Advanced Micro Devices (AMD -0.93%) stock almost doubled in 2020. Market share gains against Intel (INTC -1.19%) in the CPU (central processing unit) space and strong sales of gaming hardware in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic helped the chipmaker record impressive top- and bottom-line growth throughout the year, and investors laughed all the way to the bank as a result.
But don't be surprised to see AMD replicate its performance in 2021, as the catalysts that drove its growth in 2020 are here to stay. Let's take a look at the key factors that could help AMD stock double once again this year.
AMD could become a more dominant CPU player
AMD has made massive strides in the CPU market against Intel in the past year. AMD reportedly held 22.4% of the x86 CPU market at the end of the third quarter of 2020, according to Mercury Research, its highest share in 13 years.
AMD has managed to chip away at Intel's CPU dominance thanks to its superior product line, which is based on a smaller manufacturing node, allowing it to deliver better computing performance and reduce power consumption. For example, AMD's recently released Ryzen 5000 series desktop processors can outperform their Intel counterparts according to independent benchmarks.
AMD could widen its advantage in 2021, as it is expected to refine its existing Zen 3 architecture. Supply chain gossip indicates that AMD could enhance its 7-nanometer (nm) manufacturing process to update the Ryzen 5000 series CPUs in the second half of the year. The gains are expected to be incremental compared to the current-generation CPUs also based on a 7nm node -- but Intel's troubles are likely to help AMD maintain its technological advantage.
The launch of Intel's 10nm desktop chips (which are expected to compete with AMD's 7nm chips) has been substantially delayed. Chipzilla is offering 10nm Tiger Lake chips only on laptops, giving AMD a free run in the desktop space, where the former is currently selling 14nm chips. What's more, Intel is expected to remain stuck on a 14nm manufacturing node for the better part of the year, as its 10nm desktop parts are expected only in the second half of the year.
AMD should have refined its 7nm process further by then, and getting ready to make the jump to the Zen 4 architecture (based on a 5nm node) in 2022. Meanwhile, Intel is expected to continue playing catch up: Its competing 7nm CPUs aren't expected to arrive until 2023, as the chip giant is a year behind schedule on the development of this platform.
Not surprisingly, AMD is expected to increase its x86 CPU market share significantly this year. Rosenblatt Securities analyst Hans Mosesmann predicts that AMD could boost its share to as much as 50% this year, which would be more than double where it stood at the end of the third quarter of 2020. So AMD's computing and graphics segment, which has delivered 47% revenue growth in the first three quarters of 2020, seems to have enough ammunition to sustain its hot run in the new year.
Enterprise and semi-custom will step on the gas
AMD's revenue from the semi-custom business more than doubled in the third quarter of 2020, rising 116% year over year to $1.13 billion. The chipmaker credits this terrific growth to two factors: higher sales of semi-custom chips, and a jump in server processor sales. The good news for AMD is that these two verticals are expected to sustain their terrific momentum in 2021, thanks to two major catalysts.
The first reason why AMD's semi-custom business could be on a roll this year is because of gaming consoles. The chipmaker is powering Sony's PlayStation 5 and Microsoft's Xbox Series X consoles, and these devices seem to be setting the sales chart on fire. Sony has reportedly sold 3.4 million PS5 units in just four weeks and is facing supply shortages because of huge demand.
The launch of the new-generation gaming consoles is expected to drive a big upgrade cycle, with one analyst estimating that the PS5 could hit over 200 million in sales. That would be almost twice the sales of the previous-generation PS4 console. And as the PS5 and the Xbox Series X have been launched only recently, they are likely to see strong demand over the coming months and help AMD boost sales.
AMD's market share gains in the server market space will be another growth driver for the EESC (Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom) business. According to IDC, the revenue of servers running AMD processors shot up 112.4% year over year in the third quarter of 2020, outpacing the broader market's revenue growth of just 2.2%.
This is a clear indication that AMD is rapidly gaining market share against Intel, currently the dominant player in the server processor market with a market share of 93.4%, according to Mercury Research. But AMD has eaten quickly into Intel's dominance and has an opportunity to give its top line a big boost by capturing more market share.
AMD estimates that the server processor market could be worth $19 billion by 2023. The chipmaker is on track to hit $1.5 billion in data center revenue this year, so it still has a lot of room to grow in this space. Citing industry sources, DigiTimes predicts that AMD's server market share could hit 20% by the end of 2021.
It wouldn't be surprising to see AMD live up to that ambitious forecast with its next-generation server processor, codenamed Milan, which is expected to hit the market in the first quarter of 2021. Leaked benchmarks indicate that the new Milan server processor could deliver substantial gains over its predecessor.
Analyst estimates compiled by Yahoo! Finance point toward nearly 27% growth in AMD's revenue in fiscal 2021, along with a 48% jump in earnings per share. AMD looks capable of delivering that kind of growth given the various catalysts it is sitting on, so it could remain a top growth stock -- and recreate its 2020 performance in the new year.