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UBS Warburg Lowers Hartford Financial to 'Hold'

UBS Warburg downgraded Hartford Financial (HIG) to hold from strong buy.

On Tuesday the company cut the 2002 operating earnings per share estimate to $4.55-$4.60, and posted $1.15 third quarter operating earnings per share.

Analyst Michael Lewis says he is downgrading on reduced earnings per share expectations, continuing pressure from weak stock market conditions on the company's performance and lingering rating agency concerns. He also cites the emergence of a potentially serious asbestos liability case (brought by Western Arthur) that he expects will overhang the company for at least next year.

Lewis notes $1.15 third quarter earnings per share topped his $1.13 estimate, but in light of forward guidance, he cut his $4.60 2002 operating earnings per share estiamte to $4.55, and cut the $5.25 2003 estimate to $4.55. He also cut the $70 12-month target to $50.

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