WALLA WALLA, Wash., Jan. 27, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Key Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq:KTEC) today announced sales and operating results for the first quarter of fiscal 2011 ended December 31, 2010. Net sales for the three-month period ended December 31, 2010 totaled $28.1 million, compared to $22.4 million recorded in the same quarter last year. The Company reported net earnings for the first quarter of fiscal 2011 of $604,000, or $0.11 per diluted share, compared to a net loss for the same quarter last year of $57,000, or $0.01 per diluted share. Gross profit for the first quarter of fiscal 2011 was $9.3 million compared to $7.9 million in the corresponding period last year. As a percentage of net sales, gross profit for the quarter was 33.1% compared to 35.0% in the first quarter of fiscal 2010. David Camp, President and Chief Executive Officer, commented, "Our sales and net earnings were up significantly from the comparable period in the prior fiscal year. Our margins, as a percentage of net sales, however, continued to be impacted by market pricing challenges. In addition, we experienced a higher mix of lower margin product sales in the first quarter of fiscal 2011." Operating expenses for the quarter ended December 31, 2010 were $8.4 million, or 30.0% of sales, compared to $8.0 million, or 35.5% of sales in the same quarter last year. Camp further commented, "We continue to monitor and control our operating expenses. The increase in operating expenses in the first quarter of fiscal 2011, as compared to the first quarter of fiscal 2010, was due primarily to higher sales commissions related to the increased sales volumes. However, as a percentage of sales, operating expenses have declined significantly from the prior year's first quarter." Orders received during the first quarter of fiscal 2011 were $24.8 million, compared to $28.3 million in the same period last year. The Company's backlog at December 31, 2010 was $31.6 million, compared to a backlog of $35.5 million at December 31, 2009. Camp concluded, "Our first quarter order volumes have tended to fluctuate from year to year. We remain cautiously optimistic regarding future order volumes, with our order opportunities in Integrated Solutions and Automated Inspection Systems continuing to build. We are also encouraged by the future potential of the new products we recently introduced, including RemoteMD ™, a secure, real-time condition analysis for sorters, Veo ™ optical sorter for seed corn ear sorting, and the Horizon ™ horizontal motion conveyor." Conference Call The Company's conference call discussing the fiscal 2011 first quarter results can be heard live via the Internet at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursday, January 27, 2011. To access the audio webcast, go to http://www.key.net/investors/investor-events/default.html at least fifteen minutes prior to the call to download and install any necessary audio software. About Key Technology Key Technology, Inc., headquartered in Walla Walla, Washington, is a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of process automation systems for the food processing, industrial and pharmaceutical markets. The Company's products integrate electro-optical inspection and sorting, specialized conveying and product preparation equipment, which allows processors to improve quality, increase yield and reduce cost. Key has manufacturing facilities in Washington, Oregon, and the Netherlands, and worldwide sales and service coverage.