SAN FRANCISCO -- Even without the recent market volatility, investors are almost guaranteed a wild ride after VMware ( VMW) reports third-quarter earnings after the bell Wednesday.Since debuting as a public company in August, Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware has proved to be a volatile stock, although generally in a good way, doubling its initial trading price. Ironically, the shares were recently off less than 1% in recent Wednesday trading to $105.41, despite a broad selloff in the market. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial are expecting revenue of $332.5 million, which would be a 76% increase from $189 million a year earlier. Earnings per share, excluding items, are expected to jump to 17 cents from 11 cents a year earlier. VMware timed its earnings report so that EMC ( EMC), which owns 86% of VMware, doesn't steal its thunder. VMware's numbers will be embedded in the EMC report, which is due out Thursday before the market opens. Bailard analyst Sonya Thadhani says she expects the virtualization software developer to come in ahead of estimates. She's also anticipating volatility in the new issue. "But that is not unique to VMware. We're seeing that across the board" this earnings season when companies miss or surpass estimates. "There is no room for disappointment with this name," Thadhani says. "The growth opportunities are tremendous. It has an amazing hold on the virtualization market."
Virtualization software enables companies to run multiple operating systems on a single server, helping companies make more efficient use of equipment and reduce energy consumption. Server utilization is currently estimated at 15%, but virtualization software typically raises that to 60% or better. "I don't think the run in the stock is over," Thadhani says. "It has a lot ahead of it." The stock is not typical for Bailard, which tends toward mature companies, she added. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bailard held 74,600 shares at the end of September, when the stock traded at $85. The investment firm has since seen the value of that stake grow 25%, to $7.92 million at Tuesday's closing price of $106.15. VMware
took a big jump in early October after a few sell-side analysts issued bullish estimates. The stock gained $11.95, or 12.6%, over a two-day period from Oct. 8 to 10. That took the stock above $100 for the first time and gave the stock a market cap of $40 billion. It now trades at 114 times 2008 earnings, which are projected at 93 cents, a 41% growth rate over 2007 earnings. VMware debuted Aug. 14 in one of the most anticipated IPOs of the year. The stock was offered at $29 but began trading at $52.11 -- half its current trading range.