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Stocks to Watch: Vodafone, Bell Atlantic, VoiceStream Wireless

The FCC approved the anticipated merger between Vodafone and Bell Atlantic.

The

Federal Communications Commission

gave its final OK to the merger of

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

and

Vodafone AirTouch's

(VOD) - Get Report

wireless businesses. According to the FCC, the joint venture will operate under Bell Atlantic's

Cellco

unit.

Separately, the FCC also gave the thumbs up to the

VoiceStream Wireless

(VSTR)

acquisition of

Aerial Communications

(AERL)

. VoiceStream has already closed its purchase of

Omnipoint

(OMPT)

and said the three merged companies would provide service to more than 200 million customers.

A consortium led by

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

said it's acquiring a 39% voting stake in

Net2Phone

(NTOP)

, which provides telephone service over the Internet. Under terms of the deal, the consortium will purchase four million newly issued Class A shares from Net2Phone at $75 a share, or $300 million. The consortium will also purchase 14.9 million shares from

IDT

(IDTC)

, Net2Phone's controlling shareholder, for $75 a share, or $1.1 billion.

British Telecom

(BTY)

said that it was in talks with AT&T regarding the interest in Net2Phone.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Conseco

(CNC) - Get Report

said that it is considering the sale of its

Conseco Finance

division and would assume a noncash post-tax charge of roughly $350 million in 1999. The insurance company attributed the charge to writing off the carrying interest-only securities at the division. Conseco said the charge would dent its initial 1999 earnings report. Chairman and CEO Stephen Hilbert said that the company failed to produce the level of shareholder value that it should from its purchase of Conseco Finance.

Dutch supermarket chain

Koninklijke Ahold

(AHO)

said its U.S.-based

Tops Markets

division acquired the

Sugar Creek

convenience stores. According to Ahold, Sugar Creek reports annual sales of about $142 million.

Wesley Jessen VisionCare

(WJCO)

said it turned down

Bausch & Lomb's

(BOL)

$34-a-share bid for the company, citing its dedication to its proposed $562 million stock deal with

Ocular Sciences

(OCLR) - Get Report

. Wesley Jessen said Bausch & Lomb's offer doesn't top Ocular's bid, which according to Wesley, would create about $30 million in cost savings.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

New Era of Networks

(NEON) - Get Report

expects earnings for the first quarter "to be somewhat better than expectations" and revenues of between $40 million and $41 million. The software company plans to release earnings on April 20. The six-analyst estimate calls for the company to earn 2 cents a share in the quarter.

Summit Technology

(BEAM)

said it would assume a first-quarter pretax restructuring charge of $3 million and would take on another $8 million charge for ending its pact with

Ciba Vision

.

TST Recommends

Xerox

(XRX) - Get Report

is cutting 5200 jobs and expects to take a $625 million pretax charge in the first-quarter. The copier maker said the restructuring will put earnings growth in the mid-to-high teens for 2001.

Offerings and stock actions

Goldman Sachs

priced a 5 million-share IPO for

Arrowpoint

(ARPT)

above its expected price range of $15-$17 at $34 a share.

Miscellany

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

, according to a

Securities and Exchange Commission

filing, disclosed that its bricks-and-mortar auction unit,

Butterfield & Butterfield

, received a grand jury subpoena from the

Justice Department's

antitrust division. The subpoena "request

s documents relating to, among other things, changes in B&B's seller's commissions and buyer's premiums and discussions, agreements or understandings with other auction houses, in each case since 1992." eBay said it thinks the request may be related to the reported government probe of auction houses for price fixing.

Philips Electronics

(PHG) - Get Report

is selling its 24% stake in

ASM Lithogrpahy

(ASML) - Get Report

, a Dutch semiconductor equipment maker.

The Heard on the Street column in

The Wall Street Journal

said there might be trouble ahead for some of the stocks that hedge fund legend Julian Robertson's

Tiger Management

owns, but that can't be sold out of his funds yet. Robertson said

yesterday that Tiger's hedge funds will be shut down. The

Journal

pointed out that Robertson, via Tiger, will still hold four U.S. stocks in which it has huge holdings and a sizable portion of the companies' outstanding shares:

US Airways

(U) - Get Report

,

United Asset Management

(UAM)

,

Xtra

(XTR)

and

Gtech

(GTK)

.

TheStreet.com

columnist Holly Hegeman took a look at the US Airways situation in a column

last night.

The Inside Wall Street column in

Business Week

, written by Gene Marcial, tees up a positive profile of disk-drive maker

Western Digital

(WDC) - Get Report

, which used to be a highflier but fell out of favor when the disk-drive business went into a downdraft a couple years ago. The item cites Dane Lewis, an analyst at

Robertson Stephens

, as saying Western has an unappreciated gem in its network storage operation, which Lewis estimates is worth $500 million to $1 billion.

The column also offers up bullish items on

Tyco

(TYC)

and

Leap Wireless International

(LWIN)

. The column quoted Brian Zimmerman, a money manager at

Forstmann-Leff Associates

, which has been accumulating shares of Leap, as saying that "Leap is the most inexpensive wireless company around."

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