Posted by: Aaron Ricadela on November 19, 2009
Dell missed even modest expectations for its fiscal third quarter ended Oct. 30, but CFO Brian Gladden pointed to a sequential rise in fourth-quarter sales helped by the launch of Windows 7.
In its Nov. 19 earnings report, Dell said sales fell 15% to $12.9 billion. Net income fell by 54% to $337 million, or 23 cents per share after excluding certain one-time items. Wall Street analysts had expected Dell to earn 28 cents a share on sales of $13.1 billion. A year ago, Dell reported earnings of $727 million, or 37 cents per share, on $15.2 billion in sales.
Shares of Dell fell by nearly 6% in extended trading after the report. At the end of regular trading Nov. 19, Dell’s stock closed down 19 cents, or 1.2%, at 15.87.
The weakness was spread across nearly all of Dell’s businesses. Sales to large businesses bore the brunt of the declines as information technology departments continue to keep a tight rein on costs. Nearly 80% of Dell’s sales are to businesses and government customers. “We are losing share in the aggregate” because of a heavy reliance on commercial sales, Gladden told reporters during a conference call after the results were announced.
Dell didn’t see much benefit from Microsoft’s launch of its new Windows 7 operating system on Oct. 22, since Dell’s quarter ended eight days later. In the two weeks leading up to the launch, customers put off PC purchases to avoid buying machines with older software running on them, Gladden said. “We built a little backlog as a result, and we’ll ship through that in the fourth quarter,” he said.
Dell’s gross profit margin came in at 17.3%, or 18.3% after excluding one-time expenses related to the closure of a plant in North Carolina. Shaw Wu, an analyst at Kaufman Bros., said he was expecting an 18.6% profit margin in a Nov. 19 research note.
Dell’s consumer sales fell by 10% during the quarter, but Gladden said Dell “walked away from some retail business during the quarter” that wasn’t acceptably profitable in order to preserve margins.
Turn back to BusinessWeek.com later tonight for a full report on Dell’s third quarter, and a look at what’s ahead for the company.