Dell Computer Corp. yesterday became the latest hardware maker to acknowledge that its bottom line was being hurt by a shortage of computer chips and a slowdown in sales late last year due to fears about the Y2K bug.
Dell--the nation's No. 1 computer seller and a bellwether Nasdaq stock--issued a surprise warning that it won't meet analysts' earnings expectations for its latest quarter. Earlier this month, competitors Compaq Computer Corp. of Houston and Gateway Inc. of San Diego announced that they, too, had or would miss targets.
Dell, based in Round Rock, Tex., plans to announce its full financial results on Feb. 10 but said in a statement yesterday that earnings for the three months ending Jan. 29 would be 16 cents a share on revenue of $6.7 billion--up 30 percent from the same period last year. The average of a survey of analysts' was 21 cents a share.
Dell fell $2.06 1/4 a share, to $37.68 3/4, in extended trading after the close of the Nasdaq Stock Market.
"While we're clearly disappointed with our operating results, our overall business is healthy and we believe Dell will continue to significantly outpace the revenue and profit growth of our major competitors and of the industry at large," said Thomas J. Meredith, Dell's chief financial officer.
Dell said the company lost $300 million in sales because of the "uneven and constrained" supply of semiconductor components during the quarter. Mark Corcoran, an analyst at D.A. Davidson & Co., said flat panel displays and motherboards were in short supply and that prices for memory had shot up. Additionally, some companies were delaying new hardware purchases until the release of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 later this year.
Still, analysts say 1999 was a stellar year for Dell and other hardware markers, compared with 1998.
"I expect a lot of activity on the stock market," said Daniel Kunstler, a managing parter at J.P. Morgan & Co. who covers technology companies. "But I think at some point soon people are going to say: 'Just a second, you are getting a little bit silly.' Dell is talking about lowering their growth to some 38 percent [for this past fiscal year]. That's actually pretty good. It's hardly telling people that they are going to lose money or go out of business."
For the full year, Dell expects to report revenue of more than $25 billion. Annual earnings are expected to be about $1.8 billion, or 68 cents a share, up 28 percent from year-ago earnings of 53 cents a share.
Sales of powerful server computers benefited from liberal spending by paper-rich "dot-com" companies and Internet service providers. Revenue from notebook computers and sales of all types of products via Dell's Web site also continued to grow robustly, Meredith added.
On Tuesday, Compaq--which has been losing market share and last year was knocked down from the leading position in the U.S. PC market by Dell--posted a 56 percent plunge in fourth-quarter income. The company reported net income of $332 million, down from profit of $758 million for the same period in the previous year. Gateway said recently that a shortage of components from Intel Corp. would cut $200 million to $250 million from its fourth-quarter revenue.