Blackstone Reports Fourth-Quarter Loss of $827 Million, Suspends Fourth-Quarter Dividend Payout

Shares of

Blackstone Group

(BX) - Get Report

were up slightly in early trading after the private equity group reported a fourth-quarter loss of $827 million.

The company missed EPS estimates by 28 cents, reporting a loss of 68 cents. The company eliminated its fourth-quarter payout and said its full-year payout to shareholders was 90 cents a share, below the $1.20 it was forecast to pay out.

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Looking ahead, management reported it had $767.6 million in available cash as of Jan. 31. A main concern is a drop in its portfolios, including its corporate private equity and real estate portfolios.

We have avoided shares of Blackstone since our early June coverage began, and the shares were trading at $18.46. We are uncertain about the company's ability to pay out any dividend amount at this time. If the shares can rebound, we see overhead resistance around the $7.50 to $8 level. We would look elsewhere for better investment opportunities at this time.

Blackstone Group is not recommended at this time, holding a Rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Merger Charges Swing Republic to $131 Million Loss

Shares of

Republic Services

(RSG) - Get Report

fell more than 10% in late morning trading Friday, on the heels of a fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report in which the company said it lost $131.7 million.

The waste services company posted a fourth-quarter loss of $131.7 million, or 55 cents a share, compared to a year-ago profit of $82.1 million, or 44 cents a share. The company cited impairment and restructuring charges related to its takeover of Allied Waste Industries for the quarterly loss.

Revenue for the quarter rose to $1.24 billion, up from $796 million in the year-ago period.

Excluding the merger costs, Republic said its adjusted quarterly profit was 41 cents per share, while analysts expected 44 cents per share.

For the full-year 2008, Republic's profit fell 75% to $73.8 million, or 37 cents per share, from $290.2 million, or $1.51 per share in 2007. Full-year revenue rose 16%, however, to $3.69 billion, from $3.18 billion.

We had removed shares of Republic from our "recommended" list back on Sept. 17, when the shares hit $31.48. The company has a 3.48% dividend yield, based on last night's closing stock price of $21.84.

The stock has technical support around the $15 to $16 levels. If the shares can stabilize, we see overhead resistance around the $26 to $27 level. We would remain on the sidelines right now, but we do prefer its competitor,

Waste Management

( WMI).

Republic Services is not recommended at this time, holding a Rating of 3.1 out of 5 stars.

Dell's Fourth-Quarter Profit Drops 48%, Shares Bounce

Shares of


(DELL) - Get Report

are bouncing 2% higher this morning, despite the pc maker reporting a fourth-quarter profit that tumbled 48% to $351 million, or 18 cents per share, from $679 million, or 31 cents per share, a year earlier.

Sales fell 16% to $13.4 billion from $16 billion in the prior-year period, but below analyst expectations of $14.2 billion. The company recently announced it was shifting its structure to four areas of business and away from regional departments. The first being global information technology. The second is focusing on government customers. The third will be aimed at small and medium-sized businesses and the last will deal with the company's consumer business.

Looking ahead, management aims to boost its fiscal 2011 cost-reduction target to $4 billion from $3 billion. The company ended the quarter with $9.5 billion in cash and investments.

Shares of Dell are way off of all-time highs hit in 2000 of nearly $44 a share. The stock has technical support around the $4.50 to $5 levels. This would put the stock trading near levels of what it has in cash. If the shares can firm up, we see overhead resistance around the $12 price mark. We do not currently rate this non-dividend paying stock, but it is a key technology name we follow.

Dell does not currently pay a dividend.

Shares of Citigroup Tumble on Raised Government Stake

Shares of


(C) - Get Report

were dropping nearly 40% in the premarket on news that the U.S. government is raising its stake to 36%, this after news, the company had another $10 billion in losses during the fourth quarter.

The bank said it will issue common stock in exchange for preferred shares, which will substantially increase its tangible common equity without any additional U.S. government investment.

Under the new agreement, Citigroup will be suspending its common and preferred stock dividends.

It's amazing how market pundits were thrown off by Citi's aggressive insider buying in the past few months. If you followed their lead at $9 and then $6, you are staring at a share price of less than $1.50 this morning. There is a time and place to give proper emphasis to insider buying. In this market, investors need to be extremely cautious.

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Citi's management said the deal this morning should put bank nationalization talk to rest. I'm sure investors feel really good about those comments, especially when shares were down about 40% in the premarket. We would still avoid the shares as has been our advice for many months now.

Citigroup will no longer be paying a dividend.

Be sure to visit our complete recommended list of the Best Dividend Stocks as well as a detailed explanation of our ratings system.

At the time of publication, the author had no positions in stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.

Tom Reese and Paul Rubillo are senior editors of Visit for more dividend stock ratings, picks, news, and analysis for long-term and income-seeking investors.