Applied Materials Rocks Q2, Restrains Guidance

May 27, 2011

Applied Materials, the semiconductor capital equipment maker, reported stronger than expected revenues and earnings for its second quarter of fiscal 2011 ending May1. The stock traded down on Friday based on management's cautious guidance for the remainder of 2011.

Prior guidance had been for Q2 sequentially flat to up 5% from Q1 revenues of $2.69 billion, with non-GAAP EPS of $0.34 to $0.38. Instead revenues came in at $2.86 billion, up 7% sequentially from $2.69 billion, and up 25% from $2.30 billion in the year-earlier quarter. Non-GAAP EPS was at the high end of guidance, $0.38.

Prior guidance on full fiscal 2011 revenues was over $11 billion and non-GAAP EPS was over $1.50. Management now said that is the high end of a range that depends on demand in Q3 and Q4.

The dividend is now 8 cents per quarter, 32 cents per year. There is a lot of room for growth given EPS, but acquiring Varian Semiconductor will eat up much of Applied's $4.6 billion cash and investment balance. Once Varian is digested the dividend could start growing again. At Friday's closing stock price the current dividend is a healthy 2.35%.

Within the semiconductor equipment and servicing industry Applied Materials serves a variety of segments. Variations in the demand cycles in segments and sub-segments account both for the stellar quarter and for the cautious guidance. The solar power division set a record, but revenues exceeded new orders as there are questions about end demand in Europe. Orders exceeded sales in the largest segment, silicon semiconductor manufacturing equipment, but the orders are mostly in new process modes (40 nm and under), driven by mobile end market demand. Large panel display capacity is plentiful, so most orders are to make small panels for smartphones and tablets.

My own view is that there is mainly upside. The Varian Semiconductor acquisition will make Applied very close to a full service provider for foundries. Despite uneveness, we are still in a global economic ramp with billions of consumers set to acquire smartphones in the next 3 years (600 million in China alone). Everyone wants devices that do more with less power, and the only way to get that is with new semiconductor manufacturing capabilities. It does not matter who wins the smartphone race; everyone needs the kind of semiconductor solutions Applied Materials provides.

For more details about Q2 results, including questions by analysts, see my Applied Materials Q2 2011 Analyst Call summary.

I own Applied Materials (AMAT) stock. See also the Applied Materials web site.

William P. Meyers

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Copyright 2011 William P. Meyers