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AST Research Profit Far Short of Expectations : Earnings: PC manufacturer reports net 20% under analyst estimates for third quarter despite a 54% gain in revenue.


IRVINE — AST Research Inc., the personal computer manufacturer, Tuesday reported third-quarter profit more than 20% below analyst estimates despite a 54% increase in revenue.

The Fortune 500 company reported quarterly net income of $11 million, or 35 cents per share, compared to net income of $16.7 million, or 53 cents per share a year earlier. Analysts expected AST to report about 45 cents a share for the quarter.

Revenues increased 53% to $370.3 million from $241.5 million a year earlier. Safi Qureshey, chief executive, said AST met its goal of capturing additional market share during the quarter, shipping more than 211,000 computers, or 70% more than a year ago.

Qureshey blamed rising costs of air freight shipping and shortages of certain components for the lower-than-expected profits. Qureshey said the company added management staff to correct the supply shortage.

"Margins are still tight for the whole PC industry," said Ian Gilson, analyst at L.H. Friend, Weinress & Frankson Co. in Irvine. "AST's problem is that it is still second tier compared to Compaq, and it must price its machines below theirs."

Following its usual strategy, AST revamped its product line during the quarter. It launched a new generation of its Premium computers, renamed Premmia, for the corporate computer network market.

Analysts lowered their earnings estimates for AST earlier this year, when the Premmia line came out. They feared that the aggressive pricing of the line--10% to 20% below competitors' prices--would hurt AST's profits.

And AST teamed up with Tandy Corp.'s TE Electronics unit in Ft. Worth, Tex., to sell a portable computer that can recognize input from both a keyboard and an electronic pen. Launching a joint venture was AST's way to keep its costs down. AST has more than 4,000 employees, including 1,800 in Orange County.

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