LAS VEGAS (AP) ¿ Shares of Allegiant Travel Co. fell Wednesday after the airline and travel operator was downgraded by Raymond James, which said the company is facing new competition.

Allegiant shares fell $1.12, or 2.5 percent, to $44.34 in afternoon trading after sinking as low as $40.53 earlier in the day. The shares have ranged from $15.89 to $49.06 in the past year.

Raymond James analyst Duane Pfennigwerth cut Allegiant to "market perform" from "outperform" even while raising his forecast for first-quarter earnings, saying that the Las Vegas-based company was "no longer flying under the radar."

Allegiant flies vacationers from smaller cities to resort destinations such as Las Vegas and Florida.

"Allegiant has enjoyed a lack of direct competition in the small markets it serves," Pfennigwerth said in a note to clients. "This, in turn, has supported pricing power for Allegiant."

But, Pfennigwerth said, Allegiant's profit margins will draw competitors to those markets. He cited AirTran Airways' decision to serve Knoxville, Tenn., and Asheville, N.C., from Orlando, Fla., and Alaska Air's entry into the Bellingham, Wash., market as examples.

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