When semiconductor giant Micron Technology (MU -4.21%) released its earnings report for the fiscal third quarter of 2022 (ended June 2) on June 30, the results highlighted strong financials, including revenue hitting an all-time high. But the guidance that management offered for the rest of the fiscal year suggested reasons for concern, as it warned of a slowdown ahead.
Micron is the world's leading producer of memory (DRAM) and storage (NAND) chips. These chips are critical components in current technologies like computers and smartphones, plus new ones like electric vehicles. Micron is a company that investors should definitely play the long game on and the earnings report offered two key takeaways that further confirmation of that assertion. Let's take a closer look at those takeaways.
1. Even as revenue hit a record high, there's still plenty of untapped opportunity
Investors sent Micron stock plunging after its earnings report, and the rest of the chip sector promptly followed suit. The company's weak guidance was the culprit; it indicated that demand is weakening across the industry, and Micron is responding by trimming supply growth into the end of fiscal 2022 (ending Sept. 2).
While that could trigger a sales slump for the remainder of fiscal 2022, revenue in the recent third quarter hit another all-time high.
On top of that, Micron has several opportunities on the horizon that could bolster growth in both the short and long term. First, the company predicts 100 new electric vehicle (EV) models will hit the market this calendar year. EVs' appetite for memory and storage is so high that Micron has described them as data centers on wheels. Thus, EVs could be a major growth driver for Micron's chips going forward.
Second, the 5G network continues to roll out across the globe. Micron observed a small decline in revenue for this segment in Q3, but it noted that 5G-enabled smartphones are expected to reach 50% penetration of the total addressable smartphone market this calendar year. It's an important milestone, but it also leaves plenty of room for growth going forward.
2. Micron's profit margin remains elevated
During the pandemic, semiconductors were in short supply because producers were caught in lockdown periods across Asia and Europe. Chipmakers have been playing catch-up ever since, despite facilities operating as normal in most places now, except in parts of China.
The shortage wreaked havoc on manufacturers of consumer products, from gaming consoles to new cars. As a result, semiconductor producers had a greater level of pricing power because their customers were willing to pay up to access the components they needed.
According to Micron's most recent guidance, which suggests weakening demand, this favorable environment might be slowly fading. But for now, the company's gross margin remains elevated, which helped generate a record gross profit in the third quarter.
Despite any short-term pullbacks in demand, the landscape for chipmakers is likely to be overwhelmingly positive over the long term. The world has never experienced such a rapid advancement in technology, and practically every new product with digital capabilities requires processing power that can only be delivered by semiconductors.
Some estimates suggest that the industry could be worth over $1 trillion per year within the next decade. Since Micron is a leader in the memory and storage segment, it's poised to benefit from the broad growth.
Micron stock is currently down 44% from its all-time high. The company's soft guidance might have given investors a golden opportunity to build a position at a discount, provided the focus remains on the long term potential.