Technology

Why a 39% Sales Decline at Micron Still Looks Attractive to Analysts

Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) managed to pleasantly surprise the market with its earnings report. The dynamic random access memory (DRAM) giant beat estimates after posting $1.05 in earnings per share (EPS) and $4.79 billion in revenue. Consensus estimates called for $0.83 EPS and $4.77 billion in revenue. In the same period of last year, the company said it had EPS of $3.15 on revenue of $7.8 billion.

Shares of Micron surged higher, but investors should keep in mind that the “less bad than expectations” climate is the rule here. To put it in perspective, Micron’s sales were down almost 39% from a year ago. In addition, the $30.4 billion in fiscal 2018 sales are currently projected to fall to $23 billion this year, followed by another drop to $20.5 billion in fiscal 2020. More detailed earnings coverage is available.

24/7 Wall St. has tracked many analyst calls in the aftermath of Micron’s earnings report. Some calls are rather positive, but others remain cautious. Also worth noting is how much Micron is pulling up the semiconductor-specific exchange-traded funds (ETFs) (see below).

Credit Suisse’s John Pitzer maintained his Outperform rating on Micron, noting that the semiconductor and memory giant is executing well to what it can control. The downside is that the impact of the U.S./China trade saga remains outside of Micron’s control, and the firm continues to worry that this could mask a “hard bottom” that is likely to keep the stock range-bound in the near term.

While Credit Suisse’s prior target of $90 was noted on the report, Pitzer’s valuation commentary noted that profitability is likely to remain positive during this downturn, but where the price-to-book level implies a stock value of $30 to $35.

Merrill Lynch reiterated its Buy rating and raised its prior $43 price objective to $45 after the earnings release. The firm noted that the new guidance implies no significant downturn, where a DRAM demand turnaround seems likely, and it sees limited impact from the ongoing Huawei issue. The firm also sees a 5% to 10% production cut with slower capital spending in 2020.

Simon Woo of Merrill Lynch also noted that Micron has high DRAM margins and is not much inferior to Samsung, while it is performing well even in a tough business environment and creating shareholder value via free cash flows and buying back shares.

CFRA upgraded Micron to Hold from a Strong Sell after earnings, and it raised its target to $36 from $32 in the call. The firm still sees low earnings visibility, despite a slight raise on its earnings per share for 2019 but a decline in 2020 earnings. The firm also initiated an earnings estimate of $4.12 EPS for fiscal 2021.

CFRA’s Angelo Zino was surprised by Micron’s ability to begin shipping some products to Huawei again, and he thinks that a protracted mobile softness and unfavorable share shift along with a heightened trade concern pose a risk while data center fundamentals are stabilizing. Zino also noted that the $3 billion net cash position and planned capital spending reductions are encouraging, but the $4.9 billion in inventories (151 days outstanding) is worth some caution.

Some other analyst calls seen:

  • Needham raised Micron to Buy from Hold with a $50 target price.
  • Morgan Stanley maintained its Underweight rating and cut its target to $31 from $32.
  • KeyBanc Capital Markets maintained it at Overweight but lowered its target to $45 from $48.
  • Piper Jaffray maintained its Neutral rating and lowered its target price from $40 to $36.

As noted above, Micron lifted the semiconductor ETFs to the upside on Wednesday. 24/7 Wall St. included some data from ETFdb.com on the Micron weighting in each of the top semiconductor ETFs, as well as the assets under management.

Invesco Dynamic Semiconductors ETF (PSI) has Micron at a 4.73% weighting. This fund was last seen trading up 2.9% at $53.19, and it has a 52-week range of $41.12 to $60.02. The ETF had just $165 million in assets under management.

VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) has Micron with a 4.42% weighting. It was last seen trading up 3.2% at $108.85, in a 52-week range of $80.71 to $120.71. The fund had about $1.07 billion in assets under management.

iShares PHLX Semiconductor ETF (SOXX) has Micron as a 3.72% weighting. The fund was trading up 3.2% at $195.25 on Wednesday, and it has a 52-week trading range of $144.79 to $218.00. The ETF had $1.37 billion in assets under management.

Shares of Micron had traded down 1.5% at $32.68 before earnings on Tuesday but were up 8.75% at $35.54 in Wednesday’s early premarket trading. Micron then opened up almost 10% at $35.87 and was trading up almost 12% at $36.55 after more than an hour of trading on Wednesday.

Micron has a 52-week trading range of $28.39 to $58.15, and its consensus analyst target price from Refinitiv before the earnings was $41.35.