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Merrill Ups Procter & Gamble to 'Strong Buy'

Merrill Lynch upgraded Procter & Gamble (PG) to near term and long term strong buy from buy.

Analyst Carol Warner Wilke says P&G now has three strong quarters in a row, which gives her even more conviction that strong top and bottom-line results will continue. She notes the company also is outperforming the Dow and S&P indexes.

Warner Wilke says it's clear that P&G's focus on its big brands, innovation and consumer value equation are paying off with more consistent, higher quality results. She also says P&G's core volume growth is gaining momentum and that margin expansion is accelerating.

She raised her $0.73 fourth quarter fiscal 2002 (June) EPS estimate to $0.75; and raised the $3.89 fiscal 2003 estimate to $3.94. She also sees a $108-$114 12-month target range.

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