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Motorola Lost $285 Million In 2011 Selling Phones

Having already warned investors that its fourth quarter was going to be rough, Motorola (NYSE: MMI) didn’t disappoint when the actual numbers arrived Thursday. Smartphone shipments were up slightly but the company continues to lose money on mobile sales while everyone waits for a ruling on the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) deal.

Revenue was in line with the lowered guidance Motorola provided in December of $3.4 billion. Excluding special items, earnings per share were $0.20, far greater than expectations of $0.06, but using the GAAP standard Motorola recorded a net loss of $80 million compared to a net income of $80 million in last year’s fourth quarter.

Smartphone shipments came in at 5.3 million units, up from 4.9 million units a year ago, while tablet shipments remained anemic at just 200,000 units. For the full year Motorola shipped 18.7 million smartphones and 1 million tablets, it said.

But Motorola’s mobile division had a scary year: the group recorded an operating loss of $285 million for the full year, and an operating loss of $70 million in the fourth quarter. Motorola didn’t make any money selling phones last year, either, losing $70 million for the full year.

Those totals include sales of regular old feature phones, still a big part of Motorola’s overall business. The company sold 10.5 million mobile devices in the fourth quarter and 42.4 million devices for the year.

Motorola is still waiting to hear if regulators will approve Google’s bid to purchase the company for $12.5 billion, and as a result it no longer holds the customary conference call following the release of an earnings report.

(Updated 4:46 p.m. ET: I changed the original headline and a couple of references in the text to make it clear that Motorola’s losses were across all of its mobile devices, not just smartphones.)

3 Responses to “Motorola Lost $285 Million In 2011 Selling Phones”

  1. Hmmm…you build a massive fleet of smartphones with great hardware, then continue to supercede them with another model every month for 4 months, thereby requiring that you take an increasingly greater loss on what’s available next, and leave everyone guessing when the next one is coming and what it will do that the previous one doesn’t. And you do all this through a time when people are waiting for a new iPhone and Nexus phone. That’s a GREAT business plan (if you want customers to be paranoid and hold their money instead of spending it on your great products).

    And David Pat, the custom roms are nice work arounds, but would be a whole lot more efficient and easier to produce if the bootloader was unlocked.

  2. Perhaps if Motorola would unlock the bootloaders on their phones, they might sell a few more.  Quality-wise they are my first choice product, but I won’t purchase another phone with a bootloader that is fully locked.