Updated from 3:58 p.m. ET

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

priced a 245.9 million-ADS offering for

China Unicom

(CHU) - Get Report

at $19.99 per ADS. The shares shot up 2 9/32, or 11.4%, to 22 1/4 in its trading debut on the

New York Stock Exchange

. The offering is the largest Asian IPO outside Japan, beating

China Telecom's

(CHL) - Get Report

$4.2 billion IPO in 1997.

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

reported fourth-quarter earnings of 31 cents a share, topping the 27-analyst estimate of 25 cents and up from the year-ago 18-cent profit.

The software giant's sales increased to $3.4 billion from $2.9 billion, while it upped its operating margins to 41.1%, compared to the year-ago 27.4%. Despite the strong results, some analysts were looking for a bit more revenue. Today, the shares added 25/32 to 86 13/16.

This morning,

Merrill Lynch

analyst Chris Shilakes downgraded the stock to an intermediate-term accumulate from buy, citing its unprecedented run for the past 12 months. Shilakes also lowered his price target to 95 from 100.

Contrary to Merrill's opinion, several firms upgraded Oracle's estimates.

Goldman Sachs

upgraded its fiscal 2000 EPS estimates to 68 cents from 64 cents, while

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown

and

Prudential

both upped their fiscal 2001 EPS estimates to 90 cents from 80 cents a share.

Lehman Brothers

reiterated its buy rating on Oracle, and raised its fiscal 2001 EPS estimate to 93 cents a share from 84 cents.

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

also raised its fiscal 2001 EPS estimate to 98 cents a share, and lifted its Fiscal 2002 EPS view to $1.13 a share.

TheStreet.com/NYTimes.com

joint newsroom covered the Oracle news in a

story Tuesday evening.

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Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Alliance Capital Management

(AC) - Get Report

declined 7/16 to 48 1/16 after it said it has entered a $3.5 billion cash and stock deal to acquire

Sanford C. Bernstein

. The terms call for Alliance to pay $1.5 billion in cash and 40.8 million newly issued shares valued at $2 billion for the boutique investment bank, which is a private partnership. The merger would create $475 billion in client assets, with yearly revenues of $3.2 billion.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

may be considering buying

ECI Telecom's

(ECIL)

fiber-optics division or the entire company, according to Israeli financial Web site

TheMarker.com.

TheMarker reported that Cisco managers made a recent visit to Petah Tikva, Israel-based ECI, and then ECI managers visited Cisco in the U.S. However, at this point the talks are at the middle-management level. ECI declined to comment to TheMarker. Cisco added 3/16 to 67 5/16, while ECI Telecom lifted 1 5/8 to 36 7/16.

Comverse Technology

(CMVT)

advanced 1/8 to 98 1/2 after it said it will buy Israeli startup

eXaLink

for $500 million to $650 million, according to financial Web site

TheMarker.com. EXaLink makes gateway equipment for cellular networks. Comverse's stock was recently trading at 97 7/8, down 0.5.

eCal

, a Web-based information management tech firm, requested the

Securities and Exchange Commission

withdraw its planned $75 million IPO because of poor market conditions. The company did not say how many shares it planned to offer or the expected price range.

Both

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

and

Reuters

(RTRSY)

own stakes in the company.

General Mills

(GIS) - Get Report

slipped 3/8 to 37 13/16 after it said it is forming a 50/50 joint venture with

MarketTools

, a California-based developer of Web-based market research. The cereal giant is also taking an equity stake in the company. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

The joint venture will do customized Internet research for firms worldwide. A MarketTools spokeswoman said that a public offering is possible for the company, but there are no immediate plans.

International Specialty Products

(ISP)

which offered to buy

Dexter

(DEX) - Get Report

for about $930 million, said Dexter's plan to sell two of its units for a total of $675 million would destroy shareholder value. International Specialty is Dexter's largest shareholder, owning 9.9% of the company.

In a press release, International Specialty said it remains "ready, willing and able" to enter into a merger agreement with Dexter, which rejected International Specialty's previous offers, including a $50-a-share offer on March 23, and has begun a piecemeal liquidation program. ISP was unchanged at 5 1/4, while Dexter popped 4 1/16, or 9.1%, to 48 5/16.

Intrawest

(IDR)

entered into an agreement with

Transcontinental Properties

,

Ritz-Carlton

and

Cook Inlet Region

to develop and construct a $500 million, Mediterranean-themed village, called the Village at MonteLago. It will include a 350-room luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel, a casino, spa, residential condominiums, retail and office space. Intrawest added 1/8 to 19 13/16.

Newmont Mining

(NEM) - Get Report

and

Battle Mountain Gold

(BMG)

agreed to merge. Under the terms of the deal. Each Battle Mountain share will be traded for .105 share of Newmont. Newmont Mining slid 5/8 to 22 7/16, while Battle Mountain Gold tacked on 3/8, or 19.3%, to 2 5/16.

