This Overnight Success Was Years in the Making

You may have noticed that shares of Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL  ) are trading more than 18% higher today. The stock saw more than double the average daily trading in the first 60 minutes of market action today, erasing every trace of yesterday's drastic drop and setting the stock up to chase new 52-week highs again.

That's the power of a terrific fourth-quarter report, folks. Sales more than doubled year over year to $10.8 million, far above the $7.5 million analyst consensus. The $0.14 GAAP net loss per share was much wider than the expected $0.07 loss per share, but the company is actually a victim of its own success there.

Back out $4.9 million of non-cash expenses to account for changes in the value of outstanding stock warrants, and you'd get a $0.01 net loss per share. The company saw positive operating and free cash flows this quarter, which is a serious breakthrough on the path to reliable profits. The higher Universal Display's stock goes, the more those warrants will weigh on earnings. They're a vestige of a time when Universal Display needed to raise capital, and won't affect results anymore after they expire in August.

Wide adoption and rampant sales of small OLED screens for smartphones is the reason behind this Universal Display's hockey-stick revenue growth this quarter. Samsung remains the far and away largest customer followed by LG Display (NYSE: LPL  ) and AU Optronics (NYSE: AUO  ) . "10 or more" customers are vetting Universal's technology for future projects, which could expand the addressable market significantly in the long term.

Samsung's Galaxy S line of smartphones is the biggest driver of OLED volumes so far with more than 10 million units shipped. In 2011, industry observers expect Samsung's and LG's hugely expanded manufacturing lines to be the drivers in churning out 75 million phone OLED screens, covering 18% of the total smartphone market of about 400 million units. So you can see the growth accelerating if anything, not to mention the fact that Universal Display still doesn't supply every color in the red-green-blue spectrum to panel makers. That'll change, too.

As for the Sendai earthquake last week, recent fears of an impact on Universal Display's business appear overblown and management quickly deflected the issue at the start of the earnings call: While I am saddened by the tragedy, the quake should have no effect on this business.

In short, the day's gains are richly deserved and the stock has now quadrupled over the last year. I'm pretty sure we ain't seen nothing yet.

Not ready to put real money on Universal Display until you've seen some real profits? Put the stock on your watchlist and you'll be the first to know when it happens.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Universal Display is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2011, at 11:37 AM, JGO0913 wrote:

    have you read their annual report. do you know when patents expire? Some critical ones expire next year. Others are being challenged in court. This is agoing to set up as a nice short very soon.

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