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Natural MicroSystems plunges on guidance, downgrades

    Shares of Natural MicroSystems (Nasdaq: NMSS) dropped over 50 percent Tuesday after lowering fourth quarter sales and earnings numbers, and getting a thumbs down from analysts.

    The maker of hardware and software products saw its stock drop 55 percent, off 10.43 to 8.31.

    After market close yesterday, the company said that its fourth quarter sales and earnings will miss analysts' estimates, due a slowdown in telecom spending and the deferment of other orders into fiscal 2001.

    Natural MicroSystems now expects sales to be flat with the third quarter, coming in around $40 million. Earnings for the period are forecast to be between 6 cents to 8 cents a share, well below the First Call Corp. consensus estimate of 12 cents a share.

    The company also lowered its sales growth estimates for fiscal 2001 from a prior figure of 60 to 70 percent to a more conservative figure of between 40 and 50 percent.

    The news was greeted by downgrades from CE Unterberg Towbin and Ladenburg Thalmann & Co.

    Analyst Herbert L. Tinger at CE Unterberg Towbin cut the stock from a "strong buy" rating to "neutral." Earnings estimates were slashed from 76 to 43 cents a share for fiscal 2001, and from $1.08 to 80 cents for fiscal 2002.

    At Ladenburg Thalmann & Co, the stock was downgraded to "near-term hold" from near-term "strong buy" by analyst Donald H Newman. The long-term rating was also cut to "buy" from "strong buy".