WorldCom

(WCOM)

reported fourth-quarter earnings that meet the Street's expectations but were lower than year-ago levels. The company also maintained its earnings estimates for full-year 2001.

The communications titan, whose holdings include the

MCI

group, said fourth-quarter earnings after goodwill amortization were $710 million, or 25 cents a share, compared with $1.3 billion, or 44 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Thirteen analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

gave a consensus estimate of 25 cents a share for the quarter.

Within its consolidated earnings, its WorldCom group reported income, after goodwill amortization, of $585 million, or 20 cents a share in the quarter, down from $897 million, or 31 cents a share, last year. Its long-distance telephone arm, MCI, also posted lower earnings of $125 million, or 4 cents a share, compared with $388 million, or 13 cents share, a year ago.

WorldCom also said its full-year 2001 consolidated cash earnings will be within its previously given range of $1.55 to $1.65 a share. First Call analysts see 2001 earnings of $1.17 a share. WorldCom closed up 19 cents, or 0.9%, to $20.31.

Electronic Data Systems

(EDS)

posted fourth-quarter earnings after the close Wednesday that beat Wall Street's slightly lowered estimates by 2 cents.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, EDS earned 70 cents a diluted share, excluding items. The company earned 61 cents a share in the year-ago period. Sixteen analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected the company, which is based in Plano, Texas, to report earnings of 68 cents a share.

The computer services provider also reported fourth-quarter revenue of $5.2 billion, up from $4.9 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

Earlier today, the stock was duly rewarded for its earnings with

Credit Suisse First Boston

upgrading the stock to a strong buy from buy and raising the stock's 12-month price target to $78 from $73.

Lehman Brothers

upped the company's 12-month price target to $75 from $60. And

J.P. Morgan

lifted the stock to long-term buy from market perform.

And in related news, yesterday the company named William M. Daley, the former secretary of commerce under

President Clinton

and chairman of the

Gore-Lieberman

presidential ticket, to its board. He fills the seat vacated by current

Vice President Dick Cheney

. EDS closed up $5.61, or 9.9%, to $62.51.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Calpine

(CPN)

, an independent power producer, will buy Canadian energy company

Encal Energy

for $868.8 million in stock. Calpine closed up $3.43, or 8.2%, to $45.50.

FreeMarkets

(FMKT)

, an online business-to-business auctioneer, said it would buy privately held

Adexa

for $340 million in stock. The acquisition will extend the depth of its electronic commerce services. FreeMarkets closed up $4.19, or 21.2%, to $23.94.

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Earnings/revenue reports and previews

General Semiconductor

(SEM) - Get Report

posted fourth-quarter earnings in line with the already lowered estimates. The maker of power management devices reported earnings of 26 cents a share, meeting the

First Call/Thomson Financial

four-analyst estimate and up from year-ago earnings of 23 cents.

Back in December, General Semiconductor warned that its earnings would come in between 26 cents and 28 cents. At the time, the consensus estimate was 28 cents a share.

In a statement, Chairman and CEO Ronald Ostertag said, "We are disappointed that the recent slowdown in technology spending and subsequent increase in inventory levels at several of our customers has affected our short-term performance. However, we are very pleased with our progress against our power management strategy and are confident that our evolving new product portfolio will fuel the continued long-term growth of General Semiconductor."

The company expects that revenue in the first quarter of 2001 will decline about 6% to 9%, sequentially. Earnings per share are expected to be between 18 cents and 20 cents before restructuring charges. The three-analyst estimate is currently 25 cents a share. General Semiconductor closed up 19 cents, or 1.97%, to $9.84.

Metricom

(MCOM)

posted a fourth-quarter loss of $3.71 a share, missing the First Call seven-analyst estimate of a $3.55 loss and wider than the year-ago loss of $2.51. The company attributed the loss to the deployment of its Ricochet network. In an effort to conserve cash, the high-speed wireless data network operator said it will scale back its service deployment plans in 2001, focusing on key markets.

