Weak Outlook Hammers Fusion-io Shares

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Storage technology company Fusion-io Inc. (NYSE: FIO) managed to beat the consensus estimate for an earnings per share (EPS) loss of $0.11 in its first fiscal quarter of 2014, but revenue was down year-over-year and the EPS loss is projected to last through the current quarter. For the full-fiscal year ending in June, the consensus estimate for Fusion-io EPS is $0.01, down from $0.21 in its 2013 fiscal year.

The company’s server-attached storage acceleration products are essentially flash memory devices directly connected to a computer thus avoiding the bottleneck of sharing the data bus. It is a very high performance storage interface that is directed at enterprise customers moving applications into new data center configurations including cloud-based platforms.

Computer makers like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) also offer the same technology in their high-end machines like the MacBook Air, and the Mac Pro desktop machine scheduled for release in December.

Fusion-io’s problem is that there are so few barriers to entry in the high-performance storage business, and new as well as established companies are taking a run at the sector. That, coupled with a non-standardized programming interface and relatively high cost, intensifies the competition.

An analyst at Lazard Capital Markets told Barron’s yesterday:

Clearly, management has proven unable to predict the timing of orders and we think most will conclude that Fusion-io is being marginalized by competition. … There’s a strong technology story here that continues to be levered to rapidly growing end markets but is being dragged down by lumpiness.

Lazard maintained its Buy rating on the stock, but lowered its price target from $17 to $14. Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock to Equal Weight this morning and J.P. Morgan downgraded it to Underweight. Sterne Agee also cut the company’s estimates.

Shares are trading down more than 25% shortly after noon on Thursday at $9.68 after posting a new 52-week low of $9.53 earlier. The 52-week high is $26.50.

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