Updated from 5:34 p.m. ET
Memory chip maker
said Thursday it lost 1 cent per share in its second fiscal quarter ended March 1, excluding the personal computer operations the company agreed to sell just last week.
Micron lost $88 million, or 15 cents a share, during the quarter including losses related to those PC operations. The planned sale of majority-owned
PC unit was announced on March 23, causing Micron Technology to delay its earnings release by more than a week. In total, Micron Electronics lobbed $84 million, or 14 cents a share, off Micron's net income during the quarter. The rest of the loss came from Micron Electronics' Web site hosting business, while the semiconductor business was mildly profitable.
Whether Micron Technology missed or beat analysts' expectations is a bit less clear. Analysts expected a loss of 3 cents a share, according to
Thomson Financial/First Call
. But according to two analysts, the consensus didn't account for Micron Electronics' PC business being booked as a discontinued operation.
Micron Technology spokesman Kipp Bedard said that generally accepted accounting principles required that the company book operations to be sold as discontinued immediately following board approval of a sale. The accounting also must include any losses those operations may cause in the future. In this case, that's $28.8 million in losses for the most recent quarter and $55.4 million for losses the business incurs between now and when it is sold, presumably sometime this summer.
On the revenue side, Micron lost ground. Due to the weak demand in personal computers and thus memory chips, Micron's semiconductor and Web hosting business brought in $1.07 billion, of which $1.05 billion came from its semiconductor business. Analysts had expected Micron to report revenue of $1.37 billion but that included personal computer revenue. As part of discontinued operations, those figures weren't included in Micron's figures..
Both sales and earnings were substantially lower than a year ago, when the company reported revenue of $1.39 billion and earnings of 29 cents per share (including the PC business). Excluding that PC business, the company had sales of $1.16 billion in the year ago quarter and net income of 29 cents a share.
That was back when things were good for the semiconductor business. As the economy boomed, demand outstripped supply and memory makers like Micron held the cards. Micron's dynamic random access memory chips, or DRAM, are used in personal computers. The downturn in PC demand this past fall helped throw off the supply/demand balance in DRAM and contributed to a decline in DRAM prices during the company's fiscal second quarter.
The company said its average selling price fell 50% during the quarter, leading to a 33% decline in net semiconductor sales during the period compared with the first quarter. Gross profit margins on those sales fell to 18% in the second quarter from 49% in the first. But there's hope that things could be about to turn around in the PC market at least.
During a conference call to discuss the results, Micron's Bedard answered one of many analyst queries about DRAM inventories by saying that inventories had "peaked about five weeks ago and have been on a steady decline at this point." The company doesn't provide actual inventory levels.
Analysts are looking closely at DRAM inventory levels and prices to try and determine if demand for chips could be turning around. The company indicated that might be happening.
"We've seen spot prices jump, and they're relatively limited to certain products -- primarily SDRAM 128 megabit at this point," said Fred Waddel, director of sales, computing and consumer group, adding that if spot market continues up, the contract prices that make up more of Micron's revenue should follow.
Micron's earnings report comes more than a week later than planned. On March 21, the company said it hadn't yet received numbers from Micron Electronics, which makes personal computers, and wouldn't be able to announce quarterly numbers. Two days later, Micron Electronics announced that it was selling it PC business to an unidentified private firm and buying a company that hosts Web sites to merge with its own hosting business.
reported yesterday that the private company was
Gores Technology Group
, a little-known Los Angeles-based buyout outfit that also bought the problematic