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Juniper Networks saw a slight drop in fourth-quarter profit, but the network kit maker unexpectedly topped its own estimates for revenue thanks to renewed spending from corporate customers and US phone carriers.

The world's second-largest network kit maker is also optimistic for a rebound from 2009, which saw profits for most tech companies drop as businesses tightened purse strings in the economic downturn.

"We will see improving conditions in 2010 and are positioning Juniper to accelerate out of the downturn," said Juniper's CEO Kevin Johnson in a statement.

During a conference call with analysts and reporters on Thursday, chief financial officer Robyn Denholm said she was "pleasantly surprised" with the ramping up of its service provider business, particularly in the US. She added that growth is expected to continue in the new year — but offered a cautious forecast for its first quarter earnings, which is historically a slow period for sales.

Juniper posted Q4 adjusted net income of $131m for the three months ended December 31, 2009, a dip from $132.5m for the same period last year.

Net sales for Q4 were $941.5m, an increase from the $941.5m in generated last year. That far exceed Junipers own forecast from October, which ranged from $860m to $895m. Most analysts had also expected revenue to fall to $884.8m, according to a Thomson Reuters poll.

On the whole, 2009 wasn't kind on the firm. Adjusted net income was $225.1m in 2009, down from $511.7m in 2008.

Revenue was $3.32bn for the year, a 7 per cent drop from $3.57bn compared to 2008.

Denholm told analysts that she's "very pleased" with the ongoing OEM deal Juniper struck with Dell in October 2009 and that they should expect the vendor to begin selling branded versions of Juniper's networking gear some time in Q2.

Juniper's upswing in its fourth quarter 2009 sets the bar for industry leader and IT bellwether, Cisco Systems, which reports its own earnings next Wednesday. Cisco CEO John Chambers is also a financial sector crowd favorite for his willingness to dive deep into his crystal ball and wax technology market health predictions. ®

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