Micron Technology (NASDAQ: MU) investors will be hoping that the company can extend its hot streak on the stock market when it releases its fiscal fourth-quarter report on Sept. 26 (after market close). The memory specialist's revenue and earnings growth has jumped to a higher gear over the past few quarters thanks to a rise in DRAM and NAND prices.
It'll be no surprise if the chipmaker trumps expectations and provides a sunny outlook for the new fiscal year. Here's what investors should be watching.
Growth streak to continue
Memory prices continued climbing during Micron's fourth quarter as supply remained constrained. The company had temporarily suspended production at one of its manufacturing facilities in July due to malfunctioning equipment. Though the plant was back online shortly, the temporary delay slashed global DRAM capacity in July by over 5%. This worsened the supply situation in that market, increasing prices in the process. In fact, DRAM prices had already gained almost 17% during the second quarter (calendar year).
Additionally, Micron has been taking DRAM market share with 21.6% of global sales. The company's compute and networking unit -- which includes the DRAM business -- accounts for 43% of the top line, setting the stage for strong revenue growth.
NAND memory pricing has increased this year as well, as evidenced by price increases of Apple's iPad Pro offerings. Looking ahead, it's likely that NAND pricing will get stronger as memory manufacturers repurpose their production facilities to manufacture more 3D NAND.
The long-term picture
The trend of rising memory prices is expected to continue into next year. The supply shortage has forced consumer electronics manufacturers to lock-in supply at premium prices. LG Electronics, for instance, had decided to advance its quarterly memory purchases by a month to lap up the supply available in the market.
Industry watchers believe that supply levels won't stabilize until next year. But at the same time, the company has started targeting specific niches to reduce its exposure to the cyclical nature of this space.
Micron is now targeting the Internet of Things with more conviction as its recent product development moves show. Earlier this year, the company teamed up with Microsoft to make a move into security, integrating its flash memory into IoT devices at the hardware level, making them more secure as no additional hardware will be needed to beef up security features.
Microsoft Azure will then be used to send the data to the cloud, while allowing system administrators to remedy any problems from remote locations. This new product should help Micron make inroads into the hardware side of the IoT security market, which could be worth $8 billion in value by 2020.
The autonomous vehicle market presents yet another opportunity. Micron recently announced that it will now supply high-performance memory solutions for self-driving vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will generate and compute a lot of data, creating the need for high memory system bandwidths.
These latest efforts will help pave the way for Micron to sustain its growth in the long run, while another round of strong earnings results shows investors that the company is capitalizing on opportunities in the current market environment.
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