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Credence tops 4Q estimates but sees slower sales ahead

    Credence Systems slipped past analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter Tuesday, posting a profit of $52.5 million, or 96 cents a share, on sales of $220.2 million.

    First Call Corp. consensus expected it to earn 95 cents a share in the quarter.

    Credence Systems (Nasdaq: CMOS) shares fell $2.25 to $18.50 ahead of the earnings report.

    The $220.2 million in sales marks a 175 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it posted a profit of $8 million, or 18 cents a share, on sales of $80.2 million.

    "We concluded the fiscal year with a record quarter that brought our year-on-year growth to 245 percent," said CEO Graham Siddall in a prepared release.

    For the year, Credence recorded net income of $140.3 million, or $2.65 a share, on sales of $679.7 million compared to a loss of $809,000, or 2 cents a share, on sales of $197.1 million in fiscal 1999.

    Last quarter, it earned $41 million, or 74 cents a share, on sales of $204 million.

    Despite the decent fourth-quarter numbers, Credence officials said sales would slip a bit in the first quarter.

    "In the current uncertain industry environment, there are concerns that some of these orders could be pushed out," Siddall said. "In view of this uncertainty we estimate revenue will be sequentially down in the first quarter of fiscal 2001."

    Its shares have mirrored the rest of the technology sector of late, falling to a 52-week low of $14.75 earlier this month after peaking at $79.38 in April.

    Analysts are expecting a profit of $3.35 in fiscal 2001, though those numbers figure to be lowered following Tuesday's announcement.

    All 12 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.