Merrill Keeps Halliburton Rating

Analyst Kevin Simpson doesn't think news of a SEC accounting investigation will materially affect the oil exploration gian

Merrill Lynch keeps near-term neutral and long-term buy on Halliburton (HAL )

Analyst Kevin Simpson says the SEC's move to investigate the company's accounting practices for cost overruns is not surprising amid post-Enron era accounting concerns. He notes Halliburton began recognizing a portion of unapproved claims on lump sum contracts in 1998, altering its more conservative method of waiting for a resolution with its customer. He says customer disputes are not unusual for lump sum engineering and construction contracts, and Halliburton has a solid track record of recovering most, if not all, of disputed items. Simpson sees $0.85 2002 earnings per share, and $1.40 for 2003.

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