Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

and

HSBC Holdings

(HBC)

set a partnership to create what the companies termed the first global online banking and investment services company.

The new company, a 50-50 venture, will serve individuals worldwide, except in the U.S. HSBC and Merrill Lynch together will provide up to $1 billion in start-up capital. The company will be headquartered in London and will be launched later this year in the U.K., followed by Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong and Japan. HSBC and Merrill said that they were not in negotiations for a possible merger.

Integrated electronics maker

Sanmina

(SANM) - Get Report

agreed to acquire competitor

Hadco

(HDC)

in a stock swap valued at about $984 million. Sanmina said each share of Hadco stock will be converted into 1.4 shares of Sanmina stock.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

EMC

(EMC)

, a provider of enterprise storage systems, software and services, posted first-quarter earnings of 30 cents a share, a penny ahead of the 22-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 20 cents.

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

posted first-quarter earnings of 73 cents a share, beating the 16-analyst estimate of 58 cents and up from the year-ago 57 cents.

Internet advertising giant

DoubleClick

(DCLK)

reported a first-quarter loss of 11 cents a share, in line with the 22-analyst estimate, but wider than the year-ago loss of 6 cents. The company posted a net loss of $13.1 million, compared with a loss of $6.1 million a year ago. However, revenues nearly tripled, to $110.1 million compared with $39.4 million in the year-ago period.

The company recently

iced a plan to identify and distribute the names of Web site visitors amid mounting criticism over how some Internet companies gather and use personal information.

Efficient Networks

(EFNT)

, a developer and supplier of high-speed digital subscriber line equipment, posted a third-quarter operating loss of 16 cents a share, worse than the seven-analyst estimate of a loss of 6 cents, and down from the year-ago loss of 12 cents.

Kaiser Aluminum

(KLU)

reported first-quarter earnings of 15 cents a share, which includes a gain. The nine-analyst estimate forecasted the company to report an 8-cent profit. The results compare to the year-ago report of a 48-cent loss.

PaineWebber

(PWJ)

posted first-quarter earnings of $1.16 a share, well ahead of the eight-analyst estimate of $1.09 and up from the year-ago $1.01.

Reuters

(RTRSY)

, the news and information company, said first-quarter revenue rose to $1.3 billion, up from the year-ago $1.2 billion, powered by solid results from its

Instinet

electronic trading business.

Sprint

(FON)

posted first-quarter earnings of 50 cents a share, including a 2-cent gain, edging out the 12-analyst estimate of 47 cents. The results compare to the year-ago 49-cent profit.

Tellabs

(TLAB)

posted first-quarter operating earnings of 26 cents a share, in line with the 23-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 24 cents. Earlier this month, the telecommunications equipment company issued an earnings warning.

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

reported first-quarter earnings of 55 cents a share, above the 27-analyst estimate of 53 cents and the year-ago 34 cents. The company said strong demand for wireless communications chips helped boost net income by 69%. Texas Instruments said it expects robust growth to continue in its semiconductor business, driven by strength in communications end-equipment markets, including wireless and broadband.

Offerings and stock actions

Genzyme Molecular Oncology

(GZMO)

axed plans for a 3 million-share offering due to market conditions.

Sylvan Learning Systems

(SLVN)

sliced its self-tender offer to 7.5 million shares from 9.5 million shares, citing recent market volatility.

Analyst actions

This morning,

Campbell Soup's

(CPB) - Get Report

rating was downgraded to sell from hold by

Credit Suisse First Boston

analyst David Nelson due to what he said was the unsustainability of the company's earnings growth.

Affymetrix

(AFFX)

: coverage REINSTATED as a near-term accumulate, long-term buy at

Merrill Lynch

.

Alcan Aluminium

(AL) - Get Report

: coverage REINSTATED with a buy rating at CSFB.

Delhaize America

(DZA)

: rating DOWN to market performance from buy at

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

.

DoubleClick

(DCLK)

: rating UP to strong buy at CSFB.

FreeMarkets

(FMKT)

: UP to strong buy from buy at

US Bancorp Piper Jaffray

.

Human Genome

(HGSI)

: coverage REINSTATED as a near- and long-term accumulate at Merrill Lynch.

First Albany

said analysts Jeff Sadler and Robert Perri cut price targets on nine consumer Internet service providers (ISP's) including

America Online

(AOL)

,

Digital Island

(ISLD)

,

EarthLink Network

(ELNK)

FastNet

(FSST)

,

Internet America

(GEEK)

,

OneMaine

(ONEM) - Get Report

RMI. Net

(RMII)

, and

Verio

(VRIO)

and

ZipLink

(ZIPL)

.

AOL's target was lowered to 35 from 45.

Digital Island's price target was cut to 105 from 140.

EarthLink's target was lowered to 40 from 53.

FastNet was dropped to 25 from 30.

Internet America was cut to 13 from 23

OneMaine.com was lowered to 25 from 35.

RMI.Net was lowered to 10 from 20.

Verio's target was cut to 60 from 90.

ZipLink's target was reduced to 22 from 31.

Kroger

(KR) - Get Report

: rating DOWN to market performance from buy at Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette.

Orbital Sciences

(ORB)

: DOWN to neutral from accumulate at Merrill Lynch.

Sigma-Aldrich

(SIAL)

: rating DOWN to neutral from buy at

Lehman Brothers

.

Thoratec Laboratories

(THOR) - Get Report

: coverage STARTED as buy; 17 price target at Lehman Brothers.

Vitesse Semiconductor

(VTSS)

: rating DOWN to buy from strong buy CSFB.

J.P. Morgan

rolled out coverage of

Williams Cos.

(WMG) - Get Report

with a long-term buy recommendation and

El Paso Energy

(EPG)

with a buy rating.

Miscellany

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

said it would increase the amount paid to holders of 134,000 pensions for the first time since November 1996 because of pressure from retirees,

The Wall Street Journal

reported.

Many Internet retailers are turning a profit, according to a study, the

Journal

reported. According to the

Journal

, 72% of e-tailers are making money, with 38% not generating earnings.