For Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) investors, 2015 has been a disaster. The stock has plummeted, losing nearly 60% of its value year to date, as DRAM and NAND prices have fallen faster than Micron could cut costs. While there was hope that the industry had changed, and that Micron's earnings would bottom out in positive territory, the company's guidance for its second fiscal quarter threw cold water on that idea.
Here are some of the worst Micron headlines from 2015.
Jan. 13: Samsung's DRAM expansion
Micron competes with Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) and SK Hynix in the DRAM market, and while the company has argued that consolidation has fundamentally changed the industry for the better, supply and demand still ultimately determine pricing. In January, it was reported that Samsung, the DRAM market leader, was actively purchasing more DRAM equipment in an effort to increase capacity. When supply is greater than demand, DRAM prices can fall rapidly, eating into Micron's profits.
March 13: PC market malaise
In March, IDC cut its 2015 outlook for the PC market, predicting that global shipments would decline by 4.9%. This was particularly bad news for Micron, which depends on the PC for a substantial percentage of its revenue. During the fiscal second quarter of 2015, about $1.8 billion of Micron's $4.2 billion in sales came from the computer and networking segment, which includes both PCs and servers.
The PC market ended up performing even worse than IDC predicted this year. In October, the firm lowered its estimate to an 8.7% decline, predicting that stabilization would not occur until 2017.
June 25: Weak earnings
Shares of Micron tumbled after the company reported its fiscal-third-quarter results, which missed analyst estimates for both revenue and earnings. DRAM average selling price fell by 10% sequentially, while cost/bit declined by just 6%. Guidance for fourth-quarter revenue was also well below expectations.
The company did state at the time that it expected DRAM and NAND demand to be roughly balanced with supply in 2015, but this prediction turned out to be very wrong.
Oct. 20: Intel makes 3D NAND investment
Intel and Micron are NAND partners, but in October, Intel announced that it planned to invest up to $5.5 billion over the next few years to convert a facility in China to support 3D NAND manufacturing. Intel's SSD business has been growing, and it will use the upgraded facility to keep pace with demand. Shares of Micron dropped on the news.
Nov. 16: Tsinghua Unigroup plans huge investments
With the deal to acquire Micron falling through, the Chinese company changed course, with plans to invest $47 billion over the next five years to build a massive chip business in China. Details are scarce, but the prospect of increased competition in either the DRAM or NAND markets is bad news for Micron.
Nov. 17: Einhorn slashes Micron holdings
After defending Micron in his second-quarter letter to shareholders, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital slashed his Micron holdings by two-thirds in November. Micron was a big loser for Greenlight in 2015, and with Einhorn's prediction that profits would bottom out in positive territory turning out to be incorrect, it's not surprising that the hedge fund manager lowered his expectations.
Dec. 22: It's not different this time
The idea that the DRAM industry had changed died when Micron reported its fiscal-first-quarter earnings. The company's results were mixed, but guidance for the fiscal second-quarter called for a non-GAAP loss of between $0.05 and $0.12 per share. The company's language became vaguer, with management stating in Micron's earnings presentