Merrill Lynch Posts Higher Earnings

Investors bid for Equity Office Properties; Apple forecast disappoints investors; plus more stocks in the news Thursday

Merrill Lynch (MER) posted $2.41 vs. $1.41 fourth quarter earnings per share (EPS) on a 27% total net revenue rise. Raises its quarterly dividend 40% to $0.35 per share.

Equity Office Properties (EOP) received an unsolicited proposal from Dove Parent LLC, an entity formed by Vornado Realty (VNO), Starwood Capital Group Global LLC, and Walton Street Capital LLC to acquire the company for $52 per share or unit (60% cash, 40% in Vornado Realty shares).

Apple (AAPL) posted $1.14 vs. 65 cents first quarter EPS on a 25% revenue rise. The company sees second quarter revenue of $4.8 billion to $4.9 billion and EPS of $0.54 to $0.56. The second quarter forecast is seen lower than expected.

Unitedhealth Group (UNH) posted $2 billion fourth quarter earnings from operations on $18.16 billion revenue. Did not provide year over year comparisons, all of which are subject to adjustment. Affirms a $4.7 billion to $4.75 billion 2007 net income forecast, which includes $980 million to $1 billion in the first quarter, subject to potential adjustment.

Harley-Davidson (HOG) posted 97 cents vs. 84 cents fourth quarter EPS on a 12% revenue rise. Expects to ship 82,000 to 84,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the first quarter 2007. Sees 11% to 17% EPS growth each year through 2009.

Lam Research (LRCX) posted $1.15 vs. 55 cents second quarter EPS on a 77% revenue rise.

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