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Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Weatherford

(WFT) - Get Report

senior vice president of communications Curtis Huff called the fiscal 2001 20-analyst earnings estimate of $1.37 a share conservative during an interview at the

Banc of America

energy conference, reported

Reuters

. Huff said the oilfield services company was already seeing volume recovery in North America and prices pick up in some areas, allowing the company to up prices in most of to businesses by 4% to 10%. Weatherford bounced 1 9/16 to 45 3/16.

American General

(AGC) - Get Report

said it would assume a $175 million post-tax charge in the second quarter related to a suit that alleged that a subsidiary charged customers insurance premiums based on their race. The insurer said that would not effect its financial condition or its operations. The settlement stems from a

Florida Department of Insurance

inquiry that revealed that the prices of some industrial life policies written in the mid-1900's were established based on race. American General declined 15/16 to 60.

Avista

(AVA) - Get Report

skidded 1/4 to 19 after it cautioned investors that it would post break-even results for its second quarter and fiscal 2000 due to high electric energy prices in the Pacific Northwest and California in May and June. The four-analyst estimate expects the electricity supplier to report a 19-cent profit for the second quarter and the fiscal 2000 earnings at $1.01 a share.

CNH Global

(CNH)

lost 2 11/16, or 23.7%, to 8 5/8 after it warned investors that it would posted lower second quarter and fiscal 2000 earnings. The 11-analyst estimate expected the farm equipment maker to report a 30-cent profit in the second quarter and the 13-analyst estimate is calling for a 40-cent profit. CNH blamed the soft results on a 10% to 15% decline in large agricultural equipment sales.

Canada-based software maker

Corel

(CORL)

fell 7/16, or 10.4%, to 3 3/4 after it posted a second-quarter loss of 36 cents a share, narrower than the single-analyst estimate of a 40-cent loss but down from the year-ago profit of 14 cents.

Electroglas

(EGLS)

climbed 1 3/16, or 5.5%, to 22 3/4 after it said its second-quarter orders are in line with expectations, but are below its record first-quarter bookings.

Reuters

reported that Armand Stegall, Electroglas' chief financial officer, noted that the company booked a record $68 million of orders in the first quarter, including its single largest order of $8 million received late in the quarter, which exceeded the $50 million of bookings in the fourth quarter of 1999.

Stegall said the company did not expect second-quarter bookings to match the first quarter's record level.

Electronics Boutique

(ELBO)

added 1/16 to 13 3/4 after it said it expects to report second-quarter losses of 11 cents to 14 cents a share, which includes a loss of about 4 cents to 5 cents a share from its Internet business EBWorld.com. The current five-analyst estimate for the second quarter expects a loss of 11 cents.

Synovus Financial

(SNV) - Get Report

skidded 1/4 to 17 9/16 after it said it is comfortable with consensus estimates of 22 cents a share for its second-quarter earnings. The company's chief financial officer, Thomas Prescott, said loan growth and credit quality were strong, which offset any margin contraction.

Tyson Foods

(TSN) - Get Report

lost 1/2, or 5.2%, to 9 1/16 after it cautioned investors that third-quarter earnings would miss the nine-analyst estimate of 26 cents a share, citing soft chicken prices. Tyson, which issued a profit warning for fiscal 2000 in May, said it would post third-quarter earnings between 18 cents to 20 cents a share.

Merrill Lynch

sliced its intermediate-term rating on Tyson Food's Class-A shares to neutral from accumulate, while

Prudential Securities

sliced its third-quarter EPS to 19 cents and its fourth-quarter EPS estimate to 23 cents a share.

Verity

(VRTY)

jumped 2 3/8, or 5.6%, to 44 3/8 after it posted fourth-quarter earnings of 32 cents a share, greatly beating the five-analyst estimate of 15 cents and up from the year-ago 17-cent profit.

Virata

(VRTA)

shot up 9 1/4, or 18.5%, to 59 1/4 after it said it would post first-quarter revenues between $25 million and $27 million, up 115% from the previous quarter. The company, which makes chips for modems, said it has already distributed three times as many communications processors in the first quarter than in last year's fourth quarter. Virata also said it entered a $315 million stock deal to buy

Excess Bandwidth

. According to the terms, Virata would pay about 6.3 million shares of its common stock for the closely held company.

Worthington Industries

(WOR) - Get Report

stumbled 1/16 to 11 5/8 after it reported fourth-quarter earnings of 32 cents a share, excluding a nonrecurring loss, which was in line with the eight-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago by a penny. Excluding the impact of a nonrecurring loss, earnings for the full year were $1.12 a diluted share, also in line with the eight-analyst estimate and it was up from the year-ago 90 cents a share. Sales increased 11% to $2 billion, from $1.8 billion for fiscal 1999.

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Analyst actions

Upgrades

Alza

(AZA)

: UP to strong buy from buy at

SG Cowen

. Alza popped 2 9/16 to 55 3/4.

Citigroup's

(C) - Get Report

second-quarter earnings estimate was lowered to 83 cents a share and its 2000 EPS was cut to $3.54 at

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

. Citigroup declined 1 3/8 to 63.

Diamond Offshore

(DO) - Get Report

: UP to strong buy from buy at

Credit Suisse First Boston

. Diamond Offshore jumped 2 1/16, or 5.8%, to 37 5/16.

