Updated from 11:51 a.m. EST

A week after

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

said it is splitting itself into

four separate businesses,

WorldCom

(WCOM)

said this morning that it's creating a tracking stock for its consumer business. The company will distribute 100% of this

MCI

stake to shareholders. The move comes amid growing fears of slowing telecom and technology spending.

The company also warned that pricing pressure and a strong dollar would cut into its fourth-quarter revenue growth. It expects the quarter's revenue to grow at a rate of 7% to 9% year over year.

Shareholders of WorldCom, the nation's second-largest long-distance carrier that has grown larger through a series of mergers and acquisitions, will get one share of MCI stock for every 25 shares of WorldCom.

WorldCom was lower Tuesday after

Goldman Sachs

said the company could use its analysts' conference today to guide investors lower. The company last week announced a 26% increase in third-quarter profits, meeting Wall Street expectations, and said it would soon unveil a plan to restructure the company.

TheStreet.com

wrote a separate story on WorldCom's

earnings report.

This morning,

Merrill Lynch

cut the stock's intermediate-term rating to neutral from accumulate. WorldCom closed down $4.81, or 20.3%, to $18.94.

Media giant

Viacom

(VIA) - Get Report

has held talks about buying the cable networks of privately held

BET Holdings

, including

Black Entertainment Television

, according to published reports that cite a source close to the matter.

The reports indicated that BET Chairman Robert Johnson, who owns more than 60% of the company, is considering an offer of about $3 billion.

Liberty Media Group

(LMG.A)

owns about 35% of BET.

Viacom would own BET outright, the reports quoted the source as saying. Viacom closed up 44 cents, or 0.8%, to $57.69.

Seperately,

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

said it is reconsidering the purchase of

PricewaterhouseCoopers'

consulting unit.

Bloomberg

cited H-P CEO Carly Fiorina as saying that at a

Prudential Securities

conference in New York.

Fiorina said the company is re-evaluating the value of the acquisition to its shareholders at the previously announced $17 billion to $18 billion price tag. One problem is that integrating a consulting business might slow Hewlett-Packard's growth.

The acquisition would make H-P more competitive with

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

by providing more software and services to potential buyers of its computer systems. That, in turn, could boost equipment sales and revenue. H-P closed down $2.06, or 4.4%, to $44.44.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Comerica

(CMA) - Get Report

of Detroit said it would buy Los Angeles-based

Imperial Bancorp

(IMP)

in a $1.3 billion stock swap. Comerica closed down $5.19, or 8.6%, to $55.13; Imperial was up 13 cents, or 0.5%, to $24.44.

After Tuesday's Close

Steiner Leisure

(STNR)

said

Norwegian Cruise Line

will not renew its agreement with Steiner to serve Norwegian's ships. Steiner provides the company with on-board spa services and skin, hair and other products.

The company said its 2001 earnings per share will be about 8 cents less than the

First Call/Thomson Financial

seven-analyst estimate of $1.75 a share. Steiner Leisure closed down $4.88, or 22.2%, to $17.13.

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Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Administaff

(ASF)

reported third-quarter earnings of 25 cents a share, a penny better than the seven-analyst estimate and up from year-ago earnings of 16 cents a share. The numbers reflect a 2-for-1 stock split. Administaff closed down $4.86, or 13.7%, to $30.64.

Aetna

(AET)

this morning posted third-quarter earnings of $1.10, well above the 12-analyst expectations of 90 cents, but down from its year-ago earnings of $1.21.

The nation's largest health insurer said earnings fell 14% because of lower profits at its managed care business. Also, Aetna said its

U.S. Healthcare

division had an 84% decline in operating earnings, citing higher medical costs for commercial and Medicare HMO products.

Brother, heal thyself. Aetna said that it's exiting about half of its Medicare HMO markets on Jan. 1, which should result in improved results for that unit.

The company's operating earnings exclude capital gains or losses and a $5.2 million after-tax charge related to a shareholder litigation settlement agreement. Last year's earnings included results from its acquisition partner,

Prudential HealthCare

, from Aug. 6, 1999 forward and $14.1 million in after-tax year 2000 costs. Aetna closed up $4.94, or 8.5%, to $62.75.

TheStreet.com

has been tracking

third-quarter earnings.

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

closed down $8.38, or 20.5%, to $32.56 after saying on its Web site that revenue growth would be at the lower end of the 12% to 15% range the company had recently forecast.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

cut the chipmaker to outperform from strong buy and lowered its price target to $65 from $92.50.

W.R. Hambrecht

downgraded Altera to neutral from strong buy.

