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Although Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) has trailed its peers amid rising crude-oil prices, some pros say it's the play for the long run.

It has bright prospects in Libya, Russia, and West Africa; it is bound to get bigger in refining, where capacity is tight and demand strong; and it is attractive as a buyout target for ChevronTexaco (NYSE:CVX) or France's Total (NYSE:TOT). Marathon would "fit like a glove" with ChevronTexaco, says Lyon. And Total, he adds, would profit from Marathon's refining capacity. Lyon, whose 12-month target for the stock is 50, figures Marathon would be worth more than 50 in a buyout.

He reckons Marathon's oil reserves nearly doubled in 2004 and should rise substantially again in 2005. Lyon sees Marathon earning $4 a share in 2005, vs. an estimated $3.26 in 2004, and he believes the Ashland deal is favorable for the long term.
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