What to Watch When Sierra Wireless, Inc. Reports Earnings

By Steve Symington Markets Fool.com

Sierra Wireless Inc. (NASDAQ: SWIR) is set to release fiscal fourth-quarter 2016 results on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. With its shares up 35% over the past three months following its stellar third-quarter report in November, you can be sure the market will be listening closely to what the Internet of Things pure play has to say. Let's take a closer look at what to watch this time around.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Sierra Wireless, Inc.

Sierra Wireless' headline numbers

For perspective, Sierra Wireless' latest guidance,provided three months ago, calls for fourth-quarter revenue in the range of $157 million to $166 million, the midpoint of which represents 11.5% year-over-year growth. On the bottom line, Sierra Wireless told investors to expect adjusted earnings per share of $0.13 to $0.19.

By comparison -- and though we don't usually pay close attention to Wall Street's quarterly demands -- analysts are generally on board with that guidance, with consensus estimates predicting fourth-quarter revenue of $161.1 million and adjusted earnings of $0.16 per share.

Digging deeper

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But Sierra Wireless' business is about more than just revenue and earnings. The company will also break down those results into three primary segments, including OEM solutions, enterprise solutions, and cloud and connectivity services.

In these early stages of growth, the performance of Sierra Wireless' large OEM solutions segment is particularly important. Considering that a slowdown in demand from existing OEM customers because of macroeconomic concerns held back OEM solutions' growth last year, I singled it out last month as by far the company's most disappointing segment in 2016. Revenue from this core segment fell 2.2% year over year last quarter, to $127.8 million, but it still comprised more than 83% of total sales. Pay attention, then, for updates on whether demand from these customers has picked up, as well as how well contributions from both acquisitions and newer OEM solutions customers have served to offset any remaining softness.

Next, the smaller enterprise solutions segment has fared better of late, with revenue last quarter climbing 6.8% year over year, to $18.9 million, even despite a difficult comparison with what management described as an "exceptionally strong" third quarter of 2015. But that rise was partially credited to contributions from Sierra Wireless' recent acquisition of in-vehicle cellular-device provider GenX Mobile, without which enterprise solutions revenue would have seen a slight decline.

Relatedly, sales from Sierra Wireless' newer cloud and connectivity services business were included under enterprise solutions up until late 2015 -- that is, until it started to materially contribute to consolidated results and merited separating into its own segment. Cloud and connectivity services revenue climbed 10.7% last quarter, to $6.9 million, thanks to strong new customer acquisitions, increases in recurring service contracts, and capitalizing on bundling opportunities with Sierra Wireless' other hardware-centric business segments. As such, we should listen closely for whether the company has sustained its momentum in all three of these areas.

Finally, I want to hear updates on the progress of Sierra Wireless' latest business initiatives to drive longer-term growth. For example, Sierra Wireless management told investorslast quarterthat the company would begin working with AT&T, Verizon, and a number of leading OEMs to pilot their next-gen LTE-M network technologies, which offer lower costs for gateway modules to LTE networks, longer battery life, and superior LTE coverage in hard-to-reach areas. In turn, success in these early tests could mean Sierra Wireless has a front-row seat enabling Internet of Things connectivity with industrial, wearable, and smart city internet-connected products.

On guidance

Looking forward -- and if itsfourth-quarter report last year is any indication -- Sierra Wireless should offer specific revenue and earnings guidance for both the (current) first quarter and full year of 2017. This should come with general comments on the underlying drivers of that guidance, including expected business trends and primary contributors for each of its segments.

For perspective, considering any large deviations from Wall Street's expectations can cause big (even if temporary) swings in the stock price, consensus estimates predict that Sierra Wireless will turn in first-quarter revenue of $155.8 million (up 9.1% year over year), and adjusted earnings of $0.12 per share (up from $0.08 per share in Q1 2016). Analysts are also modeling full-year 2017 revenue of $660.9 million, with adjusted earnings of $0.72 per share.

Investors will need to wait until next week to see whether Sierra Wireless lives up to those expectations. But if Sierra Wireless is able to sustain last quarter's momentum as it heads into 2017, I suspect the stock will have plenty of room to rise from here.

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Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Sierra Wireless. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.