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Merrill Ups Microsoft to 'Buy'

Merrill upgraded Microsoft (MSFT) to buy from neutral.

Merrill also added Microsoft its Focus One list. Analyst Jason Maynard says he's upgrading on the potential for earnings per share upside, a possible increase in Microsoft's dividend due to tax changes, and valuation disparity to its peer software group.

Maynard upped the $1.04 fiscal 2004 (June) earnings per share estimate to $1.09, vs. the current guidance of $1.04-$1.06, on the basis of expense management. He's encouraged by higher PC-unit numbers and positive feedback on new server products.

Maynard thinks his fiscal 2004 revenue estimate of $33.3 billion is achievable, and could show upside in the second half of the year. He views Microsoft shares as a lower risk vehicle to a moderately improving spending environment. He set a $30 target.

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