BUY OR SELL-TomTom down too much after Google move?
(To read other Reuters "Buy or Sell" stories, please double click on [BUYSELL/])
* Google moves into navigation software market
* TomTom shares down more than half from 1-year high
* Short-term effect limited, long-term negative impact seen
By Harro ten Wolde
AMSTERDAM, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Shares in Dutch navigation device maker TomTom NV (TOM2.AS) have lost about a third of their value since Google Inc (GOOG.O) said last week it would move into phone-based navigation. [ID:nN27274525]
TomTom shares are hovering near three-month lows after it said last week average selling prices for its navigation devices (PNDs) were below analyst forecasts, while Google said it would weave technology for driving directions into new versions of its software for mobile phones. [ID:nLS458927]
TomTom shares have plummeted more than 50 percent from a year's high of 13.65 euros set in September after the launch of its software to turn Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPhone into a navigation device.
Are the shares at a realistic level now or should investors be ready for another beating?
GOOGLE'S THREAT OVERSTATED, BUY
Some see TomTom's technology giving it a lead over anything Google has to offer.
Jos Versteeg, analyst at Amsterdam based Theodoor Gilissen, saw Google's entry as having a limited effect, adding TomTom has a big technological lead and high quality software which would protect it from price pressures.
"Few shares have been halved in the past months. In this perspective we see the recent share drop as a good moment to buy," Versteeg said, upgrading the shares to "buy" from "hold".
RBS analyst Wim Gille noted barriers to enter the navigation market are still high. "There are not many companies in the world that have the deep pockets and the business case to build a map, while most mobile companies do not want to depend on Google and Nokia alone," he said, keeping the shares at "buy".
SNS Securities analyst Martijn den Drijver raised the shares to "accumulate" from "hold", arguing: "In the near and medium term ... we see little impact on PND sales as smartphones continue to be a sub-optimal means of navigation in a car due to the small screen size, low battery life, inferior speaker quality and complicated pricing."
Corne van Zeijl at SNS Asset Management said he was neutral on the shares since last week's drop. "However our poll of professional investors showed that they have picked TomTom shares as the biggest winner for the coming month. This compares to being the biggest loser in the previous month," he said, though he noted retail investor are gloomy on the shares.
SELL ON LONGER-TERM CONCERNS
Den Drijver noted Google's announcement could imply that mapping data and software have become a commodity, while Rabo Securities analyst Hans Slob expects Google's navigation and mapping initiatives to have a medium- and long-term adverse impact.
Slob downgraded the shares to "hold" from "buy" as a result of the increased Google threat and cut his estimates for sales, operating profit and earnings per shares for 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Based upon on his new estimates, Slob says TomTom shares trade at 8 times expected 2010 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).
"(This) is fair value in our opinion, given the increased risks to the business model," Slob said.
(Editing by David Holmes)