SanDisk (UNKNOWN:SNDK.DL) posted its third-quarter earnings recently, and while revenue was up 7% year over year, the company missed analysts' earnings-per-share expectations and lowered guidance for the current fourth quarter.
What's going on with SanDisk's business, and should investors be optimistic or worried? To get some answers on what SanDisk has in store, let's look at five things the flash memory storage specialist mentioned on its latest earnings call.
Enterprise targets are ahead of schedule
SanDisk President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said the acquisition of Fusion-io in July will considerably expand the company's enterprise offerings:
This portfolio, coupled with our broad and expanding customer reach and well-established vertical integration capabilities, positions us well to accelerate our momentum in the fast-growing market for enterprise flash. We expect our enterprise [solid-state drive] revenue to surpass $1 billion in 2015, a year ahead of our previously stated timeline.
The company now commands about 20% of the worldwide flash chip market, but it has made aggressive moves in recent years to expand its position in the enterprise flash market. Aside from its $1.2 billion purchase of Fusion-io, SanDisk has spent $1.8 billion over the past four years buying up other companies.
Fusion-io's tech allows server processors to constantly receive data -- making them more efficient -- and is used by big customers such as Apple and Facebook.
By closing the acquisition of Fusion-io, the company is on track to further build out its enterprise offerings and hit its $1 billion solid-state drive, or SSD, enterprise revenue a year earlier than previously expected.
More opportunities in embedded memory
SanDisk provides internal memory for Apple and other smartphone makers, and the company believes pent-up demand for more memory will be realized soon.
In the call, Mehrotra said, "We believe that Apple's decision to increase the embedded storage in their midtier and top-tier iPhone to 64GB and 128GB, respectively, is indicative of pent-up consumer demand for higher storage capacities."
He thinks other smartphone makers will "follow suit" and start increasing the amount of their embedded storage, which will help the company sell more iNAND-embedded flash units. That's good news, considering SanDisk's embedded memory revenue in the quarter was down 16%, year over year. But the addressable market for embedded flash memory is expected to increase from $12 billion in 2013 to $18 billion by 2020, so there appears to be much to look forward to.
Don't forget about PCs
While smartphone memory might be where the growth is, SanDisk certainly isn't counting out PC memory. Mehrotra said:
In client computing, I'm sure you will agree with me that once you become used to a SSD-powered laptop, there is no going back. Consequently, the increasing penetration rate of flash in corporate laptops will spill into the consumer space and drive significant growth in flash penetration in the PC platform in the years ahead.
Earlier this month, FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi mentioned in an investor note that the release of Windows 10 could drive PC sales next year. If that proves true, and consumer PCs start adopting more SanDisk SSD memory, Mehrotra's predictions could easily be realized.
Strong SSD growth
As expected, SanDisk's SSD revenue continues to grow. In third-quarter 2013, SSD revenue made up 20% of the company's total revenue, but that increased to 27% in the last quarter.
SanDisk CFO Judy Bruner said on the earnings call, "Looking at revenue by product category, our SSD revenue grew 48% year over year, with the strongest growth coming from enterprise SSDs."
According to IHS Technology data released earlier this year, SSD should continue to experience strong growth. IHS expects SSD shipments to increase 50% this year (compared to 2013) globally and hit about 190 million units in 2017 -- half the size of the traditional hard drive market.
Investing in new technology
SanDisk said it will start shipping its new 15-nanometer technology in this quarter, with "meaningful" production in the first quarter of 2015. Here's why Mehrotra thinks the 15 nm technology is so important to SanDisk going forward: "We believe our 15 nm technology node, using both X2 and X3 architectures, will be the lowest cost memory technology in the industry in 2015, with capability to serve all product applications ranging from consumer to enterprise."
Expansion into the new lower-cost technology allows SanDisk to offer a wider range of chips to customers and to diversify its supply chain as it continues to enjoy a "long tail of 19 nanometer production for strategic customers."
While the memory business is prone to some cyclical ups and downs, SanDisk is in a strong position to benefit from SSD expansion in both the commercial and enterprise markets. While it could take some time to experience the full benefits from this development, the company's current SSD revenue growth show SanDisk is on the right track. Couple this with the acquisition of Fusion-io and other companies, and SanDisk should remain one of the strongest competitors in the memory market.