Should You Buy Cirrus Logic Before Earnings

As readers certainly have noticed, Cirrus Logic  (NASDAQ: CRUS  ) bulls and bears exist within The Motley Fool's ranks, and it can certainly feel cumbersome sorting through the noise at times. Yet after taking a step back, the Fool community at large does appear to stand firmly behind this fabless semiconductor--dare I say Apple?--supplier seeing as Cirrus Logic currently holds a four-star CAPS rating on our site.

Considering other Fools have written on Cirrus Logic's dismal performance in 2013, the burning question remains: What does 2014 have in store for this one-time high flier? With Cirrus Logic's Q3 2014 earnings just two short weeks away, now feels like the right time to assess whether Cirrus Logic deserves our confidence.

Valuation metrics
Thanks to taking a 29% drudging in 2013, Cirrus Logic's stock currently looks extremely attractive on several valuation metrics. Its current P/E ratio sits well below 10, and many--from Robert Shiller to Jeremy Siegel--conclude that a long-term P/E ratio of about 15 equates to stability within the broader market. More particularly, according to Morningstar's set of industry peers for Cirrus Logic, it has by far the lowest P/E ratio at 8.8 compared; the industry average is 22.7. A forward P/E of 7.2 calls this aberration out even more.

Additionally, although Cirrus Logic doesn't pay a dividend--its peer group yields 2.2% on average--it beats its peer group across several other metrics: Its five-year revenue CAGR sits at 34.7%, whereas its peer group feels almost stagnant at 2.1%; its price-to-book ratio sits at 2.0 vs. 2.8; its price-to-sales comes in at 1.5 vs. 2.7; and the list goes on.

Still, some cautious investors certainly believe the lack of customer diversification justifies the above discount seen across different metrics, but perhaps even this logic is starting to turn.

Short interest is high, but perhaps waning
Many investors also look at what the broader market thinks of their stock as an earnings release approaches. As such, shorted shares in 2013 for Cirrus Logic peaked around December and still remained high at around 14.2 million shares on December 31, 2013. Given Cirrus Logic has about 63.5 million shares outstanding, roughly 22.4% of its float was sold short at the close of 2013.

Nonetheless, bulls will take notice that while Cirrus Logic's total amount of shorted shares remained high at the close of December, the days required to cover this percentage of the stock's float fell from a high of 8.9 in mid-December to 7.4 by Dec. 31. This represents a decrease of about 17% in Cirrus Logic's short interest ratio, a good signal for bulls.

Strong signals from the semiconductor market
Interestingly, a drop in short interest appears to be coinciding nicely with an uptick in sentiment surrounding Cirrus Logic's biggest customer, Apple. The biggest news emerged recently thanks to Dialog Semiconductor PLC, a German-based producer of semiconductor solutions-based systems.

According to Dialog's Investor Relations site, fourth-quarter revenue increased 31% year-over-year. This increase can be reportedly attributed to "stronger than anticipated demand in its Mobile Systems segment during December."

Considering Dialog derives around 70% of its revenues from Apple, this appears to be the customer driving this revenue gain. Seeing as Cirrus Logic ties itself even more closely to Apple and the iPhone series, perhaps now is precisely the time to look at Cirrus Logic's prospects through rose-colored glasses.

Understanding recent insider sentiment
Another strong signal indicating optimism going into Cirrus Logic's earnings in two weeks comes directly from management. Aside from already increasing guidance during last quarter's earnings release, the Cirrus Logic management team appears to be behind the company with their own money.

Analyzing insider activity during 2013 reveals that Cirrus Logic experienced almost neutral activity in terms of insider buying vs. selling. Even though roughly 52% of insider activity involved selling, the majority involved exercising options that were very much in-the-money. Comparing this to a company like Maxim Integrated Products, which had about 83% of all insider activity favoring the sell side, reveals that Cirrus Logic's insider activity looks much more optimistic.

On top of this, both Jason Rhode, Cirrus Logic's President and CEO, and Thurman Case, its CFO and VP of Finance and Treasurer, increased their positions in their company significantly. In 2013, Rhode added to his insider ownership by 129% via outright purchases as well as restricted stock awards, and Case boosted his share count by 33%.

Strong momentum going into earnings
When taking a look at Cirrus Logic objectively, investors cannot doubt risk lies therein. With Apple comprising the majority of business, some investors will cross Cirrus Logic off of their acquisition list immediately.

But for the more diligent investor who takes time to look at the industry as a whole, comparing Cirrus Logic to a similar set of companies to determine value, an outsized opportunity remains. With so many indicators pointing upwards for Cirrus Logic, along with strong backing from its core management team, investors likely want to climb aboard before earnings get released in two weeks.

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