Is the wireless handset industry out of the woods yet? Investors will be eyeing corporate reports closely this week for a clue.
are due to report quarterly earnings in the next few days, including details on the key holiday shopping season, during which about a third of all phone sales occur.
"It appears volumes for handsets were OK and the current inventory levels on an aggregate level are normal" for the fourth quarter, said Deutsche Bank securities analyst Brian Modoff in a report. "However, this strength was due entirely to very aggressive subsidies and promotions in the U.S. and Europe," he added. Deutsche Bank has an investment banking relationship with Nokia.
As for Nokia, fourth-quarter sales are expected to be in line with its December forecasts of 8.8 billion euros to 9 billion euros ($9.3 billion to $9.6 billion), up from 8.78 billion euros in the year-ago quarter. The company forecasts earnings per share will be 23 euro cents to 25 euro cents, compared with 25 euro cents a year earlier. Wall Street analysts anticipate earnings per share of 23 euro cents, and sales of 8.8 billion euros.
Investors can expect forecasts for first-quarter earnings this week, but most likely not estimates for full-year 2003, a company spokesman said.
Last summer, Nokia executives were touting 10% to 15% industrywide phone-shipment growth for 2003. But in December, the company predicted only 10% growth -- and its stock plunged about 4% the day after that update. A Nokia spokeswoman said the forecast would be clarified this week. She added that the company is expecting 10%-plus industrywide phone-shipment growth in 2003, and 10% to 15% growth over the next two to three years.
Meanwhile, Motorola expects fourth-quarter EPS of 10 cents on revenue of $7 billion, compared with a net loss of 4 cents on revenue of $7.3 billion in the same period last year. Wall Street analysts forecast earnings of 10 cents a share and $7 billion in revenue. The company previously said it foresees the industry will have shipped around 390 million phones in 2002.
Analysts expect the company to highlight brisk holiday sales, especially of its T-720 model. However, offsetting those gains will be weakness in its infrastructure division, in the face of shrinking capital spending by its wireless-carrier customers.
Meanwhile, Qualcomm expects to post fiscal first-quarter earnings of 35 cents to 38 cents a share, on revenue of $1 billion to $1.06 billion, up from pro forma earnings last year of 23 cents a share, on revenue of $693 million. Analysts forecast earnings per share to reach 37 cents, on revenue of $1 billion.
For 2003, the company expects pro forma revenue to rise by 19% to 23% from 2002, which would imply revenue of $3.57 billion to $3.69 billion. It forecasts EPS will be $1.15 to $1.20. It sees industrywide sales of about 100 million to 105 million phones.
Unlike its struggling competitors, Qualcomm has met with some success of late. In anticipation of continuing brisk sales of phones based on its technology, the company raised its chip-shipment guidance for the fiscal first quarter to 28 million units, and for the fiscal second quarter to 24 million to 27 million units.
Regarding the sector, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray analyst Samuel May said: "Things will be fairly sober in the outlook.
The companies don't have any more visibility now than they have for several quarters."