Sales Rise at National Semi

Gross margins reach an all-time high.
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National Semiconductor

(NSM)

said its fourth-quarter revenue rose nearly 23% from last year, while gross margins reached an all-time high, thanks to its decision to focus on analog products.

The Santa Clara, Calif., chip company earned $118.8 million, or 34 cents a share, on revenue of $572.6 million for the fourth quarter ended May 28. In the year-ago period, National earned $130.2 million and 36 cents a share, with sales of $467 million.

Fourth-quarter earnings included a tax charge of $24.5 million, cutting profits by 7 cents a share. Were the charge not included, National would have earned 41 cents. The same quarter in 2005 benefited from items that together increased net income by $41.6 million, or 11 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting a profit of 38 cents and a top line of $566.9 million in the most recent quarter. Shares of National slipped 24 cents to $23.91 in regular trading but gained back 7 cents after hours.

National's gross margin in the fourth quarter was 61.4%, the best level ever. That was up from 60.7% in the third quarter and 54.7% a year ago.

"National continues to show improvement in margins," said Brian Halla, the company's chairman and CEO. "Our investment in new, value-added analog products, targeting precision, high speed and best power efficiencies, is paying off. These products deliver higher value to our customers and higher margins and sales to National."

On the basis of current business conditions, National expects a seasonal decline in first-quarter revenue of 2% to 3% from the fourth quarter. Gross margins will probably be similar to those of the fourth quarter.

Also, National said its board approved the addition of $500 million to its stock buyback plan. The company repurchased $200 million of stock during the fourth quarter.