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Bear of the Day

I last chose Uni-Pixel (UNXL - Snapshot Report) as the "Bear of the Day" on October 11 when shares were trading $18. Since then, this Zacks #5 Rank Strong Sell has been cut in half, hitting a new 52-week low of $8.36 this week.

Uni-Pixel designs and develops functional electronic conductive films and durable wear resistance films used in sensors and display applications for consumer and industrial products. The $200 million company had virtually no revenues in 2012 and is projected to have less than $20 million this year.

Uni-Pixel's patented technology, the Time Multiplexed Optical Shutter (TMOS), can be used in mobile phones, digital cameras, notebook computers, televisions, as well as display and interactive technologies in the energy, transportation and entertainment industries.

As far as picking an innovative company in fast-growing area of tech, Uni-Pixel probably seemed like the right choice on a few fronts. The future of touch, sensor, and gesture technologies looks bright, with Oppenheimer projecting the consumer gesture control market to be the fastest growing segment as it expands fivefold from $850 million in 2013 to over $4 billion by 2017. That's a compound annual growth rate of 50%!

But as we are seeing with Uni-Pixel, falling in love with a tech story can blind investors to the realities of management's ability to execute and deliver products to sell.

From Awful to Worse

Here's what I wrote in my October piece on UNXL...

"But the recent backslide in sales at UNXL has forced analysts to cut 2013 earnings estimates in the past two months from an expected gain of $0.46 to a loss of 5 cents. And just last week, that profit outlook got cut in half again with the consensus now at a loss of 10 cents for the year."

Since then, that 10-cent loss has been slammed down to -$0.69. And 2014 full-year EPS estimates have cratered in the past 90 days from $3.13 to just $0.57.

Yes, analysts are still looking for a profit this year. But after getting burned for several quarters in a row with execution problems and product delays, they are more cautious than ever. And even with "heads rolling" as two top executives depart the company, uncertainty prevails over relief.

Fool Me Thrice

Since my October report, CEO Reed Killion has left Uni-Pixel, joined by COO Peter Shin. As one analyst said, "While not specifically highlighted as a reason, the continued missed milestones and broken promises from Killion over the last few quarters was, in our opinion, a catalyst for this change."

Here's what Oppenheimer analysts had to say after visiting the company at CES...

"After spending time with management, we believe the company has started to re-focus on the largest task on hand -- getting to commercial production. As the company works to move past some lingering issues, we see several risks now removed from the story. The next catalyst could be a new CEO along with commercial production in 2Q."

And Craig-Hallum analysts gave it to us straight when they gave the company a Hold rating and lowered estimates and their price target to $9 this week...

"We continue to believe that a new wave of consumer technology is upon us which puts touch screens into our daily lives. A key catalyst for this trend will be the availability of low cost, high performance, power efficient touch sensors.

While we feel that UniPixel’s InTouch solution will be a player due to its roll-to-roll manufacturing process, the competition is gaining fast and UniPixel is clearly having difficulty ramping production given the recent delay in attaining commercial production capability."

Touch the Future

To learn about the dominant touch-screen tech company, that is also making investors money, check out my Bull of the Day on Synaptics (SYNA - Snapshot Report).

Kevin Cook is a Senior Stock Strategist for Zacks where he runs the Follow The Money portfolio.

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