Handheld computer maker Palm Inc saw a dramatic jump in its most recent quarterly profit, thanks to growing sales of its Treo smart phones and a tax benefit of more than $200m.
After Palm announced its eighth consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth, its shares shot up yesterday by more than 7% to $33.08 in after-hours trading on the Nasdaq.
The company shipped more than one million Treos in the first half of its calendar 2006, which is almost as many as it shipped in its full fiscal 2005.
And those shipments, according to Palm chief executive, Ed Colligan, were not bumped by the potential legal shut-down of rival Research in Motion Ltd’s business. (US patent house NTP had sued BlackBerry maker RIM for alleged patent infringement, which may result in a closure of RIM’s US service).
I don’t believe RIM’s issues in the courts are really making a significant impact on us at this point, Colligan said, on a conference call.
Palm’s quarterly profile rose to $260.9m, or $5.21 a share, in the quarter from $24.7m, or 48 cents, a year ago. Revenue of $444.6 million, which was 18% higher than a year ago, exceeded the company’s expectations, said CFO Andy Brown, on the call.
But even without the tax gain, Palm beat Wall Street’s expectations. Excluding one-time items, Palm posted a 46-cent-a-share profit; analysts had pegged 44 cents on revenue of $440.8m.
Colligan said Palm would launch four new Treo-branded smart phones next year, including its Windows-enabled Treo 700w, which is aimed squarely at the enterprise market.
While Palm’s business continues to be driven by the prosumer market, Colligan said it was expanding in the enterprise. The Treo 700w represents a real opportunity to drive volume deeper into companies than it has been to date, he said.
When you look at most of our deployments and RIM’s, they are generally the director level and above … I can’t believe [enterprises] won’t deploy them more deeply if the recurring monthly costs become more reasonable, Colligan said.
He expects enterprise usage of the Treo to continue to grow and become a significant part of our business, he said.
Other new models next year would boast new radio technologies and more capabilities on the platform level, Colligan said. New capabilities will also be added in conjunction with new carriers and in new geographies, he said.
During the quarter, the company spent $2m to restructure its European operations to better capture opportunities in the region, said CFO Brown. Previously, Palm in Europe focussed on sales by geographies, but now is organized by accounts, Colligan said.
Palm is has realigned its focus to be more on smart phones, Colligan said. The Treo has done okay in Europe so far, but we would like it to do better and we will continue to work on that.
The company saw additional commitments during the quarter from carriers in Europe, which it expects to boost its presence in the region next year, Colligan said, who declined to provide specifics.
During the quarter, smart phones drove 61% of sales and handhelds 39%, a reverse for the year-ago quarter when handhelds accounted for 61% and smart phones 39%.
This product-mix shift will mean Palm’s whole portfolio business will be less seasonable going forward, Brown said. Handhelds will continue to track a seasonable pattern, unlike smart phones, but as a smaller portion of revenue it will have less effect on overall business, Colligan said. Handhelds typically enjoy strong growth during the current, holiday-shopping quarter.
The company also is enjoying some very nice production cost benefits as product volume increases, Brown said. He noted that Palm shipped a record 602,000 Treos in the recent quarter.
Looking ahead, Sunnyvale, California-based Palm would continue to focus on the $99- to $299-priced smart phone market, Brown said.
For the current quarter, Palm expects $370m to $375m in revenue and earnings of 46 cents and 49 cents, based on a regular 40% tax rate.