Stock Updates

A Higher-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter and credited strong performances by powerful new versions of its Pentium chips. Intel reported net income of $1.7 billion, which was down from $1.9 billion. Revenue rose to a record $6.5 billion from $6.4 billion. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based computer chip maker said it expected its revenue for the first quarter of 1998 to be about flat with the last quarter’s $6.5 billion.

Apple Computer said Wednesday it returned to profitability in the latest quarter, buoyed by the introduction of its Power Macintosh G3 computers in what it called its most successful product launch ever. Apple, which lost about $1.8 billion in its last two full fiscal years, reported a profit of $47 million, or 37 cents a share, for its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 26. That compared with a loss of $120 million, or 96 cents a share in last year’s fiscal first quarter. Revenues, however, fell to $1.6 billion from $2.1 billion.

A U.S. federal judge Wednesday adjourned a hearing into whether Microsoft violated his order regarding its Windows 95 licensing practices, saying he would hear final arguments Jan. 22. U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson gave lawyers for both sides until the close of business Monday to file briefs outlining the facts in the civil contempt case.

Netscape said Wednesday it plans to cut its overall work force by up to 15 percent as it reins in expenses after projecting a fourth quarter loss. Netscape, the Internet start-up that touted itself as the fastest-growing software company in history, said last week it would lay off an unspecified number of employees following its first quarterly financial loss, which it attributed largely to intensified competition from Microsoft.

Telecom giant WorldCom said Monday it’s planning a major push into Japan’s telecommunications market, in a move likely to heat up competition and spark mergers in an already unsettled sector. WorldCom’s Japan unit said it will lay fiber optic cable networks in Tokyo and other big cities and would launch services after the telecom sector is deregulated, perhaps around early March. A source at WorldCom says the company’s initial Japan investment is likely be nearly $76 million.

Motorola Tuesday warned of continued pressure from the economic turmoil in Asia, after reporting slightly lower than expected fourth quarter earnings Monday. But analysts say Wall Street is relieved the technology giant’s outlook was not worse. Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola also forecast slower growth in certain Asian markets, yet says the long-term picture remains solid.

Advanced Micro Devices reported a fourth-quarter loss Tuesday. AMD said it had a loss of $12.3 million, compared with a loss of $21.2 million in the period a year ago. The company said it benefited from a surge in shipments of its personal computer microprocessors, which perform the basic calculations of a personal computer.

Peregrine Investments Holdings, one of Asia’s largest independent investment banks, filed for liquidation Monday after the collapse of a lifeline deal dashed its hopes of surviving the region’s economic crisis. The demise of the investment bank sparked a sell-off in the local stock market, and the blue-chip Hang Seng Index lost 8.70 percent of its value to close down 773.58 points at 8,121.06. Angry investors laid siege to Peregrine’s offices, seeking to transfer share portfolios held by the company.

Pilots flying for package delivery giant United Parcel Service resumed contract talks with the company Wednesday, saying they’re no longer seeking parity with top-paid passenger airline pilots. The Independent Pilots Association, representing 2,100 UPS pilots, also said it wants to ensure there’s no disruption in UPS service, a departure from last year’s talk of strike action. Both parties also agreed to a mediator’s request that they observe a blackout on issuing news about the negotiations.

Ameritech kicked off the reporting season for the Baby Bells Tuesday by beating analysts’ earnings estimates for the fourth quarter and outlining a bullish year for 1998. Record earnings were driven by its biggest one-year gain in the number of cellular customers, and by sparkling performances from its call management services, the company says. Ameritech, a provider of local and long distance telephone services, extended its string of double-digit profit growth to five consecutive years and 17 straight quarters. Fourth-quarter earnings jumped 10.5 percent to a record $610 million.

NationsBank said Monday its profit jumped 29 percent to $818 million in the fourth quarter as recent acquisitions helped it boost earnings through diversification. The bank, which has $310 billion in assets, said its net income for the three months ended in December grew to $818 million from $632 million the year before. NationsBank said its $1.2 billion acquisition of investment banker Montgomery Securities and its purchase of St. Louis-based Boatmen’s Bancshares were paying off handsomely.

Kimco Realty, one of the nation’s largest owners of shopping malls, said it has agreed to buy The Price REIT for $535 million in stock and the assumption of $300 million in Price debt. The deal will create one of the largest U.S. retail shopping center real estate investment trusts, with a market capitalization of nearly $3 billion. Kimco is the nation’s largest publicly traded owner and operator of neighborhood and community shopping centers, with real estate assets of $1.4 billion. The deal is subject to shareholder approval.

U.S. Office Products announced a restructuring Tuesday that involves a share buyback, spinning off four units and the sale of 24.9 percent of the restructured company to a private investment firm. The supplier of office products and business services says it will spend $1 billion to repurchase about 37 million outstanding shares at $27 per share, incurring about $800 million in debt. The spin-off will create four new independent companies — Corporate Travel Services, Education, Print Management and Technology Solutions Division.

Fifth Third Bancorp said Wednesday it agreed to acquire CitFed Bancorp of Dayton, Ohio, for $688.2 million in stock, in the Ohio banking industry’s latest consolidation. Under the agreement, Fifth Third will offer 0.67 share of its stock for each CitFed share in a tax-free exchange. Analysts applauded the third acquisition in three weeks by Cincinnati-based Fifth Third, which has been using its high-flying stock to extend a string of Midwestern buyouts.

