GE Raises Forecasts

AT&T inks service deal with BellSouth; Northrop Grumman raises its guidance and quarterly dividend; plus more of Thursday's stocks in the news

General Electric (GE ) prices 80.5 million Genworth (GNW ) Class A shares in a secondary offering at $26.50 each. Genworth is to repurchase from GE 19.4 million Class B shares for $500 million. GE raises 36 cents to 37 cents first-quarter earnings per share forecast to 37 cents to 38 cents and reconfirms $1.76 to $1.83 2005.

AT&T (T ) inks a deal with BellSouth (BLS ) for local wholesale phone services throughout BellSouth's nine-state region. The deal enables AT&T to continue serving its customers in BellSouth territory.

Defense-contractor Northrop Grumman (NOC ) gained after it raised its 2005 earnings per share guidance to $3.60 to $3.75, including a 12-cent after-tax gain, on $31 billion to $31.5 billion in sales. The company expects 2006 earnings per share to grow by a double-digit rate, on $33 billion in sales. It raises its quarterly dividend 13% to 26 cents.

Pixar (PIXR ) sets a 2-for-1 stock split.

Alcon Inc. (ACL ) says the FDA has granted approval of its AcrySof ReSTOR intraocular lens for cataract patients with and without presbyopia.

Lexar Media (LEXR ) says the jury awarded Lexar Media over $380 million in damages after finding Toshiba Corp. and Toshiba America Electronics Inc. liable of breach of fiduciary duty and theft of trade secrets. CIBC ups the stock to sector outperform.

Adaptec Inc. (ADPT ) sees fourth-quarter revenue 9% to 13% below the low-end of the company's previously announced revenue range of $127 million to $131 million. The company cites enterprise drive shortages. S&P cuts its estimate and target. RBC Capital downgrades the stock.

ConAgra Foods (CAG ) posted 31 cents third-quarter earnings per share (preliminary) on 1.3% sales rise. The company expects fourth-quarter earnings per share to modestly exceed the third quarter. The company is to restate fiscal 2003 and fiscal 2004 results due to errors in previously reported amounts related to income tax matters.

Chattem Inc. (CHTT ) posted 42 cents (including items), vs. 34 cents first-quarter earnings per share on a 17% revenue rise. The company sees $1.95 to $2.01 fiscal 2005 earnings per share on $273.5 million to $279.5 million.

Yum Brands (YUM ) sees 51 cents to 52 cents first-quarter earnings per share, as strong sales results will likely be offset by a higher-than-expected quarterly tax rate and higher U.S. commodity costs.

Darden Restaurants (DRI ) posted 56 cents, vs. 45 cents third-quarter earnings per share on 10.5% higher same-store sales at Olive Garden, a 5.1% rise at Red Lobster, and 11% higher total sales. The company sees fiscal 2005 earnings per share (GAAP) growth of 31% to 33%.

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