Montgomery Tech Week: Computer Literacy Plays the Name Game

The Net company is keeping mum on its new name. Also, the latest from Broadcom and Kulicke & Soffa.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Since late last year,

Computer Literacy

(CMPL)

has been talking about changing its name to something that incorporates more than just books.

And today, company CEO Chris MacAskill told a group of about 30 attendees at the

NationsBanc Montgomery Tech Week

conference that they have nailed a new name, but for now, mum's the word.

Why? He doesn't want to give anyone the opportunity to buy up the URLs that are potential misspellings of the new name. Porn sites often snatch up those misspellings, he says, citing one the example of

Amazom.com

, which is sponging off the fame of

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

.

But MacAskill apparently doesn't know porn when he sees it. Amazom.com isn't a porn site at all, but a "quick shop" that hawks books and flowers, and is soon expanding to sell computers, software and hardware. Looks more like a leech site than a porn site.

As for any hints on Computer Literacy's new name, it's eight letters long and invokes an image of vastness and knowledge, says MacAskill. The company has been experimenting with software sales. One potential name that was killed was iKnow.com.

-- Suzanne Galante

Starting to Click at KLIC

Kulicke & Soffa Industries'

(KLIC) - Get Report

chief executive C. Scott Kulicke wasn't trying to sugarcoat things for investors at the conference. Instead, he said rather plainly how things at the company had been going lately.

"People just stopped buying capital equipment," Kulicke said, after presenting a slide show that outlined a steep drop in the company's sales last year. In the company's core business of wire bonders, the drop was particularly disturbing, from about $780 million in 1997 to around $420 million in 1998. Kulicke softened the blow by emphasizing the company's leading, 46% market share in that area.

"We treat that business as a cash cow," Kulicke said. Then he added, "If there's been a problem with our wire bonder business, it's that we haven't made enough money off of it."

Well, there's a screaming vote of confidence for you. Kulicke meant his company has been concentrating on market share and customer satisfaction rather than squeezing revenues out of the sector. He also reiterated last week's announcement that the company will move its wire bonding manufacturing unit to Asia.

Following a vicious, two-year slump, chip-equipment stocks started a recovery in October. Four months later, Kulicke stands before this crowd of money managers holding out an olive branch. "Last week was our best bonder-booking week ever," with $4 million worth of volume, up from an average in recent weeks of roughly $3.5 million, Kulicke said. "We think that we're really at the early stages of a recovery," he said.

By midafternoon, the company's stock was up 3/16 at 32 5/16, after hitting a new 52-week high of 33 3/16. Volume hit more than 1 million shares, more than double the stock's daily average.

-- Joe Bousquin

Tuning into Cable Chips

Cable-modem chips now make up more than 10% of

Broadcom's

revenues, said CFO William Ruehle, exceeding even the company's forecast.

Ruehle likened growth in the cable-modem market to that in the digital set-top box market, which barely existed a year ago. Some two million digital set-top boxes were shipped last year and 65 million U.S. subscribers are moving to digital cable. "This has grown way beyond our expectations. We can now look back on that and say the market is here," he said.

Next year, the cable modem market will show similar volumes if the industry can get the price of boxes down. "We'd like to see cable modems selling for $150 to $200 each in the not-too-distant future," he said.

Broadcom is one of the most expensive chip stocks, trading at 166 times trailing earnings. The company came out of nowhere to take over the market for network transistors, pushing out

Level One Communications

(LEVL) - Get Report

and

National Semiconductor

(NSM)

and to position itself as

the

Internet-chip company.

-- Marcy Burstiner