Is Atmel a Buy Going Into Earnings?

Chipmaker Atmel (NASDAQ: ATML  ) has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts over the last three months. Shares have gained close to 25% despite Atmel's mixed performance in its last reported third quarter, primarily due to an increase in the share repurchase program. Atmel investors had cheered when the company announced that it is adding $300 million to its stock repurchase authorization, and this effectively masked its mixed quarterly performance.

So, when Atmel reports its fourth-quarter results on Feb. 5, investors would expect a strong outlook from the company, or else it might lose its momentum. And there is a probability that Atmel could turn in a positive outlook for the year considering the expected bump in sales of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows 8 and Windows 8.1-based devices. In addition, growing sales of Android-based tablets, especially at Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF  ) , could be another driver for Atmel.

Let's take a closer look at what's expected of Atmel and if it can deliver a satisfying outlook.

What's expected?
Analysts expect Atmel to post revenue of $357.4 million, up 3.6% from last year, and earnings of $0.11 a share as compared to $0.07 per share in the prior-year period. Now, since these numbers have been adjusted according to Atmel's own guidance last quarter, the company shouldn't have much difficulty in at least meeting them.

Atmel's aggressive share repurchase program more or less ensures that the company is seeing EPS growth. Its total repurchase authorization was at $1 billion at the end of the third quarter. However, organic earnings growth and a pick-up in revenue is what investors might be expecting from Atmel since it supplies chips for consumer electronics devices, but can it deliver? It looks like it can

What can be expected?
Atmel's primary business is selling microcontrollers, which account for around 63% of revenue. These microcontrollers are used in various touchscreen applications, including smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. Now, Atmel is seeing some positive developments in the end markets that could drive its revenue higher in the future.

Atmel is counting big on the Internet of Things. It claims to have "the most complete portfolio of IoT technologies," and this could be a big boon in the future. Atmel is looking to make the most of this market through products targeted at home and building automation, industrial machine to machine communications, wearable technology, etc. Internet of Things is expected to be worth $8.9 trillion in 2020, according to IDC, so Atmel definitely has huge opportunity in this market going forward. 

Atmel is also optimistic about touchscreen-based PCs gaining momentum going forward. Atmel is of the opinion that Microsoft's Windows 8.1 software will lead to stronger demand for touch-based Windows PCs. Also, Atmel is supplying its MaXTouch touchscreen controller for Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 and Surface RT devices. Sales of these two devices have rebounded of late, which is good news for Atmel. According to Fool contributor Daniel Kline, Microsoft's Surface revenue more than doubled to $893 million in the last quarter from $400 million in the preceding one.

The pick-up in the sales of the Surface could help Atmel provide a solid outlook for the ongoing quarter. In addition, Atmel can take heart from the fact that tablets powered by Android have gained ground of late, especially Samsung. In the fourth quarter of 2013, Samsung's tablet shipments grew almost 86% year-over-year, catapulting it to second place in the tablet market with 18.8% share, according to IDC. 

Now, Atmel provides components to Samsung for its key tablets such as the latest Galaxy Note 10.1, and such key slots could help it ride Samsung's growth. On the other hand, Atmel has also struck a partnership with Xiaomi to provide its controller for the Mi3 smartphone. This particular smartphone has been a huge hit in China, selling 100,000 units in just 86 seconds after launch, then 220,000 smartphones in three minutes, and then again 150,000 units in a 10-minute flash sale.   

Final words
All in all, it can be said that Atmel is pulling the right strings as far as clients are concerned and so, the company might turn in a better performance this year as compared to 2013. An increase in sales of Windows and Android tablets, along with the increasing applications of the Internet of Things, are good signs for Atmel going forward, making it a good long-term bet.

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11/24/2014 3:59 PM
ATML $7.74 Down -0.05 -0.58%
Atmel Corp CAPS Rating: ****
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Microsoft CAPS Rating: ***
SSNLF $1080.00 Down -21.00 -1.91%
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