Updated from 12:34 p.m.

Another

blue-chip wedding in the works?

Citigroup's

(C) - Get Report

chairman, Sandy Weill, may be interested in buying "Don't-leave-home-without- it" credit card giant

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

, according to

BusinessWeek

magazine.

Weill was president of AmEx in the early 1980s; reportedly he expected to run the company, succeeding James Robinson, but lost in a power struggle.

The report said acquiring AmEx would be a coup for Citigroup, because the financial giant would gain more than 53 million AmEx card-holders and the world-famous name.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

(MWD)

and

American International Group

(AIG) - Get Report

are also said to be pursuing the company. Citigroup closed up 28 cents, or 0.6%, to $44.98; American Express was up $2.34, or 6%, to $41.30; Morgan Stanley closed down 18 cents, or 0.3%, to $53.50, American International closed up $2.39, or 3.1%, to $80.50.

IBP

(IBP) - Get Report

said today that it was "shocked" by yesterday's decision by

Tyson Foods

(TSN) - Get Report

to pull out of the proposed $3.2 billion merger of the companies. On Thursday, Tyson

called off the merger with IBP and said it was "inappropriately induced" to enter a deal with the beef and pork processor.

"We do not believe Tyson has any valid basis to discontinue or terminate the merger agreement between the two companies," IBP said. The company also said it resolved its issues with the SEC, which have tainted the merger almost from the start.

Yesterday, Tyson said it has begun legal action in Arkansas, where it is based, and is seeking compensation from IBP.

IBP said it hasn't yet seen the complaint. "We can tell you we at IBP will take all appropriate steps to protect the rights of our company and our shareholders," the company added. IBP ended the trading day down $6.39, or 28%, to $16.40; Tyson was up $1.97, or 17.1%, to $13.47.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Cendant

(CD)

said today that its pending acquisition of

Fairfield Communities

(FFD)

will be an all-cash deal resulting in a $16 a share payout for each Fairfield share.

The transaction, which Cendant expects to close on Monday, is valued at about $690 million. When Cendant announced the plans to acquire Fairfield, the company said at least 50% of the consideration would be paid in cash, while the rest would either be in cash or Cendant common stock.

Fairfield Communities is an Orlando, Fla., vacation ownership company. Fairfield operates 32 sales centers and manages more than 110 time-share and whole-ownership resort associations. Late last year, Cendant agreed to

acquire Fairfield for about $635 million, or $15 a share, but the company said at the time that the price may increase to $16 a share. Cendant closed up 9 cents, or 0.6%, to $14.59; Fairfield was up 22 cents, or 1.4%, to $15.97.

GE Capital

, a unit of

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

signed an agreement to acquire

Franchise Finance Corp. of America

(FFA) - Get Report

for about $1.4 billion. Stockholders of Franchise Finance, a real estate investment trust, will receive $25 in cash for each of their shares.

The company, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has 56.1 million shares outstanding, giving the agreement a value of about $1.4 billion.

The acquired company will operate as

Franchise Finance Corp. of America

, a division of

GE Capital Commercial Equipment Financing

. The acquisition is designed to improve GE's place in the franchise finance market. GE closed up 46 cents, or 1.1%, to $41.86; Franchise Finance closed up $1.20, or 5.1%, to $24.92.

An wholly owned subsidiary of energy company

Pure Resources

(PRS)

agreed to buy

Hallwood Energy

(HECO) - Get Report

for $12.50 a share for its outstanding shares of common stock and for $10.84 a share for its outstanding shares of Series A cumulative preferred stock. Pure Resources closed down 70 cents, or 3.5%, to $19.30; Hallwood closed up $3.30, or 36.5%, to $12.33.

Back to top

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Cirrus Logic

(CRUS) - Get Report

indicated that fourth-quarter and full-year earnings would fall well below Wall Street's estimates, as a result of an inventory charge and a shift toward its lower-margin magnetic storage business.

For the fourth quarter ending tomorrow, Cirrus expects to earn 4 cents to 8 cents a share, drastically lower than the 25 cents a share that five analysts surveyed by

Thomson Financial/First Call

anticipate. In the year-ago period, the Austin, Texas, company earned 5 cents a share.

