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Keeping 'Buy' on FleetBoston

FleetBoston Financial (FBF): Maintains 5 STARS (buy)

Analyst: Stephen Biggar

The company is expected to announce Q4 EPS Tuesday after a delay, as it waited for a more complete picture on the Argentina situation. FleetBoston has about $6 billion in loans in Argentina, and the country's near-30% currency devaluation and government's consumer loan bailout plan is impacting FleetBoston's course of action. S&P suspects the special provision of nearly $1 billion is likely, with clarification on what the company's ongoing Argentina strategy will be. S&P believes management's assessment of the negative impact of Argentina on FleetBoston valuation could result in a less visible presence.

New Plan Excel Realty Trust (NXL): Upgrades to 4 STARS (accumulate) from 3 STARS (hold)

Analyst: Raymond Mathis

The acquisition of 92 shopping centers from CenterAmerica Property Trust is likely to be immediately accretive. New Plan says that the spread between average rents and market rents approximates 12% at purchased properties, vs. 5% for the company's present portfolio, creating a long-term growth opportunity. The company also feels that properties, acquired at 91% occupancy, are down from the recent 94% level, and afford possible growth through re-leasing. Acquisitions and dispositions have lowered the company's base rent exposure to KMart to 4.8% from 5.6%.

Phillips Petroleum (P

: Downgrades to 3 STARS (hold) from 4 STARS (accumulate)

Analyst: Tina Vital

The oil refiner posted Q4 EPS of $0.59 vs. $2.72, before special items, $0.08 below Street estimates. Earnings, before special items, from exploration and production fell 67% on lower oil and gas prices; refining and marketing driooed 23%; chemicals lost $17 million vs. a $41 million loss. Barrel of oil equivalent production was flat at 836,000; S&P expects 830,000 BOE in 2002. Capital expenditures for 2001 was at $3.1 billion; S&P expects 2002 at $3.5 billion. S&P sees 2002 EPS at $3.87, and 2003 EPS at $5.33. With shares trading above peers at 15 times S&P's EPS estimate, along with an expected weakened demand for refined products, S&P says hold Phillips.

Washington Post (WPO): Maintains 3 STARS (hold)

Analyst: William Donald

The owner of newspapers and television stations posted $7.40 2001 EPS before $16.66 net onetime gains, vs. $14.32. Total revenue was flat, though the education segment rose 48% and cable added 8%. Newspaper revenues fell 10%, TV fell 15% and Newsweek fell 8%, hurt by soft ad sales. Margins reflected higher costs, including a 33% jump in interest expense. S&P sees roughly flat media revenues in 2002, but continued margin pressures in the first half despite some cost savings. S&P is trimming $1.15 from the 2002 estimate and now sees $8.10. Despite a price-to-earnings ratio of 69 times S&P's 2002 estimate, Washington Post remains an attractive hold for conservative value investors.

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