Stocks in the news: Time Warner, Costco, General Motors

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The following post rounds up the companies making headlines today:

General Motors (GM) keeps moving closer to filing the largest bankruptcy ever for a U.S. industrial company as the deadline from the government is only days away and after a crucial bond exchange proposal failed. Meanwhile, the fate of GM's Opel remains uncertain after talks with German officials ended without a deal as GM reportedly demanded more money. Shares fell 6 percent ahead of the bell.

Time Warner Co. (TWX), for now still the parent of this blog, announced that its Board of Directors has approved its plan to spin off its Internet unit AOL. AOL would then be an independent, publicly traded company. Time Warner will focus on film, television and other content creation, while AOL would focus on the online operation. Shares gained 1.2 percent in pre-market trade.
Visteon Corp. (VSTN) on Thursday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, along with some of its U.S. units. The company struggles with significantly reduced demand from automakers. Thirty percent of Visteon business comes from former parent Ford (F). VSTN shares plummeted 55 percent before the bell, Ford's gained 1 percent.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) said Thursday that its fiscal third-quarter profit fell 29 percent, partly because of a charge, as sales of bigger-ticket discretionary items continued to soften. Also, revenue dropped 5 percent to $15.81, below estimates. Shares declined 2.7 percent ahead of the bell.

Heinz (HNZ) profit fell 10 percent in the fourth quarter as the stronger dollar cut into revenue -- 6 percent decline -- from overseas markets and restaurant sales fell. Results were inline with estimates though. For 2010, Heinz issued a forecast below projections. Shares declined over 2 percent in pre-market trade.

Yahoo! (YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz said at the All Things Digital conference on Wednesday that any deal to spin off or combine its Internet search assets will require a partner with "boatloads of money." She added that Yahoo! is talking "a little bit" with Microsoft (MSFT) about a potential partnership. YHOO shares gained 1.7 percent ahead of the bell.

More earnings:
Analyst calls:
  • Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) was upgraded by Citigroup from Hold to Buy. The French pharma company also bought biotechnology company Exelixis (EXEL) for an upfront payment of $140 million, plus $21 million in guaranteed research funding over three years. SNY shares gained over 1 percent, EXEL shares jumped over 26 percent ahead of the bell.
  • Sandisk (SNDK) was upgraded at Goldman from Hold to Buy -- shares gained 2.8 percent.
  • Caterpillar (CAT) was downgraded at UBS from Neutral to Sell.
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