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Earnings Preview: Motorola to report on 4Q results

Tue, 01/26/2010 - 1:06pm
The Associated Press

Motorola Inc. is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results on Thursday morning. The following is a summary of key developments and analyst opinion related to the period:

OVERVIEW: Is Motorola's turnaround working? Investors are about to get a major clue, as the company reports results for the first quarter in which it sold phones based on Google Inc.'s Android software. The phones — the Cliq on T-Mobile USA and the Droid on Verizon Wireless — are the fruits of a shake-up of the phone business engineered by co-CEO Sanjay Jha, who joined the company a year and a half ago.

Both phones have been well received, and the Droid has had a major Verizon marketing push behind it. The country's largest cellular carrier clearly sees the Droid as its best shot at preventing subscribers from jumping to AT&T Inc. to get their hands on the iPhone. On Tuesday, Verizon reported adding a net 1.2 million customers under contract, a fairly strong result. It also said it paid an unexpectedly high amount in subsidies because customers were so eager to upgrade to smart phones. It may add up to the most successful phone launch for Motorola since the Razr. The cell phone unit has been in a crisis ever since that phone lost its cachet.

Motorola has put on hold plans to spin off the cell phone unit, but The Wall Street Journal has reported that the company has been looking to sell its largest division, Home and Networks Mobility, which makes TV set-top boxes, cable modems and related gear. However, the bids have been lower than what Motorola has been looking for, according to the paper.

Its third unit is Enterprise Mobility, which makes police radios and retail and corporate equipment, like bar code scanners.

Analysts see little point in keeping the company together, and regularly find that the value of Motorola's parts is higher than the value the stock market ascribes to the whole company.

BY THE NUMBERS: Motorola has forecast a profit from continuing operations of 7 cents to 9 cents per share, excluding charges for cost-cutting initiatives.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters are on average expecting a profit of 8 cents per share, on $5.9 billion in revenue.

In the third quarter, Motorola sold 13.9 million phones, putting it just ahead of Sony Ericsson as the fourth-largest maker of phones worldwide. The Swedish-Japanese joint venture sold 14.6 million phones in the fourth quarter.

ANALYST TAKE: Tim Long at BMO Capital Markets expects Motorola to have sold about 1.3 million Android phones at an average price of $425 each, and 13 million other phones. He still finds the company has a lot to prove in Android, and wants to see if it maintains its momentum this year.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Motorola has said it plans to launch more than 20 new smart phones in 2010, most of them running Android.

Last week, the company filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission, accusing Blackberry maker Research In Motion Ltd. of infringing on Motorola patents. RIM had no comment.

STOCK PERFORMANCE: Motorola shares fell 7.7 percent in the quarter, compared with 6.2 percent for the S&P 500.

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