Are Motorola Shares a Bargain at Nine Bucks?

I haven’t considered Motorola (MOT) a viable investment opportunity for a long time, mainly due to the overly competitive market environment for the company’s core cell phone business. Not too long ago Nokia (NOK) and Motorola dominated the cell phone market and both stocks did well.

In recent years, however, the market landscape has changed. Smart phones like the Blackberry, iPhone, and Treo have taken share. A slew of Asian manufacturers have also played a role, with Samsung, LG, and Sanyo selling far more phones in the U.S. than they ever have before. As a result, MOT has seen cell phone share sag, profits plummet, and a stock price of about $9, down 65% over the last two years.

With the help of activist shareholder Carl Icahn, Motorola has been persuaded to split up the company. The cell phone business is bleeding red, distracting investors from the company’s profitable home and enterprise broadband and mobility divisions. In 2007, the cell phone business lost $1 billion on sales of $19 billion. The other business lines (cable modems, set top boxes, etc) actually earned $1.9 billion on revenue of $18 billion. Few people probably realize that cell phones are only half of the story at Motorola. Perhaps a spin off will help with that.

Down around $9 per share, I couldn’t help but want to take another look at the stock. Along with a market value now of only $22 billion, MOT actually has net cash of more than $4 billion, or about $2 per share. I’ll share some of my numbers with everyone in coming days, but until then feel free to share your thoughts on Motorola as a value play down here in the single digits.

Full Disclosure: No positions in the companies mentioned at the time of writing