Merrill Lynch

cut its 2000 EPS estimate to $1.02 from $1.03 and 2001 EPS estimate to $1.50 from $1.53.

Bear Stearns

, though, reiterated its buy rating and $100 target and

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

maintained its strong-buy rating on the company.

Tommy Hilfiger

(TOM)

reported second-quarter earnings of 49 cents a share, beating the 16-analyst estimate, but down from year-ago earnings of 79 cents a share. The stock closed up $1.38, or 11.8%, to $13.

Israel-based

Nice Systems

(NICE) - Get Report

posted third-quarter earnings of 58 cents a share, a penny better than the eight-analyst estimate and up from year-ago earnings of 46 cents a share.

Also, the company announced that it would buy the assets and liabilities of

Stevens Communications

in a cash-and-stock deal worth up to $30 million. Nice ended the day down $3.75, or 8%, to $43.

Nortel Networks

(NT)

confirmed its guidance for 2000 and 2001, specifically commenting on its expectations for the fourth quarter of 2000 and the first quarter of 2001.

Company President and Chief Executive John Roth said Nortel's fourth quarter will be in the range of 26 cents a share, in line with the 33-analyst estimate. Overall, he said the company is expecting strong growth in optical, wireless and local Internet services as well as e-business solutions.

For 2001, Roth said Nortel expects the overall market to grow by more than 20%, with first-quarter 2001 earnings in the range of 16 cents, which would miss by a penny the current

First Call/Thomson Financial

21-analyst estimate.

"Given our strong market position and leadership in high-performance Internet solutions, we continue to expect to grow significantly faster than the market, with anticipated growth in revenues and earnings per share from operations in the 30% to 35% range,'' Roth said. Nortel closed down $1.50, or 3.3%, to $44.

Quanta

(PWR) - Get Report

posted third-quarter earnings of 53 cents a share, better than the 12-analyst estimate of 50 cents and up from year-ago earnings of 34 cents.

The company said it's expecting 2000 EPS to be $1.67 to $1.69, which would beat the 12-analyst estimate of $1.65 a share. Quanta closed up $2.38, or 7.7%, to $33.44.

After Tuesday's Close

Amkor

(AMKR) - Get Report

posted third-quarter earnings of 46 cents a share, beating the 10-analyst estimate of 43 cents a share and up from year-ago earnings of 27 cents a share. The company, which provides packaging and test services to semiconductor companies, said it expects revenue of $300 million over the next 12 months from its previously announced joint venture with

Toshiba

. Amkor closed up $2.38, or 10.6%, to $24.88.

Retailer

Sharper Image

(SHRP)

said after the close that it expects to report third-quarter earnings ahead of Wall Street's estimates. Sharper Image closed today down $1.13, or 5.9%, to $17.88.

Mandalay Resort

(MBG)

closed down $1, or 4.8%, to $19.81, after warning that third-quarter earnings will come in lower than expected. The company said earnings will be about the same as its year-ago result of 37 cents, excluding nonrecurring items. The 16-analyst estimate is for 50 cents a share. But operating cash flow for the third quarter is 15% greater than last year's, the company said. Full results are due out Nov. 21.

Operating cash flow at each of the leisure company's Las Vegas Strip properties was up significantly, while results at the company's properties in its secondary markets of Tunica, Reno, Laughlin and Jean all fell below last year's. Also, October, typically the best of the three months in the company's third quarter, had four weekends this year, compared to five weekends during October of last year.

Ruddick

(RDK)

, which owns A&E and Harris Teeter supermarkets, posted fourth-quarter earnings of 26 cents a share, a penny less than the four-analyst estimate and lower than year-ago earnings of 28 cents a share. The company also warned that its 2001 earnings will be affected by modest increases in consumer spending and the continued competitive environment for supermarkets. Ruddick closed up 38 cents, or 2.9%, to $13.50.

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Analyst actions

Goldman Sachs

said it cut fourth-quarter forecasts about 9% on brokerages

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

,

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

(MWD)

and

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

. The firm said that while equity trading is a "bright spot," with surges in volume and volatility, the lack of primary market volume could result in lighter revenue.

Goldman cut estimates by 16 cents to $1.20 for Lehman, lowered 11 cents to $1.20 for Morgan Stanley, and decreased 6 cents to 80 cents for Merrill.

Solomon Smith Barney

followed Goldman's lead, but then gave it a taste of its own medicine, including Goldman

(GS) - Get Report

in the fourth-quarter cuts. Solly reduced Morgan Stanley's fourth-quarter EPS view to $1.42 from $1.55 and Lehman's to $1.31 from $1.38 a share. Goldman Sachs was knocked down to $1.35 from $1.55 a share.

