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Micron Net Income Falls

Computer memory chip maker saw big decline in quarterly net income as it struggled with falling prices for chips, a perpetual problem for its industry.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Micron Technology Inc., which makes computer memory chips, posted a big decline in quarterly net income as it struggled with falling prices for its chips, a perpetual problem for its industry, but the results were still stronger than Wall Street expected.

Its stock rose in extended trading following the release of the earnings report. The company said it expects improved pricing through the remainder of its fiscal year.

Net income declined 80 percent from the prior year to $72 million, or 7 cents per share, which was ahead of the 3 cents per share estimate of analysts polled by FactSet. In the prior year, Micron earned $365 million, or 39 cents per share.

Revenue was $2.26 billion, a 15 percent jump from the prior year and ahead of analysts' forecasts for $2.06 billion.

Memory chips are subject to some of the most volatile swings in pricing in the semiconductor industry. They're considered commodities and as such, memory chip makers compete fiercely on price.

Micron said that prices for DRAM chips, which are a key component of personal computers, fell 23 percent from Micron's fiscal first quarter, which ended in December, to the second quarter, which ended this month. Prices for NAND flash chips, common in portable electronics such as MP3 players, fell 4 percent.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan has raised fears about companies with a substantial presence in that country, as the destruction to roads and transportation has crippled supply lines and factory closures have stalled production. According to regulatory filings, Micron, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, had 1,500 of its 25,900 employees in Japan as of September of last year.

Micron executives said on a conference call with analysts Wednesday, after the results were reported, that the company's main chip factory in Japan wasn't damaged and no employees were hurt. However, they noted that some of Micron's key suppliers -- for chemicals and chip wafers and other important chip materials -- have been affected but the full impact isn't yet known and could take at least a couple more weeks to assess.

Japan, in addition to being one of the biggest makers of memory chips, is also one of the world's biggest suppliers of the materials underlying semiconductor production.

Micron shares rose 42 cents, or 4 percent, to $11.03 in extended trading. They had risen 26 cents, or 2.5 percent, to close the regular session at $10.61.

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