Upgrade perks up Ticketmaster-CitySearch shares

Shares of Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch Inc. (Nasdaq: TMCS) hopped up 3 9/16, or 16 percent, to 25 13/16 Monday after BancBoston Robertson Stephens upgraded the online ticket seller from a "buy" to a "strong buy" recommendation.

Analyst Michael Graham said he expects Ticketmaster to see accelerated revenue and user growth and a stock price high returning to about $80.

"We believe the stock is undervalued, while all signs point towards the company extending its lead as the number one provider of local Web content and services exploiting a $50 billion market," Graham said in a research note. "Although City Guide growth is not as fast as some Web models," CitySearch has just begun to demonstrate the possibilities for increased electronic commerce activities.

Ticketmaster-CitySearch shares hustled up to a 52-week high of 80 1/2 in April before falling to a low of 17 7/8 in October.

Last quarter, Ticketmaster topped Street estimates, losing $31.7 million, or 41 cents a share, on sales of $27.4 million. First Call consensus expected it to lose 49 cents a share.

Also Monday, Ticketmaster launched its Ticketmaster Store, which offers CDs, videos, apparel and sports memorabilia.

"We think that both the Ticketmaster and CitySearch environments are natural places for people to buy CDs and merchandise, and we know that we have a unique opportunity to touch consumers throughout their ticket-buying experience," said Tim Sullivan, Vice President of Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch in a prepared release.

First Call consensus expects Ticketmaster-CitySearch to lose 61 cents a share in its fourth quarter and $1.64 a share in the fiscal year.

Four of the five analysts tracking the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

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