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Bear Stearns Downgrades Aztar

Bear Stearns downgrades resort- and casino-operator Aztar Corp. (AZR) to underperform.

Analyst Joseph Greff downgrades from peer perform following sloppy fourth-quarter results and conference call.

He says his downgrade is based on: expectations of slower ramp up at expanded Atlantic City property, longer timeline in redeveloping its 34-acre Las Vegas Strip property, and new willingness to be acquisitive, vs. being a seller.

While Greff believes there is value in its Las Vegas real estate, he thinks all of above mentioned points will cause Aztar's shares to underperform a peer group that has relatively strong fundamentals.

He cuts his $1.96 2005 earnings per share estimate to $1.61 and $2.14 2006 earnings per share to $1.78.

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