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Juniper meets estimates, lowers 2001 targets

The network equipment maker matches analysts' estimates, pulling in $85.4 million, or 25 cents per share, but an economic slowdown could cut future results, the company says.

Juniper Networks matched analysts' estimates for its first quarter Thursday, pulling in $85.4 million, or 25 cents per share. But an economic slowdown could cut future results, the company warned.

And though Juniper's CEO offered a bullish assessment of the company's future, the chief financial officer said he couldn't give much of an outlook given the current economic climate.

Juniper's revenue for the quarter was $332.1 million, up from $63.9 million in the year-ago quarter, and slightly lower than the $336.5 expected by analysts. According to First Call, Wall Street was looking for the company to report a profit of 25 cents per share.

Net income, including amortization of goodwill and other charges, was $58.6 million, or 17 cents per share.

Juniper, whose main competitor is Cisco Systems, makes routers used by service providers to send data over the Internet at high speeds. The network equipment market, like other areas of the technology sector, has suffered as customers have cut back on capital expenditures.

Juniper's competitors including Foundry Networks, and customers including Ericsson, have reported sluggish sales. So today's news seemed to be a big plus for the company. Shares were up $2.39, or 5.6 percent, to $45.15 in premarket trading on the Island ECN. Shares closed up about 18 percent.

Chief Financial Officer Marcel Gani said that the company's book-to-bill ratio, which compares orders in with products shipped, was below 1, indicating a slowdown in sales. Looking ahead, Gani said he expects second-quarter earnings of 25 cents per share on similar revenue. First Call consensus is for a 26 cents per share profit.

As for the rest of the year, Gani said the company is looking for year-over-year revenue growth of 85 percent to 100 percent from a year ago, or between $1.25 billion and $1.3 billion. Earnings for the year should be between 90 cents and $1, Gani said. That's lower than what analysts are expecting; according to First Call, consensus for the year is for $1.59 billion in revenue and earnings of $1.05 per share.

Still, CEO Scott Kriens was upbeat. He said the company was helped by diversification; Ericsson was the only customer that accounted for more than 10 percent of sales during the quarter. And he discounted assumptions that the slowdown in optical-networking manufacturers could hurt Juniper.

"Think of optics as laying tracks of new railroads. It doesn't take that long to lay a lot of track between major cities or even under oceans," he said. "But as the optical track is being laid, the electronics--which are products being delivered by Juniper and others--come along and deploy the freight cars and ticket booths needed" to make money.

And as for the sluggish economy, Kriens said that regardless of the market's movements, "our business will run successfully either way."

The contest "last year was who could go fastest in a straight line. Now we see who can successfully get through the slalom course," he said.