GT Advanced Technologies: A Battle Between Risk and Reward

GT Advanced Technologies: A Battle Between Risk and Reward

GT Advanced Technologies isn't in full-fledged growth mode yet but the company put up decent numbers in the second quarter and reiterated its previous guidance, which should satisfy investors for now.

Revenue nearly tripled from the first quarter to $168 million, driven by $151 million from the polysilicon market. Gross margin was 35% and net income was $11.9 million, or $0.10 per share. Backlog fell $149 million, which is most concerning because there were barely any new orders coming in.

For the full-year, management reiterated revenue guidance of $500 million-$600 million and non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.25-$0.45. While polysilicon dominated the second quarter it's sapphire that will dominate the rest of the year before the solar market reaches another growth phase next year.

A winner in the solar trade war
One of the reasons demand for polysilicon equipment may be up is due to tariffs recently put on U.S. polysilicon exports to China. GTAT CEO Tom Gutierrez said that the company's largest polysilicon customer, OCI, will benefit from tariffs because it's based in Korea and will only have to pay a 2.4% tariff.

For the long term the market is also playing into GTAT's favor. The solar market is growing and the company should see improved demand because financial conditions are improving across the solar industry and efficiency and cost structure are improving for GTAT's products. Management doesn't expect this investment cycle to begin until late next year, but by then the HiCz product we've been hearing about should be available and set to usher in a new level of efficiency for solar cells.

Growth potential galore
The sapphire segment also shows promise if non-LED markets begin to adopt the technology. This product has been speculated to appear in products, such as smartphone cover screens, for years but adoption has been extremely slow.

There's also silicon carbide which, when combined with GTAT's Hyperion technology, could be another growth initiative. Management said that this could be as big as polysilicon was in the fast-growing solar days, although adoption is still two years away at best.

Foolish bottom line
There are simply a lot of "ifs" in the future for GTAT. If the PV market goes through another growth phase and if HiCz is adopted on a wide scale then the opportunity is huge. Non-LED sapphires could be huge if the industry finds uses for them. And maybe silicon carbide will be a growth product if it's adopted and the technology works as planned.

The challenge is that the knowns are less impressive. The stock trades at 13 times this year's earnings at best, and in the past year the company has gone from $187 million in net cash to $35 million in net cash. I still like the opportunity long term, but it will be a bumpy ride for the company over the next year and there's no guarantee of success at the end of the tunnel. High risk and high reward is what investors are getting with GT Advanced Technologies.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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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