Famed short-seller Andrew Left revealed his latest target Tuesday — Motorola Solutions, which he said is about to see a big decline in its core business of selling “overpriced handsets.”
In an appearance on CNBC, Left said the company is “completely, viciously, egregiously ripping off the government.”
Motorola Solutions shares were down about 3.5 percent after news of the short bet broke in the morning, then fell to as much as 5.5 percent in the red after the CNBC interview. The company defended its business in a statement and called Left’s comments inaccurate.
Left, of Citron Research, said in a report that Motorola Solutions has been relying on sales to government first responders in a non-competitive market. With President Donald Trump emphasizing the importance of competition for government contracts, Left believes Motorola is in trouble.
“Motorola Solutions has been coasting on a simple formula: Dote on police, fire and sheriff’s departments, woo contracting officials, pursue every angle to gain a sole-source deal or an inside track, and where possible, embed equipment with proprietary features so it can’t interact with competitors’ products,” he said.
The company would be a ripe target for Trump’s views on government waste, Left added during the broadcast interview.
“It’s extremely relevant right now because we have a president who is also very law enforcement-friendly,” he said.
He set a price target of $45 for the stock, which would repersent a 45 percent decline from the Monday close.
Left said the firm charges customers in the UK substantially less than its government clients in the U.S., due largely to a more competitive market. That situation is critical for a company that derives 76.7 percent of its sales domestically, he said.
Motorola Solutions officials sharply rebutted Left’s allegations, accusing him of making inappropriate comparisons and spreading misinformation.
“We strongly disagree with the assertions made by this short-seller, and Citron has made numerous false and misleading statements,” the company said in a statement to CNBC. “Of note, Citron’s comparisons to products and price points in Europe and other locations are baseless, as different countries have different standards and require different technologies.”
The company said it is “proud” of the many governmental relationships it has cultivated.
“We compete every day and win thousands of contracts annually because we have the best products and most reliable solutions available in the market at a wide range of price points,” the statement said.
The government is pushing for a communications system called FirstNet, an interconnected communications system for first responders for which AT&T will handle the build-out. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s choice for Commerce secretary, said during his confirmation hearings that he supports the “concept” of FirstNet.
“With or without government regulation or even FirstNet, the days of Motorola’s closed-end business are numbered,” Left said.