Orange County Business Journal

STEC Shares Plunge After Downgrades

Chris Casacchia Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Shares of Santa Ana-based disk drive maker STEC Inc. plunged Wednesday after analyst downgrades that came amid a bearish trading session on Wall Street.

Shares closed down about 19% to a market value of $211.5 million after Lazard Capital Markets cut its rating from “buy” to “neutral” and Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC downgraded the stock from “buy” to “hold.”

Craig-Hallum cited decreasing cash reserves, slowing demand from original equipment makers and increased risk for the company’s new strategy to refocus efforts on the corporate market and end-users.

STEC makes flash memory drives for corporate data networks. The products are known as solid state drives since they have no moving parts, unlike traditional disk drives.

The share slide comes a day after the company reported third-quarter earnings that beat expectations, but provided a revenue and profit outlook for the current quarter that missed Wall Street estimates.

STEC projects sales between $36 million to $40 million.

Analysts on average forecast revenue of $44 million.

The company projects a loss in the December quarter between $14.4 million and $16.3 million.

Wall Street consensus forecasts a loss of $10.2 million.

The recently ended quarter saw STEC report revenue of $42.1 million, down nearly 42% from a year earlier and beating expectations of $40.7 million.

It posted a loss of $11.3 million, compared to net income of $7.3 million a year earlier.

Analysts on average had forecast a loss of about $13 million.

STEC is at a critical juncture as it tries to move past a management shake-up and gain confidence from skeptical investors.

Its former chairman and chief executive, Manouchehr Moshayedi, is fighting insider trading charges levied by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That led him to resign from those posts in August. Moshayedi denied charges in a filing in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Moshayedi contends he was “unaware of any material information that had not been publicly disclosed at the time of the public offering,” according to the filing.

The SEC charged Moshayedi with violating anti-fraud provisions of U.S. securities laws. It seeks a judgment ordering him to relinquish trading profits and to pay prejudgment interest and financial penalties, along with his being barred from serving as an officer and director of any registered public company.

STEC’s board elected Mark Moshayedi—Manouch’s brother, who serves as president, chief operating and technical officer, and as a director—to take the chief executive’s post on an interim basis.

Kevin Daly, STEC’s lead independent director, was elected as interim chairman.

The SEC in July cleared STEC and Mark Moshayedi of any wrongdoing related to the insider trading investigation.