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Merrill Cuts Yahoo! Rating

Merrill Lynch downgraded Yahoo! (YHOO) to near-term neutral from buy; and keeps long-term strong buy.

Analyst Justin Baldauf says Yahoo! delivered only modest a upside to revenue estimates, and increased guidance only slightly excluding the impact of its HotJobs acquisition and the extension of its Overture deal. Moreover, Baldauf says management maintained a cautious stance on the near-term outlook for its core vusiness -- online advertising. At $18, Yahoo! trades at 46 times Baldauf's his $173 million 2003 EBITDA estimate. To sustain this multiple, he thinks significant upside surprises and increases to financial targets will be required. Baldauf seees $0.12 2002 EPS, and $0.17 for 2003.

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