It's time to charge your batteries and clean your lenses, GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO) investors. Your favorite action-camera maker is set to release third-quarter results this Wednesday after the market close. And with shares down around 50% despite last quarter's solid report, I suspect GoPro could have quite an interesting week.
Of course, GoPro has made a habit of under-promising and over-delivering for the past several quarters. For what it's worth, GoPro's outlook calls for revenue of $430 million to $445 million (up 56% year over year at the midpoint), gross margin of 46%, and earnings per share of $0.29 to $0.32 (up from $0.12 per share in the same year-ago period). Curiously, however, analysts are expecting revenue and earnings to be only near the bottom end of those guidance ranges.
So what gives?
The supplier factor
For one, recall that GoPro shares plunged early last month, after video-chip supplier Ambarella (NASDAQ:AMBA) posted its own disappointing earnings report. Specifically after exceeding expectations in Q2, Ambarella offered lighter-than-expected guidance for the current quarter, blaming an expected year-over-year decline in sales from the wearable-camera segment. On the surface, this seemed to represent an ominous sign for GoPro, which represents and outsized portion of Ambarella's revenue and happens to dominate the wearable-camera segment.
As I pointed out at the time, however, Ambarella management blamed the shortfall primarily on timing, as major product launches occurring in the second quarter notably included GoPro's new HERO4 Session and HERO+ LCD. By contrast, in previous years Ambarella saw seasonally high revenue from significant product launches in Q3. Sure enough, Ambarella CFO George Laplante pointed out that taking the average of Q2 and Q3 unit shipments shows that growth for the wearable-camera segment was still in line with Ambarella's full-year expectations.
It seems fair to say, then, that GoPro should demonstrate this week that Ambarella's guidance wasn't the best gauge for GoPro's third quarter.
But it also didn't help last month, when, along with the introduction of its new lower-priced $199 HERO+ camera, GoPro simultaneously reduced the MSRP of its tiny new HERO4 Session camera by $100 to a "more accessible price" of $299.
In this case, the market rightly took it as a sign that the HERO4 Session is selling below expectations. In fact, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman effectively admitted as much last month, noting that the Session isn't "what we'd expect simply because of how strong Silver and Black are."
In other words, because GoPro's higher-end $399 HERO4 Silver and $499 Black cameras are still selling so well, the HERO4 Session had a hard time competing with its technologically superior -- albeit physically larger -- siblings at a comparable price point. As a result, you can be sure GoPro will provide investors with details on the HERO4 Session's underperformance, whether sales have rebounded at the more accessible price point and, of course, whether margins have been negatively affected as a result. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, look for whether the relative strength of the HERO4 Black and Silver models have made up for that underperformance.
On media progress, peering forward
Next -- and more pertinent to GoPro's long-term plans -- listen for progress on GoPro's next-gen products, as well its gradual transformation from primarily a hardware camera maker into a "media company."
On the latter, I'd like to hear updates on GoPro's new Premium Content Licensing Portal, which the company unveiled just before last quarter's report as a way to enable the GoPro community to seamlessly monetize the engaging content they create. Along the same vein, I also want to know how GoPro users have responded to its latest app updates, including new trim-and-share features to enable the creation and upload of short video clips directly from GoPro devices.
Next, regarding the former, GoPro should offer information on the status of its previously announced impending launch of a consumer drone, something CEO Nick Woodman described for the first time last quarter as a "differentiated quadcopter capture solution" with a "much improved out-of-box user experience." At the very least, investors would like to know the quadcopter plans are still on track for a planned first-half 2016 launch. Given its strong brand, that could put GoPro on pace to quickly grab a significant chunk of the fast-growing consumer-drone market. This market is estimated to be worth $1.4 billion this year, 70% of which currently belongs to China-based drone maker DJI.
Finally, GoPro should provide guidance for its current quarter. Particularly intriguing here will be whether the earlier-than-usual launch of GoPro's latest devices (namely the HERO4 Silver and Black) is expected to negatively affect demand for the crucial holiday season. As it stands, analysts predict that GoPro's revenue in the fourth quarter will rise more than 59% sequentially from Q3, but only 8.9% on a year-over-year basis to $690.5 million. Meanwhile, Q4 earnings are expected to fall 17% to $0.82 per share.
In any case, it seems fair to say the market's concerns are reflected in GoPro's stock. Despite its torrid top- and bottom-line growth since going public, shares currently trade at just 25.8 times trailing-12-month earnings, and below 15 times next year's estimates. That might be a fair price if GoPro's growth is indeed showing signs of deterioration as the market fears. But if GoPro manages to prove the naysayers wrong, let it suffice to say that GoPro stock won't stay down for long.
Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ambarella and GoPro. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.