Semiconduttori di ritorno - gz
By: GZ on Venerdì 03 Gennaio 2003 00:52
Con ^Intel#^ su 34 analisti che seguono il titolo solo 3 sono BUY ora che costa solo 2.5 volte i ricavi.
Tom Kurlak oggi spiega che è sbagliato. Riassumo perchè è molto importante. In sostanza il nostro uomo (guru del settore) dice che dopo quasi tre anni di ristrutturazione, riduzione di personale e ammortamenti sopra la media ora la maggioranza dei titoli ha una estrema "LEVA" rispetto al fatturato.
Questa leva è sempre stata la caratteristica dei semiconduttori, un settore che passa da utili di miliardi a perdite di miliardi ogni 4 o 5 anni, ma ora è particolarmente vero e Kurlak stima che anche solo un aumento del 7% del fatturato ora incrementa gli utili del 25-30%.
Inoltre Kurlak indica che i "Semis" possono aumentare del 30% il fatturato senza aumentare per niente le spese (un aumento del 30% del fatturato in prativa raddoppierebbe gli utili)
Ma il fatturato aumenta ? anche senza aumenti di prezzi che sono ora molto depressi, nel quarto trimestre del 2001 c'è stato un leggere incremento rispetto al trimestre precedente, basato su un aumento delle quantità consegnate compensato da un calo dei prezzi
I livelli di scorte sono sui minimi degli ultimi 10 o 15 anni e l'utilizzazione della capacità però è aumentata dal 50% dell'anno scorso al 70% di quest'anno. Questa è la ricetta per cominciare a vedere qualche aumento di prezzo nel prossimo futuro
Quindi: le quantità vendute stanno aumentando da questa estate, i prezzi no, ma dovrebbero cominciare ora. Se il fatturato aumenta del 7% soltanto gli utili balzano del 25-30% e se dovesse in seguito salire del 30% la "leva" è ora tale che raddoppiano
The semiconductor sector, as measured by the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor index, rallied 80% from its early October low of 215 to its Nov. 29 high of 390 before its 26% correction in December. It ended the year at 290, but that's still up 35% from its low, and I believe it marks the beginning of a new up cycle.
What's driving this recovery? Evidence of improving industry sales is emerging, thanks to strengthening end demand, particularly in cell phones and personal computers, which together account for nearly half of total semiconductor consumption. The Semiconductor Industry Association has now reported three straight months of 20% year-over-year sales growth without any help yet from chip pricing.
I also recently learned from distributors that pricing has lately begun to firm up. Although spot prices are still below contract prices, the gap is starting to narrow. Inventories are low, and the distributor "turns" business -- orders for immediate delivery -- is steadily increasing as a percentage of total orders, to more than 50% (something I've been waiting for). That indicates pricing is going to firm up a lot more.
A Tight Supply Chain
There's just no slack in the supply chain between factory and customer. One large chip distributor, Avnet (AVT:NYSE - news - commentary - research - analysis), reports having the lowest inventory-to-sales ratio in its history. Wherever inventory exists (such as at some contract manufacturers), it's usually made up of custom or semi-custom parts owned by the end customer and destined for products where end markets have dried up, such as wireline and infrastructure communications equipment. This inventory will ultimately be written off as scrap and won't enter the merchant market because of its custom application.
Wall Street received some confirmation of better demand when, in early December, several leading semiconductor companies, including Intel (INTC:Nasdaq - news - commentary - research - analysis), Texas Instruments (TXN:NYSE - news - commentary - research - analysis) and Xilinx (XLNX:Nasdaq - news - commentary - research - analysis), raised their forecasts for December-quarter sales, the first such upward revisions in more than a year. National Semiconductor (NSM:NYSE - news - commentary - research - analysis) also reported stronger-than-expected fiscal second-quarter sales. In addition, gross margins are starting to improve (a good leading indicator), which also reflects pricing stabilization as well as cost reductions.
Although semiconductor stocks had already discounted the better sales forecast by late November and profit-taking set in during December, I think the first quarter of 2003 will see resumed buying of the shares. In early 2002, we saw a false rally induced by suddenly better orders, but no real improvement in underlying fundamentals or end demand. Customers had managed their inventories so tightly at the end of 2001 that a burst of reorder activity resulted in early 2002.
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I see the same thing happening this year, but I don't think it will be a false rally. Last year, semiconductor factory utilization was down around 50%, whereas today it's back up to around 70%, and producers are not increasing wafer starts. Higher orders are being supplied through higher yield (number of good chips per wafer), so responding to demand is getting a little more difficult. Lead times will stretch out, and pricing will firm.
An Unseasonable Rise
It's looking increasingly likely that first-quarter sales will increase sequentially from the fourth quarter rather than decline slightly, as would be seasonally normal. Accordingly, I think Wall Street's earnings estimates for 2003 are too low. Every management I talk to tells me about big earnings leverage because of so much cost reduction, mainly through layoffs and reduced capital spending. Employment levels are down to levels of four or five years ago, and depreciation charges have peaked and will be heading lower in 2003. At Intel, for example, a projected 7% sequential increase in fourth-quarter sales should produce a 25% to 30% sequential earnings increase. This reflects an estimated 2-point jump in the gross margin and virtually no expense growth.
In fact, the entire semiconductor industry could probably produce 30% higher annual sales with no increase in expenses. But we don't need 30% growth in 2003 to have big earnings growth because of the gross margin leverage. For Intel again, a more realistic 2003 earnings estimate is more like 80 cents to 85 cents a share, as opposed to the consensus of 63 cents.
A quarterly trend of earnings that starts with an unusual sequentially up first quarter and ends at around 28 cents in the fourth, for a $1.15 annualized rate, can drive Intel's stock much higher. Of 34 Street opinions on Intel I've surveyed, only three are buy ratings. And its valuation, as measured by market cap to sales, already reached its average down-cycle low of 2.5-3.0 back in October.
Semiconductor stocks are still down nearly 80% from their all-time highs, and the bear market is more than 2 1/2 years old. The economy is starting to recover, and except for the uncertainty of a possible war with Iraq, the outlook for corporate profits is improving. That will eventually help the market in general and sectors basic to the recovery, such as semiconductors, in particular.
Modificato da - gz on 1/3/2003 0:6:31