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Merrill Lynch Lowers Nextel Investment Rating

Merrill Lynch cuts Nextel Communications (NXTL) to neutral near and long term from accumulate.

Analyst Linda Mutschler says that while she thinks the company still has a proprietary service -- it will not likely see a direct competitor to its Direct Connect product until late 2002 (if then) -- she believes longer term strategic issues continue to hang over stock.

She also says there are questions whether company will still have to migrate to a standard platform; whether it can maintain its technology edge and grow out of its niche. Further, she thinks some investors eyeing certain of company's bonds vs. its stock, given that some bonds are now yielding 17% or more. She also sees potential risk from the economic environment.

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