An upside earnings report with a little more to it leads the post-close tidbits:




reported fiscal third-quarter earnings of 47 cents per share, beating the

First Call

expectation by a penny. The year-ago figure was 42 cents. But that's not the whole story.

Analysts hastily revised their earnings estimates on 3Com four to six weeks ago after two company warnings of slowing revenue growth. On Jan. 28, 3Com executives warned of soft sales performance in stackable hubs, one of their key product lines, in December. Then, on Feb. 10, the company announced that due to price competition from


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, it was cutting prices on its Ethernet adapter cards. At the time, 3Com predicted that its third-quarter earnings would be between the low 40s and 50 cents per share.

Analysts wasted no time in cutting their views of 3Com's earnings prospects, revising their consensus estimate from 63 cents to 46 cents in the space of two weeks. According to the


database, which goes back six weeks, the big 3Com shifts are the only recent case in the networking sector that saw estimates changed by more than a penny or two.

3Com's stock has suffered mightily amid all the tumult. On Jan. 21 it closed at 74 7/8; Thursday it finished at 33 5/8, up 1 5/8 amid a buoyant tech rally.

On Feb. 26, 3Com and

U.S. Robotics


announced a planned $6 billion pooling-of-interests merger. That plan raised fears of heightened competition among networking companies, as a merged 3Com-U.S. Robotics would be a big rival to industry leader


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Fresh from its approval of a merger between


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Tyco Toys

(TTI) - Get Report

, the

Federal Trade Commission

said the embattled planned merger of




Office Depot

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is "fixable." FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky said the agency will act within 10 to 14 days on the new merger proposal, which includes the sale of 63 Staples and Office Depot stores to




Dow Jones


, hit with a $222.7 million libel judgment in a case brought by defunct securities firm

MMAR Group

, said it would seek to have the judge set aside the award.

Wall Street Journal

Managing Editor Paul Steiger said in a company statement that he was optimistic the judgment would not stand.


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ran up a big upside earnings surprise, reporting third-quarter earnings of 80 cents per share versus the year-ago 45 cents. First Call had expected 72 cents.

Outback Steakhouse


said it expects first-quarter earnings to fall short of the First Call consensus view of 40 cents per share by 10% to 12%. Not such a g'day, mate.

By John J. Edwards III


Kevin Petrie