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Shares of

Bell Microproducts


fell nearly 25% Wednesday after the company reported earnings that beat analysts' estimates but warned of sluggish first-quarter demand.

The San Jose, Calif.-based computer components distributor earned $5.2 million, or 34 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, up from $2.6 million, or 19 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Four analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

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were expecting earnings of 30 cents a share.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 68% to $544.4 million, up from $327.7 million in the year-ago period.

The company said Europe and Latin America are showing strong demand for superconductors. But sluggish demand in the North American components market will mean a weak first quarter, the company said in a press release accompanying its earnings report. It forecast first-quarter earnings per share of 15 cents to 25 cents, well below the First Call consensus estimate of 29 cents.

Bell shares finished the day off $5.25, or 24.7%, at $16 on the