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Micron’s red ink exceeds forecast

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BOISE — Plummeting markets undermined fourth quarter sales and pushed red ink well beyond Wall Street's expectations for Micron Technology Inc., the computer chipmaker reported on Tuesday.

The Boise-based company announced a $458 million loss, or 76 cents a share, from continuing operations with anemic sales of $480 million during the three-month period through Aug. 30. That compared with a profit of $736 million, or $1.21 a share, on continuing operations with sales of $2.3 billion a year earlier.

Analysts' expectations, according to Thomson/First Call, had been deteriorating steadily. What was originally anticipated to be a 19-cent-per-share loss was lowered to 31 cents a share last week and then to 34 cents a share just before Tuesday's earnings announcement of nearly twice that much.

The red ink was aggravated by another $118 million one-time charge for the remainder of the company's interest in what used to be Micron Electronics. That added another 20 cents to the per-share loss.

"The global economy is facing stiff challenges from which our industry is certainly not exempt," chief executive officer Steve Appleton said in a statement.

"However, Micron is poised with one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry, an excellent complement of people resources, an industry leading process technology and a resolve to emerge from these troubled times as the strongest semiconductor memory manufacturer in the world."

Micron had said it would invest $1.8 billion in leading-edge manufacturing and processing capabilities by the end of August.

The company, which has lost a third of its stock value since the terrorist attacks on the East Coast two weeks ago, closed down another $1.06 on Tuesday at $21.24. It was at $31.76 on Sept. 10.

The last half of its fiscal year gave the company a 12-month loss of $625 million, or 88 cents a share, on revenues of $3.9 million compared to a record profit in 2000 of more than $1.5 billion, or $2.56 a share, on revenue of $6.4 billion.

And analysts saw no end to the red ink at the start of 2002. Those checked by Thomson/First Call projected a first quarter loss of 12 cents for the September- November period.

Micron said the average selling price for semiconductors was 85 percent below the year-earlier level during the fourth quarter and had dropped 55 percent from the third quarter.