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Legg Mason Upgrades to 'Buy'

Legg Mason upgraded (FWHT) to buy from hold.

The Florida-based provider of Internet marketing services will acquire the U.K.'s Espotting to expand its commercial search services business. Analyst Thomas Underwood says the combined company is expected to generate roughly $140 million in revenue in 2003, more than double his estimate for on a stand-alone basis.

He thinks Espotting has an attractive distribution network, including Yahoo U.K. & Ireland, Ask Jeeves, and U.K. Plus. He says Espotting's advertisers also are among the premier European advertisers, including Opodo,, and eBay.

Underwood raised's 47 cents 2003 earnings per share estimate to 53 cents, and upped the 50 cents 2004 estimate to 61 cents (GAAP, fully taxed.) He set a $24 12-month target, based on shares trading at 40 times his 2004 earnings per share estimate.

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