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Salomon Smith Barney Cuts Oxford Health Rating

Oxford Health (OHP) posted fourth-quarter earnings per share of 84 cents (97 cents based on run rate). Salomon Smith Barney downgraded its investment rating on the shares to in-line from outperform.

Analyst Charles Boorady says that while Oxford fourth quarter run rate EPS was 3 cents ahead of the Wall Street consensus estimate, earnings quality was weak. He cites the following factors: an 8-day drop in claims payable equates to 58 cents per share of the total; investment income contributed $9 million more to pre-tax earnings, or 6 cents per share; revenues were 1% below his estimate, down 1% sequentially; and the medical loss ratio of 80.2% deteriorated 179 basis points, year over year, and 168 basis points sequentially, which was 162 worse than his estimate. Boorady cut his $4.10 2003 earnings per share estimate to $4.00 and his $4.55 forecast for 2004 to $4.40.

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