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Stocks To Watch: Dow Jones, H&R Block, J.P. Morgan, Merck, Yahoo


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

  • Stocks to watch for Thursday, June 21:

AT&T (T) is preparing for the launch of Apple's iPhone, adding some 2,000 temporary staff.

  • AirTran Holdings (AAI) said it will "move expeditiously to effect a merger agreement" with Midwest Air Group (MEH) after MEH shareholders elected AirTran's three nominees to Midwest's nine-member board. AirTran said that 65% of Midwest shares voted were cast in favor of AirTran's slate, according to preliminary results from the June 14 meeting. Midwest's management has repeatedly denounced AirTran's $389 million takeover bid.
  • Andersons (ANDE) boosted its 2007 per-share earnings view to a range of $2.80 to $3.05 from its previous view of $2.35 to $2.60. On average, analysts expect 2007 per-share earnings of $2.62, according to a poll by Thomson Financial. The agriculture company said the increased outlook is primarily due to the strong second-quarter performance of its agricultural business. Andersons said when its original guidance was issued planting was behind its historic norms.
  • Apollo Management Holding plans to acquire certain natural-foods stores owned by Wild Oats Markets (OATS) if Wild Oats' proposed $565 million sale to Whole Foods Market (WFMI) gets approval, The Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site. In a court filing earlier this week related to the Federal Trade Commission's lawsuit seeking to block Whole Foods' acquisition, the New York-based private-equity firm said it has contracted to buy "certain Wild Oats stores" if the deal is completed, The Journal reported. In the filing, Apollo also said it previously explored a potential acquisition of all of Wild Oats, according to the report.
  • Calpine (CPNLQ) said it has filed a reorganization plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York as part of its effort to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The power generator said it is looking to have the plan confirmed during the fourth quarter. Calpine said that, assuming it exits from bankruptcy on Dec. 31, 2007, the reorganized company will have a midpoint reorganization value of $21.7 billion, and estimated enterprise value of $19.2 billion to $21.3 billion. The company estimates that distributable cash at time of exit will be roughly $1.4 billion. Calpine said allowed claims will range from $20.1 billion to $22.3 billion, and general unsecured creditors will receive 91% to 100% of their allowed claims. The company added that it has it has received a commitment for larger exit facility from Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and Morgan Stanley. If approved, the facility would provide for up to $8 billion in secured financing, roughly $3 billion more than the existing facility.
  • Capstone Turbine (CPST) said it has signed a new distributor agreement with Cogenco for the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. Financial terms weren't disclosed. "We've long seen Europe as a market with strong potential and signing this agreement with Cogenco opens additional new sales opportunities in Europe," said Capstone Turbine President and Chief Executive Darren Jamison in a statement.
  • Cedar Shopping Centers (CDR) named Lawrence Kreider Jr. chief financial officer to replace Tom O'Keeffe, who is retiring but will remain a consultant until March 2010. Kreider was previously executive vice president, chief financial officer and chief information officer of Affordable Residential Communities (ARC). Affordable Residential confirmed Kreider's departure and said it is looking for a replacement. Real estate investment trust Cedar Shopping Centers said its second-quarter and year will include a one-time charge of 3 cents a share for payments for the consulting agreement and accelerated amortization of nonvested deferred stock-based compensation.
  • Children's Place (PLCE) received notification from Nasdaq that it doesn't comply with listing rules concerning the timely filing of financial reports. The specialty retailer said the latest notice concerned its report for the fiscal first quarter. Children's Place received previous notices concerning quarterly reports for the 2006 second and third quarters and its annual report for the year ended Feb. 3. Currently, Nasdaq's Listing and Hearing Review Council is reviewing Children's Place's request for continued listing, and the company expects to file restated results as soon as possible.
  • Dow Jones (DJ) said its board of directors would take over negotiations with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NWS) from its controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, in a move analysts said increased the likelihood that the company would be sold.
  • H&R Block (HRB) is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings of $1.88 a share.
  • Hoku Materials, subsidiary of Hoku Scientific (HOKU) , said it has signed seven-year polysilicon supply agreement with Global Expertise Wafer Division, a subsidiary of Solar-Fabrik AG. Under the contract, which begins in the second half of 2009, up to $185 million may be payable to Hoku, subject to the achievement of certain milestones and other conditions. The contract also provides for an initial direct deposit of $2 million to Hoku upon signing and, subject to achievement of certain milestones, requires that Global Expertise make additional prepayments of $51 million prior to the first shipment.
  • J.P. Morgan (JPM) pulled back from auctioning off a Bear Stearns hedge fund's collateral and later came to terms with Bear.
  • Liz Claiborne (LIZ) said it will reorganize into two divisions, direct brands and partnered brands, and the company named Andrew Warren as chief financial officer, effective July 9. As part of the realignment, the company's previous five group president positions will be eliminated. Jill Granoff, formerly president of the direct-to-consumer group, was named executive vice president of direct brands, and will be responsible for global oversight of Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand and Sigrid Olsen, as well as the company's outlet and e-commerce operations. Liz Claiborne President Trudy Sullivan will lead the partnered brands division. The apparel company said the new organizational structure will support the strategic initiatives it plans to unveil at its investor day on July 11.
