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Strong sales boost Varian&#039s 4Q results

Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc. (Nasdaq: VSEA) topped analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter Thursday, earning $16.1 million, or 50 cents a share, on sales of $107.5 million.

Excluding a $22 million gain from nonrecurring royalty income and another $2 million in investment gains, Varian earned only 3 cents a share in the quarter.

However, First Call consensus was expecting a loss of 3 cents a share in the quarter.

Excluding the royalty gains, Varian's sales of $85.5 million represents a 105 percent improvement compared to the year-ago quarter when it lost $14.9 million, or 49 cents a share, on sales of $41.8 million.

For the year, Varian lost $13.2 million, or 43 cents a share, on sales of $271.9 million compared to a profit of $11.4 million, or 37 cents a share, on sales of $342.9 million in fiscal 1998.

"We continued to see a significant rise in demand for our ion implantation equipment during the quarter, and our results confirm industry forecasts that suggest continued improvement," said CEO Richard Aurelio in a prepared release. "Market trends, including interest in sub-0.18 micron, 300 millimeter and single-wafer advantages, are favorable for our new products."

Varian shares moved up to a 52-week high of 24 15/16 earlier this week after bottoming out at 8 in April.

Five of the seven analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

First Call consensus expects it to earn 8 cents a share in the first quarter and 71 cents a share in fiscal 2000. >