NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's tough to avoid the blown-tire metaphors with this one. Goodyear (GT) - Get Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Report shares deflated by as much as 25% Wednesday in frantic trading as investors reacted viciously to what amounted to a profit warning even as the company otherwise appeared to report decent third-quarter results.
On its conference call to discuss the quarter with analysts, Goodyear managers said they now expect fourth-quarter "segment operating income" to decline by $75 million to $125 million when compared with the third period, according to one person who listened on the call. All of that weakness will come in North America, Goodyear said. The Akron, Ohio, rubber concern expects operating income to remain flat sequentially in its international segment.
Judging by the fury with which investors discarded Goodyear stock Wednesday, the sequential falloff took many on Wall Street by total surprise, with analysts scurrying away after the call to revise their profit expectations for the coming quarter, and possibly beyond.
By midday Wednesday, Goodyear's stock price had plunged 20%, or $3.39, to $13.35. Volume reached 24 million shares, almost five times the daily average turnover in the name.
The guidance was in marked contrast to the company's tenor in its third-quarter earnings report. Indeed, the results didn't appear to be that bad, especially as Goodyear was coming off six trying months when it hemorrhaged more than half a billion dollars.
Excluding charges, the company said its per-share earnings came to 45 cents, beating analysts' expectations of 40 cents. Revenue slipped 4.4% to $5.2 billion, easily besting the Wall Street consensus target of $4.26 billion.
In the press release, Goodyear's boss, Robert Keegan, seemed -- in light of Wednesday's share-price skid -- almost bafflingly positive. "The strength of our brands and steady stream of new and innovative tires such as our branded fuel-efficient tires provided marketplace momentum and led a strong third quarter performance," he said in the prepared statement.
Goodyear also sounded optimistic tones when it said in the release that it "anticipates year-over-year global industry growth in 2010, especially in markets for tires featuring high-value-added features, larger rim diameters and fuel-efficient technology."
Indeed, there was other Goodyear company news on Wednesday. It unveiled a new product: 63-inch earthmover tires.
-- Written by Scott Eden in New York
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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.