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Agilent Technologies leaps past 1Q forecasts

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) easily hurdled analysts' estimates in its first quarter Thursday, raking in $131 million, or 28 cents a share, on sales of $2.2 billion.

First Call consensus expected Agilent to earn 22 cents a share in the quarter.

Its shares closed up 1 5/8 to 82 5/8 ahead of the earnings report.

"Our results show that our people did a very good job focusing on markets and customers while continuing to make the transition to a fully independent company," said CEO Edward Barnholt in a prepared release. "We're very pleased with this quarter's substantial achievements."

The $2.2 billion in sales marks a 26 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it earned $74 million, or 19 cents a share, on sales of $1.8 billion.

More impressive, Agilent officials said it now expects total sales growth of around 20 percent in fiscal 2000. It had expected sales to grow 13 percent to around $9.4 billion but it now predicts fiscal 2000 sales of around $10 billion.

Since spinning off from Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HWP) in November, Agilent shares have rallied from a low of 39 13/16 in November to a high of 83 earlier this month.

On Wednesday, Hewlett-Packard beat Street estimates, earning $794 million, or 80 cents a share, on sales of $11.6 billion.

In the first quarter, Agilent recorded $2.7 billion in orders, up 36 percent from the year-ago quarter. Orders from U.S. customers accounted for $1.1 billion, up 25 percent from the same period last year. European orders jumped 21 percent to $617 million and orders from the Asia Pacific and Latin America regions improved 57 percent and 73 percent, respectively.

Last quarter, Agilent pocketed $149 million, or 39 cents a share, on sales of $2.4 billion.

Nine of the 10 analysts tracking Agilent shares maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

First Call consensus expects Agilent to earn $1.11 a share in the fiscal year.