The company, which designs and makes integrated circuits, believes it will post fourth-quarter revenue of $195 million to $200 million. In last year's fourth quarter, Cirrus reported revenue of $160.2 million. For the year, Cirrus expects to earn 70 cents to 74 cents a share, substantially lower than analysts' expectations of 90 cents a share. In the same period a year ago, the company earned 9 cents a share. Cirrus hopes to post full-year revenue of $775 million to $780 million, up from the top line of $564.4 million a year ago. Analysts expect revenue of $939.98 million.

For the first quarter ending in June, Cirrus expects to earn 10 cents to 15 cents a share, while analysts expect the company to earn 16 cents. Cirrus earned 15 cents a share in the year-ago period. The stock closed down 63 cents, or 4%, to $14.94.

PRI Automation

(PRIA)

sharply lowered its second-quarter guidance today and set plans to cut roughly 20% of its workforce because of the reduced spending in the semiconductor industry. Shares of PRI fell $1.69, or 9.4%, to $16.22 in recent

Nasdaq trading.

For the second quarter ending tomorrow, PRI expects a loss of 40 cents to 45 cents a share, drastically lower than its previous expectation of a profit of 15 cents to 20 cents a share. Twelve analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call estimated that the company, which is based in Billerica, Mass., would earn 17 cents a share. In the year-ago period, PRI reported earnings of 23 cents.

PRI, which supplies automation systems and software to the semiconductor industry, believes it will post revenue of $84 million to $86 million, down from its previous guidance of $100 million to $105 million. In the same quarter last year, PRI listed revenue of $76.7 million. The company said it will eliminate 370 workers worldwide. The job cuts will affect both regular and temporary employees. The company expects to take an unspecified charge in the second quarter. The company plans to report its financial results April 19. PRI closed down 81 cents, or 4.5%, to $17.13.

Sealed Air

(SEE) - Get Report

expects to miss Wall Street's first-quarter earnings estimates, as outbreaks of foot-and-mouth and mad cow diseases in parts of Europe have bogged down revenue.

The maker of protective and specialty packaging materials for food said it expects earnings to check in at 35 cents to 40 cents a share in the quarter. Eight analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call are calling for the company to earn 47 cents. The company earned 48 cents in the year-ago period.

The company said net sales for the first quarter should be comparable to top line in the same period last year. Sealed Air brought in $716.6 million in the year-ago period. The stock ended the day down $2.37, or 6.6%, to $33.33.

SMTC

(SMTX) - Get Report

issued a warning about the first and second quarters, joining the Greek chorus of other manufacturers lamenting about cancellations and push-outs.

The company, which provides manufacturing and electrical services, said it expects to report a loss between 8 cents and 10 cents a share in the first quarter on revenue of about $200 million. Four analysts gave Thomson Financial/First Call a consensus estimate of 5 cents a share. SMTC earned 6 cents a share in the year-ago period.

SMTC blamed original equipment manufacturers' canceling orders, backing up inventory. The company expects the losses to carry over into the second quarter, though to a lesser degree. Executives did not offer specific guidance. SMTC, which is based in Ontario, anticipates a return to the black in the third quarter.

To offset losses, SMTC will close an assembly plant in Denver and take a one-time charge of $15 million to $20 million. Production from Denver will move to Chihuahua, Mexico. SMTC closed down $1.50, or 33.3%, to $3.

Trigon Global

(YUM) - Get Report

said

same-store sales at its U.S.

Taco Bell outlets

are expected to be flat for the year, while those of

Pizza Hut

and

KFC

outlets will grow slightly, according to published reports.

The company also said during a conference call with analysts that it is targeting long-term same-store sales growth of 2% to 3% for all three chains. Trigon closed up 62 cents, or 1.7%, to $38.19.

Wachovia

(WB) - Get Report

said on Friday that it expects earnings for the first quarter to fall below Wall Street's projections.

The bank holding company said it was comfortable with a first-quarter earnings range of $1.17 to $1.22 a share, but analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call are calling for a profit of $1.25. Wachovia posted earnings of $1.30 in the year-ago period.

As for the full-year forecast, the company said it expects earnings to come in at the lower half of its $5.20 to $5.60 a share range. The consensus estimate is currently at $5.25 for the year. Wachovia closed up $1.82, or 3.1%, to $60.25.

