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Downgrades, disappointing earnings bite STAR Telecom

    STAR Telecommunications fell 7/16, or 5 percent, to 8 3/8 Thursday, one day after it missed analysts' estimates in its first quarter. It was also downgraded by a pair of brokerage firms.

    On Wednesday, STAR reported a loss of $7.6 million, or 14 cents a share, on sales of $228.2 million.

    First Call consensus expected the Santa Barbara, Calif. company to earn 2 cents a share in the quarter.

    ING Barings and Bear Stearns both cut the stock Thursday from "buy" recommendations to "hold."

    Company officials blamed the first-quarter loss on merger expenses associated with the acquisition of United Digital Network Inc.

    Still, it did manage to grow its sales by 67 percent compared to the year-ago quarter when it earned $1.3 million, or 3 cents a share, on sales of $137 million.

    STAR Telecommunications shares moved up to a 52-week high of 29 13/16 in June before falling to a low of 7 1/8 in October.

    Ten of the 13 analysts following the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."

    First Call consensus expects it to earn 38 cents a share in the fiscal year.