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Credence Systems sets 2-for-1 stock split

Credence Systems announced a 2-for-1 stock split after the bell Thursday. Its shares closed up 5 1/16 to 136 9/16 ahead of the announcement.

Company officials said the split will take effect May 17 for all shareholders of record on May 1. Credence Systems (Nasdaq: CMOS) has more than 24.8 million shares outstanding.

The maker of automatic test equipment for the semiconductor industry shattered analysts' estimates in its latest quarter, earning $16.9 million, or 71 cents a share, on sales of $101.8 million.

First Call consensus had expected it to earn 52 cents a share.

The upside surprise was largely a profit of soaring gross profit margins, which jumped to 57.7 percent from 42.3 percent in the year-ago quarter.

On Tuesday, ABN AMRO started coverage of the stock with a "buy" recommendation and set a 12-month price target of $160 a share.

"The outsourcing business model, flawless management execution since late 1998, and new product portfolio have propelled CMOS into the No. 2 market share leader in ATE (automated test) for mixed-signal ICs, the fastest growing segment of the semiconductor industry,'' ABN AMRO analysts wrote in a research note.

Credence Systems shares moved up to a 52-week high of 147 5/8 earlier this month after bottoming out at 18 7/8 last March.

Analysts expect the Fremont, Calif. company to earn 86 cents a share in its second quarter and $3.49 a share in the fiscal year.

All 11 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.