Tech Earnings Preview: Apple, EBay, Intel, Juniper, Qualcomm

by: Jon Ogg

This is just a partial list of the companies reporting earnings after the close today, and keep in mind that these estimates could have changed in just the last thirty-six hours. Also it is worth noting again that with options expiration in just two days you can see the time value of these contracts eroding faster than the weaker parts of the Pacific coastline.

This Quarter
Next Quarter]


Apple notes: Quarterly Mac sales are estimated at about 1.16M units and iPod sales are expected around 9M units. The stock has been trading in somewhat of a no-man's land with a very wide $60 to $80 range for most of 2006. The company will hopefully address its supply constraints that it faced with components in past quarters. This lawsuit that surfaced Monday evening is likely not going to come up today, but this situation will be worth watching after this week when the myriad of research notes discussing the quarter and guidance have been released. We will also get to see if the company addresses any future cross-benefits from some Windows interoperability, because this has garnered a lot of attention and in theory could really drive some Windows converts down the road. Because of AAPL's gangbuster run and so many targets having been passed the street following is more mixed than in prior quarters, but you can still find $100 targets. Options traders seem to only be braced for a $1.40 to $1.95 move in either direction, but the rapid time value erosion may be to blame and these numbers vary. When running the May expirations it looks like options traders are braced for a move of up to $3.00 in either direction. The stocks often most tied to AAPL as iPod suppliers are PLAY, SYNA, & CY.


eBay notes: The perceived debacle of the Skype acquisition is being noted less and less often now by analysts and pundits, and the company looks like it is moving on. The company also gave conservative guidance with its last earnings and this new eBay express site looks like it may really help the company (I don't know if you ever tried to check your status in an auction from a web-phone, but the pages are too burdensome and require too much bandwidth to get very far at all, let alone to place a bid). If you looked at the EBAY chart before the 4% gain today you would have thought we were in the summer doldrums already, so it looks like they could benefit from simply an overall positive outlook and feel good comments. It would be interesting to note how much eBay is financially benefitting from its subscriber service levels on back bidding history, but it may be too detailed to really get into today.


Intel notes: With INTC having cut guidance and losing market share to AMD, it is pretty hard to find many positive pundits other than value-oriented investors. Last week there had been a lot of activity in the APR 20 CALLS indicating bottom fishing trades in case the company doesn't telegraph any worse malaise than the street has already assigned to it. We'll see just how much their price cuts and rapid releases of its dual and quad core processors are helping as it tries to fend off competition from AMD, although this is expected to push margins down to low 50's. We'll also see if the Windows Vista delay is going to hurt in the second half of 2006 processor sales. While the Mac sales are expected to help, the unit sales are just not large enough in scale yet to greatly offset the AMD competition in other Windows and Linux PC sales. This has all the earmarks for a true contrarian to clean up by betting against all the negativity, but the issue that feels different this time is that it has been hard to find anyone other than value investors that seem care.

Juniper (NYSE:JNPR)

Juniper notes: I was going to mention that the stock has been stuck since it warned in January, although the stock in the last 5 days is up about 6% and it is pretty difficult to slam them on valuations with a mere 20 forward P/E. What will be interesting is to see how it is progressing on the next-generation switches that companies like Verizon have been waiting for that will accomodate seemless and uninterruptible usage during upgrades, but this is said to be a ways off (maybe 2007 from both CSCO & JNPR). We may also get to see if they have been able to mitigate some of the market share loss to CSCO in the last year (approximately 2 points), although Cisco reps have supposedly been winning new business over JNPR. I could go into all the metrics inside the industry until I am blue in the face but the real issues the company needs to address are these: 1) lack of great management in many key spots; and 2) in the CSCO dominated sector (now with Scientific Atlanta as a unit) and in a future global turnkey solution that will be offered via Lucent/Alcatel these guys really need to either merge up (be acquired) or go on a buying spree themselves. Despite the fact that they were speculated as a takeover candidate for over 2 months now they have stopped trading like a takeover candidate.

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM)

Qualcomm notes: As a company that has been climbing steadily for the last year and with them having been a serial "raised guidance" company and we'll have to see if there are any disappointments. Right now it is hard to find negative comments outside of "valuations are getting high." Any attempts to be cautionary on this name have not been rewarded, so that is about all worth saying until the numbers are out.