It’s getting tougher out there. That is the key message from this month’s earnings reports so far. Here is what we learned in a nutshell.
IBM had to post a decline in revenue of 5%, but was able to squeak out the same profit on a reduced top-line.
Intel reported sinking revenue in its quarterly report earlier this week. They reported revenue of $13.5 billion – down from $14.2 billion a year ago -during the third quarter.
Microsoft squeaked out a so-and-so quarter. It posted revenue of US$16.01 billion for the quarter, down from $17.37 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Operating income was down as well.
Hewlett-Packard announced a catastrophic quarter with not much hope for a short term turn-around. HP anticipates revenue declines of 11-13 percent in fiscal 2013 with operating margins of 0-3 percent.
Google’s report came in earlier than expected and worse than expected. Google reported revenue of $14.10 billion — an increase of 45 percent, compared with the same period last year. However, they were below the market consensus. Also the company was less profitable than expected.
eBay was the outlier. They reported revenue of US$3.4 billion, a 15 percent increase over the same period in 2011. Its Q3 net income on a GAAP basis was $597 million, or $0.45 per diluted share; non-GAAP net income was $718 million, or $0.55 per diluted share — increases of 22 percent and 14 percent, respectively, year over year, driven by top-line growth.
Those numbers are telling the story of a tougher macroeconomic climate. Business in the US is slow. Jobs are coming back, but there is huge uncertainty about the government Fiscal Cliff. It’s a combination of tax hikes and massive spending cuts including a sizable reduction in federal jobs starting January 1, if the House and Congress are not able to agree on a new deficit-reduction plan. While the Fiscal Cliff has not occurred yet, it causes a lot of uncertainty in the market. In situations like that, businesses are pulling back, delaying investment decisions and trim costs.
In the rest of the world there are even stronger head-winds. The Europeans trying to avoid an economic Armageddon with Greece being on the brink of default and Spain being on the verge of having to request a bailout. These countries are followed by Italy, Portugal and Ireland. Other European economies do better but overall things are not looking good. China has slowed down, too.
The numbers we hear this month are certainly reflecting this situation. But there is another insight that these times are providing. They allow us to gauge how strong the value proposition of each company’s products and services really is. We learn about the ability to execute in tougher times. A few examples.
The contrast between IBM and Hewlett Packard could not be more pronounced. The former was able to put a somewhat decent quarter together. The latter had to concede defeat across all business units.
eBay not only posted great numbers. The company upgraded its web presence and launched a new same-day delivery service right in time for the Holiday season. It’s an example for a company that executed well in tough times while getting ready for the next round of competition in their market.
We learn to appreciate the pockets of strength. Take Microsoft Entertainment & Devices Division as an example. Revenues for that division were down and losses were higher compared to the same period last year. That is because Microsoft shipped 1.4 million Xboxes during the last quarter that is 1.3 million units less than from a year earlier. However, they were able to sell 100 billion minutes of Skype calls which is up 40 percent year over year.
These times are not easy for operating executives as well as investors. They are testing. We learn how companies can execute marketing and selling products and services. We learn about their ability to operationally execute keeping expenses in line with revenue. We learn about areas of growth that can defy a challenging market climate.