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Novellus Systems Beats Estimates

However, profit and sales slip from a year earlier.
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Fourth-quarter sales and profit fell at Novellus Systems (NVLS) but the company managed to beat analysts' consensus earnings estimates.

Following the announcement, shares of Novellus climbed 3.1% in after-hours trading to $28.78 on Instinet.

The semiconductor-equipment maker said Wednesday that earnings fell to $23 million, or 17 cents a share, from $37.5 million or 27 cents a share.

Excluding restructuring and other charges, Novellus earned $26.6 million, or 20 cents a share, beating the Thomson First Call consensus expectation of 16 cents a share.

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Fourth-quarter sales fell 2.4% to $332.3 million from $340.3 million a year earlier. But these results, too, beat the First Call estimate of $314.3 million.

Novellus said bookings rose sequentially by 22.3% in the fourth quarter, while shipments of $316.6 million in the fourth quarter were essentially flat with the third quarter.

Cash, cash equivalents, restricted cash and short-term investments as of Dec. 31 were $789.4 million, down 10.3% from the third quarter's ending balance of $879.5 million.

"2005 finished with strong bookings momentum in the fourth quarter. We are pleased with this improved momentum on orders which was driven primarily by increased demand from both memory and logic customers," said Richard S. Hill, chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. "We also believe we have reached a low water mark on gross margins in the fourth quarter, and we expect to improve margins and earnings going forward."