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Surprise! UBS lowers Internet ad spending estimates

Latest analyst ad-spending cut suggests that Internet advertising could grow only 10 percent in 2009, but that's one of the more optimistic outlooks right now.

Investment bank UBS has cut its estimates on digital-ad growth, in conjunction with gloominess about the overall advertising industry. The sector will continue to grow, a report said, but it will slow down significantly.

"UBS estimates that Internet will remain the only segment with positive growth until 2010," a release from the company read, "though the growth rate could drop as low as 10.4 percent in 2009." That's still optimistic compared with some folks in the industry, like Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, who released his own predictions this week that Internet advertising will see a 40 percent drop before the worst of the recession is over.

The bank's estimate for 2008 digital-ad growth has been lowered from 22.1 percent to 21.7 percent.

Some other tidbits from the UBS report: It's optimistic about the fate of Yahoo, despite its stock's sink into the $9 range, because of the likelihood of a merger with AOL or another chance at an acquisition by Microsoft. The bank also gave a thumbs-up to Google, which "has significantly decreased hiring and delayed the implementation of its 'server farm' in Oklahoma until 2010."

UBS is more bearish on eBay, which it says "remains a company in an identity crisis" as it vacillates between a focus on auctions and fixed-price commerce.