Turnarounds are elusive. Most managers simply aren't smart enough or strong enough to engineer them. That's why it was so enlightening and energizing to talk to Dr. Lisa Su, the CEO who turned around the once flailing and almost bankrupt Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) when she stopped by to talk about her quarter on this morning's edition of Squawk on the Street.
It's not too strong a claim to state that Su saved this semiconductor company from the garbage heap, brought it back to life by fixing the balance sheet and now has the whole company humming with profit and gross margin expansion to boot.
Su's as brilliant as she is humble. Most would blanch at the task that faced her when she became CEO three -and- a- half years ago. She had to take on Intel (INTC) for notebooks and desktops. She had to challenge Nvidia (NVDA) for graphics processing units, or GPUs, which are used in gaming, data centers and cryptocurrency mining. And this gutsy CEO had to do it all with a company that had a tattered balance sheet, and a somewhat tarnished reputation, a totally daunting task. From the looks of things after this quarter she is more than succeeding. She's taking some decent share from those two giants, a remarkable achievement considering where the company was a few short years ago.
Su's been wresting share from Intel in the personal computer space and if you open up a Dell (DVMT) or an HP (HPQ) or a Lenovo (LNVGY) desktop or notebook, it's more than likely you will find AMD inside. If you are a gamer you might be using one of her Radeon chips as she battles Nvidia, the acknowledged titan in the space.
That's how you can rack up $1.65 billion in sales this quarter, an astounding 40% year over year. That's how you increase gross margins by an amazing 400 basis points. That's how you get the computing and graphics segment showing a $138 million profit versus a loss of $21 million a year ago. And that's how you get to the point where you can actually start paying down the debt that she inherited to make sure that AMD's never "in trouble " again. Frankly, when the stock was at $2 a few years ago not long after the assumed the CEO job, many thought it was a goner. Now that the stock's at $11, and I think going higher, nobody doubts this company's viability anymore.
Now, to be sure, I think the stock of Intel is incredibly attractive as it's got a fantastic data center business, an excellent personal computer segment and a very strong autonomous driving division. Brian Krzanich is an awesome, take no prisoners, CEO. The stock's incredibly inexpensive here.
Nvidia, run by Jensen Huang, one of my favorite CEOs, is a long-standing holding of Action Alerts PLUS and is introducing a host of new, ultra-competitive chips that may blunt AMD's advances. But a rising tide is lifting all boats including a ship that would have sunk if it weren't for Lisa Su.
Oh, and listen up, cryptocurrency enthusiasts, Su says blockchain is here to stay and she thinks there will be numerous surviving currencies. Mining cards are 10% of her business, and while they will be going down as a total of an expanding pie, she thinks it will remain an important part of AMD's book of business.
My conclusion after listening to the call and speaking to Su, the stock's a buy for the long-term, a truly amazing feat that would be inconceivable a very short time ago.
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