UPDATE 1-R.H. Donnelley at lifetime low; Deutsche cuts rating

Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:56pm EST

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Feb 29 (Reuters) - Shares of R.H. Donnelley RHD.N continued their slide for the second consecutive day Friday and hit their lifetime low, a day after the company warned of lower earnings, even as Deutsche Bank downgraded the stock.

The brokerage lowered its rating on the yellow pages publisher's shares to "sell" from "hold" and cut its price target to $5 from $25, citing leverage concerns.

"Things got worse very quickly, and believing in the online offset is harder," analyst Paul Ginocchio wrote in a note to clients.

He said the company believes much of the issues are economic, but 2009 will also be tough as rising broadband and mobile search penetration will make selling print difficult.

"We see limited ability to reduce paper, printing and distribution costs without impacting usage, thus R.H. Donnelley seems to face very difficult decisions ahead," Ginocchio wrote.

The company had dropped its dividend plans and said a key executive was leaving the company.

With the departure of Jake Winebaum, founder of Business.com, so quickly after the portal was acquired by R.H. Donnelley, the company's hopes of offsetting print declines via a combination of media looks less reliable, he said.

The analyst said while there were potentially no near-term triggers to cause financial distress, the deteriorating credit metrics would make investors further question whether there was any value to the equity.

More sales people are needed to stabilize revenue, limiting the company's ability to cut costs, he said.

Shares of R.H. Donnelley's peers Idearc Inc IAR.N and Yell Group YELL.L also took a beating for the second day.

Idearc shares hit their lifetime low at $3.57 in morning trade but recovered partially and were down 19 percent at $4.66 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

R.H. Donnelley shares were trading down 24 percent at $7.14 in afternoon trade. The shares had lost almost 50 percent of their value on Thursday. (Reporting by Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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