Rough Waters Ahead for Sirf Tech

The company's sales won't meet seasonal patterns.
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SAN FRANCISCO --

Sirf Technology

(SIRF)

swung to a loss in the first quarter, capping a tumultuous period in which the struggling chipmaker announced a major reorganization and sacked its CEO.

And the hits keep coming.

On Thursday, interim CEO Diosdado Banatao said that the company's finance chief was also headed for the door, with a resignation effective May 8, and warned that sales in the quarters ahead would not follow seasonal patterns.

Sirf said that sales in the current quarter will range between $60 million to $64 million, below the $68.5 million expected by analysts.

Instead of the one-cent-a-share profit expected by analysts, Sirf said it expects to lose between 11 cents and 16 cents in the second quarter.

Shares of Sirf sank 9.5%, or 59 cents, at $5.65 in extended trading Thursday.

Sirf has seen its early lead in the market for GPS chips -- which communicate with overhead satellites to determine an electronic device's geographic location -- pressured by a flood of new competitors that have added GPS to their product lines, including

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

,

Atheros

(ATHR)

and

Broadcom

.

Many of these competitors intend to fold GPS into more full-featured chips, threatening to relegate Sirf to the undesirable role of being an undersized, one-trick pony.

On a post-earnings conference call Thursday, Sirf executives bristled at any suggestion that the company might be better off

if it were annexed by a larger company

.

Questions about the potential benefits of pairing up with a bigger player were batted away by Sirf executives, who dismissed any discussion along those lines as an unacceptable comment on "rumors."

Has Sirf taken any actions to protect itself from an outside bid? -- another query that Sirf executives could not answer due to the rumor rule.

One surprising revelation was that Sirf invested $13.5 million in an unnamed, private GPS firm during the quarter.

With all the new competition, Sirf acknowledged that its profit margins were under pressure. The company's gross margin in the recently ended quarter declined to 42.6% from 53.9% at this time a year ago.

And slackening demand for the personal navigation devices that use Sirf chips is not helping.

"Some of our PND customers have indicated weakness in consumer demand and the need to manage inventory levels in the retail channels," Banatao said.

Earlier this month, PND maker

TomTom

cut its sales outlook for the first quarter

.

Garmin

(GRMN) - Get Report

, the other major PND maker, is due to report quarterly earnings on April 30.

For the three months ended March 31, Sirf said shipments of its chips fell 44% sequentially.

Revenue was down 7.8% year-over-year at $62 million, in line with analysts' dampened expectations, following the company's March preannouncement in which it cut its sales outlook and announced plans to layoff 7% of its work force.

Sirf posted a loss of $28.1 million, or 47 cents a share, vs. net income of $2.8 million, or 5 cents a share at this time last year.

The results included roughly $16 million of stock compensation expenses and acquisition-related charges.

The average analyst expectation, which excludes stock compensation expenses, called for a loss of 7 cents.

The company's restructuring, and its forthcoming lineup of products, are expected to have a positive impact on financial results "later this year," Sirf executives said.

"Not withstanding the lower numbers and uncertain outlook we are reporting today, the fundamental opportunities in our market are still intact in the long run," said Banatao.