Bank of America posts slim profit despite settlement, charges

NEW YORK, Wed Oct 17, 2012 – Bank of America Corp eked out a third-quarter profit even after taking $1.6 billion of litigation charges, as the second-largest U.S. bank set aside less money to cover bad loans.

The results show Chief Executive Brian Moynihan is still haunted by acquisitions forged during the financial crisis. The bank last month agreed to pay $2.4 billion to settle claims that it hid crucial information from shareholders when it bought investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co at the height of the financial crisis.

Bank of America had already set aside some money for the settlement, but it said last month that the pact, a UK tax charge and an accounting charge related to the value of its debt would reduce third-quarter earnings by 28 cents per share.

To boost profits, the bank launched a broad cost-cutting program in 2011 that aims to eliminate $8 billion in annual expenses and 30,000 jobs.

But even with that project, called “New BAC,” noninterest expenses rose nearly 1 percent in the latest quarter to $17.54 billion.

Cisco shares rise as dividend hike eclipses sales worries

SAN JOSE, Calif., Thu Aug 16, 2012 – Shares of Cisco Systems Inc. looked set to open up 7 percent on Thursday after the network equipment maker’s dividend hike overshadowed a lackluster quarterly sales performance and prompted several brokerages to raise their price targets on the stock.

Shares of the company, which closed at $17.35 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, rose to $18.49 in premarket trading on Thursday. The stock had fallen 11 percent after Cisco reported a weak third-quarter profit in May.

Cisco said on Wednesday it will raise its quarterly dividend by 75 percent to 14 cents per share after reporting fourth-quarter revenue largely in line with analysts’ estimates. It also said it bought back $1.8 billion worth of shares in the quarter.

Barclays Capital analysts said the higher dividend suggested a significant shift in direction and placed Cisco near the high-end of its large-cap IT tech peers such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. in terms of dividend yield and free cash flow.

“The 75 percent increase in dividend and commitment to return at least 50 percent of free cash flow in dividend and buybacks was not expected given high offshore cash balance and should be rightly viewed as sign of overall confidence on part of Cisco,” said Citi Investment Research analyst Kevin Dennean.

Target profit beats quarterly expectations; shares up

MINNEAPOLIS, Wed Aug 15, 2012 – Target Corp posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its full-year forecast on Wednesday, as it won over shoppers with an expanded selection of food in many stores and discounts for its cardholders.

Shares of the U.S. discount chain rose 1.5 percent to $64.33 in early trading.

Target is testing new strategies, such as opening smaller city stores, as it tries to entice shoppers to visit more often. The company added a wider variety of fresh food to hundreds of stores and will sell a line of holiday goods with upscale department store Neiman Marcus Group Inc. later this year.

Target is also spending as it gets ready to open its first Canadian stores next year.

But those expenses were a bit lower than anticipated, and the results benefited from that as well as higher-than-expected profitability in the company’s credit card unit, said Janney analyst David Strasser, who has a “neutral” rating on Target stock.

Target said it was “very pleased” with the early results from its first three CityTargets, which opened in Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle in late July. The stores are about two-thirds of the size of the company’s typical locations and carry a limited selection of some goods.

Analysts see CityTarget as a blueprint for how Target plans to run stores in Canada, where its sites are smaller than its typical U.S. shops. Target plans to start opening Canadian stores in March or April, after taking over leases for Zellers stores from Hudson’s Bay Co. in 2011.

“While the initial response from shoppers has been positive, the success of this format will essentially depend on whether Target can make the economics of the model work,” Stewart Samuel, a Vancouver, Canada-based senior analyst with food and grocery research firm IGD, said earlier this week.

