Shares of Taro Pharmaceuticals ( TARO) plunged in very heavy trading Thursday after the company reported an unexpected loss in the second quarter.

The Hawthorne, N.Y.-based company posted a loss of $8.9 million, or 31 cents a share, compared with a profit of $14.8 million, or 50 cents a share, for the year-ago quarter.

Revenue was $49.1 million vs. $74.8 million in the second quarter of 2003.

Analysts were expecting net income of $14.8 million, or 44 cents a share, on revenue of $88.5 million, according to a survey by Thomson First Call.

The company attributed the poor results mostly to reduced purchases by several of its largest wholesaler customers but also cited competitive pricing pressure on its generic drugs.

"The company believes that the decrease in sales to wholesalers primarily reflects a decision by wholesalers to reduce inventories," Taro said. "This belief is supported by independent industry sources, which indicate that prescriptions filled with Taro products have been increasing despite the reduced purchases of those products by wholesalers."

Shares fell $7.25, or 24.5%, to $22.83, a new 52-week low. Trading volume was more than 18 million shares, about 45 times the average daily volume of 636,227. The stock traded as low as $18.07 Thursday. The company's stock hit a 52-week high of $72.40 in December of last year.

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