Motorola Misses Targets

Shares drop 8% after a surprising handset sales shortfall.
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Updated from 5:15 p.m.

Motorola

(MOT)

fell 8% late Tuesday after the tech titan missed third-quarter sales and handset shipment targets.

The Schaumburg, Ill., wireless giant made $727 million, or 29 cents a share, from continuing operations for the quarter ended Sept. 30. That's down from the year-ago $1.74 billion, or 68 cents a share.

The latest quarter included 5 cents a share in one-time charges, including 2 cents a share worth of stock compensation expense. Excluding those figures, latest-quarter earnings were 34 cents a share.

Sales rose 17% from a year ago to $10.6 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a 34-cent profit on revenue of $11.07 billion.

The company said it shipped 53.7 million wireless handsets during the quarter, missing Wall Street's 54 million-unit target.

The company pointed to a big drop off in the Nextel iDen two-way radio phones for part of the reason for the third quarter sales slump. Motorola says dual mode phones for Sprint's Nextel customers will be available later this quarter.

On a conference call with analysts, CEO Ed Zander was asked why, with handset sales still strong, would top line growth fall below Street expectations. "Infrastructure isn't growing as fast. We have to factor that into the numbers," said Zander, referring to the company's networking equipment business.

Answering a question about business so far in the fourth quarter, Motorola executives on the call sounded upbeat. "Orders for the fourth quarter are at the highest level" for Motorola, an executive said.

Looking ahead, Motorola expects fourth-quarter sales to fall somewhere in a range between $11.8 billion and $12.1 billion. Analysts, however, were looking for $12.1 billion, according to Reuters Research.

Despite the sales slowdown, the company said it picked up 0.3 percentage point of market share for an estimated 22.4% of the global handset market.

Still, some observers have doubts about the company's product lineup.

"They have nothing to replace the Razr. They are a victim of their own success," says one New York money manager who is short the stock."All their big products are coming out next year. They've got nothing now but the Krzr, which is just another Razr. Look at their margins, they are peaking."

Heading into Tuesday's postclose report, shares of Motorola were up 29% since the company last posted quarterly earnings back in July. The rally comes as investors have stampeded into big-cap tech stocks such as Motorola and

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

in hopes of playing the boom in communications technologies.

Shares fell $1.95 late Tuesday to $22.89.