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Why This Under-the-Radar Stock Is a Hidden Buy in Today's Stock Market

By Will Healy – Aug 28, 2020 at 7:45AM

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Axcelis may come into its own more than 20 years after its IPO.

Investors continue to look for undiscovered stocks that can lead to outsized gains as they grow more popular. In the tech world, Axcelis Technologies (ACLS -3.29%) could become such a stock.

Despite receiving little attention, Axcelis plays a crucial function in the manufacturing process. And at a market cap of around $825 million, this semiconductor stock remains relatively small. However, it has become profitable and placed itself on track for massive growth. Given its size and predicted trajectory, it could move much higher as its profile rises.

Who is Axcelis?

Axcelis does not actually make or sell semiconductor chips. Instead, it designs, manufactures, and helps maintain ion implementation equipment. This includes current and energy implanters, as well as the curing systems used in the fabrication of semiconductor chips.

Probe testing of a silicon wafer.

Image source: Getty Images.

The company, from Beverly, Massachusetts, has been in business for more than 40 years. Through its decades of existence, Axcelis has always made its goal to helps fabrication facilities improve their productivity. Initially, the company served as a subsidiary of Eaton Corp. until its spinoff. Soon after, on July 10, 2000, it launched its IPO.

Unfortunately, the company introduced its stock near the height of the dot-com bubble. Hence it dropped precipitously soon after achieving a high of $120 per share. By 2009, it had often traded below $1 per share.

However, it subsequently recovered during the 2010s and now sells near the $25 per share level.

Is Axcelis a buy now?

Those who bought shares in Axcelis in 2009 have seen the stock price far surpass the S&P 500's performance over the same time frame. The question for new investors is whether Axcelis remains a buy. 

ACLS Chart

ACLS data by YCharts

The short answer is, possibly. Despite a significant run-up over the last 11 years, Axcelis sells for only about 20 times forward earnings.

Moreover, Axcelis customers such as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices seem to have benefited tremendously from the pandemic, which appears to boost Axcelis. Revenue of $123 million came in almost 66% higher than last year when the company brought in $73.4 million. Net income of $13.3 million, or $0.39 per share, far exceeds the $0.02 per share earned in the same quarter last year.

Additionally, analysts forecast rising profits of nearly 115% this year and about 33% in fiscal 2021. Considering these predictions, the forward multiple appears very low.

Furthermore, Axcelis holds about $197 million in cash, and it generated $16.9 million in cash flow from operations. This is significant considering the $445 million in stockholders' equity, the value left after subtracting liabilities from assets.

Where Axcelis stands

Axcelis stock has grown for several years with little relative attention. The low P/E ratio and an average daily share volume of just over 418,000 indicate that the company has not attracted much interest.

The stock also faces a few headwinds. The company announced the continued suspension of its stock repurchase program as it seeks to conserve cash during this recessionary period. Moreover, China accounts for 59% of its systems shipments. However, much of its China business is with multinationals who manufacture in China, and CEO Mary G. Puma has stated that demand from China remains strong. Nonetheless, this situation implies a possible geopolitical risk, given the strained relations between the U.S. and China.

Still, thanks to chip demand driven by the pandemic, the company has experienced massive revenue and earnings growth. For this reason, the relative lack of interest may not last long.

Indeed, the company stated that demand across the semiconductor industry remains steadfast amid the pandemic. As chip companies continue to see increased sales, this will likely boost revenue for Axcelis as fabrication facilities seek the productivity gains needed to meet market demand.

Will Healy has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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