Stocks in the News: Marriott, PepsiCo, Viacom

The following is a round-up of news likely to affect stock prices today:

Marriott International (MAR) says it moved to a fourth-quarter profit as leisure travelers took advantage of promotions and business travel improved. Marriott earned $106 million, or 28 cents per share. Adjusted income was 32 cents per share, better than the 26 cents per share analysts had forecast. Revenues of $3.38 billion beat Wall Street estimates, too. Shares were up over 2% in premarket trading.First Energy (FE) says it is buying rival power provider Allegheny Energy (AYE) for about $4.7 billion in stock. With First Energy assuming $3.8 billion of Allegheny's debt, the all-stock deal that values the smaller power company at $8.5 billion. AYE hareholders would receive a value of $27.65 a share. The combination would create a regional energy provider with about $16 billion in annual revenues. FE shares are down over 3% in premarket trading. AYE shares, which closed at $21.02 Wednesday, soared about 16.6% before the bell.

Viacom (VIA) posted a big jump in fourth-quarter profit, helped by cost cutting at its Paramount film studio and the absence of charges. Adjusted earnings were $1.09 per share, beating Wall Street estimates of 88 cents a share. Revenue slipped 3% to $4.1 billion, just below analysts' estimates of $4.2 billion. Shares advanced 1.6% ahead of he bell.

PepsiCo (PEP) said Thursday its fourth-quarter net income nearly doubled to $1.4 billion, or 90 cents a share as net revenue rose 4.5% to $13.3 billion. Results were inline with estimates.

Allstate Corp. (ALL) swung to a quarterly net profit of $518 million late Wednesday and operating results released by the insurer exceeded Wall Street estimates. Operating earnings were $592 million, or $1.09 a share, topping the expected $1.01 a share profit analysts had estimated.

Boston Scientific Corp. (BSX) on Wednesday said it narrowed net losses during the fourth quarter, but adjusted earnings beat forecasts, thanks to revenue increases across a number of divisions and a 44% gain in new product sales. The company also announced a major restructuring and management shake-up. It plans to cut 8% to 10% of its workforce, or 1,000 to 1,300 jobs. Shares sank over 8% ahead of the Bell.

Prudential Financial (PRU) said late Wednesday that it swung to a quarterly profit, but its operating earnings of $495 million, or $1.07 a share, missed analyst estimates of $1.11 a share. Shares dropped 2.5% in premarket trading.

Activision Blizzard (ATVI) posted better-than-expected results on Wednesday, fueled by its hit holiday release "Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," and the company said it would start paying an annual dividend. Shares jumped 4.5% before the bell.

Alcatel-Lucent SA (ALU) on Thursday reported a small net profit for the fourth quarter as one-off gains helped offset a 20% drop in revenue. Shares skidded 6.6% before the open.

Barclays PLC (BCS) said Thursday it has agreed to buy the Italian credit card business of Citibank International PLC for an undisclosed sum. Barclays will acquire around 197,000 credit card accounts and gross assets of 234 million pounds ($323 million). Shares were 1.7% lower in premarket trading.

Rio Tinto (RTP) recorded a 33% increase in net profit for 2009 due to record sales of iron ore and an increase in copper and gold production. Shares advanced over 2% before the bell.
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