Midday Movers: Network Solutions Pops, While VeriSign Slides; Procter & Gamble Plummets

Also, Net2000 Communications' IPO gets a warm welcome.
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Network Solutions

(NSOL)

popped 58 7/16, or 16.2%, to 419 1/16 after

VeriSign

(VRSN) - Get Report

agreed to

acquire it in a stock deal valued at roughly $21 billion. VeriSign, lately sliding 37 3/8, or 15%, to 210, said it would issue 2.15 shares for each share of Network Solutions. VeriSign said it expects to complete the deal in the third quarter of fiscal 2000. According to the terms, Jim Rutt would stay on as Network Solutions CEO and report to VeriSign President and CEO Stratton Sclavos.

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

shed 27 7/16, or 31.4%, to 60 after it

warned investors it would post third-quarter earnings 10% to 11% below the year-ago 72-cents-a-share report. The company blamed its earnings shortfall on the higher cost of pulp and petroleum-based materials. The 13-analyst estimate sees Procter & Gamble reporting third-quarter earnings of 78 cents a share.

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

sliced its rating on Procter & Gamble to market performance from top pick.

Merrill Lynch

downgraded the stock to neutral from accumulate.

Initial public offering

Net2000 Communications

(NTKK)

was lately jumping 18, or 90%, to 38 after

Goldman Sachs

priced 10 million shares at $20 each, the top end of the $18-to-$20 range. Net2000 provides broadband telecom services to businesses in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Dutch supermarket chain

Royal Ahold

(AHO)

lost 1/8 to 22 3/4 after it

agreed to purchase

U.S. Foodservice

(UFS) - Get Report

in a deal valued at $3.6 billion. U.S. Foodservice added 3/16 to 5 13/16. Ahold is forecasting a 17% to 20% increase in its fiscal 2000 EPS, including the effect of the acquisition.

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

rose 2 5/16 to 163 7/8 after it said it would make an investment in

Autotrader.com

to develop an online auto auction.

Entrust

(ENTU)

popped 20 3/16, or 20.4%, to 119 1/9 after it announced an e-business alliance with

Ariba

(ARBA)

. Ariba jumped 10 to 327.

Separately,

E*Trade

(EGRP)

selected Ariba's software for its supply-chain system. E*Trade slipped 3/4 to 25 13/16.

Hitachi

said that it set standards with

Lucent

(LU)

and France-based

Alcatel

(ALA)

for fiber-optic transceivers to make future products and devices compatible. Lucent dropped 3 7/8, or 5.3%, to 69 5/8, while Alcatel inched up 3/16 to 47 15/16.

Nortel Networks

(NT)

gained 2 1/16 to 131 after it said it struck a $60 million sale for its urban fiber-optic network technology to

FiberNet Telecom

(FTGX)

. FiberNet rose 1 1/4, or 6.5%, to 20 5/8.

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

gained 1 1/2 to 83 1/16 and

BackWeb Technologies

(BWEB)

bounced up 2 1/4, or 5.1%, to 46 after the companies said they agreed to a pact that calls for SAP to use BackWeb's Polite push technology on its e-commerce Web site,

mySAP.com

. According to the companies, the Polite push product allows companies to deliver multimedia packages without interfering with customers' access.

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

and

Barclays

said they have entered a

joint venture to set up an automated foreign exchange. The companies said they expect the facility to be up and running by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000. Schwab dropped 1 3/16 to 46 1/2.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(

Earnings estimates from First Call/Thomson Financial; earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

CVS

(CVS) - Get Report

inched up 1.3%, to 31 5/16 after it said February same-store sales increased 7.3%.

Healthsouth

(HRC) - Get Report

dropped 11/16, or 12.1%, to 5 despite posting fourth-quarter earnings of 16 cents a share, in line with the 12-analyst estimate but down from the year-ago 27 cents.

priceline.com

(PCLN)

dropped 6 15/16, or 7.7%, to 83 1/8 despite Chairman and CEO Richard Braddock's announcement that first-quarter revenue growth would beat earlier analysts' estimates of 30%.

Offerings and stock actions

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

priced a 4.35 million-ADR IPO for Japanese email provider

Crayfish

(CRFH)

at $24.50 an ADR, above the expected range of $22 to $24.

Waddell & Reed

(WDR) - Get Report

inched up 3/16 to 31 5/16 after it set a 3-for-2 stock split.

Vitria Technology

(VITR)

soared 15 1/2, or 9.2%, to 183 5/8 after it set a 2-for-1 stock split.

Analyst actions

J.P. Morgan

initiated coverage of

Ball

(BLL) - Get Report

with a buy rating. Ball edged up 1/4 to 27 5/16.

Warburg Dillon Read

upgraded oil and gas exploration company

Burlington Resources

(BR) - Get Report

to strong buy from hold. Burlington Resources bounced 1 3/8 to 29 9/16.

Bear Stearns

analyst Scott Ehrens initiated coverage of

Buy.com

(BUYX)

with a buy rating. Buy.com lifted 1 3/4, or 12%, to 16 5/16.

Prudential Securities

raised its rating on

Check Point Software

(CHKP) - Get Report

to strong buy from accumulate. Check Point Software gained 14 3/8, or 6%, to 250 1/2.

