Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Downgrades Aplenty for Dell After Earnings Miss

A day after Dell reported quarterly earnings that fell 18 percent, analysts are slashing their ratings on its stock today, which opened lower by nearly 7 percent as markets opened in New York.

Dell’s earnings were 51 cents and missed the consensus of analysts by a penny; the company also said that revenue would decline by 7 percent in the current quarter. In a note to clients today, Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee dropped his rating to “underperform,” the equivalent of a “sell,” arguing that Dell’s PC business continues to suffer at the competitive hands of Apple, Acer and rejuvenated Hewlett-Packard. “We are concerned with the company’s longer-term fundamental position and may face more difficulty making further operational improvements,” Wu wrote.

Richard Kugele, of Needham and Co. in New York, downgraded Dell to a “hold” from a “buy.” Rich Gardner of Citigroup also cut his rating to “hold” and dropped his target price to $19 from $20, citing declining prospects for improvements to Dell’s gross margin in the current quarter.

But the chorus of analysts wasn’t all negative. Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank, who last week suggested that, all things considered, Dell’s results might turn out “pretty good,” saw it differently. He blamed the ongoing shortage of hard drives brought on by last year’s flooding in Thailand and weak public sector buying, and still finds Dell attractive. The shortage, he says, was the primary reason that Dell’s gross margins — which came in at 21.7 percent — missed estimates. “Gross margins were light due to negative hard drive impact — shortages hampered the ability to sell richer high-end systems — and soft public sector results,” Whitmore wrote in a note to clients today. He maintained his “buy” rating.

Brian Marshall of ISI maintained his “neutral” rating. He wrote in a note today that Dell’s plan of shifting its revenue base away from consumer and business PCs and toward higher-value enterprise IT, software and services is going to take years. “We believe changing the composition of a $60 billion revenue base is non-trivial and takes years not quarters to successfully navigate. [We’re] still scratching our heads on how earnings per share grows in 2012. … In the face of flat revenues, declining gross margins and continued operational expense growth, we struggle on how EPS will be up in 2012. We like the plan, just not the set-up.”

(Michael Dell photo by Asa Mathat)

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work