As former Internet highfliers feel the pain of the stock market shakeout, a number of companies have taken to stressing that their business extends beyond the dot-com umbrella.

Investment information provider


was therefore only too happy to have

Merrill Lynch

transfer coverage of the company from its Internet analysts to a specialty finance analyst. The company remains classified under the heading "Internet/e-Commerce" in Tuesday's note.

Merrill analyst Michael Hughes, whose universe includes companies such as

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report




, took over coverage of while maintaining intermediate-term accumulate and long-term buy ratings.

"We're really excited to be covered by Michael Hughes," says a spokeswoman. "He's a very well known and well respected analyst." (Multex says there is no underwriting relationship with Merrill Lynch.) Multex was lately rising 13 cents to $15.19.

To be sure, a look at the manner in which coverage of is meted out at various investment firms turns up a broad range of classifications. Multex is covered by

Dain Rauscher Wessels'

community bank analyst and by a

J.P. Morgan Chase

analyst who largely covers online brokers such as


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"We are a global provider of financial services," says the spokeswoman, adding that the business is hard to define and has thus been covered by "specific investment" analysts. Still, she says, the company wants to emphasize that it serves what she calls the financial services industry. Michael Hughes has "really gotten to know the company," she says.

Despite the lukewarm "accumulate" rating, Hughes called the company's application solution provider business "thriving," and notes that it benefits from the "lethargy and distractions of its closest competitor, the giant

Thomson Financial

." The 12- to 18-month price target on the stock is $23, or 28 times the 2002 EPS estimate of 82 cents. Hughes notes operating margins swung from minus 5% in 2000 to 15% in 2001.

That trading range is quite a change compared with just about a year ago, when a dot-com label still packed a punch for a stock's price. In

early April 2000, Multex was trading at about $28, with the same rating it currently has, and Merrill's previous analyst, Kirsten Campbell, had slapped a 12- to 18-month price target of $50 on the stock. Also covering the stock before today was Henry Blodget, the high-profile analyst who will be forever linked to the dot-com craze. In December 1998, Blodget --then at

CIBC World Markets

-- put a $400 price target ($66, adjusted for splits) on Internet retailer

(AMZN) - Get Report

. After splitting 3 for 1 in early 1999 and later on a 2-for-1 basis, the stock currently trades around $11.