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Stifel Nicolaus Downgrades Cablevision Systems

Cablevision Systems (CVC) reported a fourth-quarter loss of 69 cents per share. Stifel Nicolaus cut its rating on the stock to market perform from market outperform.

Analyst Ted Henderson says Cablevision's fourth-quarter and 2003 results were in line with his estimates, with the exception of telecom (cable segment) operating cash flow. The downgrade is based on Cablevision shares nearing his $28 price target, Voom, and management, he says. He notes that the most troubling item is the reinstatement of bonuses in the fourth quarter, which drove down margins and caused the operating income miss. Henderson questions whether reinstating bonuses is the most effective use of funds.

The analyst also notes that the fourth quarter was impacted by $54.9 million in expense related to its Voom unit, which has yielded only 1,600 non-paying subscribers. He believes the Dolans stand to benefit much more than other common shareholders in a takeout.

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