Updated from 12:42 p.m. EST
Firms involved in asbestos litigation saw their shares rise Friday after
Sealed Air Corp.
settled a lawsuit and
Fresenius Medical Care
neared an agreement to resolve its liability.
Sealed Air, which makes Bubble Wrap, surged almost 50% to $36.67 after the firm agreed to pay $512.5 million in cash to settle all pending and future asbestos claims. The Saddle Brook, N.J.-based company will also contribute 9 million shares to the settlement.
Salomon Smith Barney analyst George Staphos raised his rating on the stock Friday, saying the amount of the settlement was "well below our expectation and is a positive."
Meanwhile, Fresenius Medical surged 35% to $15.16 after the provider of dialysis services said it was close to an agreement to settle asbestos claims in the U.S. for $15 million. The firm said a definitive agreement will be reached before the end of the year.
Despite the gains Friday, Sealed Air is still down 10% for the year while Fresenius has fallen almost 24%.
Claims against both companies stem from their connection to chemical and material manufacturer
, which filed for bankruptcy in 2001 amid a flood of asbestos claims. Sealed Air acquired the Cryovac packaging business from Grace in 1998 while Fresnius merged with Grace's National Medical Care unit in 1996.
Creditors and claimants have argued that Grace's sale of Cryovac left the firm insolvent because the unit accounted for 60% of its revenue in 1998. They claim the firm sold the division to shield assets from plaintiffs seeking payment for asbestos claims. Plaintiffs also contend that Grace sold Fresenius at an unreasonably low price in order to reduce the amount of money available for asbestos-related court awards.
WR Grace rose 19% to $2.00. Other companies embroiled in asbestos lawsuits rose in unison Friday, with
up 28% to $3.18;
( GP)up 14% to $20.03;
Crown Cork & Seal
up 10% to $8.76;
up 9% to $20.91 and
6% to $26.08.
The potential good news on the asbestos front also boosted the shares of property and casualty insurers, which ultimately have to cover any lawsuits and settlements. For instance, shares of
Travelers Property & Casualty
( TAPA) rose $1.07, or 7%, to just under $16 and
was up $1.24 to $58.54.