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Merrill Hikes Wellpoint Estimates

Wellpoint Health (WLP) raised its EPS guidance for 2002 from $4.00 to $4.30. Merrill Lynch raised its estimates on Wellpoint.

Analyst Roberta Goodman says that in step with the company's guidance she raised her $4.00 2002 EPS estimate to $4.30, her $4.60 2003 forecast to $4.95, and her $87 12-month price target to $100, or roughly 20 times her 2003 EPS estimate. Regarding her new target, she notes this multiple surpasses the company's historical range, but reflects Wellpoint's consistently strong earnings performance and its continued momentum. She believes the company's strong performance -- even during periods when other managed care outfits have faltered -- reflects product breadth and strength and its extensive networks, among other factors. She maintains her near- and long-term strong buy ratings.

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