Micron Electronics doubles Q4 estimates

Semiconductor unit helps PC maker rise above expectations.

Micron Electronics stormed past analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter Monday, raking in $13.7m (£8.5m), or 14 cents a share, on sales of $333m.

First Call consensus pegged the PC maker for a profit of 7 cents a share this time around. Its shares closed up 3/16 to 12 1/4 ahead of the earnings report. The $333m was a slight decline from the year-ago quarter when it made $7.2m, or 8 cents a share, on sales of $339m.

"Although we made some progress late in the quarter, we continue to be challenged by the performance of our consumer business," said CEO Joel Kocher in a prepared release. "To meet the shifting dynamics of the consumer market we will be integrating our e-services offerings to better position ourselves in this segment."

Much of the company's upside surprise was derived from sales growth in its SpecTek semiconductor unit. The SpecTek division sales jumped 41 percent from the third quarter and 108 percent year-over-year. Its services business also provided some added punch, as services rose as a percent of PC sales increased 100 basis points over the third quarter with service attach rates of 44 percent.

In the quarter, Micron Electronics' gross profit margins jumped from 15.5 percent in the third quarter to 17.6 percent this quarter. Unit shipments of PCs improved 4.3 percent from the third quarter, but average selling prices slipped 11.7 percent from fiscal 1998.

For the fiscal year, Micron Electronics earned $36.5m, or 38 cents a share, on sales of $1.4bn, down from the $47.9m, or 50 cents a share, on sales of $1.7bn in fiscal 1998. Last quarter, it also beat analysts' estimates, earning $7m, or 7 cents a share, on sales of $327.7m.

"As we enter our new fiscal year we will be leveraging the strategic moves we made last quarter to build an e-infrastructure for ourselves and our customers," Kocher said in the release. "This transformation enables us to even better service small and medium-sized companies and government customers who are looking for e-services solutions but cannot afford to make the enormous investments in e-infrastructures necessary to win in today's new economy."

Its shares peaked at 24 3/4 in November before following to a low of 9 in June.

Twelve of the 18 analysts following the stock rate it a "hold".

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