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Why 2011 Was a Year to Forget for Powerwave Technologies

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2011 was a year to forget for many companies -- perhaps none more so than Powerwave Technologies (Nasdaq: PWAV  ) .

What went wrong
Powerwave, which supplies wireless solutions to telecommunications companies, had its growth plans put on hold as macroeconomic worries in Europe and a slowdown in spending from its customers in the U.S. and Middle East significantly stymied revenue and turned projected profits into steep losses. LM Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC  ) , one of Powerwave's largest customers, and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) are just two of many telecom names cutting back their spending in anticipation of weaker cell phone demand in Europe as widespread austerity measures are expected to really kick in within the coming months.

If Powerwave was anything in 2011, it was consistent. Powerwave was a perfect four-for-four in missing Wall Street's earnings expectations and shareholders endured a precipitous and depressing 83% decline in the stock price, as well as a one-for-five reverse split to regain listing compliance with the Nasdaq. In its most recent quarter, Powerwave's revenue fell by more than 50% and the company's quarterly loss was more than double what analysts had anticipated.

Perhaps more concerning is the company's dwindling cash position in light of its cumbersome debt pile. In the trailing-12-month period, shareholders have witnessed the worst cash flow outflow since 2007 and the company may need to further tap credit markets or issue shares in order to raise the cash needed to weather this industrywide downturn.

What 2012 has in store
Honestly, it's difficult to expect anything more than the same from Powerwave, which has been a perpetual disappointment for years. Without a real niche product, its customers are easily able to switch to different suppliers without much disruption. The company is also heavily levered, which could wind up biting it (and shareholders) in the behind in 2012. I'm not predicting anything near a miracle in Europe regarding a demand pick-up, so simply surviving the year intact should be the company's ultimate goal.

As for me, I've finally seen enough, and I think the Street has as well. Powerwave has been given multiple opportunities to turn itself around and has flopped every time. I'm starting the company with an underperform rating on CAPS. I figure it has plenty of disappointments yet to come in 2012.

However, if you'd like to take a gander at a company our analysts at The Motley Fool feel will outperform in 2012, get your free copy of "The Motley Fool's Top Stock in 2012."

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He double-dog dares you to say Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson three times fast. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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 that can hear you now.

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