* Q4 adjusted EPS $0.29 tops estimate by $0.02
* Q4 revenue $112.4 mln misses estimate by $4 mln
* Sees Q1 revenue flat to slightly down sequentially
* Says order rate strong so far in January
* Shares fall 6 pct but pare losses (Recasts; adds outlook, analysts’ comments and share movement)
By Purwa Naveen Raman
BANGALORE, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Adtran Inc (ADTN.O) forecast first-quarter revenue slightly below market estimates, but the network access equipment maker said order rate has been strong so far in January, sending its shares up as much as 8 percent.
“I can’t tell you it (order rate) will hang through the rest of January because we are pretty much a book-and-ship business and things are volatile, but at this point in time in January we’re feeling pretty good,” a company executive said in a conference call with analysts.
The company had seen a decline in demand for its products in the fourth quarter as customers pulled back on spending amid the weak economy.
For the first quarter, Adtran expects revenue to be flat to slightly down compared with the fourth quarter, the company said in the call. Analysts were expecting revenue of $113.2 million.
Shares of Adtran, which competes with Cisco Systems (CSCO.O) and Juniper Networks JNPR.O, fell as much as 6 percent earlier but pared losses to trade up 7 percent at $15.54 Wednesday afternoon on Nasdaq.
For the fourth quarter, net income was $16.7 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with $18.1 million, or 27 cents a share, a year earlier.
According to Reuters Estimates, the company earned 29 cents a share, excluding items, for the quarter, beating analysts’ average estimate of 27 cents.
Revenue fell 5.5 percent to $112.4 million.
“Adtran’s disclosures led us to conclude that most of the sales miss stemmed from growth products,” Morgan Keegan & Co analyst Simon Leopold said in a research note published before the call.
J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Ehud Gelblum estimated that total revenue from the company’s growth areas -- broadband access, optical access and NetVanta -- were down at $48 million, missing his expectation of $53 million.
“While we continue to admire Adtran’s unique culture and business model, the fourth-quarter revenue shortfall indicates that the slowing economy is finally catching up with the company,” Credit Suisse said in a research note.
Gross margin for the quarter was 60.1 percent, up from 58.4 percent, a year ago.
“The company has a very good management team and a good business model... but if one of these customers decide to pull back, that’s going to create more headwind beyond macro environment,” analyst Manuel Recarey of Kaufman Bros said. (Editing by Himani Sarkar and Deepak Kannan)