Agilent's growth takes a 'pause'

Agilent Technologies saw its Santa Rosa-based electronic measurement business slow in the first quarter, as customers in China cut back on orders, the company said Wednesday.

"We had an unexpected decline in the communications market," Agilent CEO Bill Sullivan told Wall Street analysts. "We believe it's a pause."

The division's test-and-measurement business had been growing by double digits over the past two years, driven by wireless network upgrades and demand for next-generation cellphones.

But the unit's revenues rose just 1 percent in the first quarter, compared to a year ago, reaching $778 million, while orders fell 5 percent from last year.

The slow pace could continue in the second quarter, but business is expected to pick up in the second half of the year, Agilent officials said.

"We'll see a slowdown in China compared to what we've seen for the past years," said Guy S?? the new head of Agilent's measurement group.

But there won't be any pause in the division's rollout of new technology, he said. The Santa Rosa division will be launching eight or nine new products in coming weeks, he said.

China, where most of the world's electronics are manufactured, is a huge market for Agilent. The company makes instruments for testing most of the world's wireless handsets.

It also makes test equipment for the communications base stations used in wireless networks. Telecom companies cut spending on network upgrades last quarter, affecting a range of suppliers.

Stronger sales in the division's aerospace, defense and industrial business helped make up for the drop in communications, Agilent said.

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