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Business Impact

Up, up, and...which way? East.

Some Asian tech stocks look cheap.

It was a strong four weeks for the majority of companies in the Technology Review indices, with only four of twenty industry groups showing negative returns. In terms of market capitalization, the stocks of small-cap companies continued to outpace those of their larger peers, and the TR Small-Cap 50 is up a remarkable 24.7 percent for the year ending June 10. But we live in nervous times, and such a performance is therefore as much a cause of concern as it is of celebration. So, at least, says one of the smartest observers of all things tech-stock related.

Pip Coburn, the global tech strategist for investment bank UBS, points out that on a price-earnings basis, technology stocks are trading at a lofty premium of 33 percent relative to the broader market, despite projected earnings growth in 2005 of just 9 percent for both groups. His prognosis: a narrowing of that valuation gap over the next 12 to 18 months, as technology stock prices fall “in a slow but steady bleed.” That’s the bad news. The good news is that he still sees some stocks worth paying a premium for, including TR Large-Cap 100 member Apple. He also points out that non-Japanese Asian technology stocks are the only ones trading at a discount relative to nontech – an 18 percent haircut – while European and Japanese tech stocks trade at nearly absurd premiums of 55 percent and 39 percent, respectively. If it’s bargains you’re looking for, go east, young tech investor, go east.

Nextel Communications is the fifth-place also-ran in a five-company sprint to the wireless finish line. Because of its laggard status, Nextel has agreed to be acquired by Sprint later this year, and integration plans are ongoing. Suddenly, it seems, investors are finding Nextel stock interesting again. But don’t expect a bidding war along the lines of the Verizon-Qwest battle for MCI. Nextel looks to be spoken for.

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