This is not a profits warning, let's make that clear. Yet today's management statement from telecoms and IT testing specialist Anite (AIE) sails rather too close to the wind for the market's liking, chopping over 10% off the shares to 112.5p. That's a 20%-plus slump since mid-July and over 30% off February's highs. This is the second time this year Anite has spooked the market.
On the one hand, Anite's revenues and profits has long been unpredictable, hemmed in by seasonal product launch cycles that tend to leave full-year outcomes riding by the seat of their pants right into the fourth quarter. Anite has also some pretty stiff comparatives to go up against, such was the strength of business demand through 2012 and early 2013.
But on the other, questions might rightly be asked about Propsim, the Finnish wireless testing business bought in January for £26 million. Rather than bolster Anite's weakest part of the year, as many market watchers expected, it seems to have done little for the top line and added to costs, causing some analysts to question Anite's earnings momentum. 'The risk now feels to be on the downside,' Numis analyst David Toms today says.
Of course, this should be balanced by the ongoing recovery in its travel software arm (which still sticks out like a sore thumb, to me) and bouncing demand on the networks side, a welcome relief. It is also worth noting that management flags that full-year expectations remain 'unchanged' three times. Is chief executive Chris Humphrey trying to convince us or himself, one wonders, could he be almost as much in the dark as the rest of us? Time will tell but his record of delivery is sound and he and his team deserve the benefit of the doubt, in my view. It's an opinion that's shared by Canaccord's respected tech analysts, Jonathan Imlah and Bob Liao. 'Anite's full-year results last year showed that one should not focus unduly on one seasonally soft quarter,' they rightly point out.
Let's not forget that mobile phones giant Apple (AAPL:NDQ) is likely to launch its latest iPhone next month, an event that could also signal other mooted products lines, too – iPhone mini or iWatch perhaps. Then there's Google's (GOOG:NDQ) glasses to add to the clear shift to 'wearable tech', plus countless other devices being whispered about in the corridors of tech HQs across the world. Mobile gadgets and networks are still at the start of a structural shift that will require ever more stringent and rugged testing before being flagged 'consumer-ready' and that means significant telecoms infrastructure spending on long-term evolution (LTE), 4G and even 5G networks.
'We are confident that the company will bounce back from the slow start to the year and once again prove the resilience of the business,' concludes Canaccord, and I'm inclined to agree, but investors can probably expect an adrenalin rush ride in the meantime.