Viacom, Centene, Merck, Alphabet & more

Check out the companies making headlines before the bell:

Viacom – The media company earned an adjusted $1.12 per share for its latest quarter, 9 cents a share above estimates. Revenue fell short of forecasts, however, as domestic advertising sales declined.

Estee Lauder – The cosmetics company beat estimates by 19 cents a share, with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.74 per share. Revenue also topped forecasts on stronger global sales of its skin care brands.

Pitney Bowes – The shipping and mailing solutions company matched Street forecasts with adjusted earnings of 38 cents per share. Revenue was also above analysts’ estimates. Pitney Bowes slashed its quarterly dividend to 5 cents per share from 18.75 cents, but also boosted its share buyback authorization by $100 million.

Archer-Daniels Midland – The grain processor came in 4 cents a share shy of estimates, with adjusted quarterly profit of 88 cents per share. Revenue was shy of forecasts, as well, and ADM noted complicated and rapidly changing market conditions in presenting its results. The company also announced a dividend increase to 35 cents per share from 33-1/2 cents.

Church & Dwight – The maker of Arm & Hammer baking soda and other consumer products earned 57 cents per share for its latest quarter, a penny a share shy of estimates, although revenue was above Street forecasts. Church & Dwight notes that price increases that were implemented late in the quarter had minimal impact on results, but will be more impactful this year. Church & Dwight also gave a 2019 earnings forecast that falls slightly short of Street estimates, and announced a dividend increase.

Centene – Centene reported adjusted quarterly profit of $1.38 per share, 6 cents a share above estimates. The health insurer’s revenue beat Street forecasts and Centene made upbeat comments about its 2019 outlook, noting increased membership and contract wins.

WellCare Health – The health insurer beat estimates by 7 cents a share, with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.63 per share. Revenue beat estimates and WellCare also raised its full-year forecast, based in part on increased membership growth in its Medicare business.

Kraft Heinz – The food producer’s stock was downgraded to “hold” from “buy” at Deutsche Bank, which said although Kraft Heinz is showing overall improvement, store brands are making headway in many of Kraft Heinz’s largest categories.

Merck – Bank of America/Merrill Lynch added the drugmaker’s stock to its “US 1” list, calling it the firm’s top pick in the pharmaceutical sector. Bank of America noted Merck’s position in a variety of cancer-related markets as a primary driver of its view.

Alphabet – Alphabet reported quarterly profit of $12.77 per share, beating the consensus estimate of $10.82 a share. The Google parent’s revenue also beat forecasts, however investors appear concerns about a sharp increase in Alphabet’s spending, with investments in data centers and cloud computing personnel.

Gilead Sciences – Gilead came in 26 cents shy of consensus forecasts, with adjusted quarterly profit of $1.44 per share. The drugmaker’s revenue beat forecasts, but it saw sales of its hepatitis C treatments continue to decline.

Seagate Technology – Seagate earned an adjusted $1.41 per share for its latest quarter, 14 cents a share above estimates. The disk drive maker’s revenue was in line with Wall Street forecasts. Seagate said it was dealing with a challenging demand environment.

Johnson & Johnson – J&J is in talks to settle most individual lawsuits involving its DePuy unit’s Pinnacle hip implants, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs. Attorney Mark Lanier said the parties are close to a deal regarding suits that allege the implants were defective and caused injuries.

General Electric – GE said it would complete the merger of its transportation business with rail equipment manufacturer Wabtec by February 25.

T-Mobile US – T-Mobile told the Federal Communications Commission it would freeze most prices for three years if it gets approval for its proposed $26 billion buyout of wireless rival Sprint.

Apple – Apple has reached a deal with France to pay an undisclosed amount of back taxes, according to the company’s French division. French media are reporting the sum at approximately $571 million.

BP – The energy giant’s annual profit doubled in 2018 to $12.7 billion, driven by a significant increase in oil and gas output.

Booking Holdings – Deutsche Bank upgraded the online travel services company to “buy” from “hold,” saying it sees acceleration in hotel room night bookings for 2019 among other positive factors.

Box – Goldman Sachs initiated coverage on the stock with a “buy” rating, calling it one of the best-positioned vendors in cloud content management.