If either LED lights or solar power takes off, Veeco Instruments (Nasdaq: VECO ) should follow suit in short order. Chances are pretty good that both technologies are on their way to massive sales, and Veeco's business results reflect this trend. Yet Mr. Market prefers to don his short-sighted goggles and punish the stock for an accounting technicality instead of focusing on the long-term promise or on the brilliant results already in the books.
Am I the only one taking crazy pills?
In the third quarter, Veeco saw sales jump by 271% year over year, to $277 million, and turned a breakeven bottom line into $2.16 of GAAP earnings per share. For those of you keeping score at home, that translates into a 32.9% net margin. Growth is off the charts, the business is strongly profitable, and the report was stronger than the usual Wall Street suspects had expected. Yet, Veeco fell more than 7% the next day and is trading for less than 8.3 times forward earnings.
The reason for that drop is that some orders for solar panel and LED materials manufacturing equipment might get pushed from the fourth quarter to the first quarter because of unpredictable "customer facility readiness." In other words, the next quarter might be merely amazing instead of outright incredible because a few customers in Korea and Taiwan might not have their new factories ready for new equipment in time for the closing of the books. We're not talking about lost sales, but a mere timing issue. If those sales move from one quarter to the next, the first quarter of 2011 will make up for the shortfall right away.
Veeco has a strong customer list that includes LED lighting leaders LG Electronics and Philips (NYSE: PHG ) , and I wouldn't be surprised to find Veeco tools in the LED factories of Cree (Nasdaq: CREE ) or General Electric (NYSE: GE ) . The same tools can often be used to make both LED and solar cell elements, and Veeco's technology is also important to hard drive makers; Seagate Technology (NYSE: STX ) was the company's largest customer in 2008.
So let's recap: Veeco makes essential tools for -- count 'em -- three industries with a thing for growth, trades at ridiculously low earnings multiples, and is getting punished for a very short-term issue not likely to cause any long-term damage. What more do you need to hear before joining Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner in praising Veeco? To keep track of Veeco, you can add the stock to your watchlist or make a call in your CAPS account right now.