Followers of telecom equipment company UTStarcom
Though Tuesday was supposed to be the company's earnings release date, some issues pertaining to tax benefits in 2003 and 2004 prevented the company from releasing any financial statements. Consequently, investors are going to have to wait a few more weeks to see the numbers with their own eyes. That said, the company did offer information about the business in the fourth quarter and the outlook for the future.
Based upon the information in the press release and conference call, the fourth quarter ended up more or less as expected when the company warned Wall Street back in early January.
Looking ahead, management continues to be optimistic. Although the company said it will no longer provide full-year guidance, management expects around $810 million in revenue for the first quarter and is targeting $4 billion for the full year (but, wait, I thought it said it wasn't providing full year-guidance. ).
Of course, it's anybody's guess as to whether those projections will hold up. The company has missed its own estimates for two straight quarters, as mentioned above. In addition, an evaluation of internal controls, as per the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, has shown significant deficiencies in internal financial controls. All told, this Fool believes it is fair to say that this management team has a bit of a credibility problem that must be addressed.
Putting the management issue aside, there are positive aspects to the business. While China built much of this company, it is time to take the next step and build a more diversified business. Looking ahead, management expects China to comprise less than half of total revenue in 2005. To that end, most of the company's $1.2 billion backlog is for business outside China, and the company continues to diversify into markets like North America and Japan.
Having been battered and bruised, UTStarcom shares certainly don't look expensive. While the loss in Q4 is going to inflate the trailing P/E, the company trades at less than 0.7 times trailing revenue. There is no doubt in my mind that some of that discount is well-deserved, but is it too much?
This is a company with $2.7 billion in revenue that, despite all of the difficulties in the second half of the year, managed to grow at a 35% clip, and might grow even faster next year. While yet another disappointment could bring this star shooting back down to earth, investors who can stomach the risk involved in buying now could be well-rewarded if the business does in fact turn around. While that's too risky of a bet right now for this Fool, more aggressive investors should, of course, do their own due diligence.
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson, CFA, has no ownership interest in any stocks mentioned.