W.R. Hambrecht

and

Salomon Smith Barney

both cut the stock to neutral from buy on the news. Also, Solly slashed its year-end target to $6 from $35. Metricom closed down $4.56, or 43.98%, to $5.81.

The world's largest producer of fertilizer

Potash

(POT)

posted fourth-quarter earnings of 73 cents a share, missing the First Call five-analyst estimate of 81 cents a share, but beating year-ago earnings of 36 cents a share. The company said it was hurt by higher natural gas prices.

For the first quarter of 2001, the company expects earnings to be about 20% higher than the $1.04 a share from continuing operations earned a year earlier. The current three-analyst estimate is $1.13 a share for the quarter. Potash closed down $4.10, or 5.9%, to $65.

Same-store sales are out, with mixed results for January:

  • Ames Department Stores (AMES) , down 8%
  • AnnTaylor (ANN) , down 14.3%
  • Dillard's (DDS) - Get Report, up 3%
  • Dollar General (DG) - Get Report, up 6.6%
  • Family Dollar Stores (FDO) , up 5.2%
  • Federated Department Stores, up 3.7%
  • Gap (GPS) - Get Report, down 12%
  • Goody's (GDYS) , down 17%
  • Gymboree (GYMB) , up 38%
  • J.C. Penney (JCP) - Get Report department stores, down 6%; drugstore sales, up 11.2%
  • Kmart (KM) , up 4.3%
  • Kohl's (KSS) - Get Report, up 7.1%
  • Saks (SKS) , down 1.4%
  • Sharper Image (SHRP) , up 10%
  • ShopKo (SKO) , up 0.8%
  • Spiegel's (SPGL.A) Eddie Bauer, down 12%
  • Talbots (TLB) , up 4.1%
  • Target (TGT) - Get Report, up 2.1%
  • Wal-Mart (WMT) - Get Report, up 6%

After Wednesday's Close

Brady

(BRC) - Get Report

, which specializes in such identification solutions as bar-coding, warned that its second-quarter earnings will miss estimates. The company said it's expecting EPS of 35 cents to 38 cents, compared with its year-ago EPS of 43 cents a share.

First Call/Thomson Financial's

two-analyst estimate is currently 42 cents a share for the quarter.

Katherine Hudson, Brady's president and chief executive officer, said the company's been hit by weakness in some of its markets; January was a particularly bad month, she added. It was further hurt by the strong U.S. dollar. Hudson said her company now sees 2001 sales of $565 million to $575 million, or growth of about 4% to 6% over year-ago sales.

She added: "We are controlling our spending in many areas to help realign our cost structure to this slower growth. However, as we are committed to long-term growth and value creation, we will continue investments in our strategic initiatives of process improvement, electronic business and product development during the year. And we will continue to invest in the retention and development of our workforce." Brady closed down $4.14, or 10.6%, to $34.80.

Brinker International

(EAT) - Get Report

said its January same-store sales rose 8%. Brinker's franchises include Chili's Grill & Bar, Romano's Macaroni Grill and On The Border Cafe restaurants. Brinker closed down 82 cents, or 2.98%, to $26.68.

Franchise operator

Cendant

(CD)

posted fourth-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street's estimates but said that revenue in its travel division fell 1% from the year-ago period and revenue from real estate franchises dropped 6% from the comparable period last year.

After the closing bell, Cendant reported a profit of 20 cents per share, compared with 26 cents per share in the year-ago period. According to

First Call/Thomson Financial

, analysts had called for the franchising giant to earn 18 cents per share. In addition, the company said that it expects earnings in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2001 to rise from year-ago results. Cendant closed down 49 cents, or 3.6%, to $13.31.

More people are eating cheesecake or else cheesecake eaters are consuming more of the stuff -- either way it helped

The Cheesecake Factory

(CAKE) - Get Report

post fourth-quarter earnings of 28 cents a share, 2 cents better than the nine-analyst estimate and up from year-ago earnings of 23 cents a share.

David Overton, chairman and CEO of the company, said, "Comparable restaurant sales increased 3% during the quarter ended Jan. 2, 2001, which represented our 34th consecutive quarter of positive comparisons on that measure since our 1992 IPO."