Lehman ended the day down $3.63, or 5.6%, to $60.88; MSDW was down $1.25, or 1.6%, to $79.06; Merrill was down $1.31, or 1.9%, to $68.50; and Goldman was down $3.13, or 3.1%, to $96.69.

Also, Goldman said it sees a "strong" first quarter from

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and will keep it on its recommended list because it believes revenue growth will accelerate. The

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate for the first-quarter EPS is 17 cents a share, up 8% over last year. Cisco closed down $1.75, or 3.3%, to $52.13.

Upgrades

Amerada Hess

(AHC) - Get Report

: 2000 EPS view UP to $10.30 from $9.45 at

ABN Amro

. Amerada closed up $1.75, or 2.8%, to $63.75.

Henry Schein

(HSIC) - Get Report

: 12-mont price target UP to $32 from $28 at Lehman Brothers and 2000 EPS view UP to $1.65 from $1.62. The stock closed up 50 cents, or 2.1%, to $24.88.

Downgrades

MPower Communications

(MPWR) - Get Report

: DOWN to neutral from accumulate at Merrill. MPower closed down 31 cents, or 4.8%, to $6.19.

Triad Hospitals

(TRIH)

: 12-month price target DOWN to $32 from $35 at Lehman, but raised 2000 EPS view to 26 cents from 24 cents. Triad closed down $1.81, or 6.5%, to $25.94.

Initiations

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

: NEW buy at

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

. AT&T closed down $1.19, or 5.1%, to $22.

Group Moves

Morgan Stanley cut its ratings on four major semiconductor companies to outperform from buy because of low capital spending growth in the industry:

  • Advanced Energy (AEIS) - Get Report Advanced Energy closed down 31 cents, or 1.8%, to $16.94.
  • Applied Materials (AMAT) - Get Report AMAT ended the day down $1.88, or 3.5%, to $51.25.
  • KLA-Tencor (KLAC) - Get Report KLA closed down $1, or 2.96%, to $32.81.
  • Lam Research (LRCX) - Get Report Lam closed down, too, lower by 75 cents, or 3.9%, to $18.63.

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Offerings and stock actions

After Tuesday's Close

Stratagene Holding

withdrew its $150 million IPO, citing current market conditions. The company, which had sought a

Nasdaq listing under the ticker "STGN," makes products used in molecular biology and genomics research.

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Miscellany

Liberty Financial

(L) - Get Report

put itself up for sale. The company, owner of the

Stein Roe & Farnham

mutual funds, said it has not been fairly valued in the market.

Liberty Financial, which hired investment bank

Credit Suisse First Boston

to review its options, is 70% owned by giant insurer Liberty Mutual. Liberty Mutual has not said whether it would consider buying back the remaining 30% of Liberty Financial.

Also, Liberty Financial said it was restructuring parts of its business to improve profit margins, aiming to save it $7 million annually. The restructuring will mean charges of $12 million this year and $3 million in 2001.

Earlier, the company posted third-quarter earnings of 63 cents a share, 3 cents better than the seven-analyst estimate and up from year-ago earnings of 51 cents a share. Liberty Financial closed up $9, or 33.3%, to $36.

Covad Communications

(COVD)

Chief Executive, Chairman and President Robert Knowling resigned, effective immediately. Covad said Knowling and the board determined that new executive leadership was in the company's "best interest" in lieu of market reactions to recent events affecting the company's business.

Earlier this month, the company reported a wider-than-expected loss.

Frank Marshall was named interim chief executive of the company while the board searches for a permanent replacement. Charles McMinn, one of the company's founders and who was previously CEO and chairman, replaced Knowling as chairman. Covad closed up 69 cents, or 13%, to $5.97.

After Tuesday's Close

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

said U.S. regulators approved a new version of its anti-HIV drug Videx, called Videx EC, which can be taken daily as a single pill and has fewer side effects than the older version. The new formula is the only anti-HIV drug that requires just one pill a day. Bristol-Myers closed up $2.44, or 4%, to $63.38.

EOG Resources

(EOG) - Get Report

will replace

Eastern Enterprises

(EFU) - Get Report

on the

S&P 500 after the close of trading Wednesday, Nov. 1. Eastern is being acquired by

KeySpan

(KSE)

, which is already part of the

S&P 500

.

EOG closed up $2.75, or 6.98%, to $42.13; Eastern Enterprises was flat at $64.38; and KeySpan closed up 13 cents, or 0.4%, to $35.31.

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