Shares of Advo ( AD) were among the NYSE's winners Thursday, soaring 48% after the mailer of coupons and circulars agreed to be acquired by Valassis Communications ( VCI) for $37 a share, or $1.3 billion. The all-cash deal represents a 53% premium to Advo's Wednesday closing price of $24.26. Valassis will also assume about $125 million in debt. "This combination is a first in the media services industry and uniquely positions us to capture growth by anticipating the needs of the marketplace and evolving to meet them," Valassis said in a press release. Valassis expects the deal to be accretive to cash earnings during 2007. The combined company, meanwhile, expects 2007 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $305 million to $315 million on revenue of about $2.65 billion. The acquisition should close within three to four months. Shares of Advo were trading up $11.65 to $35.91, while Valassis shares were trading down $3.16 to $20.06. Shares of Altria ( MO) jumped 7% after the Florida Supreme Court threw out a $145 billion damage award against tobacco companies. The award represented the largest ever by an American jury, which had ruled that tobacco companies lied about the dangers of cigarettes. Shares of Altria, the parent of Philip Morris, were up $4.79 to $78.12. Acuity Brands ( AYI) rose 6% after the provider of lighting and specialty chemicals posted third-quarter results that topped forecasts. For the quarter ended May 31, the company earned $28.7 million, or 63 cents a share, on revenue of $603.3 million. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 57 cents a share on revenue of $583.4 million. During the year-earlier period, the company earned $19.7 million, or 44 cents a share, on revenue of $545.3 million. Acuity Brands also announced an additional stock repurchase plan. The company, which completed its previous 2-million-share buyback plan in June, said that it is now authorized to buy an additional 2 million shares, which represents about 4.5% of its outstanding shares. "We believe that a share repurchase program represents a wise use of our cash flow, also allowing us to offset dilution resulting from our stock-based compensation and benefit programs," the company said. Shares were trading up $2.56 to $42.07.
Shares of Delta and Pine Land ( DLP) rose 9% after the cottonseed producer posted better-than-expected third-quarter results. For the period ended May 31, the company earned $47.7 million, or $1.28 a share. The results included a litigation charge of 2 cents a share and a write-off of 12 cents a share related to acquired in-process research and development costs. Without the one-time items, the company would have earned $1.42 a share, compared with analysts' estimate of $1.34 a share. Revenue totaled $286.6 million, topping Wall Street's forecast of $239.6 million. A year earlier, the company earned $36.3 million, or 91 cents a share, on revenue of $203.3 million. Shares were trading up $2.53 to $31.82. Peoples Energy ( PGL) rose 9% after the company confirmed media reports that it is in discussions with WPS Resources ( WPS) regarding a possible merger. "There can be no assurances that a transaction will be successfully negotiated or consummated, or as to the terms, structure of timing of any transaction," WPS said. The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the situation, said the acquisition of Peoples would be valued at about $1.5 billion. Shares of Peoples Energy were trading up $3.33 to $39.31, while shares of WPS Resources fell $2.13 to $48.04. Shares of BJ's Wholesale Club ( BJ) fell 3% after the retailer posted disappointing same-store sales for June and cut its second-quarter earnings guidance. The company said that June same-store sales fell 0.1%, while total sales rose 3.6% to $825 million. As a result of the weak June sales, the company now sees second-quarter earnings of 37 cents to 40 cents a share, down from an earlier view of 43 cents to 47 cents a share. Analysts project earnings of 44 cents a share. Looking ahead, BJ's Wholesale Club sees July same-store sales growth of 3% to 5%, including a contribution from gasoline sales of about 2%. Shares were trading down 92 cents to $27.29.
NYSE volume leaders included Qwest ( Q), up 5 cents to $8.30; Nortel Networks ( NT), up 8 cents to $2.31; Exxon Mobil ( XOM), up 57 cents to $63.12; Time Warner ( TWX), down 8 cents to $17.05; EMC ( EMC), up 6 cents to $10.99; Pfizer ( PFE), up 20 cents to $23.88; Par Pharmaceutical ( PRX), down $5.01 to $13.24; General Electric ( GE), up 23 cents to $33.54; Lucent Technologies ( LU), up 2 cents to $2.40. Nasdaq volume leaders included Openwave Systems ( OPWV), down $3.71 to $7.76; Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI), up 15 cents to $4.63; Microsoft ( MSFT), up 20 cents to $23.55; Intel ( INTC), up 10 cents to $18.85; eBay ( EBAY), down 87 cents to $27.49; JDSU ( JDSU), down 4 cents to $2.36; Cisco Systems ( CSCO), up 16 cents to $19.76; Apple Computer ( AAPL), down 69 cents to $56.31; and Oracle ( ORCL), down 6 cents to $14.51.