Why Goldman Sachs Is Telling AMD Investors to Sell Now

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The bull market is now more than eight years old. Many companies did not participate in the bull market at all, and some companies only jumped in to run with the bulls in the past year or so. One such late-bloomer as a turnaround and full of promise was Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD). Its stock has risen close to 1,000% from the trough to the most recent peak. Now one major firm on Wall Street is saying enough is enough.

While gains of this magnitude should raise most investors’ eyes, the reality is that analysts have tried to keep AMD shares shackled down at much lower prices. It simply didn’t work. To prove the point, it should be noted that the Thomson Reuters consensus analyst price target is still well under the prevailing price of AMD shares.

In Wednesday’s top analyst upgrades and downgrades, Goldman Sachs led the charge by initiating AMD with a Sell rating. It also issued an $11 price target. That was far under the $14.17 closing price of the shares on Wednesday. It was also well under the $12.25 consensus analyst price target.

While this is in part a valuation call, there is also a threat from the likes of NVIDIA Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) and Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC). Where this gets interesting is that when AMD sold 45 million shares for a top holder (Mubadala Development Company PJSC), it was via Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs analyst Toshiya Hari made the call here. The view is that AMD’s stock gains already reflect the improvements that may happen in its business and the high expectations for 2018. Also cited was an execution risk in issuing products and managing their costs.

Despite a sharp improvement in AMD’s competitive and financial position, Hari noted that AMD’s enterprise value to sales was more than 200% over a five-year median.

On the Intel and NVIDIA front, Hari believes that the companies can both fight back if AMD gains ground via price concessions. Even if those price risks do not materialize, Hari feels that AMD’s costs will rise as it rejuvinates its distribution channel.

Another warning from Goldman Sachs in this Sell rating is that AMD’s stock should underperform the market after its May analyst day presentation is behind it.

While a Sell rating seems harsh, Goldman Sachs is actually above consensus estimates, with revenue projections of $4.87 billion (versus $4.73 billion). Its EBITDA forecast of $235 million is just $1 million short of consensus. The firm’s earnings per share (EPS) forecast of $0.03 is under the consensus estimate $0.08 per share.

The firm’s 2018 estimates are under consensus:

  • $5.1 billion in revenue, versus $5.2 billion
  • $345.8 million in EBITDA, versus $423 million
  • $0.17 EPS, versus $0.28

Since AMD shares began rising rapidly in 2016, this has been a battleground stock. It is usually among the 10 most heavily shorted stocks on Wall Street. And analysts continue to debate whether AMD has more upside or downside.

The Goldman Sachs call to sell AMD shares took 8% out of the stock, down to a price of $13.00, on Thursday morning. That compares with a 52-week trading range of $2.60 to $15.55, and AMD’s market cap is still $12.2 billion.

While the Goldman Sachs call might have pitted Intel and NVIDIA against AMD here, the calls did not exactly help either rival.

Intel shares were last seen down 0.2% at $36.14, in a 52-week range of $29.50 to $38.45. Intel’s consensus analyst target price is $40.03, and its market cap is $170 billion.

NVIDIA shares, which have seen multiple analyst downgrades of late after a massive run of its own in 2016, was down 0.6% at $99.40. Its 52-week range is $34.40 to $120.92, and the consensus target price is $113.72.

To show an open book on how AMD has been covered, here are some other recent analyst calls:

  • Macquarie started AMD as Neutral at on March 31, 2017. This was part of a broader semiconductor sector initiation, and most others were given the same Neutral ratings.
  • Jefferies reiterated AMD as Buy with a $16 price target on March 24, 2016, (after being raised from $13 back on March 20, 2017). The firm noted that its checks gave it even higher conviction in its above-consensus estimates.
  • AMD was reiterated as Buy at Canaccord Genuity on March 9, 2017, and its target was raised to $17 from $14.
  • As of March 3, 2017, the Merrill Lynch price target for AMD was $16.50, and the Wall Street consensus target was $11.79.
  • AMD was assumed with a Neutral rating and $13 fair value estimate by MKM Partners on February 21, 2017, in a transfer of analyst coverage. MKM’s take was that there was a lot to like with AMD’s story, but the current valuation placed the firm on the sidelines.