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Stocks To Watch: Alltel, Crocs, Hewlett-Packard, Merck, Wal-Mart

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Today's big stories and some stocks with potential to move...

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Stocks to watch for Wednesday, February 21

  • Aaron Rents (RNT) after Tuesday's closing bell reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $19 million, or 35 cents a share, up 30% from $14.6 million, or 29 cents a share, during the year-ago period. The Atlanta-based rental services company posted total revenue of $339.9 million vs. $296.2 million. Additionally, Aaron Rents said it expects first-quarter earnings of 45 cents to 49 cents a share on revenue in excess of $390 million. For 2007, the company said it sees per-share earnings of $1.55 to $1.65 on revenue in excess of $1.5 billion, excluding revenues of franchisees.
  • Adobe Systems (ADBE) said it is delaying the deadline for its employee stock option amendment offer, due to a review by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Adobe said in a release that "the staff of the SEC has selected our Offer documents for review," adding that, "while the review is pending, we will not complete the Offer. We are striving to respond to the staff's comments as promptly as possible." In October, Adobe announced an internal review of its stock options practices, and in January it said it found instances where employees had received improperly priced options.
  • Alltel's (AT) net declined 15% following the spinoff of its landline business, but the company made inroads against larger wireless companies. Alltel ended the year with 11.8 million subscribers.
  • AmSurg (AMSG) said fourth-quarter earnings rose 13% to $9.55 million, or 31 cents a share, from $8.46 million, or 28 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding share-based compensation expense, the company posted fourth-quarter earnings from continuing operations of 36 cents a share. The Nashville ambulatory care company said revenue rose 17% to $118.9 million from $102 million.
  • Avis Budget Group (CAR) reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $3 million, or 2 cents a share, compared with $537 million, or $5.26 a share, during the same period last year. The year-ago period included a gain on disposal of discontinued operations of $583 million. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization were $46 million vs. $28 million. The Parsippany, N.J.-based provider of vehicle rental services posted net revenue of $1.33 billion compared with $1.33 billion.
  • Carter's (CRI) fourth-quarter net income increased to $27.4 million, or 45 cents a share, from $17.3 million, or 28 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. The Atlanta apparel marketer reported adjusted per-share earnings of 47 cents. Sales increased 7.7% to $377.5 million from $350.5 million. Carter's expects consolidated adjusted per-share earnings of 14 cents for the first quarter, and $1.42 to $1.49 for fiscal 2007.
  • Chemed (CHE) reported fourth-quarter net income of $17.6 million, or 67 cents a share, up from $4.18 million, or 16 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Revenue increased 10.6% to $271.9 million from $245.7 million.
  • Century Aluminum's (CENX) fourth-quarter loss narrowed to $119.1 million, or $3.67 a share, from $148.7 million, or $4.62 a share, a year earlier as revenue rose 45%. The latest quarter included a net charge of $174.3 million, or $5.37 a share. The Monterey, Calif., company's revenue grew to $424.4 million from $292.9 million in the year-ago period.
  • Crocs (CROX) fourth-quarter net income jumped to $20.8 million, or 51 cents a share, from a year-earlier profit of $4.17 million, or 12 cents a share. The footwear company's revenue grew to $112.9 million from year-earlier revenue of $33.6 million. Analysts expected fourth-quarter net income of 43 cents a share, on sales of $96.5 million, according to the average Thomson Financial estimates.
  • HCC Insurance Holdings (HCC) reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $80.7 million, or 69 cents a share, up 24% from $65 million, or 57 cents a share, during the year-ago period. The Houston-based specialty insurance company posted net written premiums of $513.4 million vs. $393.8 million. Revenue was $599.1 million compared with $447.6 million. Earnings were negatively impacted by $7.6 million, or 7 cents a share, related to costs of the company's option investigation, and by $13.1 million, or 11 cents a share, due to a large reinsurance commutation recorded during the quarter. HCC also said that Stephen Way, chairman and founder, has retired from the board.
  • Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) profit soared 26% on double-digit revenue growth, but some new questions were raised about whether the company can keep up recent momentum.
  • H.J. Heinz (HNZ) said that third-quarter earnings per share should rise 30%, while sales should tally in at 5% growth during the period. Heinz, which reports earnings Feb. 27, was expected to see earnings-per-share growth of 22% on sales growth of 2%, according to analysts polled by Thomson Financial. Heinz said it's on track to meet full-year earnings of $2.35 to $2.39 a share. The Thomson estimate is for $2.38 a share.
  • IPC Holdings (IPCR) reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $108.2 million, or $1.52 a share. During the same period a year ago, IPC posted a net loss of $74.8 million, or $1.32 a share. Operating earnings, which exclude net realized gains and losses on investments, were $97 million, or $1.36 a share. The Bermuda-based reinsurer posted net premiums written of $16.9 million vs. $12.4 million. Revenue was $142.1 million compared with $94.3 million.
  • Medtronic (MDT) reported higher third-quarter earnings and revenue, with a rise in sales of its stents but lower sales of its implantable cardiac defibrillators.
  • Merck (MRK) plans to suspend its lobbying campaign for the mandatory vaccination of Gardasil, which protects against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, according to a report on the Wall Street Journal's Web site.
  • NovaStar Financial (NFI) said it's considering whether to change its Real Estate Investment Trust status after the subprime mortgage lender reported a fourth-quarter net loss. REITs have to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income as dividends.
  • Odyssey Healthcare (ODSY) swung to fourth-quarter net income of $1.79 million, or 5 cents a share, from a loss of $1.79 million, or 5 cents a share, a year earlier. The Dallas hospice care company reported per-share income from continuing operations, excluding items, of 7 cents. Revenue fell 6% to $96.9 million from $102.8 million in the year-ago period.
  • Powerwave Technologies (PWAV) swung to a fourth-quarter loss of $114.9 million, or 90 cents a share, from net income of $19.2 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier, hurt by $73.1 million of acquisition, restructuring and impairment charges and an $11.5 million charge on Swedish deferred tax assets. Excluding items, the radio-frequency amplifier company posted a loss of $29.3 million, or 22 cents a share. Revenue fell 32% to $169.8 million from $249.4 million a year earlier.
  • Stec (STEC) reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $9.48 million, or 19 cents a share, up from $763,000, or 2 cents a share, during the year-ago period. The Santa Ana, Calif.-based computer memory company posted revenue of $114.3 million vs. $63.3 million. The growth was primarily due to the continued expansion of its original equipment manufacturer division, the company said.
  • Texas Roadhouse (TXRH) reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $7.85 million, or 10 cents a share, up from $6.31 million, or 9 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Revenue at the Louisville, Ky.-based restaurant operator rose to $152.6 million from $117.6 million.
  • Theravance (THRX) said the Food & Drug Administration has accepted its new drug application for telavancin, a treatment of complicated skin and skin structure infections caused by Gram-positive organisms. Theravance said the FDA has established a goal of a standard ten-month review of the telavancin NDA. Theravance said the NDA filing triggers a milestone payment of $31 million from its partner, Astellas Pharma (ALPMF).
  • Wal-Mart's (WMT) profit rose 9.8%, helped by strength in key international markets as weakness continued at its U.S. stores.


Market Recap

  • Asian trading closed with the Nikkei -0.14%, Sensex -0.46% and Hang Seng +0.41.
  • A check across the pond finds the CAC +0.14%, DAX +0.10%, FTSE -0.30%, ATX -0.65%, Swiss Mkt -0.41% and Stockholm +0.06%.
  • Crude oil is trading -0.49 to 58.36 while gold is +0.30 to 661.3 this morning.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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