Friday, July 2, 1999

"Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is." -- William James

Latest Market Numbers

ConAgra Meets Estimates

Omaha-based food-producing giant ConAgra (NYSE: CAG) reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of $0.41 a share before charges, up 14% from $0.36 a year ago and in line with analysts' expectations. The company said it is "committed to its 14% long-term trendline growth objective and... plans double-digit earnings per share growth in fiscal year 2000."

ConAgra closed out the fiscal year with EPS of $1.46, up from $1.35 in 1998, despite a 3% drop in EPS in the first half of the year -- EPS in the second half bounced back and grew some 20% before charges. The year marked the 19th straight year the company has increased earnings. In those 19 years, EPS, excluding charges, grew at a 14.6% average annual rate.

In May, ConAgra announced its "Operation Overdrive" initiative, designed to improve operations and to leverage its strengths across its various food businesses. The effort seeks to improve earnings by taking advantage of company-wide sourcing opportunities, combining manufacturing and distribution operations, and targeting customer-focused selling and service opportunities.

To listen to ConAgra's CEO and CFO discuss fourth-quarter and full-year results, go to:

or call 888-566-0821. The replays are available through 5 p.m. Central time on July 15.

News To Go

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would overhaul the financial-services industry, lifting barriers now separating banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies. The Senate passed a similar bill in May, and the two versions must be reconciled before legislation can be signed into law by the president. The pending legislation would allow brokerage firms and insurers to compete with banks on a full range of financial services, allowing for more mergers like the Citigroup-Travelers deal last year. The bill also would allow Citigroup (NYSE: C) more freedom in operating its Travelers insurance business and its Salomon Smith Barney brokerage firm.

As the telco world turns, telecommunications company US WEST (NYSE: USW) announced that its board has authorized the company's management and advisers to engage in talks with Qwest Communications International (Nasdaq: QWST) regarding Qwest's revised merger proposal. Rival bidder Global Crossing (Nasdaq: GBLX) consented to the discussions, and US WEST's merger agreement with Global Crossing remains intact. Stay tuned.

Casino and resorts operator Mirage Resorts (NYSE: MIR) warned that it expects second-quarter earnings of about $0.07 to $0.10 a share. That would be significantly short of analysts' mean estimate of $0.24 and the year-ago figure of $0.18 per share. The company blamed the shortfall on "an unusually low company-wide table games win percentage; the opening of Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi; a major room refurbishment project at its Treasure Island resort; and the opening of two new competitors in the Las Vegas market."

Yearbooks, class rings, and school photography company Jostens Inc. (NYSE: JOS) said that full-year 1999 earnings per share may fall below analysts' current expectations of $1.60 to $1.67 and come in between $1.55 and $1.65 a share. For the second quarter, the company anticipates sales and net earnings to be "about even" with last year. The company had previously predicted an increase in Q2 sales and net earnings.

Calendars and organizers maker Day Runner Inc. (Nasdaq: DAYR) warned that it expects a loss of approximately $1.6 million to $2.2 million, or $0.14 to $0.18 a share, for its fiscal fourth quarter ended June 30. That compares with net earnings of about $5 million, or $0.39 a share, for the year-ago quarter. The company announced that it will seek strategic alternatives to maximize stockholder value, which may include "new equity partners, joint ventures, asset sales, additional financing and/or a potential sale of the company."

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a class-action suit against Venator Group (NYSE: Z), formerly known as Woolworth, for allegedly firing 300 to 400 older workers (meaning over the age of 40) illegally and replacing them with younger ones. The suit seeks millions of dollars on behalf of former Woolworth's employees throughout the country.

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