Intel Corp. and Ascend Communications Inc., two of the most prolific companies in their respective markets, are poised to announce second-quarter results Tuesday amid speculation that poor sales in Europe and nagging growing pains will result in slightly substandard earnings.
Intel, which earlier announced that its earnings would be lower-than-expected in May, is still expected to return a profit of at least 90 cents per share after Monday's stock split, a far cry from its record-setting first-quarter results when the chip maker reported $6.4 billion in revenue and earnings of $2.20 per share.
Company officials said they expected second-quarter revenue to be off between five to 10 percent from the first quarter and gross margins, which were at 64 percent, would drop a bit as well. Higher research and development spending, lower demand in Europe and the company's transition to the Pentium II and MMX-equipped chips compelled Intel to adjust its earnings estimate.
For Ascend Communications, increasing competition in the networking hardware segment and the acquisition of Cascade Communications Corp. are the main factors behind analysts' guarded expectations for the second quarter.
Both companies have seen their stock price drop and rise in dramatic fashion in the past three months. On Monday, Intel's stock closed at $58.50 per share, up $1.88. Ascend closed up $4.75 per share to $52.75.
"I think it's a normal quarter for the most part, but investors aren't used to Intel being normal," said Jack Geraghty, an analyst at CS First Boston.
"Initially, people were a little surprised that sales in April and May were as slow as they were, but PC demand picked up a bit in June. I wouldn't be surprised if they beat what most people are projecting this quarter."
Sluggish sales in Europe, which is generally attributed to high unemployment in Germany and France, have put a dent in sales of Intel's Pentium II and MMX-enhanced microprocessors.
"Demand for the MMX is strong, but not as strong as [Intel] wants," said Andy Neff, an analyst at Bear Stearns. "The big sequential gains that Intel has had in the past are hard to come by. In comparison, whatever gains they see this quarter won't seem as huge as the ones in past quarters."
Ascend, which has seen its stock split twice in the past 18 months, is debuting a number of new products including routers that are expected to go head-to-head with similar offerings from Cisco Systems Inc.
"We see them coming in with revenue of about $310 million and per share earnings of close to 35 cents," said Jim Parmalee, an analyst at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. "There's a lot going on with the new acquisition and new product lines. But they are clearly positioned for continued strong growth for the rest of the year."
First Call consensus estimates Ascend will return a profit of 35 cents per share.
"Ascend's stock is fairly volatile because of the markets they serve," Parmalee said. "They've seen very strong appreciation over a two-year period, but right now they're going through some short-term growing pains."