Updated from 4:36 ET
You asked for it.
Following a price-cutting strategy that investors have heartily endorsed for the past month,
missed Wall Street's lowered fiscal fourth-quarter profit expectations by a penny, but reported revenue that rose 28% from the year-ago period, beating analysts' consensus forecast.
The PC maker, which issued downward guidance last month, reported earnings of $508 million, or 18 cents a share, for the period ended Feb. 2, up from $436 million, or 16 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Analysts polled by
First Call/Thomson Financial
expected the company to earn 19 cents a share. Revenue, meanwhile, came in at $8.67 billion, above the $8.45 billion that analysts were expecting, and up from the year-ago $6.80 billion.
Like every one of its competitors, Dell has gotten crushed in recent months as demand for personal computers has collapsed, losing more than 45% of its value since September. But Dell's stock has
come back in 2001, thanks to investors' rising hopes that the
aggressive easing campaign will spur a recovery in demand and a widespread conviction that the company is
best positioned to win a full-fledged PC price war.
From the trenches, Dell claimed significant market share gains in its PC segment. But that share comes at a cost. The company has been going toe-to-toe on pricing with
, which has been discounting with extreme vigor of late. That's putting pressure on everyone's profit margins, and that pressure doesn't look like it's going to ease anytime soon. Demand has shown no clear signs of improving. Dell contradicted
the assertion that
made on its earnings conference call that January looked slightly better than December. On the contrary, said Vice Chairman James Vanderslice, January actually looked worse.
On its conference call, Dell took the
perspective: Whatever economic slowdown doesn't kill it, makes it stronger. Its low-cost business model would allow it to make large gains in market share through price discounts that competitors won't be able to match without destroying their profitability.
That may be. But Dell's growth itself, on both the top and bottom lines, is looking softer by the moment. On the call, the company cut its guidance for earnings and revenue for its fiscal 2002 first quarter, which ends in April. Its EPS forecast fell to 17 cents a share, 2 cents below expectations, while it slashed its estimate for sales to $8 billion from $8.4 billion - representing revenue growth of a meager 4.3% from the year-ago period.
analyst Dan Niles said that he now expects Dell's sales to grow 7% to 8% in fiscal 2002. He estimated earnings per share at 80 cents, a 4-cents-a-share decline from the just-completed year. "You have to ask yourself, what do you want to pay for negative growth?" he asked. (Lehman hasn't done recent underwriting for Dell.)
We'll find that out soon enough.