Investing in the tech sector has been especially rocky as of late as some tech firms– such as LinkedIn– have hit it big while others have faced significant market pressure. One company that has been feeling the heat since its most recent move is Microsoft which bought Skype in a $8.5 billion deal a few weeks ago. The Washington-based giant has seen its stock price slide by about 6% in the two weeks since the deal was first announced, leading many investors to believe that the company had made another acquisition that would end up destroying value for shareholders. “What it boils down to is that Microsoft has had a load of initiatives which haven’t shown traction yet,” said one U.S. equity fund manager at an investment house featuring on the list of Microsoft’s top 40 largest shareholders. “The most recent one is to buy Skype, and the perception on that is that it is overvalued. We won’t know what revenue synergies are until two, three years down the road.”
Thanks to these concerns, as well as issues over the company’s internet search strategy and lackluster growth over the past decade, prominent investor and hedge fund manager David Einhorn has called for the company to fire long time CEO Steve Ballmer. “It’s time for Microsoft’s board to tell Steve Ballmer, ‘All right, we see what you can do, let’s give so-and-so a chance,’” Einhorn said. “His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft’s stock.”
Nevertheless, the rest of MSFT’s management, including Bill Gates, is standing by Ballmer, the market is seeing things differently as the shares of MSFT rose close to three percent in Thursday trading before the stock fell back to finish the day up by about 2.3%. Thanks to this sharp move in what has become one of the most stable and flat companies in the sector, many investors are likely to be tuned in to what happens next to the company and if other large investors continue the calls for Ballmer’s head.
If that happens, a move may be necessary at some point in the near future especially considering how far behind the company has fallen in key growth areas such as search and mobile and the fact that Ballmer has had plenty of time to enact his ideas. After all he has been CEO since 2000, and the company’s stock price has lost almost 50% of its value, even adjusted for dividends. Obviously part of the issue was the two recessions that the U.S. economy experienced during this time frame, but the fact remains that MSFT has failed to keep up with others in the field despite having a huge war-chest of cash and large leads in a variety of key sectors of the market [see Five ETFs To Play The NASDAQ].
Although the technology giant makes up a large portion of a number of technology ETFs, we look for the S&P North American Technology-Software Index Fund (IGV) to be especially in focus during today’s trading session. The fund, which tracks the S&P North American Technology-Software Index, allocates its second biggest weighting to Microsoft at 7.4% while holding about 50 other companies in total. IGV, like the tech sector at large, has been doing pretty well over the long term– the fund is up 42.7% over the last 52 weeks– put it has been struggling over the short term, losing close to 2% over the past two weeks alone. If Microsoft’s stock is able to continue to surge and carry other tech names with it, IGV could have a good end to the week. If, however, any talk of Ballmer’s removal is thoroughly dismissed and is removed from discussion, shares of MSFT could fall back lower, erasing all of yesterday’s gains and sending this popular iShares fund to a loss for the week [see Nine Twists On Sector ETF Investing].
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing, photo is courtesy of Jesús Gorriti.