19 March 2010

Canaccord Sets PALM Target Price at *Zero*

Buy that dip, Chip. Traders who are buying now are hoping (betting) that Palm becomes a takeover candidate.

In the 1990s I was actively involved in M&A in the tech sector, primarily around Boston and Silicon Valley. Boston's 128 corridor was absolutely the worst place to try and make a decent acquisition, and few of them I witnessed worked out for the buyers.

In Silicon Valley things were a little more straightforward, but one had to watch their back with the omnivorous acquisitor, Cisco. The flippers were reasonably well known to the cognoscenti and a quick visit to the premises often was an easy 'tell.' The Sand Hill Road crowd and the other denizens of the Lion and Compass were always a treat to work with. Personally I preferred sushi in town followed by The Compass Rose at The Saint Francis, but I was an east coaster, and almost looking for light meal and a drink to take the edge off the jet lag.

I priced mature companies and start-ups, largely based on the potential of their technology and engineering talent, much more so than existing cash flows which were often negative and a key factor in playing the game.

Personally I think zero is too low a price for Palm. Maybe two dollars, with their float of 168 million shares. Maybe even four dollars if it catches a bid soon from more than one interested buyer who wishes to jump start into their space. One would have to look at their portfolio of technology and patents, and franchise players in the engineering group, and the value of your own currency, your stock, and its prospects.

Cash deals generally are a strong indicator of pure intent, and are therefore rare. One positive is that the tech market in the US is so bad that retention bonuses ought not to be such an issue, except for a handful of key engineering talent.

The problem with companies like this is that new money, particularly the venture capitalists and white knights, like to come in and obliterate the existing common shareholders. This is the 'last man standing' phenomenon.

If someone makes a play for Palm, it could turn into a bit of a bidding match. But for now the vultures will prefer to circle and hover. And it would not shock me if a certain broker wasn't hammering the price with their most recent target, for any variety of purposes and headlines.

Canaccord Leaves Palm Hanging With $0 Target

by Owen Vater
March 19th

Investors who went bargain hunting with Palm (PALM) after its brutal late-February guidance are getting hammered.

Palm shares are off by -18% today after reporting an adjusted fiscal third-quarter loss of -61 cents per share, missing analyst consensus by -19 cents. The company beat on revenue after giving analysts a warning last month. Chairman and CEO Jon Rubinstein said, “the potential for

Palm remains strong,” but Canaccord Adams isn’t buying it, nailing the stock with a $0 price target, down from $4, and reiterating its Sell rating. The analyst noted that Palm has about 12 months of cash on hand with an accelerating burn rate, and the company could start to lose suppliers as its solvency comes into question.

The Palm selloff is dragging the Personal Computer and Smartphone Stocks Index by -3.7%. The Index is now trailing the S&P 500 by -13.7% over the last month, despite every other component gaining more than 2% for the period.