With tech stocks on the slide, investors anxiously await reassuring words from the towering pillars of the cell-phone industry. Wall Street expects to see more evidence of wireless-industry growth as leading handset sellers Nokia ( NOK) and Motorola ( MOT) prepare to report second-quarter results. Motorola is due to go after the bell Wednesday and Nokia the following morning. Jitters over a possible slowdown in sales and a potential oversupply of mobile phones have sent Motorola and Nokia shares down 16% and 19%, respectively, since May. Motorola helped stir up concern last quarter when the company started "shifting orders among component vendors and contract manufacturers," says Merrill Lynch analyst Tal Liani in a research note. But some industry watchers may have misread or overreacted to the supply-chain adjustments.
Early signs from handset players like Sony Ericsson -- jointly owned by Sony ( SNE) and Ericsson ( ERICY) -- suggest phones are still hot sellers. If anything, weak results at No. 3 handset-pusher Samsung may reflect the company's product lineup, say analysts. "Given the overall health of the demand environment, we view Samsung's market-share struggles as a positive for share leaders Nokia and Motorola," writes Lehman Brother's analyst Tim Luke, in a research note. JPMorgan analyst Ehud Gelblum estimates that Samsung lost nearly 2 percentage points of market share in the second quarter from first-quarter levels. "Our checks indicate Samsung lost share to aggressive Razr pricing," Gelblum recently wrote. In other words, Motorola has turned Razr's design edge to a pricing edge to stay ahead in the sales race. Analysts expect Motorola to have sold 48 million phones in the second quarter, capturing about 22% of the market. That's slightly more than 21% in the prior period. Likewise, Nokia is expected to have shipped 76 million units and held on to its 34% market share. As for the financial numbers, analysts are looking for Motorola to post an adjusted profit of 31 cents on $10.2 billion in sales, and Nokia is expected to show a pro forma profit of 30 cents on sales of $11.7 billion, according to Thomson First Call. Motorola shares fell 2 cents to $19.06, and Nokia was up a dime to $18.53 in midday trading Tuesday.