The Perils of Doing Business in Russia (MOT)

Jun. 9.06 | About: Alphabet Inc. (GOOG)

Before you get too optimistic about the prospects for US firms in emerging markets, read this astounding note from Lehman Brothers analyst Tim Luke:

No Financial Implications from $20M Phone Seizures in Russia

During the March quarter, Russian authorities seized 167,500 handsets or ~$20 million in phones, according to the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by Motorola. The seizures were a result of some patent infringement claims in Russia filed by a Russian firm named RussGPS and in part by authorities' focus on phone retailer Euroset. Euroset is a reseller of MOT phones. The WSJ article suggests Russian authorities destroyed 50,000 of these units (namely of MOT's C115 model) on accusations of "endangering users health" despite meeting all requirements of the World Health Organization and Russian standards according to Motorola. Motorola has recently filed to sue RussGPS' Mr. Panov and his company in Russia. With respect to the balance of the confiscated phones, Motorola is currently working with Russian authorities for the return of those handsets.

While we believe seizures of this sort are rare, we believe they are not are rare as one might hope. We believe other leading vendors have had similar trouble in Russia.

We do not expect any financial implications for Motorola. Not only were the seizures in the March quarter, but Motorola had already passed title to these phones to other parties.

Motorola is estimated to hold around 20% of the Russian handset market of around 35M units with Nokia at 22% and Samsung at 24%. Our estimate for the global handset market is 950M.

Gives a completely different meaning to "inventory problems", right?