Leading the headlines on Wednesday is

priceline.com's

(PCLN)

announcement that it beat the Street's earnings-per-share expectations for the first quarter.

After Tuesday's close, the name-your-own-price e-tailer said it lost $6.2 million, or 3 cents a share in the period. That figure is up from the 15 cents-a-share loss it posted in the fourth quarter and slightly better than the 4 cents-a-share loss it reported in the year-ago period. Those numbers exclude restructuring charges, option payroll taxes and amortization of stock-based compensation charges.

Revenue totaled $269.7 million, which represents a significant increase over the $228.2 million it reported in the fourth quarter, but well shy of the $313.8 million it posted in the year-ago period.

The e-tailer also said that based on its first-quarter 2001 performance and preliminary results in April, it expects to report its first pro forma operating profit for second-quarter 2001.

In February, the company said it expected sequential revenue growth of 15% to 20% for the first quarter, followed by 10% to 15% growth for the second quarter. The company also projected a loss of 5 cents to 7 cents a share for the first quarter. Analysts had expected a loss of 2 cents in the quarter.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Enterprise software bigwig

PeopleSoft

(PSFT)

announced the

acquisition of private software company

Skills Village

.

PeopleSoft paid $33 million in stock and cash for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SkillsVillage, which makes software to automate the hiring of contract employees. Privately held SkillsVillage brought in $10 million in revenue last year, according to PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway, who said the acquired company was cash-strapped.

Telecom giant

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

said it has agreed to issue a huge share placement to finance some increased investments in overseas telecom stakes.

The U.K. mobile-phone giant said it would offer new shares worth about $4.3 billion to finance its increased stakes in

Japan Telecom

, JT's subsidiary

J-Phone

and Spanish

Airtel

, which it bought from the beleaguered

British Telecommunication

(BT)

.

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Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Cigna

(CI) - Get Report

met the Street's estimates for the first quarter despite a drop in revenue. The company reported earnings of $272 million, or $1.76 a share in the period. Fifteen analysts polled by

Thomson Financial/First Call

were expecting the company to post $1.76 a share, which is above the $1.57 a share in the year-ago period. Revenue fell to $4.7 billion, from $4.9 billion in the year-ago period.

Managed-care company

Humana

(HUM) - Get Report

said it met Wall Street's earnings expectations for the first quarter as revenue slipped due to a strategy to cut membership. Louisville, Ky.-based Humana said income rose to $27 million, or 16 cents a share, from $21 million, or 13 cents a share, in the year-earlier period.

Total revenue fell to $2.45 billion from $2.64 billion in the period.

Footwear company

Steven Madden Ltd.

(SHOO) - Get Report

reported stronger revenue and net income for the first quarter and attributed the gains to, in part, increasing brand popularity and strong retail revenue.

The company also said Steve Madden, its chief executive, is resigning to enter into a 10-year agreement to become chief creative officer. Jamieson Karson, an attorney on the company's board, will replace Madden as CEO of the New York-based company.

Net income totaled $3.65 million for the first quarter, or 29 cents per share, from $3.18 million, or 24 cents per share, a year before. Revenue rose to $53.4 million from $44.1 million a year earlier, the company said.

Charles Koppelman, the board's current acting chairman, was named executive chairman, the company said.

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Miscellany

In other early-morning corporate news, software company

i2 Technologies

(ITWO)

said it has promoted Greg Brady to chief executive officer, replacing Sanjiv Sidhu, who will continue as chairman of the board of directors.

The company also said it was "positioned to grow from a $1 billion to a $5 billion company." Shares of the B2B software provider recently tumbled after it warned that it expects losses in each of the next two quarters.

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