The house rules are simple in this weekly column. I bash a stock that I think is heading lower, and I offset the sting by recommending three stocks as portfolio replacements.
Who gets tossed out this week? Come on down, Research In Motion
If you build it, they will run
The inevitable happened last week, when Nokia
Is the BlackBerry maker next? RIM reports earnings on Thursday, and the near-term growth prospects are apparently cheery for the company that legitimized smartphones in the corporate space. Analysts are banking on a quarterly profit of $1.33 a share, 36% ahead of its previous year's showing.
However, there are a few signs of RIM's mortality. For starters, the wireless wonder missed Wall Street's profit target in its previous report. It had landed ahead of the pros in each of the six quarters before that.
There's also too much momentum on the iPhone and Android fronts. Even as hot as the iPhone has been, there were actually more Android-powered smartphones sold than iPhones during the first three months of the year, according to research NPD.
This is more problematic for RIM than you may think. The iPhone has been an undisputed phenomenon, but its consumer styling and AT&T
There are certainly plenty of diehard RIM fans out there. It closed out fiscal 2010 with 41 million subscribers, tacking on nearly 5 million of those as net additions during the final three months of the fiscal year. They don't mind the Web-browsing shortcomings because the BlackBerry is a beast when it comes to texting and email.
It's going to get pretty ugly when the fringe owners begin defecting. The same analysts who overestimated RIM's bottom line three months ago are braced for decelerating growth. They see profits growing at a healthy 24% clip this fiscal year, but inching just 9% higher next year. RIM may appear to be a cash-rich bargain fetching just 11 times forward profit projections, but you don't want to be around when RIM peaks.
We may not be there, but we're getting close. You don't want to be on the wrong side of the earnings report when RIM does come undone. It may not be in two days, but it will happen.
As I do every week, I don't talk down a stock unless I have three alternatives that I believe will outperform the company getting the heave-ho. Let's go over the three fill-ins.
(Nasdaq: GOOG): The success of HTC's EVO and Motorola's (NYSE: MOT)Droid are just scratching the surface of Android-backed smartphones. The open nature of Android makes it hard to bank on the indistinguishable hardware makers, so why not ride Google itself? Now that Android phones are selling like iPhones -- better, even -- it's no longer a problem to get developers on board. Big G is also probably cheaper than you think, fetching 18 times this year's bottom-line target and only 15 times next year's earnings. RIM is cheaper, but no one is counting down the extinction clock for Google.
(NYSE: WMT): Consumer-electronics chains have been selling smartphones for years, but the world's leading discounter is finally throwing some weight behind its wireless initiatives. Wal-Mart has been beefing up its smartphone inventory, making a big push into this lucrative niche. Wal-Mart didn't become the world's largest retailer by accident, and its ability to crunch data and turn inventory coupled with its economies of scale will make it a force to reckon with, since consumers still need to get their hands on new smartphones and other mobile electronics.
(Nasdaq: AAPL): It's hard to resist the charms of this Cupertino cutie. The new iPhone 4 is set to fittingly hit the market on the same day that RIM reports. Apple is selling a ton of iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks these days, and one can only imagine how much better sales will be when its iPhone exclusivity deal with AT&T runs out. That's yet another day that RIM will dread, as Apple begins stealing away non-AT&T accounts. In the meantime, Apple trades at a reasonable 17 times next fiscal year's earnings estimate.
I'm sorry, RIM. Your BlackBerry smoothie is looking a little lumpy.
Nokia and Wal-Mart Stores are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. If you're into window shopping, try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a happy smartphone owner since 2008. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.