Applied Materials (AMAT 6.15%) looked like an enticing bet going into its fiscal 2021 third-quarter earnings report, and the company didn't disappoint as it crushed Wall Street's expectations on the back of terrific growth in revenue and earnings. What's more, Applied's guidance turned out to be strong as well, fueled by the massive growth in semiconductor investments across the globe as chipmakers are scrambling to meet huge end-market demand.
It's worth noting that Applied Materials stock is now trading at a cheaper valuation than it was before the quarterly report came out, thanks to the terrific earnings growth. Its price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is just 23, while the forward earnings multiple of 17 indicates that more bottom-line growth is in the cards. These multiples are lower than the S&P 500 Index's trailing P/E of 31 and forward P/E of 22.
That means there's a golden opportunity for investors to add a rapidly growing company to their portfolios at an attractive valuation, and they shouldn't miss out. Let's look at some reasons.
Applied Materials is now growing at a blistering pace
A $1,000 investment in Applied Materials stock a decade ago would be worth almost $12,000 now:
However, as the chart above shows, the company's top and bottom lines haven't exactly grown at a blistering pace over the past 10 years. Its revenue just about doubled, while earnings growth hasn't been eye-popping either, considering the pace at which the broader market's bottom line has increased. Also, as the chart indicates, most of Applied Materials' gains arrived in the past year and a half, after it became evident that the company's offerings would remain in hot demand amid a global semiconductor shortage that has disrupted several industries.
Not surprisingly, Applied Materials' revenue and earnings have been growing at a much faster pace when compared to its average annual growth in the past 10 years. The company delivered record quarterly revenue of $6.2 billion in Q3, up 41% year over year. It also clocked a record (adjusted) operating margin of 32.7%, a jump of 6.3 percentage points over the prior year.
The terrific sales and margin growth led to record adjusted earnings of $1.90 per share, up 79% from the year-ago quarter. The results crushed the expectations of analysts who'd been looking for $1.77 per share in earnings on $5.94 billion in revenue.
Applied Materials' guidance was the icing on the cake. The company expects, at the midpoint of its guidance range, to earn $1.94 per share this quarter on revenue of $6.33 billion. Wall Street had set the bar lower; analysts were expecting just $1.81 in earnings per share on $6.04 billion in revenue. The midpoint of the guidance indicates that Applied is anticipating 35% year-over-year revenue growth this quarter, while non-GAAP (adjusted) earnings could increase 55%.
The impressive guidance is a clue that Applied Materials has switched into a higher gear, and it's unlikely to step off the gas given the massive end-market opportunity at hand. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see its growth over the next decade significantly outpacing the rate at which it's grown in the past 10 years, helping the stock to fly higher once again.
Sustainable growth drivers can help the stock soar
Applied Materials supplies chip fabrication equipment, services, and software to semiconductor manufacturers. Its largest source of revenue is the semiconductor systems business, through which Applied develops, manufactures, and sells semiconductor fabrication equipment. This segment produced nearly 72% of the company's total revenue last quarter and recorded 53% year-over-year growth.
Within the semiconductor systems business, the foundry/logic vertical occupied the largest share with 63% of total revenue, up from 55% in the year-ago quarter. The foundry business is built for long-term growth, as chipmakers across the globe are ramping up capacity. For instance, global semiconductor capital spending stood at an estimated $29.4 billion in 2010, according to Gartner. Last year, that number had ballooned to $106.9 billion.
Gartner estimates that global semiconductor spending will rise to $141.9 billion this year. Spending on semiconductor equipment can keep moving higher in the coming years on the back of a huge jump in chip demand.
Applied Materials points out that the semiconductor industry took 40 years to achieve its first $200 billion in revenue; from 2000 to 2017, the industry added the next $200 billion. An additional $200 billion of revenue is expected by 2024, over a shorter span of just seven years. What's more, the semiconductor industry's revenue is anticipated to increase a whopping $400 billion from 2025 to 2030, hitting $1 trillion at the end of the forecast period.
Chipmakers will need to buy new equipment or upgrade their existing setups to cater to this massive increase in semiconductor demand, which will be driven by several verticals including automotive, networking, and industrial. Discussing "PPACt" (chip power efficiency, performance, area, cost, and time to market), Applied Materials CEO Gary Dickerson said on the Q3 earnings call that the company is on track to take advantage of these tailwinds and outperform the broader market:
As we look ahead, we are confident that the strength of longer-term secular trends will drive semiconductor and wafer fab equipment markets structurally higher. And we believe Applied is in the best position to accelerate our customers' PPACt roadmaps, and grow significantly faster than our markets.
All of this indicates that Applied Materials is in a solid position to deliver more upside. Analysts expect the company's earnings to clock a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 25% for the next five years. At its current valuation, buying this tech stock is a no-brainer.