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Merrill Cuts Overture Services Rating


Merrill Lynch cut Overture Services (OVER) to near term and long term buy from strong buy.

Analyst Justin Baldauf says the downgrade follows the unexpected loss of the company's AOL partnership. He views the new $0.53-$0.83 2003 earnings per share forecast as disappointing.

Baldauf says the 2003 forecast assumes a material decline in operating margin; likely due to the potential for an increase in traffic costs. In the mid-$20's, the stock trades at 30 times to 47 times the new 2003 EPS estimate range.

Although he believes Overture remains the leader in the fast-growing paid search market, even after losing AOL, Baldauf doesn't see any potential catalysts in the near term.


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