vs. 78 cents, third-quarter earnings per share on a 13% net sales rise. The retailer sees 63 cents to 66 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share on 4% to 6% sales growth, and $2.65 to $2.72 2004 earnings per share on 3% to 6% sales growth

Mobile-phone maker Ericsson (ERICY ) posted a 0.25 (US$0.03) Swedish Krona (SEK) third-quarter loss, vs. a SEK 0.41 loss despite a 16% net sales decline. Ericsson sees reported 2003 SEK-based sales lower than the overall market due to a foreign exchange impact.

BMC Software (BMC ) shares rose after the company reported second-quarter earnings per share of 10 cents, vs. 8 cents a year ago, on a 15% revenue rise. On a GAAP basis, it posted a 6 cent loss, vs. 4 cents earnings per share a year ago.

Akamai Technologies (AKAM ) posted a 3 cents third-quarter loss, vs. a 42 cents loss (GAAP) on 18% higher revenue. Prudential upgraded to overweight from neutral.

Bear Stearns downgraded PalmOne (PLMO ), a maker of Palm devices and products, to underperform from peer perform.

Software maker InfoSpace (INSP ) posted 5 cents third-quarter earnings per share, vs. an 87 cents loss (GAAP), on a 14% revenue rise. InfoSpace sees fourth-quarter earnings per share in line with the third-quarter earnings per share (before any one-time gains or losses) on $36 million to $38 million in revenues. Wedbush Morgan upgraded to buy from hold.

Newell Rubbermaid (NWL ) posted better-than-expected 40 cents, vs. 46 cents, third-quarter earnings per share from operations on a slight sales decline. Newell sees 51 cents to 54 cents in the fourth quarter, and $1.60 to $1.63 2003 earnings per share from operations. The maker of Rubbermaid storage products sees $1.60 to $1.68 2004 earnings per share. S&P reiterates avoid.

Photon Dynamics (PHTN ) posted a 95 cents fourth-quarter loss, vs. a $1.00 loss, on a 62% revenue rise. Photon sees a 3 cents loss to 3 cents earnings per share in the first quarter on $21 million to $23 million in revenue. Needham upgraded to buy from hold. Merrill reportedly upgraded.

Exxon Mobil (XOM ) posted 55 cents, vs. 44 cents, third-quarter earnings per share on an 11% revenue rise. S&P reiterates buy.

RehabCare (RHB ) posted 20 cents, vs. 27 cents, third-quarter earnings per share on a 5.4% revenue drop. RehabCare lowered the 2003 earnings per share guidance to 95 cents to $1.10 (including a charge). The provider of rehabilitation services cited the negative impact of Part B therapy caps on estimated Contract Therapy contribution margins.

NetScreen Technologies (NSCN ) posted 8 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share (GAAP), vs. a 1 cent loss, on a 74% revenue rise. Netscreen sees 7% to 9% fourth-quarter sequential revenue growth, and 43% to 51% growth in fiscal 2004, excluding the planned acquisition of Neoteris. First Albany and AG Edwards upgraded.

Ocular Sciences (OCLR ) posted 38 cents, vs. 48 cents, third-quarter earnings per share despite a 14% sales rise. Ocular upped the 2003 earnings per share guidance to $1.03 to $1.05, including charges, on 12% to 14% sales growth. It expects double-digit 2004 earnings per share growth on a minimum 8% sales rise.

Chiron (CHIR ) posted 60 cents third-quarter earnings per share (pro forma) from continuing operations on a 47% revenue rise. It sees 2003 earnings per share (pro forma) at the upper end of a $1.40 to $1.50 range, and $1.80 to $1.90 2004 earnings per share (pro forma) from continuing operations. S&P downgraded to hold.

Aetna (AET ) posted $1.35, vs. 64 cents, third-quarter earnings per share (from continuing operations and on a GAAP basis) despite a 7.5% total revenue decline. The health-benefits company raised the 2003 operating earnings per share guidance to $5.00 to $5.05.

At an Oct. 29 analyst conference, Internet auction giant eBay (EBAY ) reaffirmed its guidance, saying fourth-quarter earnings per share (GAAP) could be 19 cents on revenue of up to $590 million, and that 2003 earnings per share could be 65 cents on revenue of up to $2.1 billion; 2004 earnings per share could be 91 cents on revenue of up to $2.9 billion.

Bausch & Lomb (BOL ) posted 60 cents, vs. 17 cents (including items) third-quarter earnings per share on 9% higher worldwide revenue. The eye health-care company sees 79 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share. Bausch & Lomb expects 2004 revenue to grow in the mid-single digits, and anticipates $2.50-$2.60 earnings per share.

Aspen Technology (AZPN ) posted 10 cents third-quarter earnings per share, vs. a 34 cents loss (GAAP), despite flat total revenue growth. Bear Stearns upgraded to peer perform from underperform.

Coventry Health (CVH ) posted $1.11, vs. 66 cents, third-quarter earnings per share on a 29% revenue rise. It sees $1.11 to $1.13 fourth-quarter earnings per share, and sees $4.75 to $4.85 2004 earnings per share.

Providian Financial (PVN ) posted 29 cents, vs. 15 cents, third-quarter earnings per share despite a 21% net revenue decline. UBS Financial reportedly downgraded to neutral from buy.

Electronic Data Systems (EDS ) posted breakeven, vs. 21 cents, third-quarter earnings per share despite 3% organic revenue growth. S&P reiterates accumulate.

Andrx (ADRX ) posted 16 cents third-quarter earnings per share, vs. a 47 cents loss, on a 35% total revenue rise.

Capital One (COF ) sees lower-than-expected $5.20 to $5.40 2004 earnings per share. It expects the 2004 growth rate of its managed-loan portfolio to be in the mid-teens. Capital One says it will continue to provide earnings per share guidance, but only for each subsequent year.

Research funded by Merck (MRK ) suggests that the drugmaker's popular painkiller, Vioxx, may increase the risk of heart attacks in patients taking the pill, according to a story reported in The Wall Street Journal.

Starbucks (SBUX ) posted 9% higher October same-store sales, and 30% higher total sales.

CORRECTION: On Wednesday, Talk America (TALK ) posted $1.74 (including a one-time gain), vs. 42 cents, third-quarter earnings per share on a 26% total revenue rise. Talk America raised the $30 million to $34 million 2003 net income guidance to $34 million to $36 million (excluding a deferred tax benefit.) The local- and long-distance carrier sees $34 million to $36 million in 2004 net income. Talk America revised the $373 to $386 million 2003 total revenue estimate to $377 million to $385 million. Earlier, the story included incorrect guidance estimates.

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