Frustrated investors Wednesday did everything but shine a bright light in the face of Christopher Galvin,
chairman and chief executive.
Galvin tried to speak frankly about Motorola's past missteps and how he and a new management team will work to rectify them, but the lunchtime crowd at the
Merrill Lynch Global Telecommunications
conference was having none of it, underscoring just how much work the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company has ahead of it before its stock can recover.
After all, Motorola's shares are down 75% from their 52-week high. They closed Wednesday down 71 cents, or 5%, to $14.49.
On a day when U.S. wireless carrier
announced that it
won't meet its first-quarter net subscriber and cash flow targets, it's obvious that the wind's been taken out of the sails of the entire telecommunications industry -- because of a slowdown in spending by corporations, because of a delay in upgrades to high-speed next-generation wireless networks and because subscriber growth has slowed in Europe.
But aside from those
worries and the buffeting the U.S. economy is taking, there's no getting around the fact that Motorola has very specific problems of its own that have nothing to do with the industry and macroeconomics. Last month, it
alerted the world that it won't meet its first-quarter sales and earnings targets and could very well post a loss. It also
preannounced its fourth quarter not once, but twice.
The loss of confidence in the stock was reflected by the questions posed by investors at the conference as they threw their hands up in despair, sounding suspiciously as if they'd given up on the company, the second-largest maker of cell phones in the world, behind Finland's
Just a day after Motorola announced it will cut 7,000 jobs in its handset division in an effort to streamline production, Galvin's interrogators showed no mercy.
One chastised Galvin for Nokia's commanding market share lead in the handset arena, at 33.9% vs. Motorola's 12.7% at the end of 2000, according to research firm
. "That's embarrassing," she said. "Aren't you embarrassed?" (Galvin replied that he is.)
Another pilloried Galvin for "the perception that Motorola's been mismanaged for a long time." No offense, he added. He also accused Galvin of lacking vision.
The last one echoed the concerns of the previous questioner, detailing Motorola's laundry list of market share loss in its various businesses over the past eight years and casting doubt on plans to revamp the operation. "Most dramatically, you have lost market share in PCS
personal communications segment, the handset division," he concluded. "Can you tell us if this restructuring is real?"
Their frustration was borne out by numbers like this: According to Todd Bernier, an analyst at
, before Wednesday's bloodbath, Motorola has underperformed the
over the past five years by 18.6 percentage points.
"You could have bought the S&P and fallen into a coma for five years and done better than investing in Motorola," Bernier says. "That's the source of my vitriol for Motorola." (He doesn't rate stocks and his firm doesn't participate in underwriting.)
For Galvin's part, he gamely took his knocks, thanking each questioner for his comments, "because my mother told me to do that," he joked. But investors most likely will need more than gratitude before they have faith in the company again.