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BoA Cuts Darden Restaurants to 'Market Perform'

Banc of America downgraded Darden Restaurants (DRI) to market perform from buy.

Analyst Andrew Barish says October same-store sales were below estimates. He says Red Lobster's promotion was less effective than usual; also, year-ago sales strength tied to "Dine Out for America" held back results by about 100 basis points.

Barish notes the company sees $0.21-$0.22 second quarter earnings per share, and still thinks it can achieve 3%-5% growth in comparable sales at both Red Lobster and Olive Garden for fiscal 2003 (May).

Due to the October shortfall, however, he takes a more cautious view of the comany's outlook. He cut the $0.24 second quarter earnings per share estimate to $0.22. Barish forecasts $1.47 for fiscal 2003, and $1.68 for fiscal 2004.

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