Sun Q1 Earnings Blow Past Forecast

After an apparently inadvertent posting on the Sun Microsystems Web site let elements of the company's earnings report out early Wednesday morning, Sun elected to release the full report early afternoon -- well before the announcement was expected at the close of the market. Sun reported net income for the first quarter at $US510 million, up 85 per cent compared with last year's net income of $US276 million, excluding acquisition-related charges for fiscal year 2000.

First quarter earnings per share (EPS), for the period ending Oct. 1, 2000, were 30 cents, an increase of 88 per cent over the corresponding period a year ago, also excluding acquisition-related charges for fiscal year 2000, the company said. The increase beat analyst estimates as reported by First Call / Thomson Financial by 4 cents a share.

Revenue also beat the year-earlier period figures by a wide margin. Revenue for the first quarter was $US5.045 billion, up 60 per cent compared with the first quarter of fiscal 1999, according to the Sun report.

Sun shares were trading at $US115.56, up $US4.19, or 3.76 per cent, in afternoon trading. Trading on Sun shares had been halted for about an hour after a headline on a Sun Microsystems Inc. Web page Wednesday morning reported -- well before the financial report was expected at the close of the market -- the company EPS for the quarter.

The headline read: "Sun Microsystems Reports EPS Up 88% In Record First Quarter. First Quarter Net Income Grew 85% On Revenue Growth Of 60%."

"This is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen," said George Ellis, an analyst for Lehman Brothers, after Sun apparently mistakenly posted the earnings headline Wednesday morning. "Sun is pretty good about these things, keeping them under wraps, but 88 per cent is crazy. We were expecting a real good quarter. There are rumors around that they could go up 50 per cent, so it's not completely inconceivable. If this is a fact and not a hack, that would be amazing."

Ellis said Sun staff were "in a panic, trying to figure out what happened," Wednesday morning, unable to verify the accuracy or origin of the headline. A Sun spokeswoman later confirmed the accuracy of the early headline.

Sun Microsystems, in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at http://www.sun.com/.

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