3 Things to Loathe About ARM Holdings


LONDON -- There are things to love and loathe about most companies. Today, I'm going to tell you about three things to loathe about ARM Holdings .

I'll also be asking whether these negative factors make this FTSE 100 technology titan a poor investment today.

East exit
ARM was floated on the London stock exchange in 1998. In the 15 years since flotation, the company has grown spectacularly to become the world's leading designer of low-powered microchips found in smartphones and other mobile devices. Today, ARM is a member of the FTSE 100 and has a market valuation of over 14 billion pounds.

The architect of ARM's success has been Warren East, chief operating officer at the time the company joined the stock market, and chief executive since 2001. However, East will be retiring on 1 July. He'll be a hard act to follow.

Eye-watering earnings rating
ARM is proving an exception to the famous dictum of renowned small-cap growth investor Jim Slater. Slater famously said that "elephants don't gallop," meaning big companies can't grow as fast as their smaller brethren.

ARM's earnings have grown at a rip-roaring rate. Analysts see no let-up in the pace for the immediate future and are forecasting 37% growth for 2013. However, at a share price of 977 pence, investors are paying an eye-watering 48 times earnings for that growth -- three times the multiple of the wider market.

Intel in pursuit
U.S. giant Intel is going after ARM with a vengeance. Intel's Atom core chips had barely advanced in five years, but the company has just unveiled its new Silvermont architecture, which it claims will give three times the performance and five times less power consumption than existing Atom core chips.

Tech-savvy commentators reckon that with those specifications Intel can provide real competition to ARM in the smartphone and tablet markets that are currently dominated by chips based on the latter's architecture.

A poor investment?
ARM is undoubtedly a quality business, and time and again the company has beaten analysts' earnings forecasts. East's retirement doesn't look likely to derail the business: His successor is an ARM veteran and East has been glowing in his praise of the new chief executive.

The recent developments by Intel look more of a challenge to ARM, at least judging by what the tech experts are saying. However, even without Intel in pursuit, I could never, as a value-orientated investor, bring myself to pay 48 times earnings for any company.

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The article 3 Things to Loathe About ARM Holdings originally appeared on Fool.com.

G.A. Chester has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Originally published