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Raymond James Ups Opinion on Atwood Oceanics

Raymond James raised its investment recommendation on Atwood Oceanics (ATW) to strong buy from outperform, citing the company's announcement Wednesday of a new contract to drill three to five wells off the coast of Bulgaria on behalf of the Bulgarian company Melrose Resources Sarl.

The contract provides for an operating dayrate for all wells drilled of $125,000, which represents almost double the unit's current dayrate. The deal is expected to begin after the conclusion of an existing commitment in the Mediterranean Sea, estimated to last until May 2006.

Given such developments, analyst J. Marshall Adkins said Atwood's valuation is extremely compelling and set a price target at $96 per share.

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