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Investment firm Morgan Keegan & Co. lowered its earnings per share estimates for Monaco Coach Corp. for 2000 and 2001, but it continues to recommend that investors buy Monaco stock.

Morgan Keegan now believes Monaco will earn $2.47 a share this year and $2.78 a share in 2001.

Earlier, Morgan Keegan estimated Monaco would earn $2.55 this year and $2.87 next year.

“These lower estimates reflect industry-wide weakness in wholesale shipments of motorhomes,” said David Tannehill, the Morgan Keegan analyst who follows the RV industry. “Dealers are still working their inventory levels to lower levels due to higher interest rates. We believe this could continue for several months. The weakness in shipments appears to only be at the wholesale level, due to dealer margins, rather than at the retail level.

“Although shipments are still weak, Monaco reported very solid unit sales during the second quarter due to increased market share in each of its product segments and continued to steal market share from its competitors in both its motorized and towable products,” Tannehill continued. “The retail demand for Monaco’s product still appears to be strong and reception to the company’s 2001 models has been robust.

“Furthermore, high-end motorhomes appear to be selling the best at the retail level and this is Monaco’s focus,” he added.

Monaco sold a combined 245 Monaco and Holiday Rambler units in Maine earlier this month, said Monaco spokesman Mike Duncan. The sales occurred during the Family Motor Coach Association’s Summer Rally in Brunswick, Maine, and at Monaco’s “pre-rally” immediately prior to the FMCA event.