  • Merck (MRK) said the Food and Drug Administration has accepted for standard review a supplemental biologics license application for Gardasil, its cervical cancer vaccine. The application includes data on protection against vaginal and vulvar cancer caused by HPV types 16 and 18, and data on immune memory, the pharmaceutical company said. Merck said it expects the FDA to act on the application in the first quarter of 2008.
  • Monogram Biosciences (MGRM) said its plans for commercializing the Trofile assay are well advanced, and it will provide more details once maraviroc is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Earlier, Monogram's collaborator, Pfizer (PFE), said it has received an approvable letter from the FDA for maraviroc, a CCR5-antagonist under review as a therapy for treatment-experienced patients infected with CCR5-tropic HIV-1. The Trofile assay was used to select the more than 2,000 patients worldwide who have received treatment with maraviroc through clinical trials, the biotechnology company said. Trofile is currently in use for patient selection in Pfizer's ongoing expanded access program, the company noted.
  • NYSE Euronext (NYX) said Borsa Italiana SpA exercised its call option to buy all the shares held by NYSE Euronext's Euronext NV unit in MBE Holding. NYSE Euronext, a holding company created by NYSE Group Inc. and Euronext NV, said MBE Holding is a joint venture by Euronext and Borsa Italiana, with Euronext owning 51% and Borsa Italiana owning the remaining 49%. The joint venture agreement allows one party to purchase all of the other's shares at fair market value if that second party changed control. The companies will have three months from Wednesday to agree on the fair market value of MBE Holding's shares.
  • Pactiv (PTV) said it priced $250 million of 5.875% senior notes due 2012 and $250 million of 6.4% senior notes due 2018. The packaging company said it plans to use the proceeds of the offering to repay short-term debt incurred in connection with its acquisition of Prairie Packaging.
  • Pfizer (PFE) said the Food and Drug Administration has issued an approvable letter for maraviroc, which is under review as a therapy for treatment-experienced patients infected with CCR5-tropic HIV-1. The pharmaceutical company said it is continuing discussions with the FDA to address outstanding questions and finalize the product labeling as soon as possible. The company also said it's in the process of submitting marketing applications worldwide to make maraviroc available globally.
  • Philip Morris, who's parent company is Altria Group (MO), is developing a slew of new products to possibly reduce tobacco's dangers, as it prepares for possible FDA regulation. But the company faces hurdles in its quest for an FDA-approved lower-risk cigarette.
  • Sonic (SONC) reported fiscal third-quarter net earnings of $20.7 million, or 31 cents a share, down 13% from $23.8 million, or 27 cents a share in the year-ago period. There were 67.4 million shares outstanding in the quarter ended May 31, versus 89 million in the comparable period last year. The drive-in restaurant chain said revenue in the quarter rose 13% to $209.9 million from $186.5 million in the year-earlier quarter, while same-store sales rose 4%. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting, on average, a per-share profit of 31 cents on revenue of $207 million. The company forecast fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of 32 cents to 33 cents a share on revenue growth of 10% to 12% and same-store sales growth of 2% to 4%. Sonic expects to open 65 to 75 new drive-ins in the fourth quarter. Analysts are expecting a fourth-quarter per-share profit of 34 cents.
  • Tribune (TRB) said May revenue fell 11% to $406 million from $457 million as advertising revenue fell 12%. The company's advertising revenue dropped to $230 million from $261 million. Publishing revenue fell 10% to $292 million from $325 million in the year-ago period. Circulation revenue fell 6.2%, while television revenue fell 11%. The company's broadcast and entertainment group's revenue fell 13% to $114 million from $131 million. Tribune's shares closed Wednesday down 35 cents, or 1.2%, at $29.96.
  • Williams Partners (WPZ) agreed to buy an additional 20% interest in Discovery Producer Services from Williams (WMB) for $78 million. Williams Partners already owns a 40% interest in Discovery, which provides gathering, transportation, fractionation and processing services to gas producers operating in the Gulf of Mexico. The transaction is expected to immediately boost distributable cash flow for Williams Partners. The equity earnings attributable to a 20% interest in Discovery were $5.4 million and distributable cash flow was $10.3 million for the 12-month period ended March 31, the companies said.
  • WSI Industries (WSCI) reported third-quarter net earnings of $229,000, or 8 cents a share, up 33% from $172,000, or 6 cents a share, during the year-ago period. The maker of parts for the avionics and defense industries said that revenue rose to $5.24 million from $4.22 million. Additionally, WSI said it expects fiscal 2008 sales from its energy business to range from $6 million to $8 million.
  • Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, a unit of Wyeth (WYE) , said a study found that younger menopausal women aged 50 to 59 taking oral estrogen therapy had reduced levels of coronary artery calcification, a predictor of future cardiovascular events. The pharmaceutical company said the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, provides additional evidence for women considering estrogen-alone therapy. The study concluded that hormone therapy shouldn't be initiated or continue "for the express purpose of preventing cardiovascular disease in either younger or older postmenopausal women.
  • Yahoo (YHOO) is buying, a Web site that provides extensive coverage of collegiate athletics.

Market Update:

  • Asian trading closed in the green with the Hang Seng +1.25%, Nikkei +0.16%, Sensex +0.61%, Taiwan +1.10% and Shanghai +1.18%.
  • A quick look at European bourses is not so pretty in pink with the CAC -0.91%, DAX -1.22%, FTSE -0.81%, ATX -0.82%, Swiss Mkt. -0.91% and Stockholm -0.96%.
  • Crude oil is trading higher +0.69 to 69.55 while gold is lower -3.4 to 656.6 this morning.
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