Overton added, "Our comparable sales increase was achieved in spite of cold, wet weather conditions that impacted the majority of our restaurants during the latter half of the quarter, compared to milder winter weather experienced during the same period last year." The Cheesecake Factory closed down $2.69, or 6.3%, to $40.06.

Express Scripts

(ESRX)

beat Wall Street's fourth-quarter estimates by a penny and said it expects earnings to increase by 25% to 30% in 2001.

Excluding charges, earnings rose to $26 million, or 66 cents a diluted share, from $19.6 million, or 50 cents a share, last year. According to First Call, analysts expected Express Scripts to earn 65 cents a share in the latest quarter.

The pharmacy benefit management company reported fourth-quarter revenue of $1.9 billion, up from $1.3 billion in the year-ago period. Express Scripts, which is based in St. Louis, now has about 43.5 million members, a 13% increase from the 38.5 million members as of Jan. 1, 2000.

The company projected that earnings in 2001 could increase from $2.41 a share in 2000 to $3.01 to $3.13 a share in 2001. Analysts expect the company to earn $3.04 a share in 2001. Express Scripts closed down $4.69, or 4.7%, to $94.94.

Learning Tree

(LTRE)

posted first-quarter earnings of 48 cents a share, a nickel better than the single-analyst estimate and up from year-ago earnings of 35 cents a share. The company, which provides information-technology education and training, said net income for the quarter increased by 41% to a first-quarter record of $10.9 million, from $7.7 million for the same quarter last year. Learning Tree closed up $1.97, or 2.8%, to $54.61.

Mandalay Resort Group

(MBG)

warned that its fourth quarter will be about flat with its year-ago earnings of 1 cent a share. The First Call 17-analyst estimate is currently 14 cents a share for the quarter. The company said operating cash flow for the quarter is expected to exceed the year-ago quarter by about 15%, with operating cash flow for the full year rising more than 20%.

Mandalay cited adverse weather striking the company's properties in Mississippi, Illinois and Michigan as one of the reasons for its lowered guidance. Mandalay closed up 30 cents, or 1.4%, to $22.20.

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Analyst actions

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

long-term rating was cut to accumulate from buy at

Merrill Lynch

after analyst Henry Blodget took over coverage for the stock. Blodget cited concerns that the PC industry is maturing and that its news businesses were not having a material impact. Microsoft closed down $2.44, or 3.8%, to $62.25.

Upgrades

Image placeholder title

Corillian

(CORI) - Get Report

: price target DOWN to $20 from $15 at

UBS Warburg

Corillian closed down $2.19, or 16.7%, to $10.94.

Floware

(FLRE)

: loss view NARROWED to loss of 16 cents from loss of 40 cents at

Credit Suisse First Boston

. Floware closed up 25 cents, or 2.7%, to $9.38.

Homestake Mining

(HM)

: UP to buy from long-term buy at

J.P. Morgan

. Homestake closed down 15 cents, or 3.1%, to $4.66.

Kmart

(KM)

: price target Up to $9 from $5 at UBS Warburg. Kmart closed down 15 cents, or 1.7%, to $8.74.

MiniMed

(MNMD)

: UP to strong buy from accumulate at

Prudential Securities

. MiniMed closed up $1.63, or 4.6%, to $36.75.

PacifiCare Health

(PHSY)

: UP to strong buy from hold at Prudential; and 2001 EPS view UP to $2.65 from 94 cents. PacifiCare Health closed up $2.13, or 6.3%, to $35.63.

SL Green Realty

(SLG) - Get Report

: UP to buy from outperform at

Salomon Smith Barney

; price target: UP to $33 from $28. SL Green Realty closed up 10 cents, or 0.4%, to $27.95.

Downgrades

Aether Systems

(AETH)

: 12-month price target UP to $75 from $210 at

Lehman Brothers

. The firm also widened Aether's loss to $3.99 a share from $2.14 for 2001.

Robertson Stephens

cut the stock to long-term attractive from buy. Aether closed down $6.25, or 16.95%, to $30.63.

