If investors wondered why at least five analysts, within 24 hours of each other, took a hacksaw to their earnings estimates for
, they don't need to look further than the company itself.
Something like this isn't supposed to happen in the era of
(Fair Disclosure), but at least some of the analysts' actions sprang from calls Motorola officials had with analysts regarding recent statements by the company.
Motorola called at least two of the analysts on Thursday. In those conversations, Motorola didn't specifically tell the analysts to lower their estimates, but it did carefully go over the text of the company's
preannouncement of two weeks ago. And what do you know, the analysts then slashed their estimates.
Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown
wrote in a note Thursday: "After further discussion with the management of Motorola, we are reducing our forward revenue and earnings estimates."
"There was no intent on our part to give anyone any new guidance from what we've already done," said a spokesman for Motorola. The
Securities and Exchange Commission
, whose Reg FD forces companies to disclose material information to everyone at the same time, declined to comment.
But one securities lawyer, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained: "If the company is doing nothing more than staying in the parameters of information that's already public, then it's probably OK. But if they're nudging projections downwards, that's not OK."
Either way, Motorola did leave a clear impression with the analysts -- their estimates were too high. The fallout recalled the days before Reg FD when companies quietly signaled to analysts that it was time to change their estimates.
Along with Deutsche Bank,
Credit Suisse First Boston
Salomon Smith Barney
also hacked their estimates for Motorola's 2001 earnings, by anywhere from 45% to 71%. Some also took down estimates for the first quarter and full-year 2002.
The current consensus estimate of analysts polled by
First Call/Thomson Financial
is 25 cents for 2001, but one of the new estimates is as low as 10 cents.
One analyst says that Motorola has a long history of calling and going over an analyst's model and guiding higher or lower. But with Reg FD, many companies have made similar practices history.