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National Semiconductor Posts a Loss

June 06, 2003|From Bloomberg News

California chip giant National Semiconductor Corp. on Thursday said it had its second straight quarterly loss as sales increased at the slowest pace in more than a year.

The net loss was $4.4 million, or 2 cents a share, in its fiscal fourth quarter ended May 25, compared with net income of $17.1 million, or 9 cents, in the same period a year earlier. Sales rose 1.4% to $425.3 million.

The company, which is headquartered in Santa Clara, also said sales this quarter may fall, missing analysts' estimates.

The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in Asia stalled a recovery in demand for electronics, Chief Executive Brian Halla said. Sales will accelerate, he said, as the number of new SARS cases declines over the next several months.

"Demand is still weak," said Sumit Dhanda, a Banc of America Securities analyst who rates the shares "neutral" and said he doesn't own them. "Given the data points we're getting from the analog-chip makers, most people are going to have to trim" their estimates.

First-quarter sales will be about the same or 4% less than the fourth quarter's, the company said. That would be as little as $408.3 million, compared with an average analyst estimate of $431.2 million, according to a Thomson First Call survey.

Sales totaled $420.6 million a year earlier.

National Semiconductor shares Thursday fell 37 cents to $24.31 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Chip sales started slipping in late 2000 and haven't recovered. Slow economic growth and SARS have hurt recent orders, analysts said. Chip sales industrywide rose at their slowest pace in eight months in April, the Semiconductor Industry Assn. said last week.

National Semiconductor has fired 840 workers, about 8% of its workforce, in the last two quarters.

The company said last month that it shut a division that made chips for cell phones after it was unable to sell it.

Another unit that sells Geode chips for hand-held computers and digital set-top boxes will be sold or closed this quarter, Halla said.

When that's done, National Semiconductor will have $30 million less in costs each quarter.

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