Data storage giant SanDisk (NASDAQ: SNDK ) continues its near-vertical, 100%-plus run-up in stock price as the company again delivered earnings above estimates. For the past few years, the data storage business has been a volatile one, though the market seems to have realized that the "death of the PC" did not spell imminent doom for storage businesses -- in fact, the opposite. SanDisk's growth is coming from a few different sources, including the fast-moving SSD segment and the inevitable build out of enterprise-level cloud storage solutions.
Just a couple of years ago, SanDisk and its storage brethren traded at insanely low multiples on the concept that their businesses, though consistently churning out free cash flow and paying chunky dividends, were fading into tech irrelevance. Much of the discount is gone today, and the naysayers have proven to be way off.
For its fiscal first quarter, SanDisk hit record revenue off the back of a 61% climb in solid-state drive (SSD) products. Revenue ticked up by $200 million on an adjusted basis to more than $1.5 billion, while net income skyrocketed from $0.84 per share in 2013's first quarter to $1.44 per share in the just-ended period. Analysts were looking for just $1.08 per share.
Sure, PC sales fell faster than expected, but plenty of other products more than made up for the lost demand. SanDisk is selling a quickly growing number of embedded flash storage products for Android phones, in addition to adding more and more products to address surging demand for enterprise data solutions. The company is focused on improving the speed of its SSD products, as these command higher prices than their lower-tech predecessors and appeal strongly to those with significant data storage needs.
The quick abandonment of traditional PC storage devices such as memory sticks and cards has left a much more forward-facing company and one that is trying to make markets as opposed to following them.
The appeal to investors
It's no secret that data storage needs are expected to continue their dramatic rise, especially on the enterprise level as data becomes the currency of business. With a significant foothold in the mobile world in addition to enterprise solutions, SanDisk's view from 30,000 feet looks crystal clear. On an operating level, things look to be improving as well as gross margins are guided to tick up one percent from both the high and low ends of prior estimates.
At 13 times earnings, the company isn't the same bargain it was two years ago, but it's still not priced akin to many high-growth tech businesses. With the added bonus of a modest but present 1.1% dividend, this is a very reasonably priced business with strong industry tailwinds and great operating level efficiency. Expect more good things from SanDisk in the coming periods.
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