Blood-testing equipments maker Immucor Inc. (BLUD) said Monday after the markets closed that its third quarter earnings grew a modest 1% from last year, as lower gross margins dented a 12% revenue growth. However, the company's quarterly earnings per share handily beat analysts' estimate. At the same time, the company said it expects full year earnings per share to be at, or modestly above, the upper end of its prior guidance range.

The Norcross, Georgia-based company reported net income for the third quarter of $19.5 million or $0.27 per share, compared to $19.3 million or $0.27 per share for the year-ago quarter.

On average, 7 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the company to earn $0.22 per share for the third quarter.

Gross margin for the third quarter fell to 71.4% from 72.1% in the prior year quarter.

Revenue for the third quarter rose 12% to $75.31 million from $67.03 million in the same quarter last year. Five analysts had a consensus revenue estimate of $73.23 million for the third quarter.

We are pleased with the stability of our performance given the current economic environment, said Dr. Gioacchino De Chirico, Immucor's President and Chief Executive Officer. The demand for our reagent products, which account for nearly 90% of our total revenue, has remained stable as shown by our earnings and our cash flow.

Reagent price increases and higher instrument revenue in the U.S. market as well as increased sales of reagents overseas accounted for the majority of the revenue increase, the company said in a statement.

For the third quarter, traditional reagents revenue increased 11% year-over-year to $50.6 million, while capture reagents revenue grew 9% to $15.4 million and instrument revenue rose 18% to $8.4 million.

For the first nine months, the company net income of $56.8 million or $0.80 per share, compared to $53.2 million or $0.75 per share for the same period last year.

Revenue for the nine-month period increased 15% to $221.51 million from $192.59 million in the prior year period.

For the first three quarters of fiscal 2009, the company said it received 264 Echo orders and 53 Galileo orders. Of the cumulative orders since the instruments' launch, about 269 Echo orders and 573 Galileo orders were generating reagent revenue as of the end of the third quarter, an increase of 76 Echo instruments and 14 Galileo instruments in the quarter.

The company said it expects to be at, or slightly above, the top end of its previous estimate of between 50 and 60 Galileo orders for the year.

Immucor said it still expects revenue of $292 million to $300 million and gross margins of 71.0% to 73.0% for the fiscal year 2009.

The company said it expects to spend $1.5 million to $2.0 million on a quality process improvement project during the fourth quarter, which will negatively impact the quarter's gross margins. Including those expenses, the company expects fiscal year 2009 earnings per share to be at, or modestly above, the upper end of its prior guidance range of $0.97 to $1.02.

Analysts currently expect the company to earn $0.99 per share on revenue of $297.01 million for the fiscal year 2009.

Immucor shares, which have traded in a range of $20.13 to $33.80 over the past year, closed Monday's regular trading session at $24.06, down 48 cents or 1.96% but gained $1.24 or 5.15% in after hours trading.

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