SAN FRANCISCO -- As Emulex (EMLX) President and CEO Paul Folini took the podium to begin his presentation at the Robertson Stephens Technology 2001 Conference Monday afternoon, one investor in the audience whispered, "He'd better have a good joke."

Folini didn't. He didn't spin a yarn about a priest, a storage company executive and a talking penguin walking into a bar; he didn't recite a limerick beginning: "There once was an O-E-M from Kurdistan..."

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It was understandable that Folini wasn't in the mood to kid around. Friday afternoon, his company

said that some of its customers had pushed back February orders until later in the year, a trend that could have an impact on the company's earnings if it continued. On Monday, its shares lost 48%.

The company's pitch to investors here at San Francisco's swank

Palace Hotel

was that the company core business was good, that its just-in-time reporting system allowed it to see this blip, and that if it weren't for

Regulation Fair Disclosure

, the company wouldn't have had to give a big warning on Friday. "We haven't changed out guidance," said Chief Financial Officer Mike Rockenbach. (Reg FD, as it's called, says companies must disclose material information to everyone at the same time.)

Even Robbie Stephens analyst Paul Johnson, who gulped as if he were swallowing a billiard ball before introducing Folini, described the market's reaction as, well, an overreaction.

Folini spent most of the presentation trying to discuss the merits of Emulex's technology, its broad and important customer base and its industry-leading share of the market for devices that connect servers to storage networks.

Then, he turned the podium over the CFO Rockenbach, who said the company was still on track to meet its prior expectations for 15% to 17% sequential growth (around $80 million in revenue) in its fiscal third quarter (which ends in March), but that it had seen some reduction in visibility it felt was important to disclose.

If February's order deferrals remain isolated, "we would meet expectations," he said, later adding that the company cautioned investors because it "hadn't seen deferrals in the past."

In a breakout session after its presentation, both executives were grilled on the Friday statement. Rockenbach said the company typically beats its quarterly estimates, so Friday's comments showed mostly that order push-back would dampen those possibilities for the fiscal third quarter. "The basic message is that there's limited upside on the quarter's revenues and less visibility," Rockenbach said.

Investors didn't sound completely sold on that explanation. One asked whether the company would be able to scale back some of its spending if February's deferrals turned out to become more the rule than the exception.

"We have the ability to not add resources and stay a very profitable company," Rockenbach said.

Rockenbach and Folini declined to comment on a

report that

EMC

(EMC)

that the company wouldn't order any Emulex products for a couple of months because it has plenty of inventory.

Still, if the visibility issue was enough to knock the stock down by nearly 50%, it wasn't enough to publicly rattle Folini & Co. "If there wasn't a Reg FD and this was going to be Webcast, we would've given this presentation today and not Friday."