Gillette

(G) - Get Report

: UP to a buy from a hold at

Prudential Securities

. Gillette tacked on 11/16 to 31 11/16.

Homestore.com

(HOMS)

: UP to strong buy from buy at

Banc of America

. Homestore.com lifted 5/8 to 31 5/8.

Kroger

(KR) - Get Report

: UP to attractive from neutral at

PaineWebber

; fiscal 2001 EPS UP to $1.57 a share from $1.36 at

DLJ

. Kroger slipped 1/8 to 19 5/8.

MGIC

(MTG) - Get Report

: UP to buy from attractive at PaineWebber. It was up 15/16 to 43 15/16.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

: UP to buy from hold at

CIBC World Markets

. Microsoft was 5 3/4, or 7.7%, higher to 80 11/16.

Downgrades

Gilead Sciences

(GILD) - Get Report

: DOWN to hold from buy at Credit Suisse First Boston. It was off 2 13/16 to 72 1/8.

Leggett & Platt

(LEG) - Get Report

: DOWN to market perform from buy at DLJ. It plummeted 3 11/16, or 19.4%, to 15 5/16.

National Steel

(NS) - Get Report

: DOWN to market perform from buy at

JP Morgan

. The stock slid 9/16, or 11.8%, to 4 3/16.

Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers

(RBA) - Get Report

was down 1 1/16 after its rating was cut DOWN to neutral from outperform at

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

.

Steve Madden

(SHOO) - Get Report

: DOWN to market perform from strong buy at

Chase H&Q

. Trading for the stock is halted on the Nasdaq until its request for further information from the company is satisfied.

Initiations

Allscripts

(MDRX) - Get Report

: NEW outperform at

Lehman Brothers

; price target, 35. Allscripts was knocked down 1 5/16 to 27 5/8.

AT&T Wireless

(AWE)

fell 1 5/16 to 26 3/4 despite being started as a NEW buy at

ING Barings

; price target, 38.

Entremed

(ENMD)

: NEW buy at

Banc of America

; price target: 36. Entremed was up 7/8 to 28.

Nextel

(NXTL)

: NEW buy at ING Barings; price target, 85. Nextel edged down 15/16 to 63 1/8.

Sapient

(SAPE)

: NEW buy at Banc of America; price target: 136. It slid 1 3/4 lower to 110.

TriZetto Group

(TZIX)

was up 2 3/16, or 15.2%, to 16 9/16, after coverage as a NEW outperform was initiated at Lehman Brothers; price target, 22.

Verisign

(VRSN) - Get Report

: NEW buy at

J.P. Morgan

; price target, 220. It dropped 7 3/4 to 167 7/8.

Group Moves

PaineWebber

cut its rating on two cruise lines to attractive from buy:

PaineWebber and DLJ cut earnings estimates for Carnival following its second-quarter earnings report. PaineWebber also trimmed 2000 and 2001 earnings estimates for Royal Caribbean and downgraded both stocks to attractive from buy.

After the research news Royal Caribbean warned its cruise-booking prices are softening and said some net yields will be below the 1999 level. The company said its second-quarter net yield will show a rise over the year -ago quarter. Carnival was down 3/8 to 19 1/8, while Royal Caribbean sank 5/8 to 17 15/16.

Lehman Brothers

initiated coverage of two Internet companies:

  • America Online (AOL) : NEW outperform; price target of 75.
  • AOL was off 11/16 to 57 3/16.
  • Yahoo (YHOO) : NEW neutral.
  • The stock fell 5 3/16 to 142 13/16.

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Offerings and stock actions

Cepheid's

underwriters lowered its initial public offering to $6 from a range of $10 to $12, according to an amended S-1 filed with the

SEC

.

The offering still remains at 5 million shares. After the offering, 25.5 million shares will be outstanding. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which applied for the symbol CPHD on the Nasdaq, develops, manufactures and markets microfluidic systems that integrate, automate and accelerate biological testing.

Handspring

(HAND)

jumped 6 15/16, or 34.7%, to 26 15/16 on its first trading day. The company raised about $200 million after selling 10 million shares in its IPO. The handheld computer maker sold shares at $20 each, which was above the expected price range of $17 to $19, through lead underwriter

Credit Suisse First Boston

.

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Miscellany

H&R Block's

(HRB) - Get Report

founder, Henry Bloch, is retiring in September from his role as chairman. CEO Frank Salizzoni will be his successor. Bloch will become honorary chairman. H&R Block was up 5/16 to 30.

Steve Madden

(SHOO) - Get Report

said that Steve Madden would remain CEO of the shoe company, after being charged by the SEC for manipulating 22 IPOs, including his own companies. The company said it has tapped Charles Koppelman to take over as acting Chairman. Trading for the stock was halted on the Nasdaq until it's received additional information from the company.

Health-care services company

Steris

(STE) - Get Report

said Bill Sanford, its chairman and CEO, will retire following the annual meeting on July 21. The company said Les Vinney, president and COO, is expected to be named CEO. The news didn't hurt the stock, which ended the day up 3/16 to 8 15/16.

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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.