Siri maker Nuance Communications might be the most interesting non-Apple way to play tomorrow's iPhone introduction

09/11/2012 4:53 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

You can hear investors holding their breath ahead of Apple’s introduction of its new iPhone tomorrow, September 12.

In contrast to yesterday, September 10, when shares of Apple fell 2.6% as investors sold ahead of the news, today Apple shares are going nowhere. The stock is down a miniscule 0.52% as of 3 p.m. New York time.

I think fear and greed are about evenly balanced as we go into the introduction. The fear is that the new iPhone won’t live up to previous product launches. Greed is based on Wall Street projections that the company could sell as many as 10 million iPhones by the end of September. (By comparison it took Samsung 50 days to sell 10 million of its Galaxy S III phones after their introduction.)

Lots of other companies have big bucks riding on the iPhone—Sony (SNE) made the camera, for example, and Qualcomm (QCOM) the processor. But most of those suppliers are themselves so big that the iPhone effect on their shares will be fairly muted.

If you’re looking for another way to play the iPhone besides Apple, I’d suggest Nuance Communications (NUAN), the company behind the iPhone’s Siri digital assistant. Nuance (market capitalization $7.64 billion) is especially interesting today because on the eve of the iPhone launch the company announced a digital voice assistant, Dragon, for Intel Ultrabooks. Intel (INTC) demonstrated the beta of the software today at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco today. And Ultrabooks with the application will start to ship in the fourth quarter of 2012.

It’s hard to put a target price on Nuance Communications because the company is at that awkward stage where revenues are growing fast as wildfire but earnings are wildly erratic. For the company’s fourth quarter, which ends on September 30, 2012, Wall Street currently estimates revenue growth of 34%. Five year average annual revenue growth is 28%.

But earnings, which were 25 cents a share in the third quarter but 0 cents a share in the second quarter and just 3 cents a share in the first quarter, are projected to grow by just 10% to 34 cents a share from the 31 cents a share earned in the fourth quarter of 2011. But even that’s not very certain since the company delivered an 11% positive earnings surprise in the third quarter and a 19% positive surprise in the second quarter.

But I think the stock is an interesting short-term trade. In recent quarters Nuance has bounced on good news from Apple. And I think that’s a likely result tomorrow too. Apple’s event is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund http://jubakfund.com/ , may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of Apple as of the end of March. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of March see the fund’s portfolio at http://jubakfund.com/about-the-fund/holdings/

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