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3D Systems profit warning rekindles 3D printer bubble fears

(Reuters) - 3D Systems Corp slashed its profit estimate for 2013, reviving fears of a bubble in the 3D printing industry and sending its shares down as much as 28 percent.

Shares of other 3D printer makers also fell sharply after the profit warning from the largest listed 3D printer maker, which along with rival voxeljet AG has been the target of short-seller Citron Research.

3D Systems cut its 2013 adjusted profit estimate to 83-87 cents per share from 93 cents-$1.03, citing higher spending on research, manufacturing and marketing.

The company also forecast adjusted earnings for 2014 below the average analyst estimate.

Shares of 3D printer makers have had a good run over the past couple of years as the companies adapt to the consumer market a technology used by manufacturers for decades.

The technology was highlighted by U.S. President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address last year, when he said it had "the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything." (http://link.reuters.com/fuw85t)

However, 3D Systems said on Wednesday demand for its consumer printers was softer than its expectation during the fourth quarter, while demand for its professional printers was stronger.

Citron Research last year accused the chief executive of 3D Systems of exaggerating advances in the technology and contributing to a bubble in shares of companies in the sector.

Citron also questioned voxeljet's first-quarter results, saying the company extended loans to customers to generate sales and avoid posting a loss.

Stratasys Ltd shares fell 12 percent on Wednesday, Exone Co dropped 13 percent and voxeljet fell about 10 percent.

3D Systems shares have gained 60 percent in the past six months, while Stratasys jumped 31 percent. Voxeljet shares doubled on their market debut on October 18.

PRINTING GROWTH

3D Systems said it was willing to tolerate earnings reduction and gross profit margin compression in the near term to accelerate its growth rate and market share.

The company is positioned to double revenue over the next couple of years on organic growth of at least 30 percent, CEO Avi Reichental said in a statement.

3D Systems forecast 2014 adjusted earnings of 73-85 cents per share, missing analysts' average estimate of $1.27 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

But its revenue forecast of $680 million-$720 million came in ahead of analysts' average forecast of $671.3 million.

3D printing companies are making aggressive investments, making investors concerned about profitability but that doesn't mean that the growth or demand of 3D printing is falling, Gabelli & Co analyst Hendi Susanto told Reuters.

Of 19 analysts covering 3D Systems, 14 have a "buy" or a "strong buy" rating, according to StarMine data. Only one has a "sell" rating on the stock.

However, investors seem to be concerned with the profit miss.

3D Systems' shares were down 15 percent in afternoon trading. The company is set to lose more than $1 billion in market capitalization if the loss holds until close.

Shares of rivals also recouped some losses.

3D Systems expects to report fourth-quarter and full-year 2013 results on February 28.

(Reporting by Sampad Patnaik and Supantha Mukherjee in Bangalore; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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