*NEWS*LEXMARK FACING QUESTIONS ON LASERS
*NEWS*LEXMARK FACING QUESTIONS ON LASERS
2008-04-23 at 1:42:35 pm #19541Lexmark facing questions on lasers
Division profit falls, expenses rise for now
International’s laser printer business, which has increasingly propped
up the company in recent years, came under closer scrutiny Tuesday as
analysts asked about its climbing expenses.Their conversations with
management came as Lexmark announced first-quarter earnings that
exceeded expectations but continued to show a trend for laser: revenue
is climbing but profit is falling.In the first quarter, revenue rose 1
percent for the division, but income fell 7 percent. And the quarter
also saw another trend continue — shipments of laser printers fell,
just as they have in all but one of the last five quarters.
says it’s shipping the products that matter — higher-end printers
whose owners print more pages and use more toner.Lexmark’s real profit
lies in toner sales. It noted that sales of color laser products were
up in the double-digit percentage range in the first quarter.”They’re
getting into the growth portion of the market,” acknowledged Larry
Jamieson of industry tracker Lyra Research. “But … at some point,
revenue has to kick in a bit better.”
While Lexmark’s inkjet division has struggled in recent years, laser has chugged on.
segment saw its revenue increase 3 percent year-over-year in 2006, and
5 percent year-over-year in 2007.But when excluding certain
restructuring charges, operating income, or the division’s profit, fell
5 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in those years. And the first
quarter’s operating income for laser was down 7 percent.Executives said
the division’s expenses have increased because of a strong investment
in research and development, as well as spending for a larger sales
force to help sell a broad portfolio of products.”We feel like the
business, in terms of the product and the offerings that we have, is
very well-positioned and the best positioned it’s been in a long time,”
said Chief Financial Officer John Gamble Jr.But the question now is:
How long does it take until the investment pays off with revenue growth
that outpaces expense growth?”Over the next year or two, they’re trying
to achieve critical mass,” said Tom Carpenter, vice president and
senior equity analyst at Hilliard Lyons in Louisville. “They’re still
making good money in that business.”
Gamble declined to discuss how soon Lexmark envisions such a critical mass being achieved.
said the company’s odds of succeeding are greater in the laser division
than in the struggling inkjet division, which saw inkjet shipments drop
42 percent year-over-year in the quarter.”They have a higher brand
image in (laser) than they do in inkjet,” he said.With inkjet’s
well-publicized struggles, Jamieson said, it’s possible that could
weigh on some laser buyers’ minds.”The difficulty is where they don’t
know Lexmark, and particularly in some of the smaller businesses,”
Jamieson said. “If all they know are Lexmark low-end inkjet printers,
they might equate the Lexmark laser printers with the Lexmark inkjet
printers, and that would have a definite negative effect.”
1st quarter 2008: $1.18 billion.
1st quarter ’07: $1.26 billion.
1st quarter ’08: $101.7 million.
1st quarter ’07: $92.4 million.
Earnings per share
1st quarter ’08: $1.07. Would have been $1.16, excluding 9 cents a share for restructuring.
1st quarter ’07: 95 cents. Would have been 96 cents excluding 1 cent a share for restructuring.
Behind the earnings
2008 profit increased despite a revenue decline, as the company
benefited from selling fewer inkjet printers. Those printers are
typically sold at a loss, with ink cartridges later bringing the
profits. The company’s laser printer division saw a 1 percent increase
in revenue, though its operating income fell 7 percent year-over-year.
company said it expects second-quarter revenue to decline in the
mid-single-digit percentage range year-over-year. It forecast
second-quarter earnings per share to be 54 cents to 64 cents. Excluding
restructuring charges, it expects earnings of 65 cents to 75 cents per