Following market close on Oct. 1, memory maker Micron (NASDAQ:MU) issued its financial results for the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2015 as well as guidance for the first quarter of its fiscal 2016. The company's results for the quarter were better-than-expected, but forward guidance for the quarter fell short of what Street analysts had been expecting.
Although the numbers certainly tell part of the story, it's always helpful to hear what management has to say about the quarter as well as its outlook for the industry, and ultimately its business, over the longer-term.
To that end, here are three interesting points that Micron management made on the earnings call following the release of its financial results.
When will Micron's Storage Business Unit margins improve?
Micron reported that operating margin in its Storage Business Unit -- which the company's last form 10-Q filing says "includes NAND flash components and [Solid State Drives] sold into enterprise and client storage, cloud, and removable storage markets" -- was negative.
During the call, analyst Monika Garg pointed out that this has been the case for several quarters and asked management to explain when it expects operating margin in this business to improve.
Micron CEO Mark Durcan indicated that Micron will become "more competitive" during fiscal 2016 (i.e. ramp up TLC NAND into this segment where the company is currently shipping more expensive to product MLC NAND) and that the overall performance in this business will get better.
What's going on with 3D XPoint?
Earlier this year, Micron -- along with processor giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) -- announced a new type of memory known as 3D XPoint (pronounced "cross-point"). This memory is expected to deliver much better performance and endurance than traditional NAND flash, while at the same time being much cheaper to produce than typical DRAM.
It has been described, quite succinctly, as a "new tier" of memory that sits between DRAM and NAND.
During the call, analyst Chris Hemmelgarn asked Micron's management to explain how the company plans to monetize this technology and to provide some insight into where the company is "seeing strong customer interest."
Micron's Durcan pointed to "super high-end gaming applications," as well as "high end and reliable system storage, enterprise storage applications" as key areas.
Micron CFO Ernie Maddock also added that "anywhere where you want a large in-memory database or anywhere where you want ultra-high performance storage systems."
What's going on in PCs?
Weak demand for PCs has negatively affected Micron for quite a while now, as PC DRAM has been and still is a large portion of the company's revenues (low 20% range of DRAM revenue this quarter, a decline from "about 30%" last quarter, per Micron President Mark Adams). Naturally, if the PC market improves, Micron should benefit and if the PC market continues to deteriorate, Micron could be further negatively affected.
So, what did Micron's management have to say about their view of the PC market?
Durcan was blunt in saying that he couldn't "advertise a major uptick in PC demand." He did say, though, that "relative channel inventory in PCs is not a huge burden to a recovery."
He also made it clear that it's still too early to be able to be able to call the market, as the industry needs to see how demand from both consumers as well as corporate buyers looks like "through the holiday and through the rest of the year."
Durcan did add, though, that he didn't think that it would take "a wild shift in behavior for [the] PC environment to stabilize."