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Oppenheimer Ups Mattel to Neutral

Oppenheimer upgraded its investment recommendation on shares of Mattel (MAT) to neutral from sell.

Analyst Linda Bolton Weiser says the company's first quarter loss per share of 7 cents (which excludes 15 cents of tax benefits but includes 3 cents of severance expenses) compares with her estimate and the Wall Street consensus of 1 cent EPS. She maintains her low-on-Street $1.11 2006 EPS estimate, but raised her $1.16 2007 EPS forecast to $1.22. She notes even with only modest 2% sales growth projected, she believes Mattel can report 10% EPS growth in 2007, driven by flattening out of gross margin after years of decline, continuing initiatives to modestly reduce SG&A expense, and share repurchases. She says the stock's fair value is $17, warranting a neutral rating.

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