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Agilent to Cut 4,000 Jobs after Grim Fourth Quarter: Array Business Not Affected

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Agilent Technologies announced this week during a dismal fourth quarter earnings report that it would cut 4,000 additional jobs, following a 4,000-job reduction it announced in August.

These job cuts, however, will not affect the Palo Alto, Calif. company’s life science division, said Agilent spokesman Doug Forsyth.

“The impact on our side of the business will be minimal,” Forsyth said. “In fact we are still hiring. The life science area is growing very quickly.”

Overall, orders for Agilent’s life sciences products grew 21 percent growth in orders over last quarter. Areas of growth include the microfluidics, microarrays, and the LC/MS division, said Forsyth. One extremely successful product, he noted, is the Agilent bioanalzyer, which many microarray researchers are now using to test quality and quantify of RNA.

Agilent’s fourth quarter revenues totaled $1.6 billion, a 12-percent decrease from the third quarter and a 47-percent decrease from the fourth quarter of 2000. Meanwhile, the company lost about $450 million, or 60 cents per share.

The company said it did not expect business to pick up in the first quarter of 2002, and said recovery would be slow during what it called a “prolonged downturn” in the economy.

Some analysts might wonder whether Agilent’s financial position might lead it to eventually axe its microarray business, noting the similarity to Corning, which recently closed down its microarray technologies initiative due to the overall grim economic picture for the company. But it is doubtful that Agilent’s microarray and other life sciences efforts are likely to befall the same fate as Corning’s did. Having entered the microarray business earlier than Corning, Agilent is in a slightly better position than Corning was this fall when the earnings reports came in. While Corning realized that continuing its nascent microarray effort would require a large R&D investment that it could not make given its overall financial situation, Agilent has already made that R&D investment. The company already is at the revenue-generating stage. And given that revenue from life sciences increased during the quarter, Agilent is unlikely to cut off this potentially profitable arm from its otherwise ailing body — at least in the short term.

— MMJ

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