SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Testing instrument maker Agilent Technologies Inc. said Monday it slid to a third-quarter loss, reversing year-ago profit, as it booked restructuring and other charges. But adjusted results topped Wall Street expectations, and the company's strong fourth-quarter forecast sent shares up 3 percent in aftermarket trading.

Quarterly losses totaled $19 million, or 6 cents per share, compared with profit of $169 million, or 45 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding one-time items, adjusted income totaled $53 million, or 15 cents per share, topping the 11 cents that analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast, on average.

Revenue fell 27 percent to $1.06 billion, from $1.44 billion a year ago, but still came in better than the $1.02 billion expected by analysts.

Shares rose 74 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $24.30 in aftermarket trading, having closed earlier down 48 cents, or 2 percent, at $23.56.

"Our restructuring actions to lower Agilent’s revenue breakeven by over half a billion dollars are on track," said Bill Sullivan, Agilent’s president and CEO. “Uncharacteristically for a third quarter, orders of $1.07 billion exceeded revenues and were off 23 percent from last year. Compared with three months ago, we have more confidence that the quarter just ended will represent the cyclical low point for Agilent."

During the quarter, Agilent agreed to acquire Varian Inc. for $1.5 billion. Closing is expected by the end of the calendar year, subject to regulatory and Varian shareholder approval.

Looking ahead, Agilent said market conditions are expected to remain difficult through fiscal year-end, while recent increases in quote activity and orders suggest that a modest recovery could begin early in fiscal 2010.

The company forecast adjusted fourth-quarter profit of 20 cents to 25 cents per share. On average, analysts are expecting earnings per share of 20 cents.

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