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Apple ends day flat

The market wavers and then steadies upon hearing the details of Apple Computer's restructuring.

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Shares of Apple (AAPL) slid as much as three percent this morning following the computer maker's Friday restructuring announcement.

But the shares, which fell as low as 16, ended the day virtually flat at 16-1/2, down 1/16 from Friday's close.

Apple said it would cut 2,700 permanent and 1,400 contract and part-time workers from its payroll, take a $155 million second-quarter charge for the restructuring, and cut its spending on such products as OpenDoc component technology and Cyberdog.

A number of Wall Street analysts had expected the market to yawn at the restructuring plans, which were announced after the market's close.

Analyst Michael Geran of Pershing said the markets still remain skeptical of Apple's ability to pull out of its downward spiral of declining revenues, market share, and red ink. Analyst James Poyner of Oppenheimer & Company issued a report on Apple and Andrew Neff of Bear Stearns issued an update.

Poyner maintained his earnings estimate, but has increased his operating-loss estimate for fiscal 1997. His second-quarter operating loss was upped to $1.60 a share from a $1, excluding the approximately $325 million write-off for the Next acquisition that will result in a total loss estimate of $5.25 a share for the quarter.

"The cut in Q2 is due to management's new guidance that revenue likely will total only $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion, about $200 million below our model," Poyner said in his report.

And for the fiscal year, Poyner upped his operating loss estimate to $3.21 a share, excluding the charge, from $2.06. He also noted that including the Next acquisition and restructuring charges, the estimated loss for the year will reach $6.86 a share.

"[Apple's] goal of achieving profitability by the September fourth quarter looks ambitious given how long it will take to see expenses cut by $125 million per quarter," Poyner said in the report. "A key assumption behind that break-even estimate is that gross margin would stay at least at 20 percent, a level that is feasible but that represents a major improvement from the 18.5 percent area the company has languished at recently."

Neff, meanwhile, maintains his "unattractive" rating on Apple due to concerns over the company's strategic and operational challenges and declining cash in its proverbial piggy bank.

"While taking necessary steps to stem its losses, it's not clear to us how this will generate growth," Neff said in his update.