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SpeedFam-IPEC sees 1Q shortfall

SpeedFam-IPEC (Nasdaq: SFAM) sees first quarter results far below what analysts predicted.

After market close Thursday, the maker of equipment for manufacturing chips, chip wafers and disk media said it expects to report a fiscal first quarter operating loss ranging between $7 million and $8 million, or 23 to 27 cents per share. First Call's survey of 5 analysts predicted a profit of 12 cents per share for the quarter ended Sept. 2.

Shares of SpeedFam-IPEC traded at 9 3/4 in afterhours activity on the Island electronic communications network, immediately following the earnings warning. SpeedFam-IPEC stock fell 3/8 to 16 1/16 in Thursday's regular session, prior to the announcement.

Operating loss does not include a non-recurring charge related to Asian sales and service operations transferred to SpeedFAM-IPEC from a joint venture with Obara Corp. Including special charges, SpeedFam-IPEC expects to report a first quarter loss ranging between $17 million and $28 million, or 57 cents to 94 cents per share.

First quarter sales were about $75 million, SpeedFam-IPEC estimates. The company blamed the quarterly disappointment on a delay in shipping tools, as two customers ordered changes to incorporate technology related to SpeedFam-IPEC's new Momentum product.

Greater-than-expected demand for Momentum will delay other orders until the product reaches production volumes, said Richard J. Faubert, president and CEO. SpeedFam-IPEC now expects fiscal 2001 revenue growth of roughly 40 percent, lower than previously analysts predicted. The company expects to increase its market share.

"These revisions are due to the challenges in transitioning the product mix to Momentum and are not reflective of any current or new trends in the industry," Faubert said.

Momentum should start shipping in volume closer to the end of fiscal 2001, Faubert said.

The "chemical mechanical planarization" process enabled by Momentum involves polishing chip wafers to make them as flat as possible. SpeedFam-IPEC's main focus is CMP systems.>