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Analysts: Concerns over Adobe's Flash overblown

Wed, 02/10/2010 - 9:01am
The Associated Press

Two analysts raised their ratings Wednesday on Adobe Systems Inc., saying that concerns over its $1.5 billion debt issue and upcoming competition for its popular Flash software are overblown.

Credit Suisse analyst Philip Winslow upgraded the stock to "Outperform" from "Neutral" but lowered his fiscal 2010 earnings forecast by 4 cents to $1.81 per share due to higher debt. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters on average are forecasting $1.79 per share in profit.

He said that while HTML5, the latest version of the computer language for the Internet being developed by Apple Inc. and Google Inc., will have features that compete directly with Flash, it's still years away from maturing and being widely adopted.

HTML5 will have built-in support for video and audio files. Currently, the Flash plug-in is the most popular tool for enabling these features online.

Winslow also said that Adobe's Creative Suite Web site design software, which comprised 57.8 percent of 2009 revenue, would see a lift from an improving advertising climate. Users of this software typically rely on advertising for revenue. He also said Creative Suite would benefit if it eventually added support for HTML5.

Creative Suite 5 is slated to be released in April.

Jefferies & Co. analyst Ross MacMillan upgraded Adobe as well, to "Buy" from "Hold." He said concerns over the future of Flash are exaggerated. Flash will see competition, but it won't disappear, the analyst said in a research note.

While investors have concerns over Flash not being supported on Apple's iPhone or iPad, MacMillan believes it won't be closed to the iPhone indefinitely, especially since Google's competing Android operating system for cell phones does support it.

MacMillan also said Adobe is trading less expensively now compared to its one and three-year historical averages. Moreover, concerns about HTML5's effect on Flash won't be seen over the next 12 to 15 months, which is the scope for his upgrade.

Like Winslow, MacMillan cut his earnings forecast for Adobe after the debt issue and pay down of a credit line. He reduced earnings, excluding one-time items, by a penny per share to 38 cents per share for the first quarter, and by 3 cents per share to $2.01 for the year.

Analysts are expecting a profit of 37 cents per share in the first quarter.

Shares of Adobe, based in San Jose, Calif., rose by 72 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $33.03 in afternoon trading.

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