Back to top

Analyst actions

Salomon Smith Barney

analyst Clark Westmont hacked at

LSI Logic's

(LSI) - Get Report

estimates like Jason Voorhees at a late-night bonfire. Westmont dropped his 2001 and 2002 projections on the company to a level way below what the rest of Wall Street thinks.

Instead of coming in with a profit for 2001, the analyst thinks that LSI will come in with a 24-cent loss. That's lower than his previous call for a 14 cent profit and a whopping 45 cents lower than the consensus estimate. LSI's 2002 estimate wasn't much better. Westmont thinks the company will make 5 cents a share, down from his previous 34 cent target and well off the 62 cents expected, on average, from analysts that track the company.

"Recent commentary from most industry sources indicates that business conditions remain on a steep downward slope, including the outlook for the coming three months," he wrote, explaining the move.

LSI's major problem is that sales are derived from selling chips to communications and storage companies, both of which face a tremendous amount of trouble right now. Business in these two areas has dropped off a cliff in the last two quarters and LSI will feel the same pinch that its customers feel. LSI closed down 72 cents, or 4.4%, to $15.73.

Westmont also took on two other companies in the semiconductor sector, tweaking estimates on

Xilinx

(XLNX) - Get Report

and

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

. And like LSI, these estimates were dropped below what the rest of Wall Street thinks, but not nearly as drastically.

Altera's 2001 earnings per share estimate was cut to 46 cents from 59 cents, while consensus is still at 58 cents a share. The 2002 forecast isn't much better, pegged at 60 cents a share, down from 81 cents. The

Thomson Financial/First Call

estimate for 2002 is 80 cents.

Rival Xilinx also got nailed. Westmont cut his 2002 estimate to 65 cents a share from 95 cents a share. The average forecast for Xilinx's 2002 was 97 cents a share. Xilinx closed down $1.81, or 4.9%, to $35.13; Altera was down 94 cents, or 4.2%, to $21.44.

Will electronics manufacturing service companies make more money in 2001 than they did in 2000?

According to

Goldman Sachs

analyst Michael Zimm -- probably not.

"We now consider any EMS company having the potential to show positive earnings growth in calendar 2001 to be the rare exception rather than the rule," wrote Zimm in a note to investors from this morning. "Over the past ten days, five EMS companies have revised their outlook such that year over year earnings declines for 2001 appear unavoidable. For investors with time horizons measuring less than 6 to 12 months, we continue to believe that it is too early to initiate fresh long positions."

Zimm then reduced his earnings forecasts on:

  • Act Manufacturing (ACTM) , which closed down 44 cents, or 3.9%, to $10.94.
  • Benchmark Electronics(BHE) - Get Report, which closed up 15 cents, or 0.8%, to $19.50.
  • Celestica(CLS) - Get Report, which closed up 8 cents, or 0.3%, to $27.58.
  • C-Mac Industries (EMS) , which closed down 35 cents, or 1.7%, to $20.25.
  • Flextronics(FLEX) - Get Report, which ended the trading day down $1, or 6.3%, to $15.
  • Sanmina(SANM) - Get Report, which closed down 25 cents, or 1.3%, to $19.56.

Oh, yeah. Zimm also reduced estimates on

Plexus

(PLXS) - Get Report

, which warned that profits would be impacted by the deadly combination of rising inventory and falling demand. Plexus closed up 56 cents, or 2.2%, to $25.63.

Credit Suisse First Boston

analyst Herve Francois downgraded ACT Manufacturing to buy from strong buy, while dropping his earnings estimates for Plexus. And

Robertson Stephens

only added to that burgeoning headache, lowering ratings on four companies. Celestica, Plexus,

SCI Systems

(SCI) - Get Report

and Flextronics were all downgraded to buy from strong buy by analyst J. Keith Dunne. SCI closed up 20 cents, or 1.1%, to $18.20.

Yesterday, Plexus preannounced, joining

Solectron

(SLR)

and

Jabil Circuits

(JBL) - Get Report

in warning about earnings going forward. Dunne, like many of his peers, said that near-term problems were the major reason for the downgrades. Visibility is low, demand is falling and inventory is not going away. But Dunne held out hope that once the economy picks up again, these EMS names would bounce back nicely.

