Credence Systems barely misses 3Q estimates

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Credence Systems missed analysts' estimates by a penny a share in its third quarter Thursday, earning $41 million, or 74 cents a share, on sales of $204 million.

First Call Corp. consensus expected the maker of automatic test equipment for the semiconductor industry to earn 75 cents a share in the quarter.

Excluding charges to account for acquired in-process R&D and related taxes, Credence reported a profit of $49.3 million, or 89 cents per share.

A Credence spokeswoman said analysts' earnings estimates did not include the in-process R&D expenses. However, immediately following the release of quarterly results, First Call reported 74 cents as the earnings figure comparable to the consensus forecast.

Credence Systems (Nasdaq: CMOS) shares closed off 1 1/16 to 39 1/4 ahead of the earnings report.

The $204 million in sales marks a 289 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it earned $2.9 million, or 6 cents a share, on sales of $52.4 million.

"Our operating performance continued to be strong this quarter with gross margins at 60.4 percent and operating margins before the IPR&D charge of 34.6 percent," said CEO Dennis Wolf in a prepared release. "The adjusted operating margin was the highest in our history as we recorded more income in this third fiscal quarter of 2000 than in any full year in our history."

Last quarter, Credence Systems earned $33.5 million, or 63 cents a share, on sales of $153.8 million.

Credence shares rallied up to a 52-week high of 79 3/8 in May after falling to a low of 18 1/2 last August.

All 12 analysts following the stock rate it either a "buy" or "strong buy."

First Call Corp. consensus expects it to return a profit of $2.59 a share in the fiscal year.

-- Sergio G. Non contributed to this report.