SAN FRANCISCO -- Tuesday morning at the BancBoston Robertson Stephens Tech '99 Conference, Rambus (RMBS) - Get Report CFO Gary Harmon seemed to confirm that Intel (INTC) - Get Report will push back its rollout of the Rambus-based Camino chip set.
"Intel has said that they will be releasing a Rambus chipset this year," said Harmon. "We think that at the
Intel Developer Forum
-- starting today in Palm Springs, Calif. -- Intel will refine that to the second half of the year."
Camino is the singlemost important product to Rambus -- a company with a $1.8 billion market cap and, thus far, few products to its name. This was underscored by Harmon's admission that some 50 Rambus engineers -- one-third of its workforce -- are tied up working with Intel.
Nonetheless, Robertson Stephens analyst Dan Niles said it's not an issue. "Our view on Intel is that they slip shipping deadlines," said Niles. "So today they will put a stake in the ground on when the slip will be. This is a long-term story."
As Harmon spoke in San Francisco, some 600 miles to the south in Palm Springs, Intel exec Pat Gelsinger demonstrated a next-generation system that included Rambus technology. But the real McCoy, he admitted, won't be "ramping" until the second half of the year.
"We believe the full set of platform components begins in the third quarter of this year," Gelsinger said. Delays for Rambus-powered laptop computers will be even longer. "Rambus for mobile computers will be ready shortly after, or very late this year or early next year," he said.
Some investors are sure to be disappointed with the news. Shares of Rambus rallied briefly as high as 82 1/2 after the presentation but gave up those gains in midday trading, when they were down 5% at 78 1/8.
-- Cory Johnson in San Francisco and Marcy Burstiner in Palm Springs
Vantive's New Hire
In an eager attempt to woo investors back onto its bandwagon, front-office software maker
scooped itself at the BancBoston conference. CEO John Luongo let it slip that Vantive will announce next Monday it has stolen away Guy DuBois from
to head Vantive's international operations.
"I think I can probably say this," Luongo said. "On Monday, we're going to announce that Guy DuBois, vice president of Sybase Europe, will be our new head of international." Luongo, who was named CEO late last month, also said the company is "actively recruiting a vice president of North America."
Vantive needs some good news. The stock declined 25% in the week following its fourth-quarter earnings, when license-revenue growth was lower than expected. The addition to management should help, but investors would have rather seen a fresh face in the more troubled North American operations.
Vantive's international sales grew 30% in the fourth quarter, accounting for 27% of total revenue, while the domestic side lagged, CFO Len LeBlanc said. "This year and next year, international will still probably grow faster than domestic," he said.
But that wasn't good enough for investors now who want more immediate returns. They noted that LeBlanc also said the company's goal of operating margins of 14% to 17% and gross margins of 77% to 80% may still take a couple of years to reach. Vantive's fourth-quarter operating margins were 6%, and gross margins were 73% because of lower-than-expected license revenue growth and higher consulting revenue increases. License fees have a higher margin than consulting fees.
So even with the company's new face, investors say they are not yet ready to jump in again because results could still be a long way from emerging.
-- Medora Lee
What Landis Likes
Fresh from the
presentation Monday morning at the BancBoston conference,
funds manager Kevin Landis called the network storage software maker's story "impressive" but said he hasn't pulled the trigger on a buy yet. "The stock's pricey," he said.
Legato is in a kind of "
" war with competing storage software maker
, said Landis. He's keeping a watchful eye on Legato, which he said just "might be the Coke."
While Landis has long preferred to play the Internet from the ground up, investing in "infrastructure" companies such as
, he did buy
last summer for his $50 million
Technology Leaders fund "immediately after, it announced the
deal," he said.
The manager said the Internet service firm has demonstrated its ability to keep customers loyal, unlike online retailer
, which Landis said has so far failed to convince him it possesses an "enduring competitive advantage."
Landis' $150 million
Technology Value fund is up 24.5% over the past 12 months; Technology Leaders is up 74.9% in the same time period, according to
Landis has been doing the rounds at the Tech '99 conference armed with a five-pack of color highlighters to organize his schedule of preferred company presentations: green for "know-it-and-love-it" companies; pink for companies whose "tires deserve kicking"; yellow for "nothing-better-to-do" companies; purple and blue for private meetings.
Among the greens were old favorites such
-- Alison Moore