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PRI to fall short of 4Q forecasts

Don't expect much of a profit from PRI Automation (Nasdaq: PRIA) in the fourth quarter.

After market close Monday, the maker of automation systems and software for chip manufacturing warned it would miss analyst forecasts by a wide margin in the fiscal fourth quarter. The company sees earnings slightly above breakeven for the three-month period ending Sept. 30.

First Call's survey of 13 analysts predicted a profit of 52 cents per share.

Shares of PRI plummeted to 30.5 in afterhours activity on the Island electronic communications network, following the profit warning. PRI stock closed Monday's regular trading at 42 11/16, down 15/16 for the session.

PRI forecast revenues of about $84 million for the September quarter. The company blamed the shortfall on its inability to produce the latest TurboStocker product, which stores and retrieves chip wafer carriers. TurboStocker was supposed to reach high volume production in the fourth quarter.

"We have identified the areas that need to be fixed and have established the teams to implement the changes and accomplish the turnaround," said Mitch Tyson, president and CEO.

Corporate Vice President Edward Wagner will work in the Factory Systems Division to fix that unit's problems, said PRI said. Tyson credited Wagner with boosting profitability and sales in PRI's OEM Systems unit.

Demand for PRI's systems remains strong, Tyson said. The company expects revenue growth of 40 percent in fiscal 2001.

PRI is the second chip capital equipment maker in less than a week to warn of disappointing quarterly results. SpeedFam-IPEC (Nasdaq: SFAM) on Thursday said it would miss analyst estimates.

Like PRI, SpeedFam-IPEC cited company-specific issues rather than market conditions.>

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