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Borland lands "buy" rating

Bear Stearns gave the company's stock a "buy" rating and became the first major brokerage to begin covering the development tools maker again after Wall Street had written it off as dead.

    Borland may be working its way back on Wall Street's radar.

    Bear Stearns gave its stock a "buy" rating and became the first major brokerage to begin covering the development tools maker again after Wall Street had written it off as dead.

    "This is not your father's Borland," said analyst David Breiner in a research note. Breiner, who initiated coverage of the stock with a "buy" rating, joined the lone analyst who maintained coverage of the company, Red Chip Review's Erin Daily.

    "Under new leadership, Borland appears well positioned to capitalize on trends moving in its favor," Breiner said. These trends involve a pickup in demand in Java tools market, its application server business and the market for rapid application development (RAD)--development tools that make programming easier. Borland addresses the latter market with its Linux and Web services business.

    The analyst cited Borland's "improving fundamentals" and cheap stock price as the reason for initiating the coverage. Breiner didn't return phone calls for comment.

    The company, founded in 1982, has gone through a series of identity changes. It began as Borland International and changed its name to Inprise. In November 2000, it reclaimed its original moniker, saying the name "Inprise" just didn't resonate with customers, and refocusing around its Web-based application integration software, also known as middleware. As Inprise, the company was almost acquired by Corel.

    The company was a favorite in the '80s and '90s with developers, and its stock was around $90 a share. In contrast, shares rose 22 cents to $13.54 Tuesday.

    Borland's decline came in part from blows from Microsoft. The company controlled 50 percent of the database management software market, which was worth about $600 million in the early 1990s. Microsoft was a rival over the years, but finally got the upper hand when cash-strapped Borland gave the software giant its blueprints for much of its key technology in exchange for $125 million.

    Borland still faces tough competition--with IBM, BEA Systems, Oracle and Microsoft, to name a few.

    However, the company's position in the Java market is a big bonus--and one that makes its current valuation attractive. According to Breiner, the market for Java application server platforms, which Borland has a strong footing in, is expected to reach $5.5 billion by 2003. Borland is an inexpensive way for investors to get into the enterprise Java market, he said.

    The analyst gave Borland's stock a $20 price target, and said he expects the company's recent progress to continue.