There’s a lot of news coming out of the technology sector today. Let’s start with Apple and the growing chorus among shareholders for an SEC review.
Bloomberg has the story this morning, and it has to be at least slightly troublesome for the Apple brain trust.
Says Bloomberg; "U.S. regulators are examining Apple Inc.’s disclosures about Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs’s health problems to ensure investors weren’t misled, a person familiar with the matter said."
"The Securities and Exchange Commission’s review doesn’t mean investigators have seen evidence of wrongdoing, the person said, declining to be identified because the inquiry isn’t public. Investors have been pressing for information on Jobs’s health since June, when he appeared noticeably thinner at an Apple event. The company’s stock whipsawed this month after Jobs, who battled pancreatic cancer in 2004, said he would remain CEO while seeking a 'relatively simple' treatment for a nutritional ailment. Nine days later, Jobs said he would take a five-month medical leave after learning his health issues were 'more complex."
The good news for Apple is that the burden of proof is on the side of any investor wishing to bring legal action against the company. The SEC would have to prove that Apple benefit because it withheld information about Jobs’ health from public review.
Maybe that’s why Apple’s stock is up $3 in mid-day trading on Wednesday. That likely has more to do with Apple preparing to release its fiscal first-quarter financial report. The Associated Press is already reporting that analysts expect the tech giant, which just announced that co-founder Steve Jobs would take a medical leave of absence, will report an income of $1.39 per share on $9.74 billion in revenue.
That’s better than the Wall Street touts were saying only last week – investors will put aside their concerns about Jobs for the short-term, if they think Apple can batten down the hatches and weather the recessionary storm.
Make no mistake, the job for tech companies in the first quarter of 2009 is to weather that storm.
Look at Wireless giant LM Ericsson on Wednesday, which reported profits dropped 31 percent in the fourth quarter. Ericcson, pointing at restructuring charges and weaker handset sales, reported that it would cut 5,000 jobs. Even so, trading on Ericcson’s stock in Stockholm was fairly bullish – analysts had expected the company’s financials to be worse than reported.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Ericcson chief executive officer Carl-Henric Svanberg said the economic recession spreading around the world had not yet hit the network industry. "It remains, however, difficult to more precisely predict to what extent consumer telecom spending will be affected and how operators will act," Svanberg added. "To date, our infrastructure business is hardly impacted at all, but it would be unreasonable to think that this would be the case also throughout 2009."
Lastly, RDM Financial’s Ron Weiner is big on telecoms, primarily because they fulfill two key investment criteria: they’re inexpensive and they look great for the long haul.
"If you've got a three-month outlook, everything's scary; if you've got a three-year outlook, everything's cheap," he told CNBC this morning. His advice? "Look for High yields (get paid while you wait); mostly U.S.; have about 20 percent in cash; buy on dips; stay away from foreign small-cap, mid-cap; and short Treasury’s," he said.