3M quarterly profit beats, forecast steady

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., Thu Jul 26, 2012 – 3M Co. reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday, helped by double-digit gains in its healthcare and industrial and transportation businesses, and the diversified manufacturer kept its full-year forecast unchanged.
The maker of Post-It notes, specialty films used in consumer electronics, and health and safety products said it had earned $1.17 billion, or $1.66 per share, compared with $1.16 billion or $1.60 per share, a year earlier.
The results beat analyst estimates by 1 cent a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Sales dipped 2 percent to $7.53 billion, about $250 million shy of Wall Street estimates. Sales and profits were lower in 3M’s display and graphics business and in the segment that serves telecom and consumer electronics markets.
3M said the strong dollar and challenging economies had hurt sales in the quarter, but kept its 2012 profit forecast that calls for earnings of $6.35 to $6.50 a share. Consensus estimates are near the bottom of that range.

3M profit up 4 percent for quarter, sales increase 2.4 percent

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., Tue Apr 24, 2012 – 3M Co. reported a 4 percent rise in quarterly profit on Tuesday, helped by a strong performance in its industrial and transportation business and growth in the Americas.

The maker of Post-It notes, Scotch tape and components for consumer electronics reported net earnings of $1.12 billion, or $1.59 per share, compared with $1.08 billion, or $1.49 per share, a year earlier.

3M’s sales rose 2.4 percent to $7.5 billion during the first quarter, the company said.

Verizon results slightly ahead of Wall Street forecasts

NEW YORK, Thu Apr 19, 2012 – Verizon Communications Inc. posted first-quarter earnings and revenue that were slightly higher than Wall Street expectations even as wireless growth slowed from the fourth quarter.

Its mobile venture, Verizon Wireless, added 501,000 contract customers in the quarter, roughly in line with the average expectation for just over 511,000 from five analysts polled by Reuters but down from fourth quarter additions of 1.2 million.

Verizon shares rose 1.4 percent in premarket trade to $38.19 after closing at $37.66 on New York Stock Exchange Wednesday.

Given that Verizon, the first of the big operators to report first quarter results, typically posts the strongest customer growth of its peers, its sluggish growth may foretell a sharp slowdown in growth across the industry.

“People were upgrading but there doesn’t seem to be as many new people coming in to wireless,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Larsen, adding that Verizon’s mobile growth was in line with his recently lowered estimate.

However, Larsen was impressed with the company’s financials.

“It looks like it was a good quarter over all. Earnings per share was slightly ahead of the Street. Revenue was a little bit better,” Larsen said.

The slower customer growth also comes with a silver lining as the Verizon Wireless profit margin rose to 46.3 percent from 42.2 percent in the fourth quarter, when an Apple Inc. iPhone fueled growth but also required hefty subsidies.

Verizon earnings rose to $1.69 billion, or 59 cents per share compared with Wall Street expectations for 58 cents per share according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. In the year-ago quarter it reported a profit of $1.44 billion, or 51 cents per share.

Revenue rose to $28.24 billion from $26.99 billion and compared with analyst expectations for $28.17 billion.

Verizon Wireless is a venture of Verizon and Vodafone Group Plc. Its biggest rival AT&T Inc. and Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service report quarterly results next week.

Halliburton first quarter profits rise on strong North America sales

HOUSTON, Wed Apr 18, 2012 – Halliburton Co., the world’s second-largest oilfield services company, on Wednesday reported higher quarterly profits as North American sales reached a record high, lifting its shares in premarket trading.

First-quarter profit rose to $627 million, or 68 cents per share, from $511 million, or 56 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding one-time items such as a $300 million charge for estimated losses from the BP Plc. Gulf of Mexico oil spill two years ago, Halliburton’s earnings per share of 89 cents topped the average analyst estimate of 85 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Chief Executive Officer Dave Lesar said the record North American revenue of $4.2 billion came as new oil drilling activity in the United States helped offset a drop in natural gas drilling.

But Lesar warned that weak U.S. natural gas prices, which have fallen to their lowest level in a decade, and the disruptions caused by shifting supply chains, would contribute to lower margins in the region in the second quarter.

Halliburton is heavily exposed to the U.S. market relative to larger rival Schlumberger, which earned about two-fifths of its 2011 income in North America, compared with more than three-quarters for Halliburton.

