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Local analysts are bullish on Geneva Steel's stock.

The stock entered the market at the end of March at $10 a share. Last week the stock reached a high of $14.75 a share, a gain of almost 50 percent in four months.The stock's price dipped Monday, along with the rest of the market, to $13.25. But Terry Peterson, vice president of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith in Provo, said the stock has still made an excellent gain.

"Merrill Lynch has a very good opinion of the stock," Peterson said. "We feel it could go a lot higher. We like the stock and the prospects for the company over the year."

Paul Mackay, analyst of special situations with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. in New York, also likes Geneva Steel stock.

"I have just issued a report recommending its purchase," Mackay said. "I like the company very much. I think you guys have a winner out there."

Mackay said three elements make the company attractive: Its status as the only integrated steel mill west of the Mississippi, which gives it a marketing advantage in 11 Western states; its access to raw materials; and its excellent labor situation.

Together, these factors make Geneva Steel one of the lowest cost producers of steel in the industry, Mackay said.

He is projecting Geneva stock will earn $3.20 per share this year and next. Once Geneva's modernization program is complete, and provided the steel industry maintains its strength, earnings per share could reach $8.

Merrill Lynch has given Geneva Steel stock its highest rating - No.1 rating on a four-point scale. Ratings are based on projected earnings, the company's market and perceptions of the company's management.

Geneva stock ended the third quarter of its fiscal year with earnings of 87-cents per share, a 25-cent per share gain over the second quarter.

Efficient management of operations, particularly production of plate in the rolling mill, are responsible for the earnings increase, according to Merrill Lynch.

"We stated in our initial opinion that Geneva would upgrade the operation of this mill through its . . . modernization program which is underway, though its benefits to the bottom line won't appear for another few quarters," states a Merrill Lynch report. "We never expected that sheer managerial efficiency would make so rapid and so profitable a difference."

Peterson said Merrill Lynch is telling long-term investors Geneva stock is a "buy." For intermediate-term investors, the company says the stock is above average.

All of which is good news to Geneva Steel officials.

"We are pleased with the growing acceptance of the stock in the public market," said Robert A. Johnson, vice president and general counsel for Geneva. "We're obviously mindful it takes time for institutional investors to become comfortable with a stock . . . to gain confidence in a company."