updated 2/15/2006 5:42:38 PM ET 2006-02-15T22:42:38

Applied Materials Inc. said Wednesday its first-quarter profit fell 51 percent, hurt by charges, while sales and orders rose.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company, the world’s largest chip-equipment maker, said net income was $143 million, or 9 cents a share. The per-share figure includes charges of 11 cents related to real-estate divestitures and stock option expenses.

Excluding charges, Applied Materials earned 19 cents a share. On that basis, results exceeded the 16 cents a share analysts had expected, according to Thomson Financial.

A year earlier, the company earned $289 million, or 17 cents a share, excluding option expenses.

Revenue climbed 4 percent to $1.86 billion, up from $1.78 billion a year earlier and more than the $1.8 billion expected by analysts.

Applied Materials supplies machines that produce chips used in computers, flat-screen televisions and other consumer electronic devices.

New orders rose 22 percent to $2 billion from a year ago as demand rose for its equipment used to make memory chips for portable music players, digital cameras and mobile phones.

Big electronics makers like Samsung and Toshiba are expanding and retooling factories to boost output of memory chips that use so-called NAND flash technology, boosting order books at Applied Materials and other chip-equipment makers.

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