Cisco Systems' fiscal fourth-quarter profit jumped nearly 12 percent as it benefited from strong demand for its traditional routers and...

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Cisco Systems’ fiscal fourth-quarter profit jumped nearly 12 percent as it benefited from strong demand for its traditional routers and switches as well as emerging technologies including Internet telephones.

The world’s largest maker of networking gear also said yesterday it expects first-quarter sales to increase 10 percent over the $6 billion reported in the same period of fiscal 2005. The forecast was slightly below Wall Street expectations.

As a result, shares fell 78 cents in extended-session trading. Earlier, they had closed at $19.61, up 36 cents.

For the three months ended July 30, Cisco earned $1.54 billion, or 24 cents per share, compared with $1.38 billion, or 20 cents per share, in the same period last year. Sales grew 11 percent, to $6.58 billion, from $5.93 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004.

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Excluding special items, the company earned $1.6 billion, or 25 cents per share, compared with a profit of $1.5 billion or 21 cents per share in the same period last year.

On that basis, the fourth-quarter earnings met and sales beat Wall Street expectations. Analysts were expecting the company to earn 25 cents per share on sales of $6.56 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

May Department Stores

Merger expenses

are cited in decline

May Department Stores’ earnings fell by nearly half in the second quarter, hurt by expenses from a pending merger with rival Federated Department Stores and disappointing same-store sales, the company said yesterday.

Quarterly income dropped to $52 million, or 16 cents per share, in the three-month period ended July 30. That compares with $101 million, or 33 cents, a year ago. Merger-related costs amounted to about 13 cents per share, while divesting stores and a lowered tax reserve boosted earnings by about 8 cents.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial projected earnings of 31 cents per share.

In February, St. Louis-based May, which owns Kaufmann’s and Lord & Taylor, agreed to be taken over by Cincinnati-based Federated, owner of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, in a deal worth nearly $11 billion. Shareholders of both companies approved the takeover last month. Federated expects the deal to close in the third quarter, after completion of regulatory review.

May’s shares fell 13 cents to close at $40.07 yesterday.

AIG

Accounting gains

aid troubled insurer

American International Group (AIG), the insurer rocked by both state and federal investigations into its accounting practices, yesterday reported quarterly profit rose, due mostly to large accounting gains booked during the period.

Profit during the second quarter rose to $3.99 billion, or $1.53 per share, compared with $2.65 billion, or $1.01 per share, last year. Excluding one-time items, the insurance giant would have reported earnings of $1.14 per share, compared with $1.10 last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected the company to earn $1.21 per share during the period.

AIG shares rose $1.38 to $62.80, in after-hours activity, after adding 42 cents to close at $61.42. The stock fell about 30 percent during the weeks after the investigations were announced, but those losses have been cut in half during a summer rebound.

Clear Channel

Earnings drop

as revenue dips

Clear Channel Communications, the country’s largest radio-station owner, said yesterday its second-quarter earnings fell 13 percent on lower revenue and higher operating costs as the media conglomerate prepares to spin off some of its businesses.

Clear Channel reported quarterly income of $221 million, or 40 cents per share, down from $254 million, or 41 cents per share, in the same period last year.

Revenue declined 1 percent to $2.46 billion from $2.49 billion a year ago, as radio advertising sales fell nearly 7 percent to $932 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected second-quarter profit of 41 cents per share on sales of $2.47 billion.

Clear Channel shares rose 63 cents to close at $33.75 yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company also said it was rethinking its previously announced plan to pay a special dividend of $3 per share later this year. The company may instead use part or all of that money to repurchase stock, and any special dividend would likely be pushed back to 2006, said Chief Executive Officer Mark Mays.

Blockbuster

“Malaise” blamed

for 2nd-quarter loss

Shares of Blockbuster dropped sharply after the nation’s biggest movie-rental chain said it fell to a $57.2 million loss in the second quarter, which its CEO blamed on “malaise” in the movie world.

Blockbuster also withdrew its full-year forecast of financial results and said it negotiated with lenders to prevent a high debt ratio from triggering default on a line of credit.

Blockbuster shares fell 92 cents, or 11 percent, to close at $7.09 yesterday.

In the three months ended June 30, Blockbuster’s loss was 31 cents per share, compared with profit of $48.6 million, or 27 cents per share, a year before.

Setting aside one-time items, the company would have lost $40.2 million, or 22 cents per share, but that still missed the mean estimate of analysts, who expected a loss of 10 cents per share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Revenue for the quarter totaled $1.4 billion, down 2 percent from $1.42 billion a year earlier and below analysts’ target of $1.45 billion.

The company’s much-touted decision to eliminate most late fees led to a 5 percent decline in rental revenue, to $1.02 billion. Late fees plunged from $159 million a year ago to $20.9 million. Merchandise sales rose 12 percent to $360.4 million.

Revenue at stores open at least a year fell 4.7 percent.

MCI

Profit reported

after bankruptcy

Long-distance phone carrier MCI, which is being acquired by Verizon Communications, yesterday reported its first quarterly profit since emerging from bankruptcy in April 2004 on declining expenses.

MCI, which changed its name last year from WorldCom, reported net profit of $64 million, or 19 cents per share, after a loss of $71 million, or 22 cents per share, in the second quarter of last year.

Earnings from continuing operations totaled $67 million, or 20 cents per share, compared with a loss of $70 million, or 22 cents per share, in the 2004 period. On that basis, analysts had expected a loss of 1 cent per share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

MCI had posted five consecutive quarterly losses since relisting on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The company did not report quarterly results during the nearly two years it was in bankruptcy.

The company finished the second quarter in the black even though revenue fell 10 percent to $4.68 billion from $5.22 billion in the year-earlier period. Shares of MCI rose 7 cents to $25.38 yesterday.

Compiled from The Associated Press