The stock market is having itself a quiet little year. The S&P 500 benchmark is up a meager 3.3% in 2015, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained just 1.5%. Nothing to write home about.
Then again, things could be worse. Grab a seat and a bag of popcorn, and settle in as our panel of Motley Fool contributors reveal five of the most disappointing stocks in tech and telecom this year.
You'll see fashion house Michael Kors (NYSE:CPRI) squandering a great start to the year, 3-D printing veteran Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) chasing all the wrong acquisitions, and social-media giant Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) doing a complete makeover of its executive offices. Memory-chip maker Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) needs to find brand new target markets and flooring materials retailer Lumber Liquidators (NYSE:LL) fights several corporate scandals.
That's the bird's-eye overview, and here's the nitty-gritty breakdown of these five disappointment.
Brian Stoffel (Stratasys): Stratasys didn't have the greatest 2014, either. Shares of the 3D-printing company were down 35% last year, but much of that had to do with a bursting bubble among 3D-printing stocks and the concurrent price-to-earnings contraction.
For a long time, Stratasys earned high accolades for avoiding the growth-by-acquisition route taken by competitor 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD). In its place, Stratasys aimed for fewer, larger, and more focused buyouts. One of those moves was the acquisition in 2013 of Makerbot. The acquisition diversified Stratasys away from industrial 3D printing and gave the company the one of the most trusted and "coolest" names in consumer 3D printing.
Apparently, however, Stratasys bought at just the wrong time. In February, Stratasys announced that sales growth for Makerbot, which had posted 190% top-line growth when it was acquired, had inched up just 7%. The likely culprit was a printer release -- the fifth-generation Makerbot Replicator -- that was largely panned as a failure.
Since that fateful February day, shares are down 58%. The CEO of Makerbot at the time of the release, Jenny Lawton, has since been replaced. And what had once looked like a steal of an acquisition now appears to be a major drag for Stratasys shareholders.
Bob Ciura (Michael Kors): Fashion-apparel company Michael Kors has been a huge disappointment this year. Formerly one of the market's darling growth stocks, Michael Kors has skidded to a screeching halt in 2015. The stock is down 46% just since the start of the year. This is extremely disappointing performance, especially considering Michael Kors' business performance has been quite strong this year.
Michael Kors' fiscal year wrapped up in May, and the results were very solid. Revenue and earnings per share both jumped 32% year over year, which looks excellent. But the reason the stock has done so poorly is because growth is slowing. The previous fiscal year, revenue and EPS increased 51% and 63%, respectively.
Michael Kors has been dragged into discounting to keep customers buying its products, which caused margins to decline significantly. Operating profit as a percentage of total revenue declined nearly two full percentage points in fiscal 2015. While the company is still growing at high rates on an absolute basis, its growth trajectory is in decline, and that is worrying investors about what the future might hold.
Investors are clearly not impressed by the company's growth trajectory, as the stock trades for just 9 times trailing earnings. This might make the stock an appealing bargain for value investors, but it's little consolation for investors who have held on to the stock for any length of time.
Anders Bylund (Micron Technology): Oh, Micron. The memory-chip specialist built a unique business moat by snapping up bankrupt competitors on the cheap and then used that leverage to solidify chip prices. Shares soared as this story played out -- and then came crashing down in 2015, as the PC market took another step toward its distant grave.
Built in 2012, my Micron holdings are still up 156%. That's not much comfort when looking back at recent peaks in the 300% range. The stock has plunged 43% year to date.
I'm not giving up on Micron, though. The stock remains brutally undervalued, with a P/E ratio of just 6.7 times trailing earnings. Management is making new moves to avoid the weak PC sector and refocus on mobility and the Internet of Things. These changes can take years to play out, but I'm very patient (even for a Swede).
This has been a horrible year for Micron investors. I don't think Chinese tech conglomerate Tsinghua Unigroup will end up buying the entire company, as Micron should prefer to take its chances as an independent business. Come back in two or three years, and we should have another rags-to-riches bounce on our hands.
But right now, owning Micron hurts.
Rich Duprey (Lumber Liquidators): Even though Lumber Liquidators ended 2014 lower than where it started, there was still a lot of promise in the flooring specialist, as the U.S. housing market continued its modest improvement. That all came undone in February, however, when it announced that the 60 Minutes news magazine TV program would be airing unsavory charges against its products.
It wasn't the allegations themselves that make for me Lumber Liquidators the most disappointing stock so far in 2015. Rather, it was the flooring company's response to the controversy that ruined it.
The TV show didn't air until March 1, meaning Lumber Liquidators had at least several weeks (and probably a lot longer) to prepare a response to the allegations it knew were coming. Company founder Tom Sullivan was interviewed by 60 Minutes, and he saw what the program was saying, yet Lumber Liquidators waited two weeks to update investors, analysts, and the public about why the show was wrong.
And it was a fairly hard-hitting rebuttal that could have alleviated a lot of the concerns people had about its products, had they been ready to go right after the show aired. Instead, it let the allegations of impropriety grow and fester before saying anything giving critics the chance to frame the story.
It didn't help either that the CFO, the CEO, and the chief compliance officer all quit the company in a matter of weeks. Because the company is also under investigation over allegations that it improperly imported protected wood into the country, there's great unease that the troubles surrounding Lumber Liquidators aren't over.
It's lost 70% of its value so far this year, and the disappointing thing is there's still plenty of space below this level for the flooring specialist to fall.
Tim Brugger (Twitter): Rumblings about its lack of monthly average user, or MAU, growth and engagement concerns were already rearing their ugly heads. Still, based on Twitter's stock price of over $50 per share as recently as three months ago, it seems many investors were expecting big things from the social media master in 2015.
Even as the Street was bemoaning its MAU problems and then-CEO Dick Costolo was trying anything and everything to turn its 500 million monthly visitors into actual users, Twitter bulls could always point to sales growth. As Q1's 74% jump in revenues demonstrated, that Twitter's year-over-year revenues were improving. Then the other shoe dropped.
A "lower-than-expected contribution from [Twitter's] newer direct response products" contributed to the company's $162.4 million net loss last quarter and also played a part in Costolo's lowering expectations for the balance of 2015.
A lot has changed since Twitter announced its first-quarter financial results, including a new and improved onboarding process, additional ad tools, and of course the more recent management shake-up that saw the end of Costolo's tenure as head honcho. The result of the lingering MAU growth problems and management uncertainty is Twitter's nearly 30% drop in share price the past three months alone.
July 28's earnings call will have to be an absolute home run to lift Twitter from being one of the most disappointing stocks of 2015, but don't bet on it.