Can Rambus Climb Out of This Hole?

Rambus (NAS: RMBS) still can't catch a break.

The memory technologist missed Wall Street's earnings targets by $0.09 per share in last night's second-quarter report despite notching in-line sales. Shares plunged as much as 9.6% in after-hours action, extending the stock's swoon to 37% in 2012.

The company pinned 15% lower sales year-over-year on "decrease in contract revenue, lower royalties reported by certain licensees and expiration of a patent license agreement." The first royalty payment from a new agreement with Broadcom (NAS: BRCM) wasn't enough to balance out those headwinds.

The company is spending less on expensive litigation campaigns than it used to, but operating costs are way up anyhow. That's because Rambus is trying its hand at growth by acquisition, incurring a variety of costs for the add-on operations. As sales are shrinking in the face of that strategy, I'm not convinced that it's a great idea.

Management likes the idea of consolidation in the memory business, and is very much in favor of mortal enemy Micron Technology's (NAS: MU) pending buyout of Rambus licensee Elpida. If that deal closes, Rambus hopes that the combined entity would sign a license to the Rambus patent portfolio, which is obviously a better situation than eternally battling one pre-merger business in court while the other one is bankrupt and not paying license fees.

Looking ahead, Rambus is pouring money into its new LED lighting research. The company wants to generate about 15% of its revenue out of that division in 2013.

In the meantime, Rambus is a one-star CAPS stock (out of five), buried under an avalanche of recent thumbs-down ratings. I just ended my own bearish CAPScall on the stock, reaping about 30 points on that bet. I'm not ready to get bullish on Rambus right now, but the stock may have suffered enough already.

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