The close of the calendar third quarter means third quarter earnings season is right around the corner. It will be a couple of weeks for companies to close their books and release sales and profit trends for the third quarter. In the meantime, a small amount of companies with fiscal year ends that differ from the calendar one continue to report. A couple of important technology-related commentary also came out of a major credit rating firm this week.
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Last week, microchip giant Texas Instruments (Nasdaq:TXN) announced it would be exiting most of its wireless semiconductor businesses. Credit rating firm Moody's weighed in with its opinion on the move on Monday and sees the announcement as a credit positive for the company. As part of the announcement, Texas Instruments said it would redirect research and development (R&D) activities from wireless into more lucrative areas, including automobile infotainment, motor controls and sensors.
Moody's detailed that Texas Instrument's wireless business posts annual sales of nearly $1.9 billion and 85% stems from smartphones and tablets. This is a great area to operate in as it is fast growing, but is dominated by Samsung and Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL). This makes it extremely difficult to get to the necessary scale to make the business acceptably profitable. Texas Instruments also appeared to be operating on the end of the market that is struggling. Its customer base includes Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Research in Motion (Nasdaq:RIMM) that are also struggling to compete against the likes of Apple and phones based on Google's (Nasdaq:GOOG) Android operating system.
Moody's also provided an outlook for the technology hardware industry in the United States. It sees steady corporate demand but weaker potential consumer demand. In other words, corporate spending should hold up better than the consumer side. This could put further pressure on companies such as Nokia and Research in Motion, which are struggling to compete with Apple on the consumer side. Moody's also expects personal computer sales to be weak, especially on the consumer side. Again, Apple's iPad tablet and iPhone smartphones have grown into extremely compelling alternatives to more clunky consumer PCs.
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The only major technology earnings announcement comes from Xyratex (Nasdaq:XRTX). Xyratex is a key supplier to manufacturers of data storage drives and devices. Its hard drive products and solutions are used in the final products of the leading players in the storage industry. In fact, 91% of its sales are to only six customers, and they are the largest in the industry. As such, Xyratex serves as a bellwether for overall industry trends. Large customers include International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), NetApp (Nasdaq:NTAP) , Dell (Nasdaq:DELL), Seagate (Nasdaq:STX) and Western Digital (Nasdaq:WDC).
Xyratex plans to announce third quarter fiscal results. Analysts currently project a rather severe sales drop of 13% to $316.3 million. However, they project a slight profit increase to 44 cents per share, up two cents from 42 cents per share in last year's third quarter. The quarterly top line drop is expected to mirror the full-year decline. Analysts expect a full year sales decrease of nearly 13% to $1.26 billion. They also project a profit increase from $1.27 per share last year to $1.65 per share this year. At a current share price of $9.22, the forward P/E looks quite low at below seven.
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The Bottom Line
In about two weeks, a large number of technology firms will report their third quarter results. Until then, a small amount of earnings releases will trickle in, as will any important industry developments.