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Spotlight Stocks: Dell, Merrill Lynch, SanDisk, UST

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Friday's top stories and stocks with potential to move.

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Stocks to watch for Friday, September 5, 2008:

  • Texas-based Dell (DELL) is looking to offload the bulk, if not all, of its factories over "the next 18 months." So says the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. The ubiquitous PC-maker is doing so with a view to trimming the fat and increasing profitability. Within the industry, contract manufacturers are generally regarded as a more efficient and cheaper solution than operating one's own factories.

  • Fully expecting more bad news in the coming weeks and months, Goldman Sachs cut Merrill Lynch's (MER) embattled stock to "sell." With $40 billion in writedowns to date -- and more expected -- Goldman analyst William Tanoma is forecasting a third-quarter loss (its fifth straight) of $5.75 a share for Merrill. His revised loss estimate for 2008: An equally gloomy $11.55, up from $10.25

  • Shares of SanDisk (SNDK), the world's largest flash memory maker, jumped approximately 33% in pre-market trading on news South Korea-based Samsung is mulling a takeover. Of course Samsung was quick to point out in a statement to regulators that a final decision had not yet been reached. Samsung pays hefty royalties -- in the neighborhood of $500 million annually -- to SanDisk for flash memory patents. Presumably, the buyout could decrease said royalties.

  • It would appear Altria Group (MO) is interested in acquiring UST (UST), maker of popular chewing tobacco Skoal. The New York Times reported advanced talks between the companies, causing UST's stock to soar by approximately 18% before the opening bell. The deal is said to be worth $10 billion.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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