Halliburton is the market leader in pressure pumping, used in hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas from shale. New technology has opened up new sources that are likely to keep prices low for years.

Its revenue rose 30 percent to $6.9 billion.

Halliburton’s shares rose 1.7 percent in premarket trading to $33.20.

Citigroup quarterly profit falls; net income down 4¢ a share

NEW YORK, Mon Apr 16, 2012 – Citigroup Inc. reported lower first-quarter profit on Monday as the bank worked to contain expenses in the face of volatile capital markets.

The New York-based lender said net income was $2.93 billion, or 95 cents a share, compared with $2.99 billion, or 99 cents a share, a year earlier.

Earnings per share were $1.11 excluding the impact of accounting adjustments for changes in the value of the bank’s debt and that of its counterparties.

Revenue from its ongoing securities trading and investment banking declined 12 percent from the strong quarter a year earlier, but rose 65 percent from the weak 2011 fourth quarter.

“While the operating environment improved in the first quarter, there is still much macro uncertainty and we will continue to manage risk carefully,” CEO Vikram Pandit said in a statement issued by the company.

Citi shares were up 59 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $34 in premarket trading.

Comcast profit beats Wall Street forecasts on subscriber gains

PHILADELPHIA – Comcast Corp. posted a better-than-expected rise in quarterly profit driven by strong video and Internet subscriber additions, though it was tempered by weak performances at its NBC Universal broadcast and movie units.

Shares were up more than 7 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday as the company also announced a 44 percent increase in its quarterly dividend and a new $6.5 billion share buyback.

The leading U.S. cable TV provider added 336,000 Internet subscribers and lost just 17,000 video customers – its best quarterly video numbers in five years.

Analysts at Collins Stewart had expected Comcast to add 242,000 Internet subscribers and lose as many as 140,000 video subscribers.

Comcast added 146,000 phone customers, below Collins Stewart’s forecast of 170,000 additions.

“I thought these were pretty strong results,” said Collins Stewart analyst Thomas Eagan. “They could possibly grow video subscribers in the current quarter. We think this reflects better overall execution across the cable business.”

Comcast, which controls NBC Universal, said strong cash flow growth at its cable networks was offset by a weaker performance at the NBC broadcast business and its Universal studio.

Cable networks, including USA, Bravo and E!, saw operating cash flow jump 16.2 percent to $930 million, but NBC cash flow turned negative at $52 million. Universal’s operating cash flow nearly halved to $91 million. The theme park business posted flat operating cash flow performance at $191 million.

Fourth-quarter net income rose to $1.29 billion, or 47 cents a share from $1.02 billion, or 36 cents a share, a year before.

Humana posts higher profit, lifts forecast

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Humana Inc. posted a big rise in fourth-quarter earnings that was generally in line with analysts’ targets, helped by higher membership in its Medicare plans for the elderly, and the health insurer slightly lifted its full-year profit forecast.

Humana, one of the largest U.S. providers of Medicare plans, raised its forecast for membership additions to its Medicare Advantage rolls by 40,000, and now expects to add about 190,000 individual members to such plans this year.

Humana shares, which have soared in the past year, fell 3.5 percent to $87.00 in premarket trading.

The company has drawn investor favor as many on Wall Street see its presence in privately run Medicare plans as a sweet spot. Insurers are expected to capitalize on the U.S. post-war baby boom population becoming eligible for Medicare, the government health program for the elderly.

Humana’s quarterly net income jumped to $199 million, or $1.20 per share, from $107 million, or 63 cents per share, a year earlier.

Earnings were in line with Wall Street’s average estimate, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.

Revenue rose 9 percent to $9.06 billion, below the $9.24 billion that analysts expected, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“Humana reported a relatively solid fourth quarter… although not crushing expectations as the company did during the first three quarters of the year,” Leerink Swann analyst Jason Gurda said in a research note.

Medicare Advantage enrollment stood at 1.64 million at the end of December, up 12 percent from a year earlier. The company gained an additional 173,000 members in January, reflecting results from the annual enrollment period for 2012.