In a frightening case of deja vu, Coinstar
Coinstar had another black Friday a few weeks ago, when its shares plunged after warning about a weaker than expected holiday quarter at Redbox. Thankfully for Coinstar shareholders, today's drop at the open is nothing like the 27% plummet they experienced three weeks ago. It's still problematic. The once-juicy Redbox kiosk model is starting to become unhinged.
You won't see it right away. Profits from continuing operations in the fourth quarter nearly doubled to $0.68 a share. Revenue climbed 31% to $390.8 million, with a 38% spike in its Redbox business pulling up the 7% uptick in the mature coin-collecting kiosks that bear its name.
This doesn't sound like a fading company at all, until you realize where it was and where it thought it was going.
Coinstar's Redbox business grew at a 55% clip through the first nine months of 2010, with consolidated revenue climbing a cheer-worthy 42%. The deceleration is beginning, and it's not going to get any better in the near term.
At the midpoint of its range for the current quarter, Coinstar's revenue is targeted to grow at a mere 17% clip this quarter. It doesn't matter where Coinstar lands between its projected profitability of $0.15 a share to $0.25 a share. It earned more a year earlier.
The full-year outlook is slightly more encouraging, but it's like a Gigli DVD cover. It's a facade leading to disappointment.
Coinstar feels that it will earn between $2.60 a share and $3.10 a share this year on $1.7 billion to $1.85 billion in revenue. Top-line growth of 18% to 29% isn't great, but it's a step up from the current quarter. Earnings popping 28% to 53% higher would be huge -- if only it were true.
Let me be the realist here. Let me be the one to splash water on your face and ask you to check back on the actual results a year from now. Coinstar's driving with the low beams on. Anything outside of the next few months can't be trusted. Just three months ago, Coinstar felt it would earn as much as $3.50 a share on $1.95 billion in revenue this year.
In other words, the weak outlook for the current quarter and reasonable guidance for the entire year doesn't mean that Coinstar feels as if it will be able to make up ground for the slow start through the balance of the year. It just can't accurately see that far, so why spoil the fun until we get closer.
This is a transitory technology. Digital is the future. It doesn't matter that Coinstar's been doubling the size of some of its kiosks, adding Blu-ray titles or video games. More than half of the content consumed by rival Netflix
Last month, Coinstar was kicking itself for striking a deal with Time Warner
It won't happen right away. DVDs will continue to be appealing for years. The value proposition makes it attractive to the penny-pinching segment of the population that will be the last to latch on to the Web-tethered realm of home theater entertainment.
Redbox isn't leaving, but it's starting to go over its lines for the final act. Do you really want to be around for what the next few quarters will bring? Spoiler alert: Gigli stinks.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a subscriber and shareholder in Netflix since 2002. Rick 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.
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