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Ciena bullish for 2001 following healthy fourth quarter

The maker of fiber-optic gear says that in its fourth quarter it earned $41.3 million, or 14 cents a share, excluding one-time items, on sales of $287.6 million.

Fiber-optic gear maker Ciena said Thursday that it topped earnings estimates in its fourth quarter and that it is raising its targets for 2001.

The Linthicum, Md.-based company said that in its fourth quarter it had earnings of $41.3 million, or 14 cents a share, excluding one-time items, on sales of $287.6 million.

Earnings-tracking firm First Call/Thomson Financial had projected a profit of 12 cents a share. Analysts expected sales to be about $277 million for the quarter, which ended Oct. 31.

Revenue growth for the quarter was up 23 percent sequentially, indicating that the company has been gaining on rivals such as Nortel Networks. In research notes, many analysts had said that Ciena appeared to be making gains.

The company said its fourth-quarter earnings exclude provisions for doubtful accounts and payroll taxes on stock options. Ciena's provisions for doubtful accounts--customers that can't pay up--rose to $19.2 million in the fourth quarter. A year ago, Ciena set aside $250,000.

Ciena was also upbeat on its outlook and said it should be able to grow faster than the market. On a conference call with analysts, CEO Patrick Nettles guided 2001 revenue projections higher. The company expects revenue growth of 75 percent to 85 percent for 2001.

For the first quarter, Nettles said current First Call earnings estimates of 14 cents a share should be a penny higher. For 2001, Nettles said analysts should raise earnings estimates of 63 cents a share by about 4 cents to 7 cents a share.

Overall, Ciena had a strong quarter. The company cited robust growth for its optical-switching and metropolitan optical-networking products and long-haul transport systems. Ciena also diversified its customer base, adding four customers in the quarter. Ciena has 42 optical-networking equipment customers, 27 of whom contributed to revenue this quarter.