After a tremendous run, shares of Calabasas technology innovator Ixia came crashing back to earth last week in a broad sell-off precipitated by gloomy financial reports from its most important customers.

Despite the substantial downtick Ixia shares plunged from $35 a share on Feb. 8 to $25.31 a share on Feb. 14, a drop of nearly 30 percent technology analysts remain bullish on a company they say is uncommonly well positioned to weather a financial downturn.

"Ixia has been insulated from slowdowns and inventory problems that many of its customers are facing because the company is focused on testing next-generation technologies," said Tom Coler, an analyst with Dain Rauscher Inc. "That means that Ixia is dependent on its customers' R & D; spending, which hasn't slowed down."

The most significant of those customers are Cisco Systems Inc. and Juniper Networks, both of which recently posted dismal earnings and warnings of revenue shortfalls.

Shareholders may be feeling skittish, but the loss of value is not a true reflection of the Ixia's prospects in a slowing economy but rather the result of investors out to make a quick buck, Coler and others said.

"They've had a great run. The weakness of the stock is profit taking," Coler said.

In fact, despite its recent woes, Ixia's stock as of last week was still selling at nearly twice its $13 initial offering price.

The company, which makes equipment that tests and analyzes high-speed networking technology, went public in one of the tech sector's darkest months, October 2000. Nevertheless, it has posted profits for 10 consecutive quarters, reporting net income of $4.1 million (7 cents per share) for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to net income of $1.6 million (3 cents a share) in the like year-earlier quarter.

'Must-have product'

"The company provides excellent simulation equipment and modeling for how networks will work on the outside," said Rohit Shukla, CEO of the L.A. Regional Technology Alliance. "It's a must-have product."

The product is actually an array of systems that generate and analyze data traffic. The networks that Ixia's systems analyze include optical networks and Ethernet network cabling and signaling networks, which carry data traffic over optical fiber as well as electrical cable.

Ixia has proven itself as a testing ground for these hot, new communications technologies, and some of the Net's biggest players are lining up at Ixia's door, slowdown or not. Besides Cisco and Juniper, the company's customers include network equipment manufacturers Extreme Networks and Nortel Networks; network service providers like AT & T; Corp.; chip manufacturer Broadcom Corp.; and network users like Bank of America Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp.


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