How Universal Display Turns Profitable

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Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL  ) has been an official Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation since the summer of 2005. The OLED display and lighting expert has never reported any kind of annual profit in its history, which tends to scare investors away. But the catalyst that could put its net income into the black may have finally arrived.

In the Rule Breakers universe, we're constantly scouring for companies that have negative sentiment born from past results, but which possess products and brands that can present high future earnings and great buy-in opportunities. We like to invest in growing young businesses before the market "gets" what they're all about. Then, when Wall Street's light bulb turns on, we profit. And it looks like Universal Display is very close to turning on the light, in many ways.

A screen stock for your stock screen
Last night, Universal Display sent in its fourth-quarter and full-year numbers for 2008. Quarterly sales jumped by 23.7% year over year to $3.59 million (I told you, Universal Display is still small!) The net loss per share also grew, from $0.08 to $0.11. For the full year, we're talking about a $0.53 loss per share.

So here's the good news: Universal Display's groundbreaking OLED technology is finally making its way into consumer devices in volume. CEO Steve Abramson was proud to report that "Samsung, LG Display (NYSE: LPL  ) , Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) , and Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) were among the many companies showing off their latest OLED prototypes and products" at the recent Consumer Electronics trade show. "Samsung envisions monitor, notebook, and TV displays all being suitable for [active matrix OLEDs] in 2009, and flexible displays will be commercially viable in 2010."

Though Universal Display does have rivals like Eastman Kodak (NYSE: EK  ) and Sumitomo Chemical in the field of OLED technology, Abramson says that "substantially all" of the active matrix OLED displays made by Universal Display's partners use the company's own technology.

Samsung and LG are aggressively building out their OLED manufacturing lines. The global recession may hurt consumer electronics in general, but OLED is such a niche technology today that it can grow unabated anyway. Once the retail products start arriving at Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) in volume, Universal Display's license sales will drown the research and development costs that lead to losses today.

It's been a long time coming, but 2009 is the year of OLED. Nobody can profit from that revolution the way Universal Display will. Long-suffering shareholders could finally reap their rightful rewards -- and you still have time to jump on the bandwagon.

Further Foolishness:

Best Buy, Nokia, and Wal-Mart Stores are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Universal Display is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a longtime shareholder in Universal Display, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 13, 2009, at 6:52 PM, OLEDInvestor wrote:

    If you want a MUCH better OLED investment look at eMagin Corp. (EMAN). It is trading at a fraction of the enterprise value of PANL, has significantly higher sales and ACTUALLY MAKES MONEY! Motley Fool should have EMAN as a Rule Breaker.

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