Is the Sky Really Falling?By Diane Krakora | Posted 2006-09-14 Email Print
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Opinion: Talk of a possible recession in coming months has been getting louder, but is there really one in the offing?
A lot of people are starting to talk about the R word. Yep, recession. The reasons are as varied as many. Oil prices that recently hit $75 per barrel. Tensions in the Middle East. And then the misses.
No, we're not talking about the news that there's a new fall show dedicated to finding America its next "Pussycat Doll." The misses we are referring to are the ones that occurred this past earnings season.
AMD, for example, missed. As did Dell. And more surprisingly, Tech Data announced that it, too, did not meet estimates for the quarter.
So these and other Q2 disappointmentsfrom Lucent (off 13 percent from last year), Intel (off roughly the same) and othershave left many wondering what to expect from the current IT economy this quarter.
Distributors have traditionally offered a good window into the market because they represent so many different IT companies. Think everything from chips to high-end servers and everything in between.
That's why we thought it would be interesting to look more closely at Tech Data's Q2 numbers. Do they signal a broad industry-wide slowdown, or more isolated problemssay those limited to Clearwater, Fla., where Tech Data is based?
To determine that, let's compare how the industry's three largest broad-line distributors (Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Synnex, in descending order based on revenue) did in the second quarter. (Note, it's somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison because Tech Data's quarter ends on July 31, while Ingram's ends July 1 and Synnex's ends May 31. Go figure. Still it's as fair a comparison as there is.)
Since we're looking at Tech Data, let's start there. For Q2, the company disclosed new thinking. No, revenue didn't hit previous guidance of $4.95 billion-$5.10 billion.
Poor performance in Europe and elsewhere are largely to blame. The bad news drove Tech Data shares to their lowest point in a year.
So does that mean the industry is going to hell in a handbasket? Well, not really. Consider Ingram Micro, for example, the world's largest IT distributor. Q2 sales there grew 8 percent to $7.4 billion. And Synnex? Its sales that ended May 31 increased 12.3 percent.
What this means is that the industry isn't in as bad a shape as it might appear. That's despite the fact that several companies missed estimates.
Many of them were foolish last Thanksgiving and bet the new year would take off. Dumb, dumb, dumb. That said, sales are generally up across the board. AMD, which is perceived to have had a poor quarter, saw its sales increase a whopping 53 percent. As elsewhere, its profitability took a hit this quarter.
As for Tech Data, the distributor seems to be wrestling through an in internal transition. But the numbers don't suggest that its revenue shortfall is a sign of more widespread troubles. We say that knowing full well that Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Synnex do business in some but not all of the same places, with some but not all of the same vendors.
Tech Data is simply sucking wind while the rest of the industry struggles more with expectations than actual performance. Need proof? Well, consider others in the channel. Take Perficient, for example. The IT consultancy has seen its shares jump in the past two weeks since announcing that Q2 sales would likely exceed expectations. Small but encouraging news from the Texas heartland.
However, a report published this week by Charles Schwab & Co.'s chief investment strategist said that the odds of the U.S. economy slipping into recession within the next year have climbed to 50 percent.
Regardless of whether you are a "glass is half empty" or "glass is half-full" kind of person, this next quarter's earnings, from Florida to Texas and beyond, should give us a better indication of whether we're talking "recession" or just a slowdown.
Diane Krakora is president of Amazon Consulting, a Silicon Valley think tank and consultancy that specializes in IT alliances and partnerships. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. T.C. Doyle until recently was director of intelligence at Amazon.