Memory-chip maker Micron Technology (MU 0.18%) has made a lot of investors happy and rich lately. The stock has soared 360% higher over the last two years as revenues doubled and earnings skyrocketed.
Is it too late to jump aboard Micron's bandwagon, or is this stock still a millionaire maker?
Let's hear it from the pros
Wall Street analysts disagree on Micron's prospects. Last week, two analyst firms posted bullish analyses of the stock with price targets ranging from $75 to $100 per share. These analysts pointed to surging sales, stable chip prices, and attractive share prices. In particular, Nomura analyst Romit Shah noted that the memory market appears to have moved past its extremely cyclical history.
"DRAM and NAND storage have become the choke point in system level performance across multiple applications," Shah wrote. "Cloud vendors, for example, are boosting memory content to speed up performance." That's good news for Micron investors since the company's products can command high prices as long as demand from electronics companies outweighs supply-side production volumes.
On the flip side of all that, UBS analyst Timothy Arcuri started coverage of Micron on Thursday, April 5 with a modest $35 price target and an outright sell recommendation. Share prices fell nearly 7% on that bearish note.
Arcuri is not convinced that the memory market is immune to oversupply and price wars. "Pricing is about to roll over, potentially worse than 2015/2016," he wrote.
As a reminder, Micron shares plunged more than 70% lower in that period. And it took a while to recover from that steep drop. Share prices recovered to the top of the 2015 cycle only as recently as October 2017.
Investors who side with UBS are advised to stay away from Micron, of course. That's you, if you expect history to keep repeating itself, making another price war inevitable.
But I'm pretty sure that Nomura is closer to the truth here, and I'm not just saying that because I own Micron shares. I'd be a buyer today even without that history of ownership.
The memory market today is a very different beast from the same sector in previous downturns. Each oversupply shock put tons of pressure on the weakest players in this sector, allowing healthier and wealthier survivors to snap up fresh assets and customer lists at bankruptcy-powered discounts.
Micron stands among these survivors, making it one of the Big Three memory-chip suppliers in the current market. At the same time, memory demand is surging, thanks to several secular market trends: NAND-based storage is disrupting traditional hard-drive technologies, smartphones keep shipping with larger and larger memory reserves, networking and automotive computing hardware need more memory than ever, and the beat goes on.
The final verdict
On top of all these positive market trends, Micron shares are still priced for something far below perfection -- more like impending doom, actually. The stock can be had for just 8.5 times free cash flow and six times adjusted earnings.
Long story short, I firmly believe that Micron has a lot of rip-roaring growth left to do. Even if you missed the surging share prices of 2016 and 2017, this is one of the best investment ideas in the chip sector today.