How Low Can Moto Go?

UPDATED: Yesterday, I compared Co-CEO of Motorola and CEO of Mobile Devices Dr. Sanjay Jha’s task of restoring his company’s handset business to climbing Mount Everest without a tank of oxygen. Man, was I being generous or what? The company reported Q3 2008 earnings and delivered a forecast for the remainder of 2008 that is dismal. The once-storied name is vying for the Worst Run Business award. Why?

Mobile device sales were down 31 percent year-over-year, and the division logged an operating loss of $840 million or about 2.4 times the money it lost in the year-ago quarter. It says the losses were necessary because it was rationalizing its business. Update: Now the rationalization may be at an end with the company telling the Wall Street Journal that it plans to lay off 3,000 employees, mostly from the handset division.

The sales decline in the handset business has been going on for nearly two years, so that even I am getting bored of writing about it. In the past seven quarters, the company has lost a total of $2.625 billion in its handset business. (Checkout the performance of the handset business in the table I cobbled together from their earnings releases, below.)

On the flip side, Motorola is doing rather well in its enterprise, government and video divisions. It needs to get rid of the handset business fast — but it can’t! Jha says that the company is no longer targeting Q3 2009, the previously targeted date to spin out the division. Given the speed with which it is losing market share and money, it may not have much to spin out.

Revenues Loss Handsets Sold
Q3 2008 $3.1 billion $840 million 25.4 million
Q2 2008 $3.3 billion $346 million 28.1 million
Q1 2008 $3.3 billion $418 million 27.4 million
Q4 2007 $4.8 billion $388 million 40.9 million
Q3 2007 $4.5 billion $138 million 37.2 million
Q2 2007 $4.3 billion $264 million 35.5 million
Q1 2007 $5.4 billion $231 million 45.4 million

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