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reported fourth-quarter earnings of 16 cents a share, a penny ahead of the revised

First Call/Thomson Financial

29-analyst estimate and the year-ago earnings. The consensus estimate was lowered from 21 cents a share, excluding the gain, following Dell's Jan. 26 announcement that it expected to report fourth-quarter net income of about 16 cents a share, including an investment gain of 1 cent a share.

Dell said its profit growth was slowed by parts shortages and a sales slowdown tied to Y2K fears. Net income was $436 million, compared with $425 million in the year-ago period.

For more on Dell's

earnings, see coverage from

joint newsroom.

Cabletron Systems

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said it plans to reorganize its core business into four independent operating companies in order to better focus on high-growth areas of the communications market. The new companies --

Riverstone Networks


Enterasys Networks

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Global Network Technology Services


Aprisma Management Technologies

-- will focus on service provider, enterprise electronic business, professional services and infrastructure management, the company said. Cabletron said the four units eventually will be separate, publicly traded companies.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Cameron Ashley Building Products


said it has received an unsolicited takeover offer from

Guardian Industries

for $17 a share, or $148.1 million, based on the 8.71 million shares of Cameron Ashley outstanding. Cameron Ashley closed yesterday at 14 3/16.

National Westminster Bank


, also know as NatWest, told its shareholders to accept

Royal Bank of Scotland's

$34 billion offer. Natwest has been a takeover target for both Royal Bank of Scotland and

Bank of Scotland

, who were in a bidding war over the bank. This week, three of NatWest's biggest shareholders threw their support behind the Royal Bank's offer.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(Earnings estimates are from First Call/Thomson Financial.)


(DOL) - Get WisdomTree International LargeCap Dividend Fund Report

posted fourth-quarter earnings of 4 cents a share, a penny better than the four-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 13-cent loss.



of Sweden reported income for 1999 after financial items of $716 million, a little above expectations, according to


. The company expects continued good demand in North America this year in all product areas, while in Europe, it expects market conditions to improve in 2000 compared to 1999.



posted fourth-quarter earnings of 33 cents a share, beating the six-analyst estimate of 28 cents and up from the year-ago 19 cents.

Pep Boys

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reported a 3.8% decline in fourth-quarter same-store sales.



reported fourth-quarter earnings of 20 cents a share, greatly missing the six-analyst estimate of 32 cents and down from the year-ago 30 cents.

Trigon Healthcare

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reported fourth-quarter earnings of 62 cents a share, edging out the 15-analyst estimate of 59 cents and up from the year-ago 49 cents.



posted fourth-quarter earnings of 12 cents a share, a penny shy of the two-analyst estimate and down from the year-ago 26 cents.

Offerings and stock actions

Analyst actions

Warburg Dillon Read




to strong buy from hold.

Credit Suisse First Boston

raised its 12-month price target on



to 30 from 25.

Merrill Lynch


Nabors Industries

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to intermediate-term buy from accumulate.

Merrill upgraded its intermediate-term rating on

Royal Dutch Petroleum


to buy from accumulate.

Merrill upgraded its intermediate-term rating on

Shell Transport

(SC) - Get Santander Consumer USA Holdings, Inc. Report

to buy from accumulate.

First Boston lowered its 12-month price target on

WestPoint Stevens


to 25 from 33.


Dow Chemical

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said it tapped Michael Parker as its new president and CEO.

Internet heads will talk to the


administration next week on how to respond to this week's Web attacks,

The Wall Street Journal

reported. According to the


, the attacks sparked concerns about whether the government is doing enough to protect the Internet.

Usually when a company loses a court fight it means bad things for its stock, but that wasn't the case for shares of

Medco Research


this week, the Heard on the Street column in

The Wall Street Journal

reported. The Delaware Chancery Court ruled on Wednesday, in a suit filed by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, that Medco will delay for at least 15 days a shareholder vote -- which was set for yesterday -- on its planned takeover by

King Pharmaceuticals


for no more than $397 million, or $34 a share, the column said. In response, Medco shares rose 7% yesterday, the column reported. The stock rose because Medco shareholders stand to gain about $50 million from the ruling, according to a lawyer with the Wisconsin Investment Board, which owns 11.6% of Medco, the column said. The board filed the suit to block the merger, citing its value, the column said.

The Inside Wall Street column in

Business Week

, written by Gene Marcial, reports that some big investors believe

America Online







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are separately interested in buying

StarMedia Network

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, an Internet media company for Spanish and Portuguese-language audiences.

The column also includes an item on



, the second-largest cement producer in the U.S., whose stock has soared from 46 in early December to 57 7/8 lately, in part because a number of investors think that Southdown is a takeover target.

Also in the column,


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garners bullish mention.

For analysis of the market's preopen tone and trends, see the Wake-Up Call, published separately.