It’s Tuesday and all eyes on Wall Street are on Yahoo, where new CEO Carol Bartz is expected to lower expectations for Yahoo going forward as the tech behemoth issues its Q4 earnings results.
We’re in the midst of the tech earnings season right now and there have been surprises and there have been some disasters. Guidance, meaning where Yahoo bean-counters think the company is going financially, should be held low – that gives Bartz a better chance to exceed expectations and get investors buying Yahoo stock again. One piece of good news from Yahoo already this morning. It’s news portal ranked ahead of CNN.com in a new media survey, which bodes well for Yahoo once advertising stabilizes.
Still, few Wall Street analysts believe it’s time to buy Yahoo yet. Says Sanford Bernstein analyst Jeff Lindsay “(Although) Yahoo has a new CEO and a new team we don’t know what the plan is. Right now it’s a value trap.” Lindsey opts for Google, instead. “It’s trading much better. It’s currently trading at a 15 multiple and it could get up to 20", he says.
Verizon is the other big story in the tech sector. Despite a drop-off in cell phone sales across the telecom sector, Verizon was still able to post a 15% gain in earnings for the 4th quarter. The U.S.’ second-largest telecommunications provider earned $1.24 billion, or 43 cents per share, up from $1.07 billion, or 37 cents per share, a year earlier.
Revenue rose 3.4 percent to $24.6 billion from a year ago. That fell slightly short of analyst expectations at $24.74 billion.
According to company financial reports Verizon added 1.4 million subscribers to its wireless network, only slightly down from the 1.5 million it added in the third quarter. It ended the year with 72.1 million customers, putting it in second place after AT&T Inc. But Verizon Wireless closed on the purchase of Alltel Corp. on Jan. 9, giving it more than 80 million customers and vaulting it to first place in the U.S. cellular industry.
With Verizon losing customers in the land-line market, and not seeming to care one way or the other, it has actually been hiring more staffers for its wireless division. That could explain why employee numbers are fairly level at a time when most other tech companies are laying off employees in large numbers.
Consequently, Verizon has surprised many Wall Street observers, who though the wireless giant would absorb more of a beating because of the conditions of the global economy. Last November and then once more in December, for instance, Oppenheimer predicted Verizon to report low-single digit revenue growth in 2009, so coming out of the gate at 15% bodes well for Verizon and its investors. Even as recently as January 5, 2009, Verizon was downgraded to “underperform” by Bernstein. The analyst downgraded the company based on expectations for slowing wireless growth. Sensing investor discontent, Bernstein also lowered its price target for the company to $27 from $32.
Last Friday, that prediction was looking pretty good, with Verizon trading down under $29 per share. But the earnings news has Verizon back up in the $31 and $32 trading range with a clear shot at the mid-$30’s based on the positive earnings picture.
Just goes to show you – even in a tough economy, the only way you’re going to get cell phones from consumers is by prying them from their cold, dead hands.