Analog Devices (ADI -0.03%) turned in a stellar fourth-quarter report on Nov. 21 that comfortably beat Wall Street's expectations, but investors weren't impressed. Despite reporting growth across all its business segments and issuing upbeat guidance, Analog saw its shares tumble. It seems investors were looking for something more than just a beat-and-raise performance, though it is unclear as to what else Analog needed to do to win investor confidence.
In fact, Analog Devices' impressive string of financial results has been largely overlooked by investors this year, as evidenced by its 17% gains versus the NASDAQ 100 Technology Sector index's 36% jump.
But the key takeaways from Analog Devices' latest report indicate that the company won't remain in the shadows for a long time. Here are some solid catalysts that could take the chipmaker to new highs in the long run.
Industrial growth is gaining traction
The industrial business supplies 47% of Analog's total revenue, and it is turning out to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Linear Technology acquisition completed earlier this year. More specifically, the chipmaker's industrial revenue grew a massive 82% year over year in the latest quarter thanks to the acquisition, and it could keep getting better because of the synergies that Linear brings.
For instance, Linear's ultra-low power connectivity sensors and network management system is already deployed across a wide range of industrial and building automation applications. These products complement Analog Devices' front-end connectivity modules and controllers, setting the company on its way to tap the fast-growing industrial automation space.
Transparency Market Research forecasts that the global industrial automation market will grow from just over $182 billion in 2015 to more than $352 billion in 2024. This will create more demand for sensors and management systems needed to enable and monitor automation in factories and other industrial applications.
The good news is that the combined company has been able to enhance its customer base and gain new business at existing clients thanks to an expanded product portfolio. Therefore, Analog investors can expect the company's industrial business to keep getting better in forthcoming quarters, as it can capture a bigger share of the growing industrial automation market based on a stronger product lineup.
Consumer and communications have strong catalysts
Analog Devices' consumer and communications businesses supplied 21% and 18% of its total revenue, respectively, in the latest fiscal year. Both of these segments have been growing at a tremendous pace, driven by the presence of solid catalysts such as smartphones and small cells.
The consumer business has won big from the retention of the 3D Touch feature in Apple's latest iPhone lineup. Analog was expected to lose its Apple business -- there were rumors that Cupertino would eliminate 3D Touch from its new phones. But this hasn't been the case, and an expected increase in iPhone builds will boost Analog's business, as it has reportedly supplied more expensive chips to Apple this time.
IDC forecasts that Apple's iPhone shipments could increase 9.1% next calendar year, following a meager 1.5% increase in 2017. Therefore, the growth of Analog's consumer business seems secure given its Apple relationship, while the communications business is also set to get better because of the evolution of networking technology.
Analog Devices' communications business has grown tenfold over the past four years, driven by demand for its radio solutions that are used in Multiple Input/Multiple Output (MIMO) and small-cell applications. Both of these technologies play a critical role in enabling high-speed networks, so Analog will continue witnessing strong demand in this area as faster networks such as 5G gain in popularity.
According to one estimate, spending on 5G infrastructure is expected to clock an annual growth rate of 70% through 2025, hitting a size of $28 billion. Now, small cells play an important role in both 4G and 5G deployments, allowing mobile operators to support higher data traffic volumes by providing additional spectrum at a lower cost when compared to constructing a full-fledged base station.
Analog thus has a big opportunity to increase sales of its RadioVerse technology, which allows telecom providers to upgrade their base stations from 4G to 5G with the help of small cells and MIMO systems.
Quite evidently, Analog Devices is sitting on a variety of catalysts that should help secure its long-term growth, including in the automotive business, which could win big from the growing adoption of electric vehicles.
Not surprisingly, analysts expect the chipmaker's earnings to increase 18% annually for the next five years, which is higher than the 16% annual growth seen in the last five. This is why investors should keep faith in Analog Devices, since it has the potential to deliver more upside in the long run despite lagging the market so far this year.