Oracle Beats the Street

Dial advances on buyout offer; Honeywell slips; plus more of today's stocks in the news

After the close of trading Monday, Oracle (ORCL ) posted 12 cents second-quarter earnings per share, vs. 10 cents, beating forecasts. Analysts were expecting, on average, earnings per share of 11 cents. The database-software giant is attempting a hostile takeover of rival PeopleSoft.

Prudential cut its 2004 earnings estimates on Honeywell (HON ) to $1.50, from $1.70, on expectations that Honeywell would make a large contribution to fund its pensions in 2003. The broker also cited higher raw materials costs.

Shares of Dial (DL ) soared after the consumer-products maker agreed to be acquired by The Henkel Group, a German chemicals group, in a cash deal valued at $2.9 billion, or $28.75 per Dial share. Henkel expects to sell a significant portion of its minority investments in Clorox (CLX ) or EcoLab (ECL ), or a combination of both. S&P is keeping its hold opinion on Dial.

Union Planters (UPC ) sank. The financial-services company reduced the 2003 earnings guidance to $2.51 to $2.56; it says 2004 earnings will be 5% to 10% below 2003's. Union Planters cited a reduction in mortgage loan volumes and increased competitive pricing pressure. S&P cut to avoid. Morgan Keegan cut to underperform.

Medicis Pharmaceutical (MRX ) rose after it announced the Food and Drug Administration approved Restylane, a biodegradable non-animal stabilized hyaluronic acid injection that corrects moderate to severe facial wrinkles and folds.

Abbott Labs (ABT ) agreed to acquire the shares of diagnostic-products maker I-Stat (STAT ) that it doesn't already own for $15.35 per share. I-Stat shares jumped on the news.

CIBC World upgraded DoubleClick (DCLK ) to sector outperform from sector underperform, citing the Internet advertising firm's discounted valuation. USB Piper upgraded to outperform from market perform. The shares advanced.

Pacific Growth upgraded Ask Jeeves (ASKJ ) to overweight from equal-weight.

Goldman Sach's Matthew Fassler says he expects Toys R Us (TOY ) shares to move to more than $16, based on Babies "R" Us sales and international toy sales, according to Barron's. Shares rose on the positive report.

International Steel (ISG ) rose following the company's Friday initial public offering of $15 million shares, which were offered at $28.

Oppenheimer upgraded California Pizza Kitchen (CPKI ) to buy from neutral.

Bear Stearns downgraded AT&T (T ) to peer perform from outperform, and cut its 2004 earnings per share estimate. CS First Boston downgraded the stock to neutral from outperform. Also, Morgan Stanley lowered its earnings estimate for AT&T's fourth quarter to 34 cents earnings per share. On Thursday, Dec. 11, the long-distance carrier warned that it sees around a 6% decline in business-services revenue in 2003 as prices continue to drop.

Natural-gas pipeline GulfTerra Energy (GTM ) will be acquired by Enterprise Product Partners (EPD ). Enterprise Product will acquire a 50% limited voting interest in GulfTerra for $425 million cash and pay El Paso (EP ) $500 million cash for its GulfTerra stake. GulfTerra holders will get 1.81 Enterprise Product unit per GulfTerra unit. El Paso says the sale will help to reduce its debt. The company sees total debt reduction to $15 billion by the end of 2005, from $22 billion at September, 2003; 75 cents to $1.10 in 2006 earnings per share; and $200 million to $400 million free cash flow in 2006, after capital spending and dividends.

Dow component Wal-Mart (WMT ), the world's largest retailer, said U.S. same-store sales for the five-week holiday period ending Jan. 2 are currently tracking near the low end its stated target range for growth of 3% to 5%.

JP Morgan added data-storage device maker Lexar Media (LEXR ) to its Focus List, and set a $23 six-month target. The shares advanced.

Networks Associates (NET ) agreed to sell its Magic Solutions assets to BMC Software (BMC ) for $47 million in cash.

CIBC World upgraded DoubleClick (DCLK ) to sector outperform from sector underperform. USB Piper upgraded to outperform from market perform.

Thomas Weisel reportedly upgraded Tibco Software (TIBX ) to outperform from peer perform.

Illinois Tool Works (ITW ) posted 9% higher operating revenue for the three months ended Nov. 30. The company says based on two months of actual results in the fourth quarter, it now forecasts 89 cents to 93 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share from continuing operations; it sees $3.33 to $3.37 earnings per share in 2003.

Concord EFS (CE ) and First Data (FDC ) proposed an agreement that will allow the companies to complete a proposed merger. In addition to a Department of Justice settlement, the companies agred to new financial terms, with a value of about $6.9 billion.

H&R Block (HRB ) says it has been informed by the Securities & Exchange Commission that a Formal Order of Investigation was issued concerning the tax-services firm's disclosures in and before November, 2002, about a refund anticipation loan litigation to which H&R Block was and is a party.

IBM Corp. (IBM ) will reportedly move up to 4,730 software-programming jobs to India, China, and other lower-wage cost nations, according to The Wall Street Journal , which cited company documents.

Millennium Pharmacueticals (MLNM ) will halt a control arm in a Phase III Apex trial early, allowing patients receiving dexamethasone to cross over to Velcade, based on a statistically significant improvement in time to disease progression.

Standard Microsystems ( SMSC ) posted 77 cents third-quarter earnings per share, vs. a 54 cents loss a year ago from continuing operations, on a 79% revenue rise. The company sees 15 cents to 19 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share from continuing operations.

Graco (GGG ) raised its quarterly dividend by 70%, and set a special one-time dividend of $2.25 per share.

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