Credence Systems

(CMOS)

beat Wall Street's slightly lowered first-quarter estimates, but indicated that excess capacity may hamper the company's near-term results.

For the first quarter ended Jan. 31, Credence earned $14.7 million, or 27 cents a share, down from $16.9 million, or 35 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Eleven analysts surveyed by

First Call/Thomson Financial

expected the company, which is based in Fremont, Calif., to report earnings of 24 cents a share.

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The company, a maker of test equipment for the semiconductor industry, attributed the earnings decline from last year to "lower than usual tester utilization rates and delivery push-outs from our customers in Asia." The company said it could be two or three quarters before the excess capacity eases and growth resumes.

Credence reported first-quarter sales of $123.2 million, up 21% from $101.8 million in the same quarter one year ago. The top line fell 44% from $220.2 million in the latest fourth quarter.

The company also named John R. Detwiler chief financial officer, senior vice president of finance and secretary. Detwiler was formerly vice president, corporate controller and interim financial chief. He has been with the company since April 1999. Catherine Hearn, previously director of finance for the company's Hillsboro, Ore., operations, will fill Detwiler's former positions of vice president and corporate controller.

Detwiler replaces Dennis Wolf, who resigned because of health reasons, a company spokeswoman said.

Earlier this month, Credence

reduced its workforce by 14% and said it would take other measures to reduce costs, following last month's downwardly revised first-quarter revenue projection.