updated 10/31/2005 5:41:10 PM ET 2005-10-31T22:41:10

Dell Inc., the No. 1 maker of personal computers, said late Monday third-quarter earnings would come in at the low end of its previous forecast due to weaker-than-expected sales, sending its shares down 5.5 percent in late trading.

Blaming weakness in its U.S. consumer and U.K. business operations, Dell said it expects to post a profit of 25 cents a share, including 14 cents a share in charges related to restructuring and a defective product.

Excluding the charges, which total $450 million, Dell said it will earn 39 cents a share. Previously, the company forecast a profit range between 39 cents a share and 41 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting 40 cents a share, on average.

Dell said it will post quarterly sales of approximately $13.9 billion, below its previous forecast range of $14.1 billion to $14.5 billion and lagging the Wall Street estimate of $14.3 billion.

Dell said sales in its American consumer and British business customer lines was partly to blame for the shortfall, and added it would issue third-quarter results on Nov. 10.

More than $300 million in charges were related to servicing parts for its OptiPlex desktop computer systems that didn’t perform up to company specifications, Dell said. Other charges were attributed to “the costs of workforce realignment, product rationalizations and excess facilities.”

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