OmniVision Is Back With a Vengeance

Shares of OmniVision Technologies jumped as much as 23% overnight, driven by a rock-solid fourth quarter report. The stock set a fresh 52-week high, but remains far below the $36 high-water mark that was set in 2011 when OmniVision's back side illumination, or BSI, camera chips seemed set to rule the smartphone world.

OmniVision reported adjusted earnings of $0.31 per share on $336 million in sales, far ahead of the $0.20 and $318 million Wall Street targets. The quarter's strong results hinged on unseasonably strong sales to Chinese handset makers, coupled with cost-control efforts tracking ahead of schedule.

Moreover, OmniVision is gaining traction with notebook and webcam design wins that will result in a strong second half this calendar year. "Many of our new sensors are designed into upcoming next-generation products with our tier-1 OEMs," slated for sale near the holidays, according to head sales officer Ray Cisnero. Smart TV sets have started shipping with integrated cameras, which provides another growth vector for the company. But the largest growth driver remains the high-volume smartphone and tablet space -- in China as well as more developed markets.

Baking all of these catalysts into an already impressive growth trend, management raised the official guidance figures sky-high. The midpoint of the new revenue guidance for the first quarter sits 8.3% above Wall Street's $344 million estimates, and the EPS midpoint is a 55% improvement over analysts' $0.28 target.

The company famously lost the main camera spot in Apple's iPhones back in 2011, replaced by BSI chips from Sony . OmniVision does sell chips to Apple today, but these are normally the skimpier and less profitable front-facing cameras. Then again, Apple's share of the global mobility space isn't as beefy as it once was, so it's easier to make up for a lost Apple socket with a couple of Android-based wins nowadays.

The stock remains ridiculously cheap, even after today's massive jump. You can buy OmniVision shares for 10.7 times forward earnings estimates (and that's before most analysts update their estimates according to last night's cheery guidance), and the PEG ratio sits at a bargain-basement 0.5. I bought my shares two years ago, believing there was a huge moat around OmniVision's BSI chips. That moat turned out to be a mirage as Sony stole plenty of OmniVision's contracts. Today, the stock is more of a value play in a maturing camera-chip market. Either way, I remain a happy shareholder.

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