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KLA-Tencor issues upbeat prognosis

KLA vice president of finance John Kispert says the company's business remains strong as the fourth quarter enters the home stretch.

At the halfway point, KLA-Tencor is bullish about its current quarter.

In a presentation at the Chase H&Q Technology conference, KLA vice president of finance John Kispert said the company's business remains strong as the fourth quarter enters the home stretch.

When the quarter ends in June, Kispert said he expects the company to post "probable" record bookings. KLA's backlog reached record levels in the third quarter, which should translate into higher revenue, he said.

In the third quarter, the company reported revenues of $413 million, compared with $211 million for the year-ago quarter. Earnings came to 38 cents a share, compared with 11 cents last year. Analysts surveyed by First Call expected the company to earn 33 cents. The 20 analysts surveyed by First Call expect the company to post 43 cents a share for the coming quarter.

KLA makes test equipment that chipmaking companies use to detect defects during the manufacturing process. The equipment helps the chipmakers increase production and improve their manufacturing efficiency. The chip inspection market comprises about 50 percent of KLA's business.

Kispert said that the company should benefit as the industry switches to larger wafers and the use of copper materials, moves that will drive demand for new inspection equipment.

As far as competition goes, Kispert said KLA leads most markets that it chooses to enter, although Hitachi has carved a sizable share, particularly in Japan.

The company continues to receive strong business from chip companies in the United States, Taiwan, Korea and Malaysia. But demand in Japan and Europe has been average to below average.

In late trading, shares of KLA fell $3.38 to $56.56. The shares have traded as high as $97.75 and as low as $56.69 in the past year.