Tech Industry

STOCKS TO WATCH: Altera, Apple, Avant!, Compaq, Redback and Sun

Expect the following technology stocks to be among Thursday's most actively traded issues: Altera, Apple, Avant!, Redback Networks and Sun Microsystems.

  • Altera Corp. (Nasdaq: ALTR)

    The maker of programmable logic devices tiptoed past analysts' estimates in its third quarter Wednesday, earning $55.6 million, or 27 cents a share, on sales of $215 million.

    First Call consensus expected it to earn 26 cents a share in the quarter.

    The $215.1 million in sales, up 9 percent sequentially, represents a 31 percent improvement versus the year-ago quarter.

    New product revenues gained 37 percent from the second quarter and 205 percent from the year-ago period as they generated a third of Altera's sales. Mainstream products made up 35 percent of Altera's revenue, and grew 1 percent sequentially and 27 percent year-over-year. Old product sales fell 5 percent from the second quarter.

    Its shares fell 5/16 to 42 3/8 ahead of the earnings report.

  • Apple Computer Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)

    Apple should be hopping Thursday after it managed to scoot past analysts' reduced earnings estimates in its fourth quarter, returning a profit of $90 million, or 51 cents a share, on sales of $1.34 billion.

    First Call consensus expected the PC maker to earn 45 cents a share in the quarter.

    That estimate was lowered from 76 cents a share earlier this quarter after Apple warned that a shortfall in high-speed chips for its G4 Power Macs would crimp sales and earnings.

    Now, Apple says it has a backlog of more than $700 million in orders and expects its first quarter sales to jump between 20 percent to 25 percent versus the year-ago period.

    It said the enormous Taiwanese earthquake last month had very little impact on its manufacturing facilities and will have IBM cranking out its high-end G4 chips later next year.

    Apple shares closed off 3 21/32 to 64 1/32 ahead of the earnings report but the stock moved up more than $4 a share in after-hours trading.

    "We are delighted by the response to our new products -- we have received orders for over 250,000 new iMacs in the first week since its announcement, and over 300,000 iBooks since its announcement in late July," said interim CEO Steve Jobs in a prepared release. "We are geared up to ship all of our products in high volume this quarter."

    CFO Fred Anderson said Apple shipped 772,000 units in the quarter down 7 percent from the year-ago quarter. iMacs accounted for 58 percent of the shipments while Power Macs and Power Books represented 28 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

    In the quarter, Apple improved its gross profit margins to 28.7 percent, up from 26.8 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for more than 35 percent of its total sales in the quarter.

  • Avant! Corp. (Nasdaq: AVNT)

    Avant! met analysts' estimates in its third quarter Wednesday, earning $14.7 million, or 37 cents a share, on sales of $75.5 million. Its shares closed off 1/4 to 16 ahead of the earnings report.

    First Call consensus expected Avant! to earn 37 cents a share in the quarter.

    The $75.5 million in sales represents a 19 percent improvement compared to the year-ago quarter when it raked in $11.4 million, or 30 cents a share, on sales of $63.4 million.

    Avant! shares moved up to a 52-week high of 25 1/4 in September following a favorable ruling from a federal judge in its ongoing copyright infringement battle with Cadence Design Systems (NYSE: CDN).>