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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

STOCKS TO WATCH: Lucent Technologies, Medscape, Qualcomm and Peapod

Expect the following technology stocks to be among Wednesday's most actively traded issues: Lucent Technologies, Medscape, Qualcomm and Peapod.

  • Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU)

    Lucent should make some waves Wednesday after announcing that it would cut 1,500 jobs from its U.S. operations, mainly through voluntary buyouts offered to technicians.

    Lucent spokesman Bill Price said the company on Monday told its employees about the company's plans to trim the work force, which now totals 153,000.

    Murray Hill, N.J.-based Lucent, which expects to eliminate 1,200 jobs from the buyouts, asked for volunteers from its staff of 7,000 business phone service technicians to leave the company, Price said.

    He said more than two-thirds of the technicians were eligible to receive full pension benefits as well as two years pay under the buyout package. He said he was not able to provide the specifics for employees who did not have enough years of service to be eligible for the full package.

    The company is also cutting 280 jobs by closing two centers that handle billing and ordering services to large customers

    Lucent closed off 11/32 to 64 21/32 Tuesday.

  • Medscape Inc. (Nasdaq: MSCP)

    Medscape should get a boost after it beat Street estimates in its third quarter Tuesday, posting a loss of $7.8 million, or 41 cents a share, on sales of $2.2 million. Its shares closed up 27/32 to 9 5/16.

    First Call consensus expected the online health information provider to lose 46 cents a share in the quarter.

    The $2.2 million in sales represents a 361 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it lost $1.1 million, or 35 cents a share, on sales of $480,000.

    In the quarter, Medscape grew its membership base to 1.4 million users, up 78 percent versus the year-ago quarter and 20 percent from the second quarter.

    Page views jumped 93 percent from the same time last year to 29 million and up 35 percent from the 21.5 million page views it recorded in the second quarter.

    First Call consensus expects it to lose $1.84 a share in the fiscal year.

  • Peapod Inc. (Nasdaq: PPOD)

    Expect Peapod to plummet Wednesday after posting a wider-than-expected loss in its third quarter.

    The online grocer posted a loss of $6.5 million, or 38 cents a share, on sales of $16.5 million.

    First Call consensus expected it to lose only 28 cents a share.

    Worse yet, Peapod's sales fell to 3.5 percent from the second quarter when it did sales of $17.1 million.

    Gross margins increased to 25.8 percent, from 24.4 percent in the second quarter and 21.6 percent in the third quarter of 1998. General and administrative expenses rose to $5 million from $1.9 million in the year-ago period, as Peapod announced the appointment of Malloy and other senior executives in the third quarter.

    Fulfillment costs increased to $5.6 million, or 11 percent higher sequentially, because of higher volumes at distribution facilities where Peapod is scaling up, the company said. Peapod will strengthen its distribution and soon announce a strategic alliance, Malloy said during a conference call with analysts. The company has several options for financing, Malloy said.

    Peapod shares rallied up 1 9/16 to 12 3/16 ahead of the earnings announcement, so you can bet there will be some people selling this puppy off first thing in the morning.

  • Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)

    Qualcomm is going to gain ground after it raced past analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter Tuesday, raking in $170 million, or 70 cents a share, on sales of $1.1 billion. The company also announced a 4-for-1 stock split.

    First Call consensus pegged Qualcomm for a profit of 88 cents a share in the quarter.

    Qualcomm shares closed off 3/8 to 224 13/16 ahead of the earnings report. The stock fell more than $5 a share in after-hours trading but then rallied up $10 a share after the split was announced.

    For the year, Qualcomm earned $420 million, or $2.46 a share, on sales of $3.9 billion, compared to a profit of $108.5 million, or 73 cents a share, on sales of $3.3 billion in fiscal 1998.

    Company officials earlier this quarter predicted strong earnings this time around, mainly due to robust demand for its popular wireless phones and chips.

    If approved by the company's board of directors in December, shareholders will receive four shares for each share they hold.

    "We hope this latest stock split will make it possible for more investors to share in the promising growth of our company and our industry," said CEO Irwin Jacobs in a prepared release.

    Qualcomm shares have been red hot in the past year, surging from a 52-week low of 24 1/2 in December to a high of 225 3/4 in October. In between, it split 2-for-1 in May.

    If you bought 1,000 shares of Qualcomm in 1991 for $16,000, you'd be sitting on 16,000 shares valued at more than $880,000 if the 4-for-1 split is approved.

    Fifteen of the 19 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.