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Stop me if you've heard this one before: A tech business walks into a bar. It beats expectations, raises guidance, and basically buys everyone a beer. Then the bartender steals its horse and dunks the poor sod in tar and feathers. The end.
That story is stuck on "repeat" on Wall Street these days. It doesn't matter if you're big or small, a veteran or an upstart, a chipmaker or an e-business specialist -- and it sure doesn't matter much what you say in your earnings report. Chances are pretty good that you'll end up a fluffy tarball on the bar's front steps anyway. Impressive results ain't enough anymore -- you have to absolutely clean Wall Street's proverbial clock in order to get any respect.
This time, the stranger in the bar is EMC (NYSE: EMC ) . The big-ticket storage specialist is remaking itself into a cloud-computing player in cahoots with majority-owned virtualization specialist VMware (NYSE: VMW ) and networking giant Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) . Put those three companies together and you can build an entire cloud-computing data center, from network switches and servers to mass storage and the software glue that binds it all together.
If the whole of that alliance is anywhere near as powerful as the sum of its parts, I'd advise competitors to take cover or run for their lives. Sorry, Microsoft -- you don't stand a chance against this triumvirate. NetApp (Nasdaq: NTAP ) and Brocade Communications Systems (Nasdaq: BRCD ) may be light enough on their feet to carve out a niche market together, but always as the poor, red-headed stepchild of the cloud family. That partnership is taking second place.
All told, EMC seems to have it all right now. The company is cutting costs, raising profits, growing sales, and making smart acquisitions all at once. Cash is flowing in record volumes, margins are back to their dot-com era peaks, and I don't really see anything wrong with EMC. Sales increased 24% year over year to an even $4 billion, and earnings doubled to $0.20 per share. What's not to like?
And yet, EMC's stock is taking a beating today. If you can shed some light on the reasons why, the comments box below is waiting for your input.