Penford ( PENX) advanced Wednesday after the chemicals company said it plans to invest $42 million for about 40 million gallons of ethanol production capacity at its Cedar Rapids, Iowa, facility. The company expects the facility to be producing ethanol by the end of 2007. The initial stages of the ethanol investment will be funded through an existing bank facility, Penford said. The company's banks have approved amending the current credit agreement to permit additional capital expenditures related to the project. Penford said it will be reviewing and evaluating all appropriate structures and funding options for the optimal long-term financing of the investment. Shares gained $1.99, or 14%, to $16.15 in recent trading. Nautilus ( NLS) lost ground after the health and fitness products maker was downgraded by Merriman Curhan Ford to sell from neutral. The company sells products under the brand names of Nautilus, Bowflex, Schwinn Fitness, StairMaster and Trimline. Shares of Nautilus slipped 70 cents, or 4.7%, to $14.35. Park Electrochemical ( PKE) retreated after the company, which supplies materials used to make circuit boards, missed Wall Street's first-quarter earnings expectations. Sales increased 13% to $62.8 million. The company posted earnings of $8.9 million, or 44 cents a share, compared with $5.3 million, or 32 cents a share, before special items, a year ago. Two analysts were expecting earnings of 47 cents a share. "We are moving forward with numerous projects to enhance our advanced materials business, including the establishment of a new facility in Singapore to produce advanced composite materials for the aerospace industry, the upgrading of our advanced materials R&D capabilities and the installation of PTFE lamination capabilities in Singapore," said Brian Shore, Park's president and CEO. Shares sank $3.52, or 11.6%, to $26.82. Omni Energy Services ( OMNI) advanced after the oilfield-services company said it expects its second-quarter earnings per share to more than double the 10 cents it reported in the first quarter. The company also said its second-quarter earnings will be at least 40% higher than the average Wall Street estimate of 16 cents.
"We are continuing to see improved profit margins in our seismic drilling sector as a result of greater demand for these services coupled with improved utilization of equipment and personnel," CEO James C. Eckert said in a statement. "Additionally, we are enjoying better than expected results from Preheat, Inc., our most recent acquisition that provided us with additional equipment leasing capabilities." Barring any unexpected weather or permit delays, the improved performance trend could continue through the remainder of 2006, the company said. Shares of Omni climbed 57 cents, or 5.6%, to $10.70. Netgear ( NTGR) plummeted after Citigroup downgraded the networking-products company to hold from buy. Shares dropped $2.33, or 9.9%, to $21.33.