In preparation for Thursday night's second-quarter report, I explained that NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) is riding the mobile pony hard. "In this report, any success on the graphics side would just be bonus gravy on top of the burgeoning Tegra line's rise to power," I said.
The report is in, and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang couldn't agree more. "Our investments in mobile computing and visual computing are both paying off," he said as sales increased a modest 2.7% year over year to land at $1.04 billion. At the same time, non-GAAP earnings fell 16% to $0.27 per share. The sales tally was almost exactly what your average analyst had expected, but earnings nearly doubled the Street's $0.14 target.
NVIDIA shares jumped as much as 4.7% overnight before settling in to more modest gains on Friday morning. Nomura Securities hailed the report with a reiteration of its existing "buy" rating and $18 price target. Strong guidance may point to some of that unexpected gravy in the form of good graphics-chip sales this fall, the firm believes.
Indeed, NVIDIA predicts revenue growth of about 12% while rivals Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) both expect slower growth in the upcoming quarter. Management cited contract wins in notebooks from every leading system builder, so there's certainly something to the graphics-related theory.
On the other hand, NVIDIA also provides the mobile brains form Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) popular Nexus 7 tablet and the upcoming Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Surface slate. The Tegra 3 processor also powers HTC's flagship handset, the One X, which might not be making much of a mark on the enormous smartphone market but still might outsell leaders in the much smaller tablet sector.
This company made a brilliant decision years ago to move away from selling graphics chips into stagnating systems. Instead, NVIDIA is a rising star in the booming mobile-computing segment. It's always nice to be a trailblazing leader in a trillion-dollar market revolution. But Intel wants a piece of the pie too, and NVIDIA would be wise to consider the potential threat of the Atom processor.
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