Saifun Semiconductor's ( SFUN) stock took a nosedive Monday after the company projected a worse-than-expected revenue outlook for the current quarter.The Israeli chip firm also announced that President Kobi Rozengarten has "asked to be relieved of his duties," after nine years at the company. Saifun's fourth-quarter sales took an expected clipping, following the October announcement that it had lost one of its key customers. Revenue in the three months ended Dec. 31 totaled $14 million, down 16% year over year, and in line with analysts' expectations. Saifun posted a net income of $6.3 million, or 20 cents a share, beating analysts' expectations by a penny. At this time last year, Saifun had a net income of $8.6 million, or 15 cents a share. But Saifun's guidance for the current quarter fell short of Wall Street expectations, owing to the continuing vacuum left by memory chipmaker Qimonda's ( QI) decision to stop licensing Saifun technology. Management projected first-quarter revenue between $9.5 million and $10.3 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were looking for $11.9 million. In midday trading Wednesday, shares of Saifun plunged 17.5%, or $3.08, to $14.49 -- a 52-week low. Saifun's stock is down 50% since the news that Qimonda, the memory subsidiary of Infineon Technologies ( IFX), planned to drop Saifun's technology. Saifun licenses intellectual property for a flash-like memory technology dubbed NROM.
Like flash memory, NROM is nonvolatile memory technology, meaning it can retain data even when the power is switched off. Saifun claims NROM has several advantages compared to traditional flash memory, including the fact that it is
better suited to store four bits of data per cell (traditional flash chips currently retain two bits of data per cell). Last week, Spansion ( SPSN), which licenses Saifun technology, announced it will begin production this quarter of flash chips capable of storing 4-bits per cell. Saifun said Rozengarten was leaving the company to pursue other opportunities and spend more time with his family. He will remain on the board and his executive duties will be split between a trio of Saifun executives.