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Analyst: Laser Downturn Overblown for Advanced Medical

Advanced Medical Optics Inc. got a boost Friday from a Jefferies & Co. analyst who said that laser vision surgeries using the company’s equipment are holding up in spite of a slow economy.

Analyst Peter Bye said shares of the Santa Ana maker of eye surgery products and contact lens solutions were his top pick in the sector.

Advanced Medical’s shares, Bye said, should rise the rest of the year as the company’s performance improves.

The analyst said he believes that Advanced Medical Optics plans to announce it’s filed for regulatory approval of its Tecnis multifocal lens and will begin displaying a new implantable lens at the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery conference, which starts Friday.

On the laser issue, Bye said he thinks that investors are being unnecessarily cautious about any damage the economic slowdown would do to laser vision correction procedures.

He said he believes that the number of treatments for the first two months of this year has been about the same as 2007.

Advanced Medical made a big push into vision correction surgery gear with last year’s $800 million buy of Irvine’s IntraLase Corp., which makes a laser, software and other products used to create a flap in the eye’s cornea.

The company gets a fee for each procedure done with its machines as well as sales from a disposable kit used in each surgery.

Some analysts, according to Bye, expect a 15% or more decline in laser vision surgeries this year.

He said those concerns were hurting shares of Advanced Medical and a pair of providers, but the real results “will not be as dire.”

The report didn’t have a big impact on investors. Advanced Medical’s shares were flat on Friday with a market value of $1.3 billion.

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