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Gillette Warns of Soft First-Quarter Earnings Growth


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warned it expects to post a mid-single-digit increase in first-quarter earnings. That's about a penny below the 16-analyst

First Call

outlook for earnings of 25 cents a share, compared with the year-ago 23 cents. The company said greater-than-anticipated softness in the


business and in Latin America will hurt results.

Lernout & Hauspie Speech


rose to 40 1/2 in after-hours trading from a close of 37 7/8 after saying


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agreed to invest $30 million in the company.

In other postclose news (earnings estimates from First Call; earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified):

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Bassett Furniture

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posted first-quarter earnings of 34 cents a share, 1 cent shy of the four-analyst forecast and 1 cent above the year-ago figure.

Duane Reade

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said it expects to record a $5 million tax benefit for 1999 due to recent strong performance and that it's comfortable with future earnings projections.

International Comfort Products


warned its first-quarter earnings will fall below estimates due to a mild winter, implementation of a new management information system and restructuring charges. The four-analyst prediction called for earnings of 11 cents a share vs. the year-ago 9 cents.

After falling 19.6% in today's session,

Richfood Holdings


warned its fourth-quarter earnings will lag the seven-analyst forecast of 59 cents a share. The company, which earned 46 cents in the year-ago period, blamed Y2K repair and other one-time items.


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said its March same-store sales rose 6%.

Sun Healthcare

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said it will delay its 1998 results until April 9 due to talks with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

about an accounting treatment issue.



reported fourth-quarter earnings of 4 cents a share, missing the five-analyst estimate but beating the year-ago penny.


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United Airlines

unit said its March passenger load factor rose 1% to 71.6%.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Columbia Energy

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said it will buy

National Propane


for $12 a share.



said it agreed to acquire three businesses from the U.K.'s


to expand its presence in the windows and doors market. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

United Rentals

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filed suit against

Rental Service


seeking to break up its proposed merger with



. The suit, which seeks an injunction on an expedited basis, follows United's bid today to acquire Rental Service for $22.75 a share.

Offerings and stock actions


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expanded its existing repurchase program by 1.5 million shares to 3.5 million shares.



, a unit of



, received approval from the

Food and Drug Administration

to market DepoCyt, a chemotherapeutic agent used to treat lymphomatous meningitis. DepoCyt will be marketed in the U.S. by


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