Think Equity Thinks Little of Dell, Fears AMD Could Suffer As a Result of Collateral Damage

Includes: AMD, DELL
by: William Trent, CFA

You may not have noticed but computer maker Dell (DELL) has not exactly been hitting the ball out of the park lately. Well, investment boutique Think Equity Partners has noticed, and is so concerned they believe DELL will miss guidance they didn’t even give. According to CNet

Think Equity Partners believes Dell will have to preannounce poor earnings once again, as it deals with a host of issues, including the market, the recall, executive defections, an SEC investigation into its accounting practices, and the loss of marketing support from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) as a result of its decision to adopt Advanced Micro Devices’ (NASDAQ:AMD) chips.

Even though Dell hasn’t issued guidance for its current quarter, it’s likely to try to slip the bad news in among the other earnings reports that will arrive in mid-October, analysts said in the report.

Now that is an earnings surprise! Of course, when you don’t give earnings guidance anything should qualify as a surprise. As far as DELL’s woes, we were a little curious as to what, why and particularly why now these became a concern. For example:

1. The market. We assume Think is thinking about the market for computers as opposed to the stock market. To some extent, though, both are outside DELL’s control. Today’s personal computer buyer is the consumer rather than big business, and we would no more penalize DELL for that than we would Oracle. It just isn’t their customer.
2. The recall. With similar recalls now issued by Lenovo/IBM (OTCPK:LNVGY) (NYSE:IBM), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF), and pretty much anybody else who makes laptops, it is hard to call this a concern for one company in particular.
3. Executive defections. The way things are going, we could use at least one more of these.
4. SEC investigations are never a buy signal. But with “SEC options investigation” turning up “about 9,390,000″ results in a Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) search, again we don’t see the company-specificity on this.
5. Last but not least, we have the AMD switchover and the question of whether the market share to be gained by offering AMD chips offsets the margin losses from foregone marketing support. While we assume somebody at DELL did the math, given their recent performance we are unsure whether they have anyone at the firm who can properly do the math - so we’ll let Think Equity Partners have this one.

Still, the last point has us more than a little confused at the fact that Think’s semiconductor analyst downgraded AMD on concerns of collateral damage. We guess it goes back to who was doing the math. If DELL loses its subsidy but doesn’t sell any AMD processors anyway, then it would indeed be bad for both companies.

DELL 1-yr chart:

DELL 1-yr chart

Disclosure: Author is short DELL put options, a position that reflects a neutral to bullish outlook on DELL common stock.

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