Nortel Rises

Circuit City slips; Darden Restaurants drops; plus more of today's stocks in the news

Nortel Networks (NT ) was chosen by Verizon to be their voice-over-Internet-protocol service provider. Shares rose.

Circuit City (CC ) posted 2% lower December same-store sales and 1.7% lower total sales. S&P cut its estimates, and keeps the hold ranking. Lehman reiterates underweight. Shares slipped.

Darden Restaurants (DRI ) says December same-restaurant sales at Olive Garden rose 3% to 4%, while same-restaurant sales at Red Lobster fell 12% to 13%. S&P maintains hold. CS First Boston and JP Morgan reportedly downgraded the shares. Shares fell.

Luxury retailer Coach (COH ) raised its 44 cents second-quarter earnings per share guidance to at least 48 cents, citing a 33% sales rise and margin improvement.

Duke Energy (DUK ) will take a non-cash, pretax fourth-quarter charge of about $3.3 billion related to actions being taken to reduce exposure in its merchant energy and international businesses. Duke will maintain its $1.10 annual cash dividend while reducing debt by $3.5 billion to $4 billion in 2004.

Beer and wine distributor Constellation Brands (STZ ) posted 73 cents, vs. 69 cents third-quarter earnings per share (GAAP) on a 25% sales rise. Constellation sees 48 cents to 53 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share (as reported), vs. a year ago's 56 cents; and $1.99 to $2.04 fiscal 2004 earnings per share, vs. $2.19 in fiscal 2003. S&P reiterates buy.

JDA Software (JDAS ) sees total fourth-quarter revenue of about $55 million, software revenue of about $16.9 million, and GAAP net income per share of breakeven to 1 cent. JDA says it didn't close the number of deals that it had anticipated to close in the fourth quarter.

Papa John's International (PZZA ) posted 2.5% lower December domestic systemwide comparison sales, and 16% higher December total systemwide international sales.

Bob Evans Farms (BOBE ) says third-quarter earnings per share may fall "slightly" below the previous guidance of 46 cents to 48 cents. Bob Evans posted 1.7% higher December same-store sales, and says restaurant sales in its Midwestern and Northeastern markets were affected by severe winter weather.

Energen (EGN ) raised the 2004 earnings per share guidance by 20 cents to a new range of $3.10 to $3.30. Energen says it has capitalized on the strength of recent natural gas and oil commodity prices by entering into additional, significant hedges for 2004.

Guitar Center (GTRC ) says based on sales performance during the holiday season, it raised the fourth-quarter earnings per share guidance to a range of 74 cents to 75 cents. The company says fourth-quarter comparison Guitar Center store sales rose 10%, and total net sales rose 18%.

Mentor Graphics (MENT ) says fourth-quarter GAAP earnings per share, previously guided to 14 cents, will be negatively affected by pre-tax charges and other factors totaling 14 cents per share. Mentor maintains the 80 cents 2004 GAAP earnings per share guidance.

Wellpoint Health (WLP ) raised its $6.00 2003 earnings per share guidance to $6.15, and upped its $6.90 to $7.00 2004 earnings per share guidance to $7.10.

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