Tech CEOs: Here's Where the Growth Lies

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- "Caution" is the word in this technology earnings season, with heavyweights such as Intel ( INTC), Texas Instruments ( TXN), IBM ( IBM) and Seagate ( STX) lamenting spending softness and currency losses. Silicon Valley CEOs and CFOs, however, say there's no need to panic.

Texas Instruments CFO Kevin March said investors shouldn't be overly concerned about uncertain and sometimes unstable global economies, which informed its third-quarter guidance.

"It's not like we're heading for a global decline or anything," he said in an interview. "The important thing is that we're still growing, and we're likely to grow."

Texas Instruments, which is seen as a key barometer for the broader tech sector, nonetheless said customers are cautious about placing new orders.

Hard-drive specialist Seagate echoed this sentiment in its fiscal fourth-quarter results, released on Monday. "As we were exiting the quarter, there were a lot of macro headwinds that made it difficult to predict revenue," said Seagate CFO Pat O'Malley during an interview. "Our OEMs original equipment manufacturers are in this mode of 'let's go slow and cautiously.' "

O'Malley pointed, in particular, to a slowdown in China, the looming U.S. fiscal cliff and recessions in Europe as factors hurting spending.

"I don't think that anybody's predicting a 2008," he said, referring to the beginning of the biggest recession in eight decades. "It's not that the roof's coming in, but people are being prudent."

Seagate, despite wrestling with a supplier snag, still posted record revenue and unit shipments in the June quarter. "We're still putting up really solid numbers," said O'Malley.

Semiconductor specialist LSI ( LSI), which counts Seagate as a customer, posted strong second-quarter results last week, thanks partly to demand for its Flash-related products.

Nonetheless, LSI CEO Abhi Talwalkar reflected Seagate's comments. "There's definitely a cautious orientation out there," he said. "We're still growing in all the areas where we expected growth, but less than we expected three months ago -- wireless infrastructure capital equipment spending is still a bit slow."

F5 Networks ( FFIV) met analysts' estimates in its third-quarter results in July, although CEO John McAdam identified a cautious spending climate.

"It was nothing as bad as early 2009, but there's definitely some signs of caution ," added the CEO.

To illustrate his point, McAdam noted that F5's hiring remains robust. "This last quarter, we hired just under 100 people," he said. "This quarter, we're hoping to exceed that, probably hiring about 125 people."

With economic issues weighing on Silicon Valley, the Nasdaq has gained just 0.1% during the past month, lagging the S&P 500's modest gain of 1.5%. The Nasdaq has risen more than 12% this year, outpacing the S&P 500's 9.9% gain.

Not all tech companies are feeling the spending burn, as evidenced by strong second-quarter numbers from EMC ( EMC). The results marked the company's 10th consecutive quarter of double-digit year-over-year revenue and profit growth.

EMC storage rival CommVault ( CVLT) also posted robust results earlier this week, growing its revenue by 22%.

"The quarter was pretty well-balanced -- it started well and it ended well," CommVault CEO Bob Hammer said in an interview. "The momentum is continuing into this current quarter."

Still, CommVault is taking nothing for granted. "The assumption is that IT spending will come under pressure and we're attempting to mitigate that by making sure that our sales opportunity funnel increases at a faster pace," said Hammer. That could involve, for example, focusing sales people on very specific segments of the market and certain CommVault products.

In addition to storage, security and cloud are also hot technologies.

Security specialist Sourcefire ( FIRE), which is one of TheStreet's Breakout Stocks, beat analysts' second-quarter estimates on Tuesday.

Todd Headley, the Sourcefire CFO, said in an interview that the firm has largely side-stepped broader economic challenges. "We're probably small enough that we don't see the full effect of that," he said. "Even given the macroeconomic backdrop relative to the technology we provide, there appears to be a growing need for what we do."

Weak third-quarter earnings guidance, however, weighed heavily on the company's stock, pushing its shares down more than 15% on Wednesday.

Cloud specialist Medidata Solutions ( MDSO) also reported its second-quarter results on Tuesday, raising its full-year revenue guidance.

Medidata CEO Tarek Sherif shrugged off talk of a spending slowdown. "We're actually seeing quite the opposite," he said. "We had strength in Europe, and I think that really speaks to the value of what we're bringing to our customers."

Shares of the New York-based firm, which provides cloud services to support pharmaceutical and biotech firms' clinical trials, have gained almost 60% this year.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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