Maker of machinery employed in semiconductor manufacturing, Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) fell short of analyst expectations in Q2 FY2022 quarter, with revenue up 11.8% year on year to $6.24 billion. Guidance for the next quarter also missed analyst expectations with revenues guided to $6.25 billion at the midpoint, or 6.43% below analyst estimates. Applied Materials made a GAAP profit of $1.53 billion, improving on its profit of $1.33 billion, in the same quarter last year.
Applied Materials (AMAT) Q2 FY2022 Highlights:
- Revenue: $6.24 billion vs analyst estimates of $3.54 billion (1.63% miss)
- EPS (non-GAAP): $1.85 vs analyst expectations of $1.90 (2.75% miss)
- Revenue guidance for Q3 2022 is $6.25 billion at the midpoint, below analyst estimates of $6.67 billion
- Free cash flow of $205 million, down 91.8% from previous quarter
- Inventory Days Outstanding: 137, up from 124 previous quarter
- Gross Margin (GAAP): 46.8%, down from 47.5% same quarter last year
Founded in 1967 as the first company that built the tools for other companies to use to make semiconductors, Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) is the largest provider of semiconductor wafer fabrication equipment.
Applied Materials is the only semiconductor manufacturing (capital) equipment maker who provides tools used in each of the processes used to create semiconductors. Roughly half its systems’ revenues come from deposition technologies, with another 30% from cleaning or removal systems.
Applied Materials counts among its customers the biggest chip makers in the world: TSMC, Intel, Samsung, and Micron, although it tilts more towards foundry and logic chip makers than memory producers.Its primary peers and competitors are ASML (NASDAQ:ASML), Lam Research (NASDAQ:LCRX), KLA Corp (NASDAQ: KLAC), and Tokyo Electron (TSE:8035).
The semiconductor capital (manufacturing) equipment group has become highly concentrated over the past decade. Suppliers have consolidated, and the increasing cost of innovation have made it unaffordable to almost everybody, except the largest companies, to produce leading edge chips. The result of the increased industry concentration has been higher operating margins and free cash generation through the cycle. Despite this structural improvement, the businesses can still be quite volatile, as demand fluctuations for the semiconductor equipment are magnified by the already cyclical nature of underlying semiconductor demand.
Applied Materials's revenue growth over the last three years has been solid, averaging 18.8% annually. But as you can see below, last year has been stronger for the company, growing from quarterly revenue of $5.58 billion to $6.24 billion. Semiconductors are a cyclical industry and long-term investors should be prepared for periods of high growth, followed by periods of revenue contractions (which can sometimes offer opportune times to buy).
It was a tough quarter for Applied Materials, with weak revenue growth of just 11.8%, which missed analyst estimates by 1.64%. This was the third straight quarter of decelerating growth for Applied Materials, potentially indicating a coming cycle downturn.
While revenue growth has decelerated the past three quarters, Applied Materials thinks growth will remain positive next quarter guiding to estimated 0.87% year on year growth and Wall Street analyst consensus also sees growth over the next twelve months of 16.3%.
Product Demand & Outstanding Inventory
Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO) are an important metric for chipmakers, as it reflects the capital intensity of the business and the cyclical nature of semiconductor supply and demand. In a tight supply environment, inventories tend to be stable, allowing chipmakers to exert pricing power. Steadily increasing DIO can be a warning sign that demand is weak, and if inventories continue to rise the company may have to downsize production.
This quarter, Applied Materials’s inventory days came in at 137, 2 days below the five year average, showing that despite the recent increase there is no indication of an excessive inventory buildup at the moment.
Applied Materials's gross profit margin, how much the company gets to keep after paying the costs of manufacturing its products, came in at 46.8% in Q2, down 0.7 percentage points year on year.
Over the past year, Applied Materials has seen its already reasonably high gross margins continue to rise, averaging 47.5%, indicative of a solid competitive offering, efficient cost controls, and relatively low pricing pressure.
Applied Materials reported an operating margin of 30.6% in Q2, down 1 percentage point year on year. Operating margins are one of the best measures of profitability, telling us how much the company gets to keep after paying the costs of manufacturing the product, selling and marketing it and most importantly, keeping products relevant through research and development spending.
Operating margins have been trending up over the last year, averaging 32%. Applied Materials's margins remain one of the highest in the semiconductor industry, driven by its highly efficient operating model's economies of scale.
Earnings, Cash & Competitive Moat
Analysts covering the company are expecting earnings per share to grow 20.3% over the next twelve months, although estimates are likely to change post earnings.
Earnings are important, but we believe cash is king as you cannot pay bills with accounting profits. Applied Materials's free cash flow came in at $205 million in Q2, down 79.1% year on year.
Applied Materials has generated $5.21 billion in free cash flow over the last twelve months, translating to 20.9% of revenues. This is a strong result; Applied Materials's free cash flow conversion was higher than most semiconductor companies, in the last year. If it maintains this level of cash generation, it will be able to invest plenty in new products, and ride out any cyclical downturn more easily.
Applied Materials’s average return on invested capital (ROIC) over the last 5 years of 42.2% implies it has a strong competitive position and is able to invest in profitable growth over the long term.
Key Takeaways from Applied Materials's Q2 Results
With a market capitalization of $98.3 billion, more than $3.92 billion in cash and with free cash flow over the last twelve months being positive, the company is in a very strong position to invest in growth.
We struggled to find many strong positives in these results. On the other hand, it was unfortunate to see that the revenue guidance for the next quarter missed analysts' expectations. Overall, it seems to us that this was a complicated quarter for Applied Materials. The company currently trades at $98.5 per share.
Is Now The Time?
Applied Materials may have had a bad quarter, but investors should also consider its valuation and business qualities, when assessing the investment opportunity. We think Applied Materials is a good business. However, its revenue growth has been a little slower, and analysts expect growth rates to deteriorate from there. But on a positive note, its impressive operating margins are indicative of an highly efficient business model, and its high return on invested capital suggests it is well run and in a strong position for profit growth.
Applied Materials's price to earnings ratio based on the next twelve months is 12.2x. There is definitely a lot of things to like about Applied Materials and looking at the semiconductors landscape right now, it seems that the company trades at a pretty interesting price point.
The Wall St analysts covering the company had a one year price target of $163.4 per share right before these results, implying that they saw upside in buying Applied Materials even in the short term.
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