Maxtor's Bad Hair Day

Dinged by an analyst for OEM and channel issues, drive maker loses CFO

March 24, 2004

2 Min Read
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Maxtor Corp. (NYSE: MXO) is off to a bad start this week, in what looks to be the latest tough spot to hit the ultra-competitive disk drive market.

In a note to investors today, analyst Richard Kugele of Needham & Co. reports his firm is reducing their estimates on Maxtor for the next two years, based on a combination of factors that include a slowdown in distribution and rumors of quality problems at OEMs.

"To be conservative, we are proactively (and independently of Maxtor) lowering our estimates due to concerns over the companys channel sell-through, distribution market share, and OEM business," writes Kugele and colleague Glenn Hanus in today's note.

Needham originally estimated that Maxtor would realize $1.04 billion in sales, about 14 cents earnings per share, this quarter. Now, it's revising that estimate to $1 billion and 11 cents. For 2004, the analysts think revenues will be about $4.15 billion, or 69 cents per share, instead of $4.3 billion, or 80 cents a share. Further, for 2005, they think the company will make $4.44 billion, or 87 cents per share, rather than $4.56 billion, or 90 cents.

Kugele and Hanus cite a 6 percent price hike on Maxtor's drives of 120 Gbytes and below that took place in February as responsible for the slowup in sales. And they refer to rumors of problems with OEM product quality, though they're careful to say the issue may not have happened and may have been resolved.A Maxtor spokeswoman didn't have any comment on any of this at press time.

Maxtor isn't the only disk drive vendor to have its measure taken negatively in recent months. Back in December, rumors of quality problems with drives from Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX) surfaced to similar response (see Seagate Drives Dinged). As with Maxtor, the source of the problem and its resolution were clouded in mystery.

One thing seems clear: The disk drive market appears to be suffering considerable pricing competition, particularly in high-end drives, those above 80 Gbytes, where Needham calls pricing "very aggressive."

Maxtor's bad hair day continued as it reported late in the day that CFO Robert Edwards has resigned to take another job. For the time being, Theodore A. (Ted) Hull, Maxtor's vice president, finance, is acting CFO, but company management must still decide whether that's a final move, a spokeswoman says.

At press time, Maxtor shares were trading at $8.45, down $0.34 (3.87%).— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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