Micron Faces Tougher DRAM Trends

Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) had a rough week to start off March, even if its shares are still up considerably from the start of the year. After closing at roughly $41 on Monday, Micron’s shares were last seen trading under $38. While the broader market has pulled back a tad, there at least some rekindled fears that both DRAM and NAND pricing is running under expectations.

A Susquehanna report released on Tuesday still weighed on Micron on Wednesday, and the firm’s Mehdi Hosseini noted that memory prices were tracking below expectations for the first half of 2019. Another concern is that margins are not expected to meaningfully rebound after inventory accumulation at major suppliers.

Hosseini sees that margin pressure limiting earnings, and that does not seem to be fully reflected yet in consensus expectations nor into the stock.

While one firm’s channel and industry checks may not be the only source of information, wider industry reports are confirming at least some of these concerns. And less than a month ago KeyBanc Capital Markets projected NAND shortages as a driver for potential upside.

One estimate has DRAM prices down 30% in the first quarter, even worse than the initial forecast of a 25% drop, according to the DRAMeXchange website. They reported it being the softest in about eight years, driven by lower-priced components for PCs and other devices. That website’s forecast further said:

Looking at the DRAM market one or two years into the future, the big trio aren’t going to roll over in the competition for market shares any time soon. SK Hynix has recently announced that it will invest 120 trillion won (around US$107 billion) to build four new wafer fabs as part of its strategy to improve its competitiveness. Micron, on the other hand, doubled down and commenced construction of an IC testing and packaging plant in Taiwan. At the same time, its subsidiary Micron Memory Taiwan (formerly Rexchip) in Houli, Taichung, is considering building a new 12-inch DRAM wafer fab, which could finish construction as early as the end of next year, and massively contribute to production in 2021. As for the world’s largest DRAM supplier Samsung, it is currently building a second fab at Pyeongtaek.

Micron shares had been up about 20% in 2019, but they were last seen trading down about 5% at $37.95. The shares bottomed out at $28.39 during the sell-off and recently traded up at $41. They have a 52-week trading range of $28.39 to $64.66, and the consensus target price was last seen above $46.

As for how Micron has performed in 2019, note that its shares closed out 2018 at $31.73 apiece.