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Merrill Downgrades General Cable Rating

Merrill Lynch downgraded General Cable (BGC) to near term neutral from buy, and keeps long term buy.

Analyst Jerry Labowitz says he's concerned that another recent wave of bad news out of service providers such as BellSouth, SBC Communications and Qwest doesn't bode well for the company's copper telecom cable business (20% of sales, its most profitable). He cut the $1.20 2002 earnings per share estimate to $1.00, and sees $1.00-$1.25 for 2003. Also, Labowitz cut the 17%-18% five-year EPS growth rate to 13%-15% to account for more subdued communications trends that he is modeling. He notes the long term rating is based partly on the company's leading market share in its most important products, as well as recent efforts to re-focus its business.

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