Applied Materials (AMAT -3.79%) became the latest company to fall prey to the global chip shortage as its revenue and earnings failed to meet Wall Street expectations thanks to supply chain woes. Shares of the semiconductor equipment manufacturer fell more than 5% after the release of its fiscal 2021 fourth-quarter results on Nov. 18, bringing a pause to the stock's terrific rally.
The tepid guidance also added to the gloom and led investors to press the panic button. However, Applied Materials' pullback is an opportunity for savvy investors to buy a fast-growing company on the cheap right now and take advantage of a market that's set for secular growth. Let's look at the reasons why buying Applied Materials stock may be a good idea.
Applied Materials is clocking impressive growth
Applied Materials' fiscal fourth-quarter revenue increased 31% year over year to $6.12 billion, while non-GAAP earnings shot up 55% from the prior-year period to $1.94 per share. The numbers fell short of analysts' expectations who were looking for $6.35 billion in revenue and $1.95 per share in earnings.
Applied Materials pointed out that its top line "was at the low end of the guidance range due to supply chain challenges." The company estimates a loss of $300 million worth of Q4 revenue was due to supply shortages and delayed shipments by its suppliers, indicating that its results would have easily bested expectations had it not been for the supply chain woes.
Given that Applied Materials anticipates the supply chain problems to continue in the new fiscal year, its guidance also fell below expectations. The company expects to deliver $1.85 per share in earnings on $6.16 billion in revenue this quarter, while analysts were looking for $2.01 per share in earnings on revenue of $6.5 billion.
However, the impressive part is that Applied Materials' lukewarm guidance points toward impressive year-over-year growth in revenue and earnings. The company had delivered $1.39 per share in earnings on $5.16 billion in revenue in the first quarter of fiscal 2021, which means that it is on track to grow revenue by more than 19% and earnings by 33% as compared to the year-ago period.
More importantly, Applied Materials can sustain such strong levels of growth over the long run as the demand for semiconductor manufacturing equipment increases to satisfy the world's growing need for chips. That's why investors in the hunt for a growth stock shouldn't worry much about Wall Street's estimates and consider buying the stock, as it could soon regain its mojo.
Investors should look at the bigger picture
Applied Materials management pointed out on the latest earnings conference call that the spending on wafer fabrication equipment jumped 40% in 2021 to a mid-$80 billion range. The market would have grown at a stronger pace had it not been constrained by supply woes.
Applied Materials has benefited big-time from this spurt in semiconductor capital equipment spending, as evident from the massive increase in the company's order backlog. The company finished fiscal 2021 with an order backlog of $11.8 billion, an increase of 77% over the year-ago quarter. It is worth noting that the company's backlog grew at a faster pace than its actual revenue last fiscal year.
Applied Materials clocked 34% top-line growth in fiscal 2021 to $23 billion. The fact that its backlog grew at a faster pace indicates that the demand for its offerings continues to remain strong, and that should translate into robust revenue growth once those orders are fulfilled and new ones come in.
Semiconductor capital equipment spending is expected to hit $100 billion in 2022 as per third-party estimates, which means that Applied Materials' end-market opportunity will expand once again next year. That's not surprising, as there has been an increase in semiconductor demand by various devices such as smartphones, data centers, and even cars.
Applied Materials points out that the dollar value of application processors used in high-end smartphones this year increased by 20% over last year, while radio-frequency content increased by 40%. Meanwhile, the consumption of NAND flash memory and DRAM (dynamic random access memory) is increasing at an annual pace of 20%. With the global semiconductor market expected to add over $550 billion in revenue over the next decade thanks to the growing chip content in several applications, it can be concluded that Applied Materials is sitting on a solid long-term opportunity.
All of this makes Applied Materials a top semiconductor play to buy right now, especially considering that the stock is trading at less than 19 times forward earnings after its latest pullback, which makes it cheaper than the S&P 500's forward earnings multiple of 22.4.