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Sun Microsystems eases past 2Q estimates

Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) tiptoed past analysts' estimates in its second quarter Thursday, earning $353 million, or 21 cents a share, on better-than-expected sales of $3.55 billion.

First Call consensus expected Sun to earn 20 cents a share in the quarter.

Its shares closed up 3 5/8 to a 52-week high of 86 9/16 ahead of the earnings report.

The $3.55 billion in sales represents a 27 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it raked in $261.4 million, or 16 cents a share, on sales of $2.8 billion.

"Sun continues to capture market share as we set the agenda in the 'dot com' era," said CEO Scott McNealy in a prepared release. "There are lots of choices out there, and it's becoming clear that Sun is being viewed as a 'category' player in the networking space."

Company officials said the record quarterly sales were a product of strong demand for its high-end servers and business services.

"We are very pleased to have set an all time record for quarterly revenues this early in the fiscal year," said CFO Michael Lehman in a prepared release. "During the quarter, we experienced particularly strong demand for our workgroup servers, high-end servers and services."

Sun said it exited the quarter with $4.5 billion in cash and short-term investments.

Last quarter, Sun beat Street estimates by 2 cents a share, earning $275 million, or 33 cents a share, on sales of $3.12 billion.

Its shares slipped to a 52-week low of 23 1/8 in February.

Twenty of the 25 analysts tracking the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation.

First Call consensus expects it to earn 89 cents a share in the fiscal year.