Ciena exceeds quarterly profit expectations Growing Linthicum firm buys Atlanta company

December 11, 1997|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

Ciena Corp., the Linthicum telecommunications wonder that is breaking financial and growth records for start-up companies, beat Wall Street profit estimates in its most recent quarter and said it agreed to buy a small, high-tech concern in Atlanta.

Ciena earned $37.3 million for the three months ended Oct. 31 on $121 million revenue, the company said yesterday. Profit came to 35 cents a share -- two cents better than the mean estimated by analysts and reported by IBES, a financial data concern.

The report came after financial markets closed yesterday. The company's stock had fallen by $2.75 a share to $55 on the day, driven down after investors started worrying about the effect of Asian economic troubles on high-tech stocks.

Ciena does have Asian customers; it signed a deal this year with Japan Telecom Co., for example. But spokesman Denny Bilter said the company's revenue there "has not been anything major."

Ciena makes hardware that substantially expands the capacity of fiber-optic telecommunications networks. October marked the end of its first fiscal year as a public company, a year when it earned $112.9 million, or $1.09 per share, on sales of $373.8 million.

When Ciena went public in February, its $2.3 billion valuation was the highest ever for a start-up backed by venture capital. The company's first-year sales of $194.3 million were said to be the highest in history for any start-up.

Ciena continued its fleet and profitable ways in the fiscal year reported yesterday.

Its revenue was up by 582 percent. Per-share earnings popped sevenfold. Employment went from 225 to 841 and shows no sign of stopping.

"Generally what we're bringing in [as hires] is 10 to 15 people every week," Bilter said. "We've been meeting our goals in terms of hiring. The Baltimore area has a good labor pool to draw from."

Also yesterday, Ciena said it agreed to buy AstraCom, a 15-employee, telecommunications research concern in Atlanta, for cash and Ciena stock valued at $13.1 million. AstraCom will stay in Atlanta.

Most of Ciena's employees are at sites in Savage and Linthicum, and Bilter said the company has the resources to continue growing in Maryland. It had about 50,000 square feet of space a year ago; by mid-1998 it will have about 360,000, he said, plus 40,000 square feet in Atlanta.

Wall Street analysts expect Ciena to earn about $1.30 per share in its current fiscal year, an increase over the year reported yesterday of 19 percent.

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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