Thomas Weisel downgraded Express Scripts (ESRX) to peer perform from outperform.
Analyst Steven Halper says the downgrade of this pharmacy-benefits management company is based on valuation relative to peers. He says Express Script trades at 19 times his $3.86 2004 earnings per share estimate, vs. 16 times for AdvancePCS and 19.5 times for Caremark, two rivals with stock prices that garnera premium due to their superior EBITDA per claim, mail penetration, and return-on-invested-capital profile.
Halper says AdvancePCS should have the fastest growing EBITDA per adjusted claim in 2003, and offers greater multiple expansion potential. He cut the $69 target on Express Scripts to $63, and sees $3.19 2003 earnings per share.