NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA) reported second-quarter earnings for fiscal 2020 after the market closed on Thursday. The graphics processing unit (GPU) specialist's revenue fell 17% year over year to $2.58 billion and earnings per share (EPS) adjusted for one-time items dropped 36% to $1.24.

Like the last two quarters, results were poor on a year-over-year basis, but this was expected. However, there's a glass-half-full story: The top and bottom lines were up sequentially and adjusted EPS easily beat the modest $1.14 Wall Street consensus estimate.

Given this narrative, it's not surprising that shares of NVIDIA jumped 7.3% on Friday. In 2019, the stock has returned 19.8% versus the S&P 500's 16.7% return but it's still underwater about 38% over the last year, whereas the broader market returned nearly 5% over this period. 

Back view of a person sitting in front of a computer screen with hands raised as in celebrating a victory.

This gamer's "Yes!" action mimics the market's reaction to NVIDIA's Q2 earnings. Image source: Getty Images. 

The key numbers

Metric

Fiscal Q2 2020

Fiscal Q2 2019

Change 

Revenue

$2.58 billion

$3.12 billion

(17%)

GAAP operating income

$571 million $1.16 billion (51%)

GAAP net income

$552 million  $1.10 billion (50%) 

GAAP earnings per share (EPS)

$0.90 $1.76 (49%)

Adjusted EPS

$1.24 $1.94 (36%) 

Data source: NVIDIA. GAAP = generally accepted accounting principles.

Results rebounded nicely from last quarter, with sequential revenue and adjusted EPS growth of 16% and 41%, respectively.

GAAP gross margin came in at 59.8%, down from 63.3% in the year-ago quarter but up from last quarter's 58.4%. Adjusted gross margin was 60.1%, down from 63.5% in the year-ago period but up from 59% in the previous quarter. 

Platform performance

Platform

Fiscal Q2 2020 Revenue

Change (YOY)

Change (QOQ)

Gaming

 $1.31 billion

(27%) 

24%

Data center

 $655 million 

(14%)

3%

Professional visualization

 $291 million

4% 

9%

Automotive

 $209 million

30%

26%

OEM and IP*

 $111 million

(4%) 12%

Total

 $2.58 billion

(17%)

16%

Data source: NVIDIA. *OEM and IP = original equipment manufacturer and intellectual property; not a target market platform. YOY = year over year. QOQ = quarter over quarter.

Gaming is looking up, while data center held somewhat steady from last quarter

NVIDIA's two largest platforms are still generating notably less revenue than they were a year ago. But the good news is that they both saw sequential increases, with gaming showing a solid 24% rise from last quarter. Gaming has a fair amount of seasonality, so it's important to also look at year-over-year changes. Things are also on the upswing on this front, as this quarter's 27% year-over-year decline is less steep than the first quarter's 39% year-over-year drop, which in turn was less steep than the previous quarter's 45% year-over-year plunge.

Gaming's sequential growth drivers included the company's second-quarter launches of its GeForce RTX Super GPU lineup for desktop gamers and its RTX studio laptops for creators, along with the "production ramp of the two new models of Nintendo Switch gaming console," CFO Colette Kress said on the earnings call.

Data center's 3% sequential uptick "was due to enterprise revenue growth driven by expanding AI [artificial intelligence] workloads," Kress said in the CFO commentary. The platform's year-over-year revenue decline reflects lower hyperscale revenue, as demand remains soft because customers have been taking a cautious approach due to concerns about a slowing global economy.

Pro viz and auto continue to be the dynamic duo

NVIDIA's two smallest platforms grew revenue both year over year and sequentially, with auto the particular standout with double-digit growth on both counts.

On the earnings call, Kress commented that auto's growth "reflects growing adoption of next-generation AI cockpit solutions and autonomous vehicle development projects, including one particularly sizable development services transaction that was recognized in the quarter."

As to pro viz, she said "year-on-year and sequential growth was led by record revenue for mobile workstations with strong demand for new thin and light form factors." The company's launch of RTX ray tracing last year has helped lift pro viz results.

Pending Mellanox acquisition update

As to the pending Mellanox (NASDAQ:MLNX) acquisition, Kress said: "[W]e have received regulatory approval in the U.S. and are engaged with regulators in Europe and China. The approval process is progressing as expected, and we continue to work toward closing the deal by the end of this calendar year."

Mellanox, based in Israel and the Silicon Valley, is a supplier of smart interconnect solutions and services for servers and storage. In March, NVIDIA announced this $6.9 billion, all-cash deal.

Looking forward  

NVIDIA seems to have gotten its game back -- at least in gaming. After two consecutive quarters of sequential revenue increases, it seems safe to say that its largest platform by revenue is back in growth mode. As to data center, which had been the company's fastest-growing business until this recent slump, the worst appears to be over. That said, with this platform's revenue only edging up 3% sequentially, it might be a bit premature to make that statement. 

For the third quarter, NVIDIA guided for revenue of $2.9 billion, plus or minus 2%. At the midpoint, this represents a decline of 8.8% year over year but a 12.4% rise from the just-reported quarter. Wall Street had been projecting Q3 revenue of $2.97 billion, so NVIDIA's revenue outlook came in a little light.