When Will Palm Handle Its Business?

Sigh.

When, oh, when will Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) get its business in order? Not soon, it seems. On Monday, the PDA and smartphone maker looked not-so-smart in lowering second-quarter guidance. It now expects $0.15 to $0.16 in per-share profit on $390 million to $395 million in sales, down from earlier estimates of $0.20 to $0.23 on $400 million to $430 million in revenue. (Which, by the way, had already amounted to practically zero growth.)

Management says the shortfall is due to a major carrier failing to certify the Treo 750 -- which has already invaded Europe -- on its network. Otherwise, CEO Ed Colligan said in a statement, "Smartphone sell-through across our existing products is strong."

I've no trouble believing that. The Treo is a great product. Heck, I own one. So does Foolish co-founder David Gardner, which partially explains why he recommended the shares to Motley Fool Stock Advisor subscribers. So does half of Fool HQ.

Popularity, however, can't be a substitute for excellent management in the face of tight competition from Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , and perhaps even Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) . You'll have to pardon me, Ed, if this latest snafu feels way too much like the inventory problems that plagued Palm for years.

An unfair comparison, you say? Maybe it is. But the math with respect to yesterday's announcement is positively startling. If the estimates are to be believed, the Treo 750 was to account for anywhere from 25% to 35% of Q2 profit.

Why on earth, then, didn't someone make certain that Cingular or Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) or Deutsche Telekom's (NYSE: DT  ) T-Mobile, or whoever it is you're blaming, certified the new Treo in plenty of time to juice sales during the quarter? Could it be that delays were on your end, too?

By the numbers, Palm looks cheap. Roughly one-third of its market value is in cash. Meanwhile, analysts expect the company to grow earnings by only 10% a year for the next five. Compare that with an industry in which the average firm is expected to grow by roughly 14% annually over the same period.

Were Palm to only match that 14% average and generate no better 3% gains thereon till eternity, discounted at 11%, the stock would be worth at least $18 a share by my back-of-the-napkin math. But, of course, I'm assuming that competent management can generate at least industry-matching growth. As of today, that's anything but a sure bet.

Dial 'F' for related Foolishness:

Palm is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Ask for us anall-access pass, and you'll get a backstage look at all of the stocks that are helping David and Tom Gardner beat the S&P 500 by more than 43 percentage points as of this writing. It's free for 30 days. All you have to lose is the prospect of a richer portfolio.

Fool contributorTim Beyers, ranked 1,129 out of 14,316 inMotley Fool CAPS, still owns a Treo 600, which he beats up every day. Tim owns shares in Nokia. Get the skinny on all of the stocks he owns by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool'sdisclosure policyis never on hold.


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