Despite continued concerns over high oil prices and geopolitical risks in both North Africa and Japan, American equity markets have managed to rise over the past week, shaking off these worries in hopes of higher levels of global growth in other key markets. This has largely been due to rosy predictions over technology companies, which many believe are poised to lead the developed world back to recovery. However, arguably one of the most famous technology companies, Research In Motion (RIMM)–the parent company of the BlackBerry smartphone–looked to put this theory to the test last night with a key quarterly earnings report.
Last night after the bell, the embattled company, facing stiff competition from not only Apple but Android devices as well, looked to show investors that it could compete with these giants in the operating system space smartphone space. Additionally, the Canadian firm looked to showcase its newest venture that could strike into the tablet market; the BlackBerry Playbook has been touted as a device that can compete with Apple and Google. The company got off to a reasonably strong start, reporting that net earnings came in at $1.78 a share on revenues of $5.56 billion. This compared very favorably to analyst estimates which called for earnings of $1.75 a share for the period on revenues of a slightly-higher $5.65 billion. Despite the revenue miss, the company’s earnings did come in at a 32% clip higher than the year-ago period and smartphone shipments beat estimates as well, suggesting that business was becoming increasingly strong at the company [also check out our new Head-to-Head Tool].
Unfortunately, this earnings report was not enough to satisfy the Street as a reduction in guidance for the company sent shares plunging in trading after-hours last night. The company revealed that it now expects first-quarter earnings of $1.47 to $1.55 a share on between $5.2 billion and $5.6 billion in revenue. This outlook compares with FactSet Research’s consensus estimate of $1.65 a share in earnings on $5.67 billion in sales. Obviously this significant reduction in earnings, combined with greater expenses for the launch of the PlayBook–which itself will face tremendous competition and an uncertain future–was enough to spook most investors, as shares of RIMM sank by as much as 10%. This severe loss could hurt the broad tech sector as well, as some investors may fear that this prediction by RIMM could signal similar slowdowns in other segments of the tech world, possibly sending many tech companies sharply lower to start today’s session [see all Technology ETFs here].
Due to this market reaction to RIMM’s earnings report, we look for the iShares S&P North American Technology-Multimedia Networking Index Fund (IGN) to be active in Friday trading. The fund allocates roughly 8.3% of its holdings to Research In Motion, enough to put the company in its top three, just behind Qualcomm and Juniper Networks. Due to the heavy hit that RIMM’s stock price took in after-hours trading, we look for IGN to slump in the first hour or so of trading. If, however, investors can look past the company’s weak guidance, and focus on the broader positive sentiment for the industry, IGN could push higher later in the day thanks to bargain buying. Unfortunately, with all the negative press about RIMM and with plenty of other risk factors already in the market, this may just be enough to push IGN significantly down on the day, ending the week on a sour note [see Ten iShares ETFs Every Investor Should Know (But Most Don't)].
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.