Interpreting crystal ball reports on cell phone sales


Quarterly sales are expected to be down for all cell phone makers, with the exception of Samsung Electronics. A Reuter?s poll indicated that the second quarter for handset vendors is down 13.2 percent from the same period last year. Analysts are hesitant to comment on what will happen in the upcoming second half of the year until consumer trends are more predictable.

Actual reports, instead of rumors and guesstimates, of 2nd quarter earnings are expected to start rolling in next week, with Nokia and Sony Ericsson reporting on July 16. The following week, LG Electronics comes in on July 22, Samsung on July 24, and Motorola July 30. Guesstimates are that Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Motorola will all validate falling percentages.

Number watching is like a shell game – are they quoting:
"Revenues" [the $$ you take in from all sources, including interest on investments, rents, etc];
"Profits" [the $$ left over after expenses have been paid];
or "Sales" [$$ received specifically from selling a product].

Sales figures themselves can be broken down into:
"Gross Sales" [before the cost of sales, such as what you paid for the materials that went into the finished product, are subtracted];
or "Net Sales" [the total after subtracting cost of sales].
Are they touting percentages or real dollar amounts? Do the numbers look good or bad because of the value of the currency they are trading in? "The big question mark is the exchange rate," says Steve Lee from Goodmorning Shinhan Securities. For example, Samsung may be looking good because of a weak Korean won (KRW). It was reported on RTT News that as of Thursday, July 9, the South Korean currency had gained ground after hitting a 9-day low of 1282.60 against the US dollar. The same exchange rate will affect the numbers of LG Electronics, the other big Korean electronics company.

A particular product line may be the focus of those numbers – semiconductors, monitors, televisions, or mobile phones. Remember, mobile phones aren?t the only product in the bin at LG Electronics. They developed and sold Korea?s first digital TV in 1999. Back in 1982, Samsung helped Korea to become the world?s largest producer and exporter of black-and-white televisions sets, and has since become the world?s largest television brand. However, back to today?s topic, cell phones.
While you are reviewing numbers, you should question if you are looking at the entity as a whole, or in part. Samsung, for instance, is comprised of many companies, including consumer electronics, petrochemicals, advertising and life insurance. The numbers may come from a subledger on the corporate profit and loss report. They could represent only a division, such as the United States, as opposed to activities at corporate headquarters in Korea.

So, there is much to consider when playing the numbers game. With that in mind, let?s look at smartphones in particular. Research in Motion (RIM) of Blackberry fame is said to be the world’s No. 2 smartphone maker. They came in with better than expected numbers for its March-to-May quarter.

Hey, March to May? Another piece of the shell game. Their "quarter" doesn?t run April to June as does most companies. Thus, we are comparing apples to oranges, or in this case to blackberries. Not the same time frame, so not the same market factors in play.

Finally, Taiwan?s HTC, also, came up looking better than expected. Just how low were expectations in the first place, if the report is "better than expected"? A little analysis of your own might be in order, or as Dad used to say, "Take it all with a grain of salt."