Merrill Lynch upgraded Network Associates (NET ) to buy from sell.
Analyst Ed Maguire says the company underperformed its peers this year, not surprising given the series of EPS disappointments. He notes with the recent surge of interest in the anti-virus sector, he thinks the risk/reward balance has tipped positive. While he's not ready to say that the challenges are behind Network Associates, he believes the likelihood of positive catalysts outweighs the chance of further disappointments. Maguire notes that the fourth-quarter renewal cycle provides an opportunity to boost new product sales.
He thinks the negatives are already priced into the stock. The analyst believes his 55 cents for 2003 and 66 cents for 2004 earnings per share estimates are conservative. He set an $18 price target on the shares.