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Spinning positive in a 'quiet period'

By JEFF HARRINGTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


Job cuts? A business slowdown?

You'd never know it listening to Jabil Circuit Inc. executives chatting with investors last week.

Just three days after firing several hundred workers, Jabil gave an all-rosy outlook to investors at Raymond James' annual conference in Orlando.

In a half-hour presentation, Jabil investor relations director Beth Walters and treasurer Forbes Alexander glossed over the fact that slumping demand has forced the company to scale down projections and cut jobs.

Instead, investors heard how Jabil has doubled its European presence by acquiring five manufacturing plants from Marconi Communications. How its new optics lab in its St. Petersburg headquarters is in demand. How it forged a recent successful contract with Dell.

And how Jabil has "incredible opportunities" as major computer companies outsource more manufacturing and design work. "Because so many people have moved to the outsourcing model, it's even a more compelling story," Walters said.

The only time Walters mentioned that nasty "slowdown" came in a reference to how electronics manufacturing contractors such as Jabil tend to take off after any pullback.

Then again, the company had an out for skipping the raw, hard data. It's expected to report fiscal second-quarter earnings March 20. Hence, Jabil executives can argue the company's in a "quiet period" that prevents them from talking about current financial numbers.

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