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Wednesday, February 24, 1999

"My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them." -- Richard Branson

Latest Market Numbers

New Strategy From Gateway

PC maker and direct seller Gateway (NYSE: GTW) will hold a media conference call today to announce "precedent-setting initiatives" for its online business. The company reportedly could announce a new marketing strategy shifting its focus on one-time computer sales to recurring revenue from additional products and services sold over the life of the computer. The announcement could also relate to the company's efforts to provide Internet access and portal services through gateway.net.

Company executives are also meeting with analysts today in San Diego and may also discuss first quarter sales, which some analysts believe will yield positive news. Gateway shares hit a high of $84 1/2 yesterday but finished up $3 3/16 to $82 1/2. The stock has traded as low as $66 3/8 this month and started the week at $72 7/8. Its climb this week has been fueled by last week's announcement that the company would start using Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) as a second supplier of microprocessors for its computers. Using less expensive chips from AMD could help drive up margins.

For a closer look at Gateway, see the Boring Portfolio's recent reports (2/8/99, 2/10/99, 2/22/99) on one of the latest additions to the portfolio's holdings. Also, don't miss Dale's (TMF Ralegh) outstanding analysis of the company in Industry Focus 1999.

News to Go

A couple of entertainment/media giants are also stressing the importance of the Internet. At the company's annual meeting yesterday, Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) Chairman Michael Eisner said its push online will energize earnings, reversing the fiscal first quarter trend where the company saw its profit fall 38% due to the costs of new ventures. Meanwhile, Viacom (AMEX: VIA) announced plans to build out online destinations, including a kids-only site by Nickelodeon (scheduled to launch in September) and a music site by MTV and VH1 (scheduled to debut in June). The company has created a new Internet division that will include these online businesses.

Three analysts have cut their 1999 earnings estimates for Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) due to worries about economic weakness in Latin America, according to The Wall Street Journal. Goldman Sachs lowered its projection to $1.45 from $1.48, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter trimmed its estimate to $1.45 from $1.50, and Credit Suisse First Boston clipped its number to $1.50 from $1.52.

A Boeing (NYSE: BA) study shows that a quarter of the $13 billion that the aerospace giant is investing in its product lines will produce no meaningful returns, The Wall Street Journal reported. Among the problems plaguing Boeing: nine of 40 lines of business are expected to produce negative or breakeven returns under current plans. The company intends to undergo a financial overhaul that will include setting precise growth and profit targets for every product line by the end of the second quarter.

Internet portal and search engine company Infoseek (Nasdaq: SEEK) today launched GO Shop, a comprehensive one-stop online shopping service on its GO Network that allows shoppers to research a product before making a purchase. The service features more than a million products from more than 200 merchants.

Medical devices maker Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) turned in lower-than-expected fourth quarter earnings of $0.19 a share (before one-time items). Analysts had been predicting EPS of $0.22. The company also restated results for 1997 and the first three quarters of 1998 to address previously reported irregularities in its Japan operations.

Chemical company Union Carbide (NYSE: UK) may be a takeover target. A recent increase in the trading of its call options, which give buyers the right to buy stock at a fixed price, has heightened speculation that the company may be the next acquiree in a consolidating industry.

Immunex Corp. (Nasdaq: IMNX) announced a 2-for-1 stock split, the first since the biopharmaceutical company went public in 1983. The firm is majority-owned by American Home Products (NYSE: AHP).

More Foolishness

Does eBay have what it takes to be a Rule Breaker? See the latest portfolio report... Tom Gardner asks, "Is it better to be a media company going into technology or a technology company going into media?" Get the answer in the Rule Maker Portfolio... Read Fed Chairman Greenspan's influential semi-annual testimony before Congress.

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Yi-Hsin Chang (TMF Puck), Writer
Jennifer Silber (TMF Amused), Editor