S-A Recovers Somewhat

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High-definition set-top shipments and rising sales helped Scientific-Atlanta Inc. improve in the third quarter. But the vendor is still well below year-ago business levels.

S-A logged $489.6 million in bookings in the third quarter (which ended March 29), a slight increase from the prior quarter, but still down compared to the $712 million from a year ago.

Similarly, sales totaled $452.7 million — a $34.5 million increase compared to the second quarter but below the $663 million total from third-quarter 2001.

Net earnings totaled $43.8 million at 28 cents a share, also below the $76.2 million for the same quarter last year.

S-A released the results at the end of the day Thursday. Friday morning, S-A's stock opened at $24.85, up $2.70 (12 percent) from Thursday's close of $22.15. At about 11:40 a.m., the stock price was $23.59, a 6.5 percent gain from Thursday's close.

S-A shipped approximately 879,000 Explorer set-top boxes and 183,000 WebStar cable modems in the quarter. Shipments of the new, high-definition-capable Explorer 3100 HD set-top box began during the period; 38,000 units were sent to six unnamed customers in North America.

In an earnings conference call last Thursday, S-A chairman and CEO Jim McDonald noted the push for HDTV has been fueled by consumer demand and pressure from regulators, but it's also considered a competitive marker between cable and satellite systems.

"We believe the move toward HDTV favors cable operators, since they have more bandwidth available on their upgraded systems," he said.

Bookings for transmission products rebounded 11 percent in the quarter, to $162.9 million. McDonald also noted a "modest increase" in activity for AT&T Broadband with respect to network-upgrade gear.

Pricing for digital set-tops, meanwhile, can be expected to continue to decline, in line with the 15-percent drop from last year, McDonald said. The exceptions will likely be in the Explorer 3100 HD unit and the Explorer 8000 PVR box, the latter of which began shipping this week.

Along with earnings, S-A also announced new Explorer 2200 and 3200 models that offer faster processing at a smaller size. It also introduced the Prisma II Targeted Service Delivery transmitter, a device that offers more bandwidth per subscriber.

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