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Ingram Micro tops estimates, cuts near-term forecast

    Ingram Micro (NYSE: IM) topped the consensus forecast by a penny in the fourth quarter and severely cut first-quarter earnings expectations.

    After market close Wednesday, the technology distributor reported fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $57.9 million, or 39 cents per share. Ten analysts surveyed by earnings tracking firm First Call produced a consensus forecast of 38 cents per share for Ingram Micro's quarter ended Dec. 30.

    The widely reported slowdown in the U.S. technology market will hurt the company's results in the first quarter. Ingram Micro now sees earnings of $22 million to $27 million, or 15 cents to 18 cents per share. First Call consensus predicted a profit of 32 cents per share for Ingram's quarter ending in March.

    "Our emphasis is on driving improvements in our operating efficiencies and, at the same time, maintaining the significant progress we achieved to increase gross margins in 2000," said Kent B. Foster, chairman and CEO. "We will also continue to explore the right profitable growth options."

    Fourth-quarter sales of $8.07 billion represented a year-over-year gain of 3 percent, or 8 percent if the effects of the weak Euro are discounted. U.S. sales rose 7 percent year-over-year to $4.66 billion. European sales fell 10 percent year-over-year to $2.11 billion, but would have gained 5 percent if not for currency weakness. Sales outside the United States and Europe gained 15 percent to $1.29 billion.

    Ingram Micro fell 40 cents to $13.80 in Wednesday's regular trading ahead of the news.

    Details to follow.>