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Merrill Cuts Photronics Rating

Photronics (PLAB) sees $0.01-$0.05 Q3 EPS. Merrill Lynch downgraded the shares to near term accumulate from buy.

Analyst Brett Hodess says Photronics lowered guidance due to the severity of the current downturn and shutdowns at customer sites. He notes that the company has been notified of 40 wafer fab shutdowns taking place before the end of fiscal 2001. Photronics sees Q4 revs down again. Hodess thinks advanced photomask demand will recover sooner than overall semiconductor demand, but the timing of the recovery is difficult to determine. He doesn't expect revenues to increase until Q2 of fiscal 2002. He cut his $0.23 Q3 EPS estimate to $0.01. He also reduced his $1.15 fiscal 2001 (Oct.) EPS estimate to $0.62 and his $1.60 fiscal 2002 forecast to $0.85. He rates the shares long term buy.

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