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Salomon Raises Aetna to Outperform

Salomon Smith Barney raised its rating on Aetna (AET) to outperform from neutral, citing a review of the company's fourth quarter results and 2002 outlook. Analyst James Lane says the most important metric to monitor is Health Risk operating earnings before investment income. He sees a 2002 loss of $339 million loss and 2003 loss of $160 million. He thinks Aetna will be roughly breakeven in Health Risk before investment income by end of 2004.

He views 2003 and 2004 projections as modestly conservative. He is raising his 2002 GAAP earnings per share estimate to $0.58 from $0.20 and his 2003 estimate to $1.73 from $1.28. He is also raising his price target to $40 from $29.

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