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Positive report a relief to Kforce

An analyst's good rating counters recent criticism and sends the Tampa company's beleaguered stock up 31 percent.

By KYLE PARKS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


TAMPA -- The name Goldman, Sachs & Co. carries plenty of weight on Wall Street. Here's evidence: A positive analyst's report from the firm Wednesday lifted struggling Kforce.com Inc.'s stock 31 percent.

A week ago, the Tampa-based staffing company was rocked by a third straight ratings downgrade from an analyst, this one a stinging report that portrayed Kforce's move to the Internet as a poorly planned loser. The stock fell 34 percent.

But on Wednesday, Goldman, Sachs analyst Meg Saegebarth raised her firm's recommendation on Kforce to "recommend list" from "trading buy." Kforce's stock shot up 31 percent, closing at $6.88 a share, up $1.62.

"Any time you do a transformation, there are going to be changes," she said, referring to 150 recent layoffs at the company. "They're cutting costs, they've outsourced their Web development. But I think some of the issues that have been raised will be downright disproven."

Even with the rally, Kforce's stock is trading at about one-third of its January levels of $18, and that played a part in Saegebarth's upgrade. "Some of the issues with the company are already reflected in its price," she said.

The day's events were good news for Kforce, where executives hope the company's second- and third-quarter results will help quiet the skeptics.

"We are focused on long-term, sustainable growth and the earnings potential of the enterprise," said Michael Blackman, vice president of investor relations for the company.

Another beaten-down bay area stock made up some ground Wednesday. Sykes Enterprises Inc., whose stock hit an all-time low of $12.50 Tuesday, rose 14 percent, or $1.75, to $14.25 on speculation the company will consider a stock buyback at its July 6 board meeting.

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