As chip stocks continue an epic 2-year run -- the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index has now more than doubled from its early-2016 lows -- finding chipmakers trading at moderate earnings multiples and lack major red flags is getting tougher. Here are three that fit the bill.
Skyworks Solutions Inc. (SWKS) , the world's biggest RF chipmaker, trades for 14 times a fiscal 2018 (ends in Sept. 2018) EPS consensus of $7.27, and has $1.4 billion ($7.63/share) in net cash. Analysts on average expect revenue to grow 11% in fiscal 2018 to $4.05 billion, but given Skyworks' recent performance (sales rose 20% in the June quarter) and design win momentum, that estimate might be conservative.
This time of year especially, Skyworks' significant exposure to Apple Inc. (AAPL) and (to a lesser degree) Samsung gets a lot of attention. But there's a lot more to the story than just that. Over the last couple of years, Skyworks has significantly grown its sales to top-tier Chinese OEMs such as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Lenovo, who in general have been packing more RF content into their phones and have also been taking share from second-tier OEMs.
Sales to the automotive market have also grown sharply, as more and more cars ship with 4G modems and Wi-Fi radios; going forward, the adoption of Wi-Fi modules for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications will be another driver here. The proliferation of IoT devices is a growth driver as well, as Skyworks' chips get placed into everything from home speakers to medical devices to surveillance cameras.
And as far as Apple and Samsung go, Skyworks -- like peer Broadcom (AVGO) -- has pretty steadily seen the dollar value of its content rise from one phone generation to the next, thanks to the need to support additional 4G frequency bands and more advanced air interfaces. iPhone 8 teardowns suggest this trend continued with Apple's latest phones. Starting in 2019 and 2020, the arrival of 5G networks will drive a fresh increase in RF complexity, while also leading to more IoT devices shipping with mobile radios inside.
With its shares currently trading for 19 times a 2018 EPS consensus of $2.05, Inphi Corp. (IPHI) isn't as cheap as Skyworks. But the company, a major supplier of amplifiers, digital signal processors (DSPs), optical transceivers and other products used in telecom and networking gear, is also expected on average by analysts to see its sales rise 18% next year to $411 million, and 19% in 2019 to $490 million.
Shares have fallen 12% this year thanks to a pause in Chinese carrier spending that has also stung many optical component vendors. But the company is still seeing strong design win momentum for amplifier, driver and DSP chips going into telecom equipment, as well as for its ColorZ optical transceivers, which rely on silicon photonics chips and are used by cloud giants within systems that interconnect data centers. The company also sees a major opportunity to grow its sales of chips for equipment found inside cloud data centers in the second half of 2018, as industry adoption of 50-gig and 100-gig optical solutions relying on pulse-amplitude modulation (PAM) plays to Inphi's competitive strengths.
Thus the Chinese spending pause, which might not last for too long given Beijing's aggressive broadband investment goals, seems to provide an opportunity to buy shares of a company that's fairly well-positioned in both the telecom equipment and cloud data center markets. And with the company currently worth just $1.7 billion, it could also become an M&A target for a larger chipmaker wanting to grow its cloud exposure.
Microsemi Corp. (MSCC) , a well-diversified chipmaker that has made a string of acquisitions this decade, trades for 12 times a fiscal 2018 (ends in September 2018) EPS consensus of $4.30, and has about $1.5 billion ($13 per share) of net debt. On average, analysts only expect sales to rise about 5% annually in fiscal 2018 and 2019, but it's not hard to see the company beating that low bar, and possibly nearing the high end of its organic growth target range of 6% to 8%. And given its history of financial execution and steady margin improvement, EPS growth should outpace revenue growth.
Much like Inphi, soft Chinese telecom spending has weighed on Microsemi, which following its acquisitions of chipmakers PMC-Sierra and Vitesse Semiconductor gets about a third of its sales from telecom chips. Subdued aerospace and defense chip demand has also been a headwind, and so has Microsemi's exposure (via PMC-Sierra) to legacy telecom technologies such as T1 and T3 lines.
But the story elsewhere is brighter. "Industrial" chip sales grew 14% annually in the June quarter, thanks to growing sales to the medical device, chip equipment and industrial hardware markets. IoT devices often need a lot of reliable, high-performance, analog and mixed-signal circuitry to properly function. And Microsemi, which cut its teeth as an aerospace and defense industry supplier, has quite a lot of experience developing such chips.
Data center chip sales grew 23%, thanks in large part to rising sales of storage controller chips (also a by-product of the PMC deal) within both the enterprise and cloud data center markets. And within the telecom space, Microsemi's optical networking product lines held up well, with sales rising 17% due to 100-gig network buildouts from North American carriers.
Microsemi isn't a company that's likely to deliver eye-popping growth anytime soon. But it is well-positioned in enough growth markets to top the low expectations implied by its current valuation.