Southern Financial Jumps

First Health sinks; Siebel rises; plus more of today's stocks in the news

Southern Financial (SFFB ) agreed to be acquired by Provident Bankshares (PBKS ) in a deal valued at about $330 million. Terms: 1.0875 Provident shares, and $11.125 cash per Southern Financial share.

First Health (FHCC ) inked a long-term deal to provide national PPO network to Health Net's group health commercial health plan PPO members and Administrative Service Only members. S&P keeps hold. Banc of America cut its estimates and target, saying First Health is presumably losing business to UnitedHealth and Aetna.

ThinkEquity upgraded Siebel Systems (SEBL ) to buy from overweight.

Sovereign Bancorp (SOV ) is higher on a published report that it rejected a $25 per share buyout bid from Royal Bank of Scotland, and is holding out for a better deal. S&P raised the price target, but downgraded to accumulate from buy.

Jefferies upgraded Cash America (PWN ) to buy from hold.

J2 Global Communications (JCOM ) reaffirmed the $1.03 2003 earnings per share, and $71.4 million revenue guidance.

Dynegy (DYN ) inked a pact with Exelon (EXC ), whereby Excelon will acquire substantially all the assets and liabilities of Illinois Power in a deal valued at about $2.225 billion.

Conexant Systems (CNXT ) agreed to acquire GlobespanVirata (GSPN ). Terms: 1.198 Conextant shares per GlobespanVirata share.

DaVita (DVA ), a provider of dialysis services, posted better-than-expected 67 cents, vs. 72 cents third-quarter earnings per share (excluding refinancing charges) as higher operating expenses offset a 6.7% revenue rise. DaVita sees fourth-quarter operating income comparable to the third quarter and 2004, of about $360 million to $385 million.

The Federal Communications Commission said it would fine AT&T (T ) $780,000 for apparent violations of the federal do-not-call rules, the first enforcement actions for the telemarketing registry set up by the Federal Trade Commission.

Electronics Boutique (ELBO ) cut the 14 cents to 18 cents third-quarter earnings per share guidance to 5 cents to 6 cents. The software maker cited an expected 7% decline in third-quarter same-store sales, and sees $1.56 to $1.66 fiscal 2004 earnings per share. S&P reiterates accumulate.

Manitowoc (MTW ) posted 27 cents third-quarter earnings per share (including charges), vs. 57 cents earnings per share despite a 7% net sales rise. Manitowoc reduced the fiscal 2003 earnings per share guidance to 70 cents to 75 cents (before net special charges). S&P reiterates accumulate.

Avondale Partners reportedly upgraded Chattem (CHTT ) to market outperform from market perform.

Kellogg (K ) posted third-quarter net earnings of 56 cents a share, up from 49 cents and above analysts' average forecast of 52 cents a share. Revenue rose 6.8% to $2.28 billion. The consumer foods company adjusted its full-year 2003 earnings forecast to $1.89 to $1.91 a share from $1.88 to $1.90, and sees $2.05 to $2.09 earnings per share in 2004.

Dr. Reddy's Labs (RDY ) says the FDA has approved its new drug application for AmVaz, a treatment for hypertension.

Marsh & McLennan (MMC ) named Charles E. Haldeman, president and CEO of its Putnam Investments LLC unit. Halderman replaces Lawrence Lasser, who was removed amid the scandal over improper trading of fund shares. The company also appointed Steven Spiegel as Putnam's vice chairman, a new position. The changes are effective immediately.

Chemicals maker Church & Dwight (CHD ) posted 46 cents, vs. 42 cents third-quarter earnings per share on a slight sales rise. Church & Dwight maintains the $1.85 2003 earnings per share guidance (including an anticipated 5 cents to 7 cents loss from accounting charges for the recently acquired oral care business). S&P keeps accumulate.

Farming financier Ag Services of America (ASV ) agreed to be acquired by Rabobank International in a deal valued at about $47 million. Terms: $8.50 cash per Ag Services share.

Accredo Health (ACDO ) posted 36 cents, vs. 28 cents first-quarter earnings per share on a 6% revenue rise. Accredo sees $1.57 to $1.62 fiscal 2004 earnings per share, up from the previous $1.54 to $1.59 guidance.

Boeing (BA ) received a $823 million contract for 15 ground-based interceptor missiles and other work on a U.S. anti-missile shield due to become operational next year.

Roto-Rooter (RRR ) will restate results for 2000, 2001, 2002, and the nine months ended September 30, 2003, in order to revise its accounting for deferred advertising.

Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA ) posted 53 cents, vs. 36 cents third-quarter earnings per ADR on a 29% net sales rise.

FootStar (FTS ) says it will not release financial restatements for the five-year period by October 31. The footwear retailer now expects a restatement will reduce earnings by $51 million to $55 million before a minority interest and taxes, vs. the previously announced $48 million to $53 million. S&P keeps accumulate.

May Department Stores (MAY ) posted 4.2% lower September same-store sales, and 2.4% lower total sales.

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