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Ciena

(CIEN) - Get Ciena Corporation Report

delivered better-than-promised sales growth in the first quarter and said Thursday that it expects to do as well or slightly better in the second quarter.

But despite a strong top-line performance, the optical networking shop still cannot stem its torrent of red ink. Ciena had a loss of $170 million, or 25 cents per share, on sales of $70.5 million. While the revenue jumped 14% sequentially it was well below half the $162 million level a year ago.

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On a normalized basis, Ciena lost 11 cents, which was 2 cents narrower than the consensus estimate as compiled by Multex.

The Linthicum, Md.-based communications gearmaker told analysts and investors on a premarket conference call Thursday that it still expects to show year-over-year sales growth. But sticking with its vow to spend its way through the industry downturn, investors heard no assurances about the company's efforts to return to profitability.

Ciena executive reaffirmed that their breakeven quarterly revenue level is about $200 million, nearly three times the company's actual sales total.

Investors cheered Ciena's sales performance, sending the stock up more than 3% to $5.70 in early trading Thursday.