NEW YORK (AP) ¿ Shares of telecommunications equipment maker Neutral Tandem Inc. rose Wednesday as an analyst upgraded the stock, saying he expects strong growth in the next couple of years and a recent sell-off makes the shares attractive. R.W. Baird analyst William Power said in a note to investors that the company, which provides services that connect phone networks between providers, will have 36.1 percent revenue growth in 2009, while earnings per share will grow 58.3 percent. Growing numbers of wireless subscribers and continuing strength in the company's older markets bode well for the future, Power said. He estimates earnings per share of $1.14 in 2009, growing to $1.40 in 2010. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, on average, expect profit of $1.16 per share and $1.43 for those years, respectively. Power upgraded his rating on the stock to "Outperform" from "Neutral" and raised his target price by $5 to $33. Neutral Tandem shares, which hit a 12-month high of $32.57 earlier this month and have since lost a quarter of their value, rose $2.12, or 8.7 percent, to $26.39 in afternoon trading Wednesday.
Power said that the recent sell-off in Neutral Tandem's shares was overdone. Concerns about a rumored joint venture between telecommunications company Sprint Nextel Corp. and Neutral Tandem's competitor Level 3 Communications Inc. are "misplaced," Power said, and recent stock selling by company executives is a "continuation of long-running trends." In the past, Level 3 and Neutral Tandem were involved in a regulatory dispute having to do with the extent to which the two companies would be interconnected. The issue was settled in June 2008, according to the company's annual report. Sprint is Neutral Tandem's biggest customer, said company spokesman Gerard Laurain.