Merrill Lynch downgraded several companies in the cosmetics/household products sector, including

Clorox

(CLX) - Get Report

;

Avon

(AVP) - Get Report

;

Rayovac

(ROV)

;

Dial

(DL) - Get Report

;

Alberto-Culver

(ACV) - Get Report

and

Colgate

(CL) - Get Report

.

  • Avon, Dial and Rayovac were cut to accumulate from buy. Avon fell 1 3/4, or 6%, to 27 and Dial slipped 1 1/4, or 7.9%, to 14 1/2, while Rayovac stumbled 1 5/8, or 7.7%, to 19 3/8.
  • Clorox and Colgate were cut to neutral from accumulate. Clorox lost 4 13/16, or 12%, to 35 5/16 and Colgate shed 6 5/16, or 11.7%, to 46 5/8.
  • Alberto-Culver was cut to neutral from accumulate. Alberto-Culver declined 9/16 to 20 1/4.

Warburg Dillon Read

upped its price target on

Corning

(GLW) - Get Report

to 260 from 175. Corning added 1 3/8 to 211.

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette analyst W. Todd Scott started coverage of

Cypress Communications

(CYCO)

with a buy rating. Cypress Communications tacked on 13/16 to 22 1/4.

Merrill Lynch

upgraded its intermediate-term rating on

Firstar

(FSR)

to accumulate from neutral. It kept its long-term buy rating on the stock. Firstar skidded 1/2 to 17 13/16.

Lehman Brothers

initiated coverage of

First Bell

(FBBC)

with a neutral rating. First Bell advanced 1/8 to 15 1/2.

Merrill Lynch downgraded its long-term rating on

GlobalStar

(GSTRF)

to neutral from accumulate. The firm also sliced its intermediate rating on

Loral

(LOR) - Get Report

to neutral from accumulate and cut its long-term rating to accumulate from buy. GlobalStar skidded 2 3/16, or 8.1%, to 23 1/8 and Loral stumbled 1 13/16, or 12.2%, to 13.

Salomon Smith Barney

initiated coverage of

Healtheon/WebMD

(HLTH)

with an outperform rating and a price target of 52. Healtheon/WebMD slipped 1 1/8 to 41 5/8.

SG Cowen

said it started coverage of

InfoSpace.com

(INSP) - Get Report

with a strong buy rating and a price target of 310. InfoSpace.com jumped 8 to 261 1/2.

Prudential Securities

initiated coverage of

JDS Uniphase

(JDSU)

with a strong buy rating. JDS Uniphase popped 4 to 296 5/8.

Thomas Weisel

analyst David Grossman initiated coverage on

Lante

(LNTE)

with a buy rating. Lante dropped 5 3/8, or 6.7%, to 73 despite the news.

Merrill Lynch initiated coverage of

Magic Software

(MGIC) - Get Report

, an Israel-based business solutions and software company, with a buy rating and a 12-month price target of 40. Magic Software edged up 1 to 27 15/16.

Warburg upgraded

Masco

(MAS) - Get Report

to strong buy from buy. Masco lifted 13/16 to 18 1/4.

Goldman Sachs said

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

third quarter seems to be on track after meeting with its CFO, Jim Connors. Microsoft climbed 4 11/16, or 5.1%, to 95 7/16.

Credit Suisse First Boston

upgraded

Nextel Communications

(NXTL)

to strong buy from buy. Nextel Communications gained 2 15/16 to 136.

ING Barings analyst Vinton Vickers raised his price target on

News Corp.

(NWS) - Get Report

. The 12- to 15-month price target on ADRs was lifted to 75 to 80, from 65. News Corp. tacked on 1/8 to 65 1/16.

Warburg Dillon Read upgraded oil and gas exploration company

Noble Affiliates

(NBL) - Get Report

to strong buy from hold. Noble Affiliates hopped 2 1/16, or 8%, to 27 5/8.

Merrill upgraded its intermediate-term rating on

Pharmacia & Upjohn

(PNU)

to buy from accumulate. It maintained its long-term rating of buy on the stock. Pharmacia & Upjohn declined 1/4 to 44 1/4.

Thomas Weisel analyst Kevin Hunt started coverage of

Pets.com

(IPET)

. Pets.com was lately off 5/16 to 6 1/4.

Prudential Securities upped its rating on

RSA Security

(RSAS)

to strong buy from hold. RSA Security leaped 13 1/16, or 17.9%, to 85 1/2.

Merrill reinstated coverage of

Southdown

(SDW)

with an intermediate-term rating of accumulate and a long-term rating of buy. Southdown lost 3/8 to 49.

Warburg initiated coverage of

Spieker Properties

(SPK)

with a hold rating. Spieker Properties slid 1/8 to 40 7/8.

Banc of America Securities

upped its price target on

VoiceStream

(VSTR)

to 161 from 117. VoiceStream skidded 11 1/4, or 7.8%, to 132 5/8.

CSFB initiated coverage of

Waste Connections

(WCNX)

with a buy rating. Waste Connections was unchanged at 10 7/8.

CSFB upgraded

Western Wireless

(WWCA)

to strong buy from buy. Western Wireless climbed 4 1/8, or 7.9%, to 56 1/8.

Miscellany

Mastech

(MAST)

converted itself into a holding company. Mastech said the new company, known as

iGate

(IGTE)

, consists of five existing and four new divisions, which would concentrate on e-services. iGate will began trading today. iGate leaped 12 1/16, or 27%, to 55.