"Aggressive Buy"-Rated Wild Oats' Shares Up Almost 5 Percent

Boulder, Colo. -- Shares of Wild Oats Markets Inc. shot up 4.7 percent yesterday after an analyst boosted his investment rating on expectations that the natural and organic foods retailer will return a profit in 2005, according to published reports.

Wild Oats shares climbed as much as 7 percent in the opening minutes of trading, and were up 32 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $8.77 around midday on the Nasdaq. The stock's closing price was $8.45.

The analyst, Chuck Cerankosky, of KeyBanc Capital Markets, previously estimated that Wild Oats would break even in 2005, but now sees earnings of 9 cents per share on sales growth of 10 percent. For stores open at least a year, the analyst estimates sales increasing 3 percent to 5 percent.

Analysts currently predict a profit of 3 cents per share and $1.14 billion in sales, according to a Thomson First Call survey.

Wild Oats, which operates 108 stores nationwide, struggled throughout 2004, when the effects of a California labor strike and reorganization moves saddled its results. For the year, Wild Oats posted a loss of 17 cents per share on $1.84 billion.

Shares plunged 29 percent to $8.87 in early August after the company posted sharply lower second-quarter earnings, and continued falling to a February low of about $6 following quarterly losses in back-to-back periods, the report said.
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