Here's the latest installment of this series of articles, with three more companies that just didn't live up to Mr. Market's expectations last week. Whether the target came from the company's own management, Wall Street analysts, or the market at large, misses can have serious consequences, and share prices often take a serious slide as a result.
Sometimes an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down. In this unusually cheerful edition, the sky is falling, the world is going dark, and nobody wants to entertain us. In the short term, that is...
First up is satellite TV provider DirecTV
More importantly, that's a 59% earnings spike over last year's numbers, compared to 15% revenue growth. That operational efficiency improvement is riding a wave of high-definition and digital video recorder (DVR) services, both of which bring in significantly higher margins than plain old standard-definition programming.
It's exactly the kind of high-profit pie that cable companies like Comcast
So DirecTV keeps sending up more satellites and upgrading to better video compression, too. By the end of the year, the company expects to offer 100 HD stations nationwide, compared to 25 for FiOS and my local cable company's 36.
The ability to bring up more bandwidth by launching more hardware into orbit may prove crucial over the next couple of years. DirecTV looks comfortable with its HD strategy, which could make up for the lack of triple-play services and true video on demand -- not every customer wants to fiddle with a phone line to the satellite box.
Look even sharper
Next up is micro-cap researcher Universal Display
Revenues also fell year over year, as the company works its way from running on research grants into the actual marketplace. Management mentioned two commercial projects in Asia and promised to keep searching for additional partners. The current list isn't too shabby, with names like Samsung SDI and Seiko Epson, but we're still a long way from Apple
You know what they say about patience, and it applies to this Rule Breaker in spades. I'm a longtime shareholder myself, and quite content to wait another year or two for that final explosion of commercial success. The blue display elements still aren't durable enough for consumer products, but they're improving on a daily basis, and this is one of those technologies that truly will change the world -- in due time.
Go, Sumner, go!
Our final miscreant this week is entertainment powerhouse Viacom
Sumner Redstone's baby pulled in $0.29 of profits per share, a bit lower than the $0.32 per share analysts had expected and way below the $0.43 per share seen last year. MTV is running an expensive restructuring program right now, reducing after-tax profits by about $0.05 per share by way of severance packages.
Management expects the cuts to pay off in the long run, noting that the transformation process is still happening. Viacom is sitting on a powerful content portfolio indeed, including not just perennial hits like "The Colbert Report" and "Spongebob Squarepants" but also up-and-comers like "American Gangsters" and "Go, Diego, Go!" The company is also jumping with both feet into the digital distribution pool, and looks nicely positioned at the crossroads of great content and great technology. Carry on, gentlemen.
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and which really are stuck in the mud. Come back next week, and we'll take a look at another batch of mishaps and disappointments. It'll be fun and educational.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Universal Display shareholder but holds no other position in the companies discussed this week. He just bought a high-def TV (the old one broke) but is still watching lo-fi signals on it. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and you can see his current holdings for yourself.