With a flurry of feet, and singing bits of "We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of OCZ," investors beat a path to OCZ Technology (Nasdaq: OCZ ) yesterday, sending share prices on the flash memory and solid-state drive maker up 16%.
On Wednesday, OCZ released a truly wonderful earnings report. Analysts had expected OCZ to lose $0.01 per share (adjusted). Instead, management boasted a profit of $0.01. Sales for the fiscal first quarter more than doubled to $74 million. To top it all off, OCZ promised investors at least 65% full-year revenue growth for fiscal 2012 -- $310 million minimum, and perhaps as much as $345 million. (Management also says it will achieve 30% to 40% gross margins on that revenue.)
Pretty magical stuff, huh? Now ... let's see what's behind the curtain.
Do not look behind the curtain
Before getting too excited about OCZ's "earnings surprise," be sure to note that these are not GAAP profits we are talking about. Actually, OCZ would prefer you focus instead on its "adjusted" profits, aka "earnings before one-time charges," aka "earnings before bad stuff" -- or "earnings before B.S." Viewed from a more generally accepted angle, OCZ still lost $0.20 per share for the quarter.
Speaking of things generally accepted, it's also worth noting that OCZ's gross margin promise seems, um, "optimistic." So far, OCZ has posted only a 15% gross for the past 12 months. While 30% margins aren't unheard of in this industry -- rivals STEC (Nasdaq: STEC ) and SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK ) regularly gross in the mid-40s, while Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) gets more than 64% -- OCZ seems to be promising a two-to-threefold improvement that would leapfrog rivals Smart Modular (Nasdaq: SMOD ) and Micron (NYSE: MU ) . That's pretty aggressive.
Honestly, if I had my druthers, I'd rather see OCZ leave such promises unsaid, and focus instead on turning down the heat on its cash-burning machine. OCZ continues to burn cash at a frenetic pace, you see, with free cash flow plunging to negative $40.7 million for the past 12 months.
GAAP profits and adjusted profits are all well and good. But seeing OCZ conjure up some real free cash flow from its business? That would be truly wonderful.
Will OCZ be able to pull a rabbit out of its hat, or even just a few greenbacks? Add the stock to your Watchlist and find out.