Aetna ( AET) said first-quarter profits rose significantly as the nation's second-largest health insurance firm raised premiums and rid itself of unprofitable clients. The company posted operating income of $64.9 million, or 44 cents a share, compared with $15 million, or 10 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. But revenue fell to $5.26 billion from $6.43 billion. The stock was up 12% to $49.13. Covance ( CVD) was gaining 11% to $19.19 a day after the company reported first-quarter earnings of 19 cents a share, a penny ahead of estimates. The company, a provider of drug development services, forecast earnings of 81 cents a share for 2002 and said it hopes to deliver earnings growth of about 30% through 2003. Gundle/SLT Environmental ( GSE), a provider of geosynthetic lining systems for waste management, mining and other uses, was again climbing sharply, the second straight session the stock has been a big winner. Gundle was up 22% to $9.50 a day after the company reported a first-quarter profit of $22.3 million, or $2.02 a share, including a gain from the purchase of Serrot International. Before items, Gundle lost $1.6 million, or 14 cents a share, including a charge of 5 cents a share. Media software company Macromedia ( MACR) was gaining 19% to $20.76 after the company said it expects revenue growth to resume in the first fiscal quarter of 2003. The company also expects to return to profitability, on a pro forma basis, in the June quarter. Macromedia reported fourth fourth-quarter revenue of $75.6 million and a loss, before items, of 10 cents a share. Under generally accepted accounting principles, Macromedia lost $1.37 a share. Simplex Solutions ( SPLX) was jumping 41% to $17.38 on news that Cadence Design ( CDN) will acquire the company for $18 a share in a deal valued at about $300 million.
Digene ( DIGE) and Cytyc ( CYTC) were diving on word their planned merger has again been delayed. Cytyc was down 31% to $17.15, and Digene was falling 26% to $24.54. Harmonic ( HLIT) was diving 19% to $8.75 after the company failed to meet analysts' loss estimates for the latest quarter, even after backing out costs that must be calculated to conform with generally accepted accounting principles. The company said it lost 14 cents a share, excluding amortization, but analysts were looking for a loss of 13 cents on that basis. International Flavors & Fragrances ( IFF) reported first-quarter earnings of 44 cents a share, up from 21 cents in the year-ago period. Excluding items, the company earned 36 cents a year ago. For the second quarter, International expects sales to be flat with last year. The company, which not surprisingly makes flavors and fragrances, projected earnings, excluding nonrecurring charges, of 51 cents to 54 cents a share. The stock was down 9% to $31.89. Scientific-Atlanta ( SFA) was losing 10% to $20.70 after Merrill Lynch cut its mid-term rating on the stock to reduce/sell, citing slowing growth in its customers' set-top boxes. SpeechWorks International ( SPWX), a maker of speech recognition software, fell 32% to $4.83 after the company reported first-quarter revenue of $9.5 million, down from $10.9 million in the year-ago period. The company lost $11.6 million, or 36 cents a share, for the quarter.