How Long Can Micron's Gold Rush Last?

Micron Technology (NYSE: MU  ) is enjoying the biggest gold rush in recent memory. Scratch that, actually -- it's the finest era in Micron's history. While the market's pummeling the stock, which is down 13% as of this writing due to tepid guidance, I'm left impressed by just how far back the company has climbed in such short time.

Third-quarter sales of memory chips and memory-based consumer products added up to $2.3 billion, more than double the $1.1 billion revenue seen a year ago and a 17% climb quarter-over-quarter. To find a time when Micron last cleared $2 billion in sales, we have to look all the way back to a single quarter in the dot-com boom days.

Likewise, the bottom-line result glitters in the sun: Earnings of $939 million, or $0.92 per diluted share, nearly tripled last quarter's $0.39 of earnings per share and blew the year-ago period's $0.37 net loss per share to Kingdom Come.

Now, $465 million of the GAAP earnings came from a one-time accounting item. After taking memory maker Numonyx off the hands of Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) and STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM  ) , Micron is passing on some of its interests in the venture to Hynix after the company triggered an option to purchase Micron's Numonyx interest.

It's a combination of high chip prices and good customer demand that's driving the train here. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) sources some -- but not all -- of the memory chips it needs for products like the iPhone from Micron, so the boys from Idaho should send a thank-you note down to Steve Jobs for shifting so many units. In the enterprise market, Micron also supplies Flash memory chips to solid-state drive designers SMART Modular Technologies (Nasdaq: SMOD  ) and STEC (Nasdaq: STEC  ) , so the company gets to ride both the consumer and business-class demand surges.

But is it too late to jump aboard the Micron bandwagon? The stock price has more than quadrupled since hitting multi-year lows around the end of 2008, after all. Then again, that view compares Micron's current glory days to the deepest, darkest night of a very long, industrywide price war. Micron still has a long way to climb before getting back to its 2006 prices -- and that's quite beside the fact that business is much better now than it was back then.

I'm popping over to CAPS to rate Micron "outperform" for the next six months or so, at which point I'll survey the scene again. Judging by the stock's precipitous decline today, it looks like I'm standing alone in that decision. If you're joining me in the contrarian camp, feel free to tag along -- it's fun, free, and only takes a couple of clicks.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool has created a covered strangle position on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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