Can VMWare Keep Beating Its Earnings Expectations?

Software-maker VMWare (VMW) will report its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2009 on Monday after the market closes. Analysts expect it to report earnings of 26 cents a share for the quarter. Over the last five quarters, it has beaten expectations four times, by an average of 41% -- although it has been doing so by slimmer margins in the most recent quarters. (The one time VMWare failed to beat expectations, it matched them.)VMWare makes virtualization software, which enables companies to use their computing resources more efficiently by pumping more transactions through their existing systems so they can postpone buying more hardware. Simply put, virtualization helps companies get more processing bang for the computing buck.

In these economic times, you'd expect companies would be willing to spend money on virtualization software in order to save even more by not buying expensive computing hardware. However, corporate demand has not led to rapid recent growth: VMWare's revenues grew a mere 3.7% in the third quarter of 2009 and totaled $1.9 billion over the last 12 months.

At least one analyst thinks VMWare's prospects are good, though. TheStreet.com reports that Barclays raised earnings estimates for VMWare to 96 cents per share for 2009 and $1.15 for 2010. Barclays is also expecting strong results when VMWare reports today and has set a price target of $41.

Since VMWare's stock opened the week above that, and was oscillating around the $42 level on Monday morning, I'd guess it would take a big upside earnings surprise to push the stock up much further.

Peter Cohan has no financial interest in VMWare securities.
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