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Merrill Upgrades Lilly to Buy

Merrill Lynch upgraded Eli Lilly (LLY) to buy from neutral.

Analyst David Risinger says the upgrade is based on the company's underappreciated pipeline, and what he believes to be a reasonable valuation. He says Lilly has significant sales growth potential from a relatively low sales base, and no major patent expirations to contend with until 2011. It also has -- by far -- the best sales growth prospects among U.S. major pharmaceuticals.

Risinger notes he shifted to a higher risk rating to highlight that there's no guarantee that the Zyprexa patent will be upheld, and there could be significant downside if it's overturned. He sees $2.85 2004 earnings per share, and $3.31 in 2005. He set a $80 target.

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