Merrill Raises Ameristar Casinos Estimates

Analyst David Anders says strong consumer leisure spending should drive revenue and earnings for the casino operator

Merrill Lynch raised its estimates on Ameristar Casinos (ASCA ).

Analyst David Anders says Ameristar's preannounced first-quarter earnings per share estimate of 57 cents is significantly above his 42 cents forecast. Accordingly, he raised the 42 cents first-quarter earnings per share estimate to 58 cents, and upped the $2.00 2004 estimate to $2.15.

Anders sees $2.31 2005 earnings per share. He says the motivation for upward earnings per share revision is based on two factors: tax refunds are driving consumer leisure spending; and he sees easy comparisons owing to better weather. He notes for the first two months of the quarter, gaming revenues at the company's St. Louis, Council Bluffs, and Kansas City properties rose an astounding 22%, 16%, and 13%, respectively.

Anders also thinks busines in March continues to be reasonably good. He keeps his neutral rating.

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