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AST reports losses, layoffs

AST Research will eliminate 25 percent of its work force after reporting a quarterly loss more than three times greater than expected.

AST Research (ASTA) will eliminate 25 percent of its work force after reporting a loss more than three times greater than expected.

The computer maker reported a net loss of $110 million, $1.90 per share, compared to a loss of $115.8 million, or $2.59 per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Wall Street analysts had expected AST to report a loss of 55 cents a share, according to First Call.

Revenue for the quarter was $347 million, compared to $530 million for the same quarter a year earlier.

In response to these financial results, AST announced plans to cut approximately 25 percent of its 4,100 jobs worldwide. AST's workforce in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific regions will be affected.

The layoffs will result in a charge of approximately $12 million which will be accounted for in the June quarter.

But Wall Street will ignore those one-time charges, said Ian Gilson, an analyst with Van Kasper & Company. "Those charges would be viewed in a positive way because it is AST's attempt to get rid of expenses."

AST said reducing its global workforce will lower operating costs and will further advance the goal of returning to profitability.

The company previously announced that net sales and operating losses for the first quarter would be hurt by lower demand, a competitive pricing environment, and "product transition" for its commercial desktop and notebook product lines.

The company also said that customer uncertainty surrounding a merger proposal with Samsung Electronics contributed to losses.

But Gilson said the possible merger, announced early in the quarter, would have the opposite effect. "The acquisition gives continuity," he said . And instead of focusing on AST's negative cash flow, investors would focus on the possibility of a stable company gaining control of a financially unstable PC maker, he said.

Last week, the companies signed a definitive merger agreement in which Samsung will acquire all outstanding shares not currently owned by Samsung or its affiliates for $5.40 per share, in cash.