Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Paperstand (AAPL, BBY, MC)

The WSJ reports that Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs recently met with NTT DoCoMo's president, Masao Nakamura, to discuss a deal to offer its iPhone in Japan through Japan's dominant mobile operator. Apple has also been talking to No. 3 operator Softbank and execs from both co’s have made multiple trips to Apple HQ.

“Ahead of the Tape” out on Best Buy (BBY), saying that the co will report strong 3Q today, but the outlook for ‘08 might not be so jolly. Electronics retailers aren't cutting prices on flat-panel TVs as aggressively as they did last year, but they continue to drop and the flat-panel product cycle is getting long in the tooth. Meantime, some analysts say there are few hot new electronics products in the pipeline for ‘08. Electronics sales were juiced this year by the rollout of Microsoft's Vista, a boom in videogame products such as the Nintendo Wii console, and Apple's many successes. "You look into the future and for the first time in quite some time, it's hard to find a product to get excited about," says Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Colin McGranahan.

“Heard on the Street” column discusses Matsushita Electric (MC), saying that cracks are emerging in one of those pillars of growth: plasma TVs. Matsushita has more than a 30% share of the global plasma-TV mkt, making it the overwhelming leader. Fast growth in the plasma business helped its stock price double over the past 5yrs. After a decline earlier this year following some negative news, the stock has been steadily rising again. Analysts generally are optimistic about the co's products, including semiconductors, automotive electronics, consumer electronics and appliances. But plasma TVs are losing overall share of the flat-panel-TV mkt to LCDs. By 2011, LCD-TV shipments are expected to nearly double. DisplaySearch expects plasma-TV shipments to be less than 1/8 of that. The co is expected to continue to lead in the plasma-TV industry. But since plasma TVs overall share of the flat-panel mkt is shrinking, Matsushita's share of flat-panel shipments has fallen from about 10% in ‘05 to 6.6% in the latest qrtr. That compares with big LCD makers like Samsung, which had a 17.3% share, and Sony, with 9.9%. Matsushita "will increasingly lose share," says David Gibson, of Macquarie Research.

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