Movers: Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Marriott, China Netcom
S&P Ratings lowers its credit ratings on Morgan Stanley (MS) to A+ from AA-, Merrill Lynch (MER) to A from A+, and Lehman Brothers Holdings (LEH) to A from A+, and has a negative outlook on them. "The downgrade primarily reflects our concern that the pace and extent of earnings improvement could be considerably more muted than we previously assumed," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Scott Sprinzen in a release.
Avant Immunotherapeutics (AVAN), with Pfizer (PFE), announces positive results from two Phase 2 studies on CDX-110, an investigational immunotherapeutic vaccine that targets the tumor-specific molecule epidermal growth factor receptor variant III (EGFRvIII).
Friedman Billings upgrades Massey Energy (MEE) to outperform from market perform; it also adds Patriot Coal (PCX) and CONSOL Energy (CNX) to its Top Picks.
Wachovia (WB) announces that its current chairman, Lanty Smith, has been appointed interim CEO, succeeding Ken Thompson, who is retiring at the request of the board. It says Ben Jenkins, currently vice chairman and president of the General Bank, will serve as interim COO.
Marriott International (MAR) expects worldwide RevPAR in second quarter to increase at the low end of the 3%-5% growth range, but says it's likely to report second quarter North American RevPAR growth of about 2%, vs. prior guidance of 3%-5%. It says it would be surprised if North American RevPAR strengthened in the second half of the year.
China Unicom (CHU) agrees to acquire China Netcom Group (CN) in a share swap valued at $56.30 billion. Separately, China Telecom will buy CHU's CDMA operations for $6.32 billion in cash.
Harris Corp. (HRS) says it has acknowledged that from time to time it is approached by other companies with expressions of interest in various types of transactions, including a potential sale of the company, but is not pursuing a merger or a sale.
Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC) announces that Matthew B. Bartley, executive vice president and chief financial officer, will leave the firm. S&P maintains hold.
Isis Pharmaceuticals (ISIS) says its lead cancer drug candidate, OGX-011, continues to show better-than-expected survival results in patients with hormone refractory prostate cancer when compared to published results.
Barron's predicts General Motors (GM) shares could rise to $30 per share, or even $45, in 2010 as cost savings from a new United Auto Workers contract start to take effect. The article said GM stands to save $4-$5 billion a year starting in 2010 from the new UAW contract that lets the automaker transfer some of its pension assets and pay lower wages for new hires.
Barron's reports that Abbott Laboratories (ABT) stock now enjoys a 2008 earnings multiple of 17.5, north of the 13 multiple on most drug companies' shares. The shares, while flat over the past year, have outperformed both the S&P 500 and the pharma indexes. But if patent challenges become an issue -- or if the Xience launch disappoints -- a shift in sentiment could send shares down to $50 from a recent $56.
Separately, the company reportedly recalls 2 lots of baby formula because small amounts of air may have entered the can, resulting in product oxidation.
Celgene (CELG) says that following discussions with the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) and the EMEA's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human use (CHMP), CELG has withdrawn its Marketing Authorization Application (MAA) for Lenalidomide - Celgene Europe (lenalidomide), which was intended for the treatment of patients with transfusion-dependent anemia due to low- or intermediate-1-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) associated with a deletion 5q cytogenetic abnormality.
Acorda Therapeutics (ACOR) announces positive results from its second Phase 3 clinical trial of Fampridine-SR (MS-F204) on walking ability in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Says significantly greater proportion of people taking Fampridine-SR in the trial had a consistent improvement in walking speed compared to people taking placebo (42.9% vs. 9.3%), as measured by the Timed 25-Foot Walk (p less than 0.001).
Abiomed (ABMD) receives 510(k) clearance from the FDA to begin selling its Impella 2.5 Cardiac Assist Device in the United States.
Genentech (DNA) announces that Avastin, in combination with docetaxel chemotherapy, "significantly" increased the time women with metastatic breast cancer receiving first-line therapy lived without their disease advancing, as defined by the primary endpoint of progression-free survival (PFS). Newswire reports that following presentation at weekend's ASCO, some analysts believe Erbitux, originally developed by IMCL, posted no immediate threat to Avastin.
Novartis (NVS) presented new data at ASCO that showed Zometa offered a significant anticancer benefit for premenopausal women with hormone-sensitive, early-stage breast cancer. Study found that Zometa when added to hormone therapy, following surgery, significantly reduced risk of cancer returning or death by 36% beyond clinical benefits achieved with hormone therapy alone.