How to Snatch Victory From the Jaws of Defeat
Here's a stock story you don't hear every day: Shares of memory chip maker Micron Technology (NAS: MU) are soaring by 17% today after posting weak sales and a surprisingly large net loss in the first quarter.
Enjoy it while you can, because that's what's happening right now.
The surge didn't happen right away. The death of the PC market where Micron makes so much of its sales has been widely publicized and priced into the stock, so the meager results led to small price changes at first. The big jump happened in the morning as analysts weighed in with analysis of what the results really mean.
Wedbush Morgan upgraded Micron to a buy with an $8 price target, saying the market for standard DRAM chips "has finally reached a bottom here in fiscal Q2" and looks set for profitability later in 2012. Deutsche Bank agrees, but keeps a hold rating on Micron shares at the moment because the coming quarter tends to be seasonally weak. Friends don't let friends do market timing like that, but whatever.
Micron CEO Steve Appleton underscored that rosy view of the DRAM market. "We believe that the supply and demand equation as we move into the next year should be pretty good, particularly if we have any demand creation at all," he said. Demand is artificially low at the moment because of hard drive shortages, in turn caused by flooding in Thailand. The industry reacted quickly by cutting back DRAM production, thus avoiding another bloodbath of a price war. Surplus DRAM chips are not flooding the market. Not this time.
Skate to where the puck is going to be
In the less-mature flash memory market, investors have worried that Apple (NAS: AAPL) buying flash controller specialist Anobit might hurt memory chip experts like Micron. Hogwash, says Appleton. Even if Apple secured its controller chip supply, it still needs the actual memory units. "We don't anticipate the demand from Apple to change at all," said CFO Ron Foster.
In addition, Micron enjoys strong demand from solid-state storage builders. About one-quarter of Micron's flash bits are now going into SSD drives from "all of the large PC [builders]" and "several of the top storage OEM guys." SSD-bound sales jumped 60% from the fourth quarter to the first. Micron's customer list includes well-known SSD specialists STEC (NAS: STEC) , OCZ (NAS: OCZ) , and privately held SMART Modular Technologies, which in turn service all of the major computing brands.
Buy, sell, or hold Micron now?
All things considered, I'm a very comfortable long-term Micron shareholder today. The company is pursuing all the right opportunities and managing all the right risks. Even after today's jump, the stock remains tremendously undervalued at just 0.6 times trailing sales and EV/EBITDA south of 2.0. To put those numbers into perspective, perennial value play Apple sits at 3.4 in P/S with an enterprise value approaching 10 times trailing EBITDA.
Besides, the legal storm clouds are clearing up around Micron. The company recently won a huge victory against Rambus (NAS: RMBS) in a long-running antitrust suit, and the plaintiff doesn't seem eager to get into another round of appeals. There's still a smaller patent infringement suit to consider, but the big, bad $12 billion threat has all but disappeared. What's not to love?
Counterintuitive or not, Micron deserved this jump and more. It's not the only way to get rich on tech stocks right now, though -- here's another tremendous tech idea for 2012, presented by Motley Fool analysts.
At the time this article was published Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Micron but holds no other position in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. We have a disclosure policy.