Broadcom

: 2001 EPS view DOWN to $1.40 from $1.57 at UBS Warburg. Broadcom closed down $3.94, or 4.8%, to $78.88.

Liquid Audio

(LQID)

: DOWN to market perform from long-term attractive at Robbie Stephens. Liquid Audio closed down 31 cents, or 9.4%, to $3.

Parkway Properties

(PKY)

: DOWN to outperform from buy at Solly. Parkway closed down 36 cents, or 1.2%, to $29.90.

St. Jude Medical

(STJ)

: DOWN to buy from strong buy at Lehman. St. Jude closed down 65 cents, or 1%, to $62.55.

Initiations

ConAgra

(CAG) - Get Report

: NEW market perform at

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

. ConAgra closed up 50 cents, or 2.1%, to $24.76.

Fleming

(FLM) - Get Report

: NEW strong buy at Lehman. Fleming closed up $1.85, or 7.6%, to $26.25.

Sara Lee

(SLE)

: NEW neutral at Solly. Sara Lee closed up 12 cents, or 0.6%, to $21.23.

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Offerings and stock actions

KPMG Consulting

(KCIN)

actually bucked the IPO trend, getting a warm reception and a nice bounce from its opening price. The big welcoming made the company one of the world's largest tech consulting firms. KPMG closed up $5.97, or 30.5%, to $23.97.

Reuters

(RTRSY)

filed for a $450 million IPO of its electronic brokerage unit

Instinet

. The company filed for a Nasdaq listing under the ticker "INET."

The exact number of shares and price range will be reported in a later filing. Reuters closed down 75 cents, or 0.8%, to $89.75.

Ultramar Diamond Shamrock

(UDS)

said it cut its annual dividend rate to 50 cents a share from $1.10 and that it would begin an annual $100 million stock buyback in the second half of 2001. The plan is to buy back up to $750 million, or 27%, of its stock, including the 7.05 million shares held by Europe's largest refiner,

TotalFinaElf

. Ultramar Diamond Shamrock closed up $1.51, or 4.7%, to $33.80.

After Wednesday's Close

Digene

(DIGE)

, which makes gene testing systems, filed to sell 2.5 million shares of its common stock. The company will sell 2.125 million shares and some stockholders will sell 375,000 shares. Digene closed down $3.88, or 10.5%, to $33.

Safeco

(SAFC)

said its board reduced its quarterly dividend by 50% in an effort to conserve cash. The insurance company said cutting its dividend to 18.5 cents a share, will result in annual cash savings of about $94.5 million. Safeco closed up 31 cents, or 1.2%, to $25.94.

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Miscellany

Nice Systems

(NICE) - Get Report

, which makes multimedia digital recording systems, said it would cut about 220 jobs, or about 20% of its workforce. The Israeli company also said that it would restate some past revenues that were improperly reported. Nice Systems closed down $5.19, or 28%, to $13.31.

After Wednesday's Close

The news keeps getting worse for online retailers.

Barnes & Noble.com

(BNBN)

Wednesday cut 350 jobs, or 16% of its workforce, and posted a wider-than-expected loss in the fourth quarter. The sobering news comes a week after one of the leading online merchants,

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

,

shed 15% of its workers in its own round of layoffs.

"While we sincerely regret the impact of this consolidation in human terms, we believe the changes are necessary to improve every part of our operation," said Steve Riggio, vice chairman of Barnes & Noble.com, in a statement.

The news is likely to fuel the already intense speculation that the company's half-parent, bricks-and-mortar bookseller

Barnes & Noble

(BKS) - Get Report

, will take the company private. Barnes & Noble, which operates the site in partnership with German media conglomerate

Bertelsmann

, has said in response to questions on the subject that it would consider all options.

Barnes & Noble.com closed down 19 cents, or 8.8%, to $1.94; Amazon closed down 63 cents, or 4.2%, to $14.38 and Barnes & Noble closed down $1.29, or 4.96%, to $24.74.

For more, check out

TSC's

separate

story.

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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.

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