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In a strange occurrence on the Nasdaq market last week, shares in Compuserve Inc gained about $0.50 after the troubled ISP reported heavy losses for the fourth-quarter and year and consequently had its rating cut by Merrill Lynch and Co. In contrast, Oracle Corp, which made its target, and Adobe Systems Inc which barely fell short, saw their shares tumble. An analyst with Merrill explained the situation by saying that companies are held to vastly different standards, and a company like Oracle is expected to exceed estimates, while a flagging business such as Compuserve may get a pat on the back for merely coming close. Compuserve saw losses of $0.19 and $1.29 per share for the quarter and year, respectively – but net of charges only fell short of estimates by $0.04. More importantly, the analyst says, the fact that Compuserve is still in talks with a prospective buyer should protect its share price from any significant erosion, while at the same time admitting that there is nothing good at all to be seen in the long term.

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