"Given our new outlook and decreased visibility, we have less confidence in our near-term earnings estimates for the entire sector. However, we expect major new programs ... to ramp into production in the second half of the year and believe these companies are well-positioned to capitalize on improvement in end-market conditions," he wrote.

TheStreet.com

covered the analyst actions and problems facing EMS companies in a

story last Wednesday., as a spate of analyst actions have been made to companies in the EMS sector lately. Two days ago,

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

cut Celestica's earnings forecast.

Merrill Lynch

cut seven companies a week ago. Solectron closed up 31 cents, or 1.7%, to $19.01, while Jabil was up 98 cents, or 4.8%, to $21.62.

W.R. Hambrecht

analyst Bill Lennan initiated coverage on two companies in the content management space.

FileNet

(FILE)

, which makes software to manage documents and provides training and services to support that, was started with a buy rating and a price target of $24.

Documentum

(DCTM)

, which does pretty much the same thing as FileNet, was started at neutral. FileNet ended the lackluster trading day up $1.19, or 8.2%, to $15.69; Documentum was flat at $11.

Downgrades

Gadzoox Networks

(ZOOX)

: DOWN to market perform from buy at Robertson Stephens. Gadzoox closed up 31 cents, or 20%, to $1.88.

Imax

(IMAX) - Get Report

: DOWN to market perform from market outperform at Goldman Sachs. Imax closed down 3 cents, or 1%, to $3.09.

Wireless Facilities

(WFII)

: DOWN to buy from strong buy at Credit Suisse First Boston. Wireless Facilities closed down $2.22, or 34.98%, to $4.13.

Initiations

Rio Tinto

(RTP)

: NEW buy at

Lehman Brothers

; price target: $82. The stock closed up 89 cents, or 1.3%, to $70.14.

InterCept Group

(ICPT) - Get Report

: NEW buy at CSFB; price target: $30. InterCept closed up $2.19, or 9.3%, to $25.63.

Tupperware

(TUP) - Get Report

: NEW neutral at Salomon Smith Barney; price target: $26. Tupperware closed down 4 cents, or 0.2%, to $23.86.

Back to top

Offerings and stock actions

Centura Banks

(CBC)

rescinded its 1.5 million share buyback program, but raised its quarterly dividend 6% to 36 cents a share from 34 cents.

The buyback was canceled as part of Centura's agreement to be acquired by

Royal Bank of Canada

. Centura closed up $1.20, or 2.5%, to $49.45.

Back to top

Miscellany

U.K. pharmaceutical company

AstraZeneca

(AZN) - Get Report

said it has submitted a new drug application with the

Food and Drug Administration

for Faslodex, its breast cancer treatment.

Faslodex treats locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer in postmenopausal women who have previously progressed following hormonal therapy. It targets and degrades the estrogen receptor. AstraZeneca closed up $1.15, or 2.4%, to $48.25.

Cysive

(CYSV)

will cut about 30% of its workforce in an effort to reduce costs amid the foundering e-commerce market.

The company, which designs e-commerce software, will terminate 90 to 95 employees. The company said its restructuring actions will result in a first-quarter pretax charge of between $1 million and $1.5 million. Cysive expects the moves to save the company between $8 million and $10 million a year. Cysive closed down 6 cents, or 1.5%, to $4.

After Thursday's Close

Pharmaceutical Resources

(PRX)

said its

Par Pharmaceutical

unit received approval to market a generic version of anti-anxiety drug BuSpar. The approval comes a day after two other generic drug firms had received similar approval. The stock closed up 64 cents, or 5.1%, to $13.24.

Furnituremaker

La-Z-Boy

(LZB) - Get Report

has named David Risley new chief financial officer, replacing Frederick Jackson, who retires next month. La-Z-Boy closed up 97 cents, or 5.8%, to $17.80.

Back to top

By the Numbers

The data on NYSE and Nasdaq percent winners and losers are filtered to exclude stocks whose previous day's volume was less than 25,000 shares; whose last price was less than 5; and whose net change was less than 1/2.

Dow point gain and loss data are based on New York closing prices and do not reflect late composite trading.

Back to top