CBS, which lost the rights to broadcast professional football four years ago, is back in the game. CBS announced Tuesday that it agreed to pay about $4 billion for the rights to broadcast NFL games for eight years, beginning with the 1998 season. CBS will broadcast American Football Conference games, which were previously aired by NBC. FOX retains the rights to National Football Conference games under a new eight-year agreement with the NFL. ABC said late Tuesday that it had retained the rights to Monday Night Football.

Viacom confirmed Wednesday that it was selling the educational, professional and reference publishing businesses of its Simon & Schuster unit as part of its strategy to focus on its core entertainment assets. The company, which had earlier refused to comment on rumors that it would sell the businesses, said the operations have combined sales of about $2 billion.

A federal judge ordered Tyson Foods to pay $6 million in fines and penalties after it pleaded guilty to giving illegal gifts to former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. Judge Ricardo Urbina said $4 million of the payment was a fine and $2 million was assessed to help pay for the cost of a lengthy investigation by independent counsel Donald Smaltz. Tyson Foods was also sentenced to four years’ probation.

Whirlpool said Tuesday it will cut 3,200 jobs and take an after-tax charge of $31 million against fourth quarter earnings in its final step to streamline its Brazilian operations. With the charge, Whirlpool has consolidated its regional position after its recent purchase of 66 percent voting interest in Brasmotor S.A., holding company for Latin America’s largest appliance manufacturer. The financial impact of the charge on Whirlpool is expected to be $14 million or 19 cents per share, while the company expects annual savings of $20 million or 26 cents per share.

Lands’ End, a direct marketer of casual apparel, said Tuesday its 1997 holiday sales rose 14 percent from a year ago while profits increased 16 percent from 1996. Net sales for the eight weeks ended Dec. 26 rose 14 percent to $380 million from $334 million last year. The increase in sales during the holiday period was mainly due to additional pages mailed to customers, Lands’ End said. The growth in sales came primarily from the specialty businesses, its regular monthly and prospecting catalogs and its foreign-based operations.

Chrysler said Friday it reduced its first quarter production forecast. The No. 3 U.S. automaker cut its outlook by 400 units to 805,300 cars and trucks, dropping 900 cars to total 224,600 and adding 500 trucks to bring that forecast to 580,700. But Chrysler remains the only one of Detroit’s Big Three to schedule a production increase for the first three months of the year. The new total represents a 6 percent increase over the 762,100 vehicles produced in the first quarter of 1997.

General Motors said Friday it plans to make new investments in Indonesia. The No. 1 U.S. automaker is making its move after President Suharto removed tax exemptions on Jakarta’s national car project as part of a far-reaching agreement with the International Monetary Fund. GM said it has bought out its Indonesia joint venture partner, which is controlled by Suharto’s half-brother.

Auto parts maker Federal-Mogul said Monday it agreed to acquire Fel-Pro, a privately owned gasket manufacturer, for $720 million in cash and stock. The proposed transaction includes $225 million in common stock and $495 million in cash. Federal-Mogul makes and distributes parts for automobiles, light trucks, heavy trucks and farm and construction vehicles. A company spokeswoman said some jobs might be eliminated at either company after Federal-Mogul and Fel-Pro integrate their operations and find duplication of functions.

BF Goodrich said Wednesday it will buy Freedom Chemical for about $375 million in cash from private investment firm Joseph Littlejohn & Levy. The purchase is the eighth acquisition for Goodrich’s specialty chemical division in two years. Freedom Chemical has four wholly owned subsidiaries whose products are used in personal care, food, beverage, textile and pharmaceutical products. BF Goodrich says the acquisition increases the size of its specialty chemical business by 30 percent.

Electric utility Pacificorp said Monday it will cut seven percent of its workforce, or 600 jobs, and close a Wyoming coal mine in an effort to cut costs and remain competitive in the power generation market. The company said the Glenrock coal mine in Wyoming, which employs 177 people, is being shut down because it cost too much to operate. Pacificorp also plans to take charges totaling $311 million in the fourth quarter of last year and the current quarter to account for the layoffs, the mine closing and other items.

International Paper, reporting fourth-quarter earnings slightly above Wall Street expectations, said Tuesday it expects prices for its major products to firm in the second half of 1998. For the quarter, the world’s largest paper company reported a $115 million profit before special items, compared with earnings before charges of $100 million a year earlier. International Paper shares rose 11/16 to 42 5/8 Tuesday in NYSE trading.

Low copper prices have hurt the fourth quarter income of Phelps Dodge, the nation’s leading copper producer said Friday. The Phoenix-based company said its fourth quarter income fell to $32 million from $102 million a year earlier as depressed copper prices cut its sales by 12 percent. Phelps Dodge said it earned 54 cents per diluted share, down from $1.57 a year earlier. Its sales fell to $866 million from $971 million.

Medical products maker Abbott Laboratories reported Friday record 1997 fourth quarter and full-year net sales and profits. The manufacturer of Similac infant formula, Biaxin antibiotics and other products said it earned 74 cents per basic share against 66 cents per basic share in the same period a year earlier. For all of 1997, Abbott said worldwide sales were up 7.9 percent from 1996. The report comes a day after North Chicago, Ill.-based Abbott announced the planned retirement of its two top executives.

A judge ruled Tuesday that a jury verdict finding Dow Chemical negligent in a breast implant lawsuit could be used in future legal actions by 1,800 women. The ruling by Louisiana state district Judge Yada Magee means the women, who claim silicone implants made them sick, can file lawsuits against Dow Chemical in which the company’s guilt is already established. Plaintiffs attorney Dawn Barrios said Magee’s decision gave the women a big legal advantage if they sue Dow Chemical, which has claimed no responsibility for the implants.