Technology

Nine Top Chip Stocks Investors Should Really Be Buying

Year after year, investors are hit over the head with the same old chip stock recommendations from the major Wall Street firms. In many cases, year-over-year they underperform the market. Given the huge demand for specialty chips, investors are looking for the names that actually can show some forward growth. The real growth in many cases for analog and mixed signal chips lies in how they are related to the Internet. Like everything else technology, it always seems to lead back to the Internet.

Stifel recently hosted a three-day Technology, Internet and Media Conference in San Francisco. In a new research report, they included presentation summaries of the analog, mixed-signal semiconductor companies that participated. In general and coming off a “fresh” earnings season the last few weeks, the Stifel team says most of the companies sounded generally positive about the business climate, highlighting that 2014 appears to have started off on a better tone than 2013. While some customers are keeping a short order time span, there seems to be good opportunity for investors.

Exar Corp. (NYSE: EXAR) is a fabless semiconductor company, engages in the design, development and marketing of high performance analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits, as well as subsystem solutions for data and telecommunications, networking and storage, industrial control and consumer applications. Management sounded confident the March 2014 quarter should represent the low-point, with top-line growth resuming, regardless of whether the inventory issue is resolved. In fact, the company’s new Panther II product has already won designs and should recognize revenue in the March quarter, helping to diversify the business. The Stifel price target is $15. The Thomson/First Call estimate is at $14.20. Exar closed Thursday at $11.27.

Hittite Microwave Corp. (NASDAQ: HITT) has strong management that is committed to outgrowing the overall mixed chip industry by 10% to 20% long term. Military, cellular infrastructure, microwave and millimeter wave, and test and instrumentation remain the company’s largest end-markets (representing about 80% of total revenue). The company’s fiber optics business is expected to grow meaningfully over the next few years and could potentially represent as much revenue as the other four over time. Stifel has a $70 price target, and the consensus target is $63. The stock closed Thursday at $56.31.

Intersil Corp. (NASDAQ: ISIL) CEO Necip Sayiner has restructured the company, built a new management team (50% new hires), revamped processes to improve agility and refocused on its core capabilities. Already, gross margin has expanded on mix but also on pricing discipline. The company offers products for aviation and satellite systems, factory automation equipment and automotive systems as well as personal computers, including ultrabooks, notebooks and desktops, and consumer electronics, such as smart phones, tablets, displays and other consumer electronic devices. Investors get a bonus and receive an outstanding 4.3% dividend. The Stifel price target is $15, and the consensus target is $12.04. Intersil closed Thursday at $11.50.

Maxim Integrated Products Inc. (NASDAQ: MXIM) is buying back stock, lots of it, and consistently raising its dividend. The company engages in designing, developing, manufacturing and marketing various linear and mixed-signal integrated circuits worldwide. Investors receive a solid 3.5% dividend. The Stifel price target is $34, and the consensus price objective is $32.38. Maxim closed Thursday at $31.25.

MaxLinear Inc. (NYSE: MXL) is targeting its cable business to be up 10% in 2014, following a year in which cable was up nearly 30%. Besides share gains, the company believes the market shift towards higher channel counts per box will be the key driver of the year-over-year growth. The company engages in the design, development, marketing and sale of integrated, radio-frequency (RF) and mixed-signal semiconductor solutions for broadband communications applications. The Stifel price objective is $13, and the consensus figure is $12.19. The stock closed Thursday at $9.92.

Micrel Inc. (NASDAQ: MCRL) is an industry leader in high performance linear and power solutions, local area network (LAN) and timing and communications solutions. The company’s products include advanced mixed-signal, analog and power semiconductors, and high performance communication, clock management, Ethernet switch and physical layer transceiver chips. Investors are paid a 2% dividend. The Stifel price target is $13, and consensus target is $11.50. Micrel closed Thursday at $10.28.

Microsemi Corp. (NASDAQ: MSCC) highlighted a general theme at the Stifel Conference of growing its dollar content per box, and provided commentary on the strategic direction, growth drivers and a few product initiatives. Past acquisitions continue to play a key role in shaping the company and its overall product portfolio. Its products include RF and power components, analog and RF integrated circuits, standard and customizable system-on-chip solutions, and mixed-signal and radiation-tolerant field programmable gate arrays. The Stifel target is $30, and the consensus is $30.30. The stock closed Thursday at $23.21.

O2Micro International Ltd. (NASDAQ: OIIM) may be the hidden gem for investors seeking a home run. Already in 2014, the company is suggesting revenue could grow year over year (after three consecutive years of revenue decline) and cash flow may reach a breakeven quarter (at quarterly revenue of $20 million to $21 million) sometime in the year. TV is a growth opportunity for O2Micro not because worldwide unit shipment is growing but that the company has latched onto Smart TVs, a new segment that has achieved a 30% penetration. Stifel has a whopping $6 price target, and consensus target is $5. O2Micro closed Thursday at $3.38. A move to the Stifel target would be a 77% gain for investors.

Silicon Laboratories Inc. (NASDAQ: SLAB) is an industry leader in the innovation of high-performance, analog-intensive, mixed-signal ICs. Developed by a world-class engineering team with unsurpassed expertise in mixed-signal design, Silicon Labs’ diverse portfolio of patented semiconductor solutions offers customers significant advantages in performance, size and power consumption. The Stifel price target for this top name is $54. The consensus target is $51.30. The stock closed Thursday at $47.94.

The stocks that Stifel highlighted all of huge growth prospects. Again, much of it tied to Internet growth. Over the years, investing in mega-cap chip stocks has been pretty frustrating for investors. These names may show the kind of earnings growth that can really drive the price of the stocks higher.