* Q4 EPS ex-items 61 cents vs Street view 52 cents
* Q4 revenue $8.81 bln vs Street view $8.35 bln
* Sees seasonal, sequential Q1 rev and margin declines
* Shares fall nearly 1.5 percent after-hours
(Adds CEO comment, byline, updates shares)
By Ian Sherr
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 18 Ingram Micro Inc (IM.N) reported better-than-expected results after corporate IT spending bounced back, but lower-than-forecast margins worried investors and helped its shares slide 1.5 percent.
The world's top distributor of tech products from personal computers to microchips said gross margins slid to 5.69 percent, below Wall Street expectations of 5.75 percent, as competition with rivals intensified.
Ingram Micro -- which along with rivals Avnet Inc (AVT.N) and Arrow Electronics (ARW.N) is considered a barometer of corporate technology spending -- also forecast normal, seasonal declines in revenue and gross margin in the current quarter versus the previous quarter.
Executives sounded a positive note for 2010, when analysts expect a strong recovery in spending by corporations on technology.
"The business seems to have hit an inflection point," Chief Financial Officer William Humes said in a statement, adding that cost controls were paying off. "North America delivered the highest sequential sales growth in seven years, on top of the near-record sequential growth in the third quarter."
Chief Executive Greg Spierkel told Reuters part of that growth was a result of both cost-cutting measures and his industry recovering from a deep recession.
Spierkel said corporations were definitely beginning to spend again and -- barring further economic woes -- he expects information technology spending as a whole to grow faster than the overall economy as companies make up for nearly a year and a half of lower spending.
"Is it sustainable? Not to that level," he said of high year-over-year growth in profit and revenue.
"We're dealing with a very brief period where things correct and get themselves back to normal within the next three to four quarters, then we'll see a more routine pattern."
The company said net income rose to $107.02 million, or 64 cents a share, in its fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 2, from a loss of $564.29 million, or $3.48 cents a share, in the year-ago period.
Excluding items, Ingram Micro earned 61 cents a share, ahead of the average analyst estimate of 52 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose to $8.81 billion, versus the Wall Street target of $8.35 billion.
Shares of Santa Ana, California-based Ingram Micro closed at $18.52 on the New York Stock Exchange and dropped to $18.25 in after-hours trading.
(Reporting by Ian Sherr; Editing by Richard Chang, Phil Berlowitz)