) to $144 from $122, adding that it views the weakness in the managed care company's stock as a buying opportunity. Wellpoint was off 6-3/4 at 100-3/8.
Analyst Peter Costa repeated his buy rating on the stock. He says the company's fundamentals are strong and that it is well positioned. With healthcare prices not rising as fast as commercial premium prices, margins should improve, he says.
With strong performance in the company's California market, Costa expects Wellpoint to beat fourth quarter earnings per share estimates. He sees fourth quarter earnings per share of $1.39 and 2001 EPS of $6.10.