This Tech Stock Is Up Nearly 90% Over the Past Year -- and You Probably Don't Know Its Name

Not every technology company that's making big share price gains is doing it by selling trendy consumer products. Applied Materials is the perfect example of a behind-the-scenes tech winner.

Chris Neiger
Chris Neiger
Jun 21, 2017 at 4:34PM
Technology and Telecom

Long-term tech stock investors know that some of the best performing companies aren't the ones making headlines on tech websites or financial news channels. Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) is one such company. As a manufacturer of the equipment that semiconductor and display companies use to make their products, it's not the sort of flashy business that will get viewers to turn the volume up on CNBC.

But Applied's shareholders don't care much about that kind of flashiness. The company's stock price is up about 89% over the past 12 months, and investors who jumped in five years ago are sitting on a 300% return.

Man taping a screen with percentages and arrows pointing up.

Image source: Getty Images.

What Applied Materials Does

Applied breaks down its main revenue streams into three categories -- semiconductor systems, applied global services (AGS), and display and adjacent markets -- and the first two accounted for nearly 90% of all of its revenue in 2016. 

Sales of semiconductor equipment account for the vast majority of the company's top line -- 64% -- and in the first quarter of its fiscal 2017, which ended Jan. 29, its semiconductor segment sales were up nearly 52% year over year. 

AMAT Chart

The next biggest segment, AGS, covers all the work that Applied does on the equipment it sells, including upgrades, performance changes, regular servicing, and software changes. In fiscal Q2, AGS revenue increased by 14% year over year.

And in display, Applied has seen its revenue increase by about 20% every year for the past five years; the segment is on track to bring in $2 billion worth of orders this year thanks to increases in television display sizes and the trend toward larger smartphone displays.

Why its stock is rising

Last month, Applied stock popped by 10% after the company reported record revenue and earnings for its second quarter. In fact, it was Applied's fourth consecutive quarter of record earnings. EPS came in at $0.76, which was a 162% year-over-year jump, and revenues spiked an impressive 45% to $3.55 billion. 

Investors have been pleased with the company's advantages across a wide range of segments, including its market shares of at least 22% in the NAND, DRAM, logic, and foundry spaces. 

"Applied Materials delivered the highest quarterly revenue and earnings in our history, and we've now set new earnings records for four quarters in a row," said Applied Materials CEO Gary Dickerson in a statement. "Across the company we have tremendous momentum as our markets are strong and getting stronger, and we're sustainably growing faster than these markets by expanding our served opportunity and gaining share."

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The company is fueling investor optimism with its Q3 forecasts as well. Applied expects net sales in the range of $3.6 billion to $3.75 billion, which would be a 30% year-over-year increase at the midpoint. Management is also forecasting year-over-year non-GAAP EPS growth of 66% at the midpoint of estimates. 

In short, tech investors who've never heard of Applied Materials before should keep this stock on their radar. The company's share price has already made significant gains and it appears that more growth may still be in store.