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EMC confident with 2001 sales target

    NEW YORK -- Michael Ruettgers insists his company is healthy enough to remain comfortable with its previously-stated rosy projections, and on Tuesday he decided to protect himself from market ailments.

    "I hope none of you will infect me," Ruettgers told an audience at his keynote speech for this week's Needham Growth Conference.

    The CEO of storage network equipment vendor EMC (NYSE: EMC) donned medical gloves and a surgeon's mask to make his point: EMC would not be affected by "sick" people thinking more positively about the market.

    People were "vomiting all over their their portfolios" at the last investment conference EMC attended, Ruettgers joked. But he was serious on Tuesday when he reiterated EMC's earlier forecast for revenue of $12 billion in 2001.

    EMC observers recently questioned the company's ability to meet its target. The stock has been hurt by downgrades as analysts have assumed a slowdown in IT spending will affect even companies with strong fundamentals.

    However, shares of EMC closed up 2.25 to 63.8 after Ruettgers spoke at the Needham & Co. conference.

    Ruettgers maintained that his "non-consensus view" for strong growth is accurate. He reminded audiences that back in 1997, the company's target of $10 billion in revenue for this coming year was unbelievable. Now the company is on target for $12 billion, he said.

    EMC sees no slowdown in information growth, and remains bullish on its ability to grab market share going forward, Ruettgers said.

    Many of the company's opportunities are overseas, Ruettgers said, adding that while 62 percent of IT spending occurs outside the United States, 60 percent of EMC's current business is domestic.

    Ruettgers shrugged off questions about competitive threats from Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW), Veritas (Nasdaq: VRTS) and Network Appliances (Nasdaq: NTAP). "As we have been successful in the high end, so we'll be fine in the mid-level," he said of Network Appliances. Veritas "essentially sells tools," he said. "It's like building a kit car. ... Our customers would just as soon buy the whole Mercedes."

    Ruettgers also said his company won't see the kind of troubles with receivables that others have from their ailing Internet clients. "Our philosophy is 'We sell, you give us cash on delivery.'"