Pixar Reportedly Subject of SEC Inquiry

HP sets $4 billion stock buyback; Merck reportedly ready to settle some Vioxx cases; plus more of Friday's stocks in the news

The Securities and Exchange Commission launched an informal inquiry into animated film production company Pixar (PIXR ) surrounding the DVD release of the hit film "The Incredibles", according to the Wall Street Journal.

Saks (SKS ) shares fell Friday. After completing internal investigations, the department store company said it believes a Saks Fifth Avenue unit improperly collected $26 million of markdown allowances from vendors between 1999 and 2003, as well as $8.2 million between 1996 and 1998. Saks intends to reimburse the vendors and pay about $14 million in interest.

The information technology and printing company Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) set a $4 billion stock buyback.

Merck & Co (MRK ) might consider settling a small number of Vioxx cases in which patients who claim they were harmed fit a very narrow profile, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The biopharmaceutical company DOV Pharmaceutical (DOVP ) suspended further dosing in its trial of the anti-anxiety agent ocinaplon, after receiving a report that one patient had enzyme elevations in liver function tests.

Drug development outfit Renovis (RNVS ) said it plans to halt the development of REN-165 as an oral medication.

Liberty Corp (LC ) agreed to be acquired by the privately held TV broadcaster Raycom Media for $47.35 cash per share, or about $987 million, including the assumption of $110 million of debt.

Agile Software (AGIL ) posted a 6-cent first quarter loss per share vs. a 6-cent loss (GAAP) one year earlier. The technology services company cited an accounting change that impacts stock-based compensation.

Credence Systems (CMOS ) posted a 43-cent third quarter loss per share vs. a 42-cent loss (GAAP) on sales that were 32% lower.

OmniVision Technologies (OVTI ) posted a 24 cents vs. 32 cents first quarter earnings per share on 2.8% lower revenue. The computer chip manufacturer cited lower gross margins and back-end yield issues. Omnivision sees between 28 cent and 33 cent second quarter earnings per share on revenues of $110 million to $120 million. It also expects to see its gross margin and yield issues substantially resolved. Merriman Curhan upped its opinion on the stock to buy from neutral.

Precision Castparts (PCP ) shares climbed after the metal components manufacturer said it agreed to acquire Special Metals for about $540 million. Precision Castparts expects to realize synergies between $10 million and $15 million in the first 12 to 15 months after its purchase closes.

PETCO Animal Supplies (PETC ) posted 31 cents vs. 33 cents second quarter earnings per share, as its narrowed gross margin offset 2.5% higher same-store sales and a 10% revenue rise. The pet products store sees 25 cent to 28 cent third quarter earnings per share on flat to +2% comps, in addition to between $1.36 and $1.44 fiscal year 2006 earnings per share on a 2% to 4% same-store sales rise. Wedbush Morgan cut its investment recommendation on the company to hold from buy.

First BanCorp (FBP ) said late Thursday that it received a letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating an informal inquiry into the Puerto Rico-based financial holding company. Brean Murray cut its investment recommendation on First BanCorp to hold from accumulate.

The fashion accessories company Fossil( FOSL ) and clothing designer Guess? (GES ) announced Friday that they are in advanced negotiations for a 10-year, $1.36 billion global license agreement that includes the option to renew. Under the agreement, Fossil would produce and distribute Guess and Guess Collection watches starting in January, 2007.

Ace Cash Express (AACE ) posted 48 cents vs. 16 cents fourth quarter earnings per share (GAAP) on 9.1% higher revenue.

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