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Stocks to Watch: Altria, AT&T, Google, M&T Bank, New Century


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


Stocks to watch for Monday, April 2

  • A $3.47 billion offer by AT&T (T) and its Mexican affiliate for a stake in Telecom Italia's holding firm could drive consolidation but meet national resistance.
  • Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP) late Friday said it has completed the spin-off of its brokerage services group by distribution of a special tax-free dividend to its shareholders, consisting of roughly 138.5 million shares of common stock of Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc. ADP is distributing one share of Broadridge stock for every four shares of ADP common stock held by shareholders of record as of March 23.ADP will not own any shares of Broadridge, which will be an independent public company. Broadridge's stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "BR" beginning Monday.
  • Altria Group Inc. (MO) said it has completed the spin-off of Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT) to Altria's shareholders. The distribution of the roughly 88.9% of Kraft's outstanding shares owned by Altria was made today to shareholders of record as of March 16. Altria shareholders received 0.69 of a share of Kraft for each share of Altria common stock held.
  • The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved Ceprotin, a treatment for patients with a rare genetic defect that can cause a potentially life-threatening clotting disorder. Ceprotin is manufactured by Baxter International Inc.'s (BAX) Baxter Healthcare Corp. Ceprotin is made from the plasma of healthy human blood donors, the FDA noted. It is a concentrated form of Protein C, a substance normally manufactured in the liver that circulates in the plasma in very small amounts. Protein C plays an important role in controlling blood coagulation by preventing the formation and growth of blood clots, the agency said. "This product offers much-needed treatment for the small number of patients with severe inherited Protein C deficiency," said Jesse Goodman, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement.
  • Books-A-Million Inc. (BAMM) reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $15.1 million, or 90 cents a share, up 35% from $11.2 million, or 66 cents a share, in the year-ago period. The book retailer said revenue in the 14 weeks ended Feb. 3 rose 8.4% to $174.6 million from $161.1 million in the comparable period last year. Same-store sales for the quarter fell 2.4%.
  • Cephalon (CEPH) said it has received an approvable letter, along with draft labeling, from the Food and Drug Administration for its new drug application for Nuvigil, a treatment for excessive sleepiness. The FDA has requested that the company provide a standard safety update from clinical trials conducted since the last update in June 2006, and introductory promotional materials to be used for the product, among other things. Cephalon said it will submit its response within 30 days, and the agency is expected to complete its review within 60 days thereafter. The company submitted its NDA for Nuvigil to FDA in March 2005 and received an initial approvable letter in April 2006.
  • Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc., a division of Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL) , said it is voluntarily recalling its Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry food from the market. The company said it's taking the action because during a two-month period in early 2007, wheat gluten for the product was provided by a company that also supplied wheat gluten to Menu Foods. Food and Drug Administration tests of wheat gluten samples from this period show the presence of a small amount of melamine, a chemical commonly used to make plastic kitchen products. Hill's said Prescription Diet m/d Feline Dry is the only product it sells in the United States that contains wheat gluten from any supplier.
  • Focus Enhancements Inc.'s (FCSE) independent registered public accouting firm wrote in its 2006 audit report that it is uncertain of the company's ability to continue as a going concern. The designer of video scan conversion products said the firm, Burr Pilger & Mayer LLP, included a similar explanatory paragraph in its 2005 report.
  • Google (GOOG) is a contender along with Microsoft to buy DoubleClick, possibly increasing the online-ad company's final price.
  • KKR agreed to buy credit-card and payments processor First Data (FDC) in a deal valued at about $29 billion, marking the latest in a series of LBOs of established corporations.
  • Interpublic Group of Cos. (IPG) said it has been informed by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) of its decision to review media planning and buying. In a statement, the New York-based advertising agency said it looks forward to participating in the review. Interpublic is one of J&J's media agencies.
  • Landry's Restaurants Inc.'s (LNY) fourth-quarter revenue from continuing operations rose 5.6% to $275.7 million from $261.2 million a year ago. The Houston casual dining, hospitality and entertainment company anticipates a loss for the year on the sale of Joe's Crab Shack in the fourth quarter. Landry's doesn't expect to complete its historical stock option granting practices or file its annual report on form 10-K until the second quarter, the company said. The company expects to receive a letter from the New York Stock Exchange on the filing delay. Landry's also expects $8.6 million in charges from the review over the 14-year period.
  • M&T Bank Corp. (MTB) said trouble in its subprime residential mortgage segment will reduce first-quarter net income to $1.50 to $1.60 a share. The bank holding company was expected to earn $1.86 a share in the first quarter, according to average Thomson Financial estimate. First-quarter profit will be cut by $7 million, or 7 cents a share, as a result of a $12 million reduction in the carrying value of M&T's so-called Alt-A mortgage portfolio held for sale. Alt-A loans require less documentation from the borrower than/traditional mortgages.
  • New Century (NEW) is widely expected to announce it will file for bankruptcy as the home-mortgage company copes with a cutoff of credit from its lenders.
  • Potlatch Corp. (PCH) said it has agreed to sell its 17,000-acre hybrid poplar tree farm in Boardman, Ore., to a private-equity tree-farm investment fund for $65 million. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2007. Potlatch expects to incur an after-tax book loss of roughly $33.5 million on the sale, which will be recorded in the first quarter of the year.
  • Smithfield Foods Inc. (SFD) and Premium Standard Farms Inc. (PORK) said the Justice Department's antitrust division has exercised its option to take an additional 30 days to review Smithfield's pending acquisition of Premium Standard. The extension expires on May 7, the companies said. Smithfield, the No. 1 U.S. hog producer, agreed in September to buy smaller rival Premium Standard. The cash-and-stock deal is valued at about $810 million, including the assumption of about $117 million in debt.

Market Update

  • Asian trading closed with the Hang Seng +0.04%, Nikkei -1.50%, Shanghai +2.15%, Taiwan +0.01%, and Sensex -4.72%
  • Looking over at Europe, we find the CAC -0.07%, DAX +0.29%, FTSE -0.02%, ATX +0.34%, Swiss Mkt. -0.51% and Stockholm +0.24%.
  • Gold is trading -1.3 to 667.7 and crude oil is -0.09 to 65.78 this morning.
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