Motorola Stock Plunges to 8-year low

Motorola Inc.'s already-ailing stock crumbled 20 percent to an eight-year low Friday, going into steep decline after a Wall Street brokerage indicated it expects the company's situation to get worse before it gets better.

Shares in the cellphone and semiconductor giant tumbled $3.45 to $11.50 Friday afternoon, the lowest since May 1993, in extremely heavy trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume topped 26 million shares -- more than twice the normal amount with a third of the session still to go.

The shares have now lost 78 percent of their value since last May when they hit a 52-week high of $52.64.

Hard hit by slowdowns in its two main industries as well as profit problems of its own doing, Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola has been holding out hopes of a turnaround in the coming months based on new cellphones and improvements in the economy.

But Credit Suisse First Boston, in starting coverage of Motorola with a "buy" rating, said it sees nothing on the horizon that would turn the company's fortunes around.

"We do not see a major catalyst until the second half of this year, at the earliest," the brokerage said in a research note.

"Motorola typically sets the tone for the earnings season," it said. "This quarter, like for many other technology companies, we are expecting a poor performance and diminished outlook."

Weakness in cellphones, semiconductors and infrastructure will likely lower Motorola estimates for the full year 2001, it said.

Motorola, which has cut 22,000 jobs since December, reports first-quarter results next Tuesday after the market closes, then discusses them in a conference call Wednesday morning. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call are expecting a loss of 7 cents a share.

"Everyone knows their numbers are probably going to be pathetic -- they've pre-warned that," said Todd Bernier, an analyst for Morningstar in Chicago. "This is probably just investors assuming the worst."