AT&T Wireless Advances on Cingular Bid

Deere soars; Provident Financial jumps on merger news; plus more of today's stocks in the news

AT&T Wireless (AWE ) agreed to be acquired by Cingular Wirless LLC (a joint venture between SBC Communications (SBC ) and BellSouth (BLS ) in a cash deal valued at about $41 billion, or $15 per share -- a huge premium that beat Vodafone's bid. S&P reiterates hold on AT&T Wireless.

Deere & Co. (DE ) posted 68 cents, vs. 28 cents first-quarter earnings per share on a 25% higher worldwide revenue rise. The industrial equipment manufacturer sees 18% to 20% higher fiscal 2004 sales, and sees net income in the range of $900 million to $1 billion. S&P reiterates buy.

National City (NCC ), the No. 10 U.S. bank, said it will acquire Provident Financial (PFGI ) for around $2.1 billion in stock, or $40 a share.

Bear Stearns upgraded LandStar System (LSTR ) to outperform from peer perform.

Disney's (DIS ) board rejected the surprise takover proposal by cable giant Comcast (CMCSK ), saying the offer undercuts the value of Disney by at least $6.6 billion. Comcast offered to acquire the company for 0.78 of a share for each Disney share, or $66 billion (including debt), based on last week's closing prices. Still, Disney kept hopes alive for a merger, saying it will consider any "legitimate" proposal. The board also backed CEO Michael Eisner and his management team. S&P reiterated its hold ranking on Disney, and the buy opinion on Comcast.

Sony Ericsson licensed RealNetworks (RNWK ) technology, and will incorporate RealPlayer including RealAudio and RealVideo, in multimedia capable Sony Ericsson phones.

Vaso Active Pharmaceuticals (VAPH ) continues to climb following management's presentation at a National Investment Banking Association conference in Las Vegas, held on Feb. 12-13. Vaso has about three million shares outstanding.

Wachovia downgraded Monster Worldwide (MNST ) to market perform from outperform.

Morgan Stanley downgraded Silicon Laboratories (SLAB ) to equal-weight from overweight.

Merrill downgraded Shoe Carnival (SCVL ) to sell from neutral.

Community Bancorp (CBNJ ) agreed to be acquired by Sun Bancorp (SNBC ) in a stock deal valued at about $83.2 million. Terms: 0.83 Sun share per Community share.

Jakks Pacific (JAKK ) posted 36 cents, vs. 25 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share (excluding a charge) on a 23% sales rise. Jakks sees 2004 sales, excluding acquisitions, of $330 million to $340 million, and earnings per share of $1.20 to $1.30, excluding a stock-based compensation expense.

United Auto Group (UAG ) posted 48 cents, vs. 2 cents fourth-quarter earnings per share from continuing operations on a 7.1% higher same-store retail revenue rise, and an 18% total revenue rise. United Auto will sell 4.05 million shares to Mitsui & Co. in a private placement for about $119.4 million.

Lifeway Foods (LWAY ) set a 2-for-1 stock split.

North Fork Bancorp (NFB ) agreed to acquire GreenPoint Financial (GPT ) in an all-stock deal valued at $6.3 billion, or $46 per GreenPoint share. The deal is expected to be 12% accretive to North Fork's 2005 earnings per share, and 13.5% accretive to the tangible book value.

Illinois Tool Works (ITW ) continues to forecast 73 cents to 81 cents first-quarter earnings per share from continuing operations, and $3.66 to $3.96 in 2004.

El Paso (EP ) agreed to sell El Paso Oil and Gas Canada to BG Group for approximately $346 million.

Enesco (ENC ) says the Securities and Exchange Commission staff is considering recommending that the SEC bring civil action against the company for possible violations of U.S. securities laws relating to trading in ENC securities from April to June, 2000.

Performance Food (PFGC ) reached a settlement with the SEC with respect to accounting errors in one of its broadline units; consents to entry of an order, without admitting or denying the SEC's findings, the settlement does n't require the comany to pay a monetary penalty.

PerkinElmer (PKI ) reached an agreement with the FDA whereby the company will be permitted to resume production and shipment of newborn screening test kits at its Norton, Ohio facility.

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