ARM Holdings Earnings Preview: What to Expect

British mobile chip architecture designer ARM Holdings (Nasdaq: ARMH  ) is set to report its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2011 earnings tomorrow. What can investors look forward to?

The digits will be released bright and early at 7 AM, but that's London Time, which translates to 2 AM Eastern Time stateside. By the time you wake up tomorrow, the juicy details will be all yours to soak in. Another thing to keep in mind is that ARM goes by International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) instead of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) we use here domestically.

On average, analysts are looking for a top line of $193.4 million in sales and a bottom line of $0.14 per American Depository share. The range of revenue estimates spans between $188.1 million and $195.5 million. If revenue comes in on target, that would represent 7.7% growth relative to the $179.6 million in sales last year.

If that level of growth seems like there's something left to be desired for a company currently trading at 74 times earnings, remember that ARM has high operating leverage, so it can translate modest revenue gains into explosive earnings growth. For example, last quarter ARM turned a 22% jump in revenue into a 113% larger bottom line. ARM has such low variable costs that its cost of revenues was a miniscule 5.7% of sales last quarter and a year ago – and when you flip that around, you get a gross margin topping 94%.

The $0.14 EPS expected would represent a 36% rise from last year, but I think ARM has a good shot of besting estimates. The company continues to ink new licenses (28 new chip licenses last quarter including 14 new customers), which generate recurring royalty revenue for years.

We'll see if ARM can stack up and beat rival designer, U.S.-based MIPS Technologies (Nasdaq: MIPS  ) , whose top line fell by 30% when it reported last week, swinging to a loss in the process. Chipzilla Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , who recently put up solid figures of its own, is looking to crack into ARM's mobile turf as well with its Medfield Atom chip.

Both MIPS and Intel are relying on Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android for mobile entry, with MIPS touting a new Android 4.0 tablet at CES earlier this month, and Intel inking an agreement with Google to "optimize" the OS for Intel chips.

When it comes to mobile processors, ARM remains top dog, so look forward to some upbeat results tomorrow morning.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of ARM Holdings, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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