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J.P. Morgan Lowers Pepsi Bottling to 'Neutral'

J.P. Morgan downgraded Pepsi Bottling Group (PBG) to neutral from overweight.

On Wednesday the company forecast third-quarter earnings per share at the low end of the 66 cents to 70 cents guidance. Analyst John Faucher says Pepsi Bottling is unlikely to outperform the group over the next six months given the bleak outlook for the North America carbonated soft drink business, competitive conditions in Mexico, and a lack of near-term catalysts. He says difficulties in Mexico may be the tip of the iceberg; he notes the emergence of new b-brands, and strong competition from Coke's Coca-Cola Femsa Bottler.

He cut the $1.62 2003 earnings per share estimate to $1.56 on lower-than-expected accretion contribution from the Gemex acquisition. He also cut the $1.80 2004 earnings per share estimate to $1.72.

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