Semiconductors are one of the modern world’s essential industries, making possible so much of what we rely on or take for granted: internet access, high-speed computers with high-speed memory, even the thermostats that control our air conditioning – there isn’t much, tech-wise, that doesn’t use semiconductor chips.
With the end of 2020 in sight, it’s time for the annual ritual of evaluating the equities for the New Year. Wells Fargo analyst Aaron Rakers has cast his eye on the chip industry, tagging several companies as likely gainers next year.
The analyst sees several factors combining to boost demand for chips in 2021, including cloud demand, new gaming consoles, and a market resolution to the future of the PC segment. Overall, however, Rakers expects that memory chips and 5G enabled chips will emerge as the drivers of the industry next year. The analyst expects that semiconductor companies, as a group, will see between 10% and 12% growth over the next 12 months.
That’s an industry-wide average, however. According to Raker, some chip companies will show significantly higher growth, on the order of 30% to 40% in year ahead. We can look at those companies, along with the latest TipRanks data, to find out what makes these particular chip makers so compelling.
Micron Technology (MU)
Among the leading chip makers, Micron has staked out a position in the memory segment. The company has seen its market cap expand to $78 billion this year, as shares have appreciated 32% year-to-date. The surge comes on a product line heaving on computer data storage, DRAM, and flash storage.
Look back at 2020, Micron has seen revenues increase each quarter, from $4.8 billion in Q1 to $5.4 billion in Q2 to $6.1 billion in Q3. Earnings came in at 87 cents per share, up from 71 cents in Q2 and 36 cents in Q1.
The calendar third quarter was Micron’s 4QFY20, and the full fiscal year showed a decline due attributed to the COVID pandemic. Revenue came in at $21.44 billion, down 8.4% year-over-year, and operating cash flow fell to $8.31 billion from $13.19 billion in FY19.
During this past quarter, Micron’s 1QFY21, the company announced the release of the world’s first 176-layer 3D NAND chip. The new chip promises higher density and faster performance in flash memory, and the architecture is described as a ‘radical breakthrough.’ The layer count is 40% higher than competing chips.
Looking ahead, Micron has updated its F1Q21 guidance, predicting total revenue of $5.7 billion to $5.75 billion. This is a 10% increase from the previous guidance.
Wells Fargo’s Aaron Rakers calls Micron his top semiconductor idea for 2021. He points out “a deepening positive view on the memory, and in particular the DRAM industry. DRAM accounts for approximately two-thirds of Micron’s revenue and over 80% of the company’s bottom-line profits.”
In addition, Rakers notes “Micron’s technology execution – 1Znm DRAM leadership; recently outlined 1αnm ramp into 2021, as well as Micron’s move to 176-Layer 2nd -gen Replacement Gate 3D NAND to drive improved cost curve. We would also highlight Micron’s execution on graphics memory (e.g., GDDR6X), Multi-Chip Packages (MCPs), and High-Bandwidth Memory (e.g., HBME2) as positives.”
In line with these comments, Rakers rates Micron shares a Buy, along with a $100 price target. This figure suggests room for 41% growth in 2021. (To watch Rakers’ track record, click here)
Micron has 24 recent reviews on record, breaking down to 19 Buys, 4 Holds, and 1 Sell, and giving the stock a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus. Shares are priced at $70.96, and recent appreciation has pushed them almost to the $74.30 average price target. But as Rakers’ outlook suggests, there may be more than just 4.5% upside available here. (See MU stock analysis on TipRanks)
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)
With $6.5 billion in total sales last year, and a market cap of $110.7 billion, AMD is a giant company – but it doesn’t even crack the top five of the world’s largest chip makers. Still, AMD has a solid position in the industry, and its x86 processors provide stiff competition for market-leading Intel (INTC). AMD shares have shown solid growth this year, and are up 101% as 2020 comes to a close.
The share growth rides on the back of steady revenue gains since the corona crisis peaked in Q1. AMD’s Q3 top line came in at $2.8 billion, up 55% from the $1.8 billion recorded in the year-ago quarter and beating the forecast by 10%. Earnings, at 37 cents per share, were up 220% year-over-year. The company credited the growth to solid results in the PC, gaming, and data center product lines, and boasted that it was the fourth consecutive quarter with >25% yoy revenue growth.
AMD announced last month a new product for the scientific research market, the Instinct MI100 accelerator. The new chip is billed as the world’s fasted HPC GPU, and the first such x86 server to exceed 10 teraflops performance.
Covering AMD for Wells Fargo, Rakers wrote: “We remain positive on AMD’s competitive positioning for continued sustained gradual share gains in PCs… We also believe AMD’s deepening data center GPU strategy with new Instinct MI100 GPUs and the release of RoCM 4.0 software platform could become increasingly visible as we move through 2021. AMD’s roadmap execution would remain an important focus – 7nm+ Ryzen 4000-series, new RDNA Radeon Instinct data center GPUs (MI100 / MI120), and the 3 rd -gen 7nm+ EPYC Milan CPUs…”
Rakers’ stance supports his Buy rating, and his $120 price target implies a 30% one-year upside to the stock.
The Moderate Buy analyst consensus view on AMD reflects some residual Wall Street caution. The stock’s 20 recent reviews include 13 Buys, 6 Holds, and 1 Sell. AMD shares are selling for $91.64, and like Micron, their recent appreciation has closed the gap with the $94.71 average price target. (See AMD stock analysis on TipRanks)
Western Digital Corporation (WDC)
Closing out the Wells Fargo picks on this list is Western Digital, a designer and manufacturer of memory systems. The company’s products include hard disk drives, solid state drives, data center platforms, embedded flash drives, and portable storage including memory cards and USB thumb drives. WDC has had a tough year in 2020, with shares down 19% year-to-date. Still, the stock has seen gains in November and December, on the heels of what was seen as a strong fiscal 1Q21 report.
That earnings report showed $3.9 billion in revenue, which was down 3% year-over-year, but the EPS net loss, at 19 cents, was a tremendous yoy improvement from the 93-cent net loss in the year-ago quarter. The earnings improvement, which beat the forecast by 20%, was key for investors, and the stock is up 30% since the quarterly report. The company also generated a solid cash flow in the quarter, with cash from operations growing 111% sequentially.
Wells Fargo’s Rakers acknowledges WDC’s difficulties in 2020, but even so, he believes that this is a stock which is worth the risk.
“Western Digital has been our toughest constructive call of 2020 and while we believe calling a bottom in NAND Flash (mid/2H2021?) remains difficult and WD’s execution in enterprise SSDs will remain choppy, our SOTP analysis leaves us to continue to believe that shares present a compelling risk / reward. We continue to believe that Western Digital can drive to a ~$7/sh.+ mid-cycle EPS story; however, we continue to think a key driver of this fundamental upside will not only be a recovery in the NAND Flash business, coupled with WD’s ability to see improved execution in enterprise SSDs, but also a continued view that WD’s HDD gross margin can return to a sustainable 30%+ level,” Rakers opined.
To this end, Rakers rates WDC a Buy along with a $65 price target. Should the target be met, investors could pocket gains of 29% over the next months
Where does the rest of the Street side on this computer-storage maker? It appears mostly bullish, as TipRanks analytics demonstrate WDC as a Buy. Out of 11 analysts tracked in the last 3 months, 7 are bullish, while 4 remain sidelined. With a return potential of 9%, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $54.44. (See WDC stock analysis on TipRanks)
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.