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Wall Street Beat: PCs flag as smartphones provide sparks

Marc Ferranti | Jan. 14, 2013
Vendor earnings, market research reports and the International CES in Las Vegas this week highlighted the hardware arena, which appears to be a tale of two sectors with very different fates: PCs and mobile devices.

Samsung estimated that operating profit was 8.8 trillion won (US$8.2 billion) for the quarter ending in December, up from 4.66 trillion won a year earlier. It estimated revenue at 56 trillion won in the quarter. Final results are due by Jan. 25.

Market research reports indicated that December was a strong month for a variety of handset makers.

"Our December wireless store surveys indicated seasonally strong holiday smartphone sales with strong sales of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4 at AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint and also in international markets," according to a Canaccord Genuity report this week. "Further, our analysis indicated strong Samsung Galaxy S III sales at all four tier-1 U.S. carriers and in international markets along with strong global Samsung Galaxy Note II sales."

The generally strong market for smartphones may even boost sales of Windows-based phones.

Nokia Thursday said it sold 86 million mobile devices in the last three months of 2012, including some 4.5 million Lumia smartphones. Revenue totaled about ¬3.9 billion (US$5.1 billion). For the same period in 2011, the company reported a fourth-quarter net loss of ¬1 billion with a 19 percent drop in revenue. The maker of Windows-based phones said it sold 15.9 million smartphones in the quarter, up from 6.3 million in the previous quarter.

But the company is not out of the woods yet.

"While these near-term results are encouraging, we maintain our belief 2013 remains a challenging transitional year for Nokia, especially as our meetings at CES and extensive handset sell-through store surveys indicate continued uncertainty about Windows 8 emerging as a viable long-term smartphone ecosystem versus Android and iOS," said Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley in a research note.

For the moment, almost any announcement that appears to be smartphone- or tablet-related seems to boost a vendor's fortunes. Facebook shares have climbed in recent days as it gears up for an announcement next Tuesday that is rumored to be mobile-phone related.

Speculation has been breathless.  

"We've been speculating for months that Facebook may be getting ready to enter the wireless phone business," said analyst Jeff Kagan in an email message sent to reporters. "Could this be what the big Facebook announcement is all about? A Facebook phone?"

Other analysts pointed out that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denied last year that he was interested in getting into the mobile phone business.

In any case, Facebook shares -- long in the doldrums after its fumbled IPO last May -- closed Friday at $31.72, $2.96 higher than its close a week earlier.

The tech earnings season unofficially starts next week, when Intel reports its earnings Wednesday.

 

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