KLA-Tencor's ( KLAC) shares sagged in post-close trading Friday after the company announced the temporary departure of its president and chief operating officer. In an after-hours press release, the company said Gary Dickerson will take a personal leave of absence. Chief executive officer Kenneth Schroeder will pick up his duties while he's away. Dickerson has had a 15-year career at the company, taking the president post in July 2002. KLAC stock was recently down 73 cents, or 1.8%, to $40.97 in post-close trading. The shares closed Friday's regular session down 20 cents or 0.5% to $41.70. Last week, KLA Tencor gave investors the jitters when it flagged a potential drop-off in orders in the quarter underway. The company issued a broad range of guidance, saying orders drop as much as 15% or rise by 10% depending on whether or not it winds up a couple of deals by the end of June. But analyst Suresh Balaraman of ThinkEquity Partners disputed the notion that Dickerson's departure might be tied to any short-term order concerns. "I don't think it has anything to do with the company's fundamentals," Balaraman said. "And KLAC has enough depth of management that if they wanted to fill the job, they should not have any problem." (He has a buy rating on KLAC; his firm hasn't done any investment banking for it.) Likewise, KLA-Tencor spokesperson Kern Beare emphasized that Dickerson "is leaving for personal reasons." Balaraman added that in his opinion, concerns over KLAC's June quarter are overblown, anyway. "Most of the companies in the equipment space have one or two down quarters; this is one
potential downtick in a very long upturn. It's just regular lumpiness in orders," he said. Other analysts reacted to the order news more sharply, though. For example, First Albany and American Technology Research each downgraded KLAC shares to a neutral rating following last week's earnings report.