Applied Materials Reports 4Q Beat, 1Q View Disappoints

Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) posted fourth-quarter earnings that were better than expected, but shares were trading lower in after-hours trading as the company issued first-quarter guidance that failed to impress.

The semiconductor-equipment maker forecast first-quarter adjusted earnings in the range of 8 cents to 16 cents per share, and expects net sales to be down between 5% and 15% compared with the fiscal fourth quarter, or between $1.85 billion and $2.07 billion. That forecast was lower than anticipated; analysts were looking for fiscal first-quarter earnings of 18 cents a share on revenue of $2.06 billion.

For the fiscal first quarter, net income fell to $456 million, or 34 cents a share, which includes a one-time tax benefit. That compares with a year-ago profit of $468 million, or 35 cents a share. Adjusted earnings also slipped to 21 cents a share, down from last year's reported earnings of 36 cents a share.

Net sales fell 24% compared with the year-ago quarter, to $2.18 billion, compared with $2.89 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.

The results beat estimates, as analysts had predicted earnings of 19 cents on revenue of $2.15 billion, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters.

"While we expect the first half of fiscal 2012 to be impacted by the challenging economic environment, we anticipate that our overall business will strengthen during the second half of the year," said Mike Splinter, chairman and chief executive officer, in a press release.

Shares of Applied Materials fell 1.3% in Wednesday's session, closing at $12.47 a share.  The stock fell another 1.3%, or 16 cents, in after-hours trading. AMAT shares are down 11.25% so far this year.