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Goldman Ups Protective Life Rating

Goldman Sachs upgraded its investment recommendation on shares of Protective Life (PL) to outperform from in-line.

Analyst Joan Zief says the upgrade follows her reassessment of the company's fundamentals and valuation subsequent to an upbeat analyst conference. Her industry view remains cautious. Zief raised her $2.75 2003 EPS estimate to $2.80, at the high end of the company's guidance; she also raised her $3.02 2004 EPS projection to $3.05. The analyst notes that the company's niche focus and scale in individual life marketplace fits her investment thesis. She says Protective's EPS is less exposed to broader industry issues of equity markets, interest rates, and credit. Zief believes management is being conservative with its guidance, and room exists for upward EPS revisions. She notes the company's capital is not strained.

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