Maybe Inktomi (INKT) should start writing its earnings estimates with a pencil instead of pen and ... well, you get the idea.

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The Internet infrastructure company said at the market's close Wednesday that revenue and earnings for its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31 would fall short of previous expectations. Announcement of the shortfall -- which Inktomi blamed on a slowdown in infrastructure spending resulting from U.S. capital market conditions and the broader economy -- comes one day after

Robertson Stephens

analyst Dane Lewis's

gloomy forecasts about Internet infrastructure spending sent Inktomi and other tech stocks tumbling.

Buoyed by the Fed's surprise rate cut, Inktomi jumped 27% Wednesday to close at $18.50. After the postclose warning, however, the stock was quoted about $4.25 lower on

Island

.

Inktomi says revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 31 will amount to $80 million to $81 million, below the $89 million figure expected by analysts surveyed by

First Call

. Earnings, Inktomi says, will range between breakeven and a penny per share, down from the 24-analyst estimate of 3 cents per share.

In a conference call with analysts Wednesday evening, CEO David Peterschmidt said the shortfall sneaked up on the firm at the end of December, as companies developed cold feet about making large capital expenditures. "We didn't see a lot of this until, quite frankly, the last couple days of the quarter," Peterschmidt said. "This was kind of an eleventh-and-a-half hour phenomemon that we saw."

Peterschmidt said a typical scenario was that executives at client companies either deferred signing contracts that were on their desks, or they cut the size of their initial implementation. "In no case was this about changing the price," Peterschmidt said. "This was not about competitive price pressure."

In what could be a sign of bad news for companies and investors hoping for old-line businesses to drive Internet infrastructure spending, Peterschmidt said, "We saw a lot of large, well-funded companies just pull back on their capex spending. ... I think this conservatism is across the board, no matter what the size of the company." Peterschmidt later said, though, that the spending slowdown appeared to be a U.S. problem rather than one affecting European or Asian customers.

The shortfall hit Inktomi's networks products business, which accounts for 70% of the company's revenue and includes technology used to speed up data traffic across the Internet and in corporate networks. Within that area, Peterschmidt said, no single product line suffered more than any other.

Inktomi says it will supply information on the company's expectations for fiscal year 2001 when it reports first-quarter results on Jan. 18.