Women.com, iVillage get thumbs-up from analysts

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A pair of Web sites geared for women received some positive comments from analysts Tuesday as both Women.com Networks (Nasdaq: WOMN) and iVillage Inc. (Nasdaq: IVIL) were started with "buy" recommendations.

Merrill Lynch started iVillage with an intermediate-term "accumulate" rating and a long-term "buy" recommendation.

"We believe iVillage has a real market opportunity, and that a women's portal could develop a very large and loyal user base," Merrill said in a research note. "If the company's marketing campaign works as planned, and over the next 12 months iVillage exceeds our expectations for organic growth in traffic and revenues, we believe the stock will go up."

iVillage shares were up 5/16 to 25 1/4 Tuesday afternoon.

In its latest quarter, iVillage posted a loss of $28.4 million, or $1.12 a share, on sales of $10.7 million.

Merrill expects iVillage to report fourth-quarter sales of about $15 million based on 133 million average monthly page views on the Internet site and revenue per page view. Merrill said iVillage's average monthly page views should start to increase by about 100 million a year.

Women.com Networks, which enjoyed a strong initial public offering in October, was started with a "buy" rating by both Saloman Smith Barney and Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown. Both investment houses served as underwriters of the IPO along with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Women.com shares fell 1/4 to 19 3/4 Tuesday afternoon.

It also debuted its e-commerce site, www.shegetsdressed.com, which helps customers buy a variety of designer clothing brands.

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown set a 12-month price target of $32 a share while Salomon Smith Barney set a target of $35 a share.

Salomon Smith Barney analyst Lanny Baker said the growing number of women going online combined with their substantial purchasing power makes Women.com an attractive investment.

"Looking forward, we believe Women.com will be one of the key players capturing a significant share of this market's audience and ad dollars," Baker said in a research note.