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Prudential downgraded

FleetBoston Financial


to sell Monday, saying that the company is now less likely to be an acquisition candidate, but analyst Michael Mayo raised his 2003 estimates on the bank.

Fleet's name has surfaced regularly over the years as a possible takeover target anytime discussions of consolidation in the financial services sector start, but all past speculation has been just that.

"Would-be acquirers seem less motivated to pay big premiums and


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, in particular, seems preoccupied," Mayo wrote in a research note. Further, he said Fleet itself doesn't seem that interested in pursuing a merger after working out some internal issues.

At the same time, Fleet's earnings and organic revenue of late have been disappointing, Mayo said, which contributed to the new rating. He previously had a hold rating on Fleet.

Mayo expects venture capital gains to boost the company's 2003 earnings, and he raised his estimate to $2.35 a share from $2.30. However, he cut his 2004 estimate to $2.55 a share from $2.60. On average, analysts are looking for a profit of $2.37 a share in 2003 and $2.70 a share in 2004.

Shares of Fleet were falling 68 cents, or 2.3%, to $29.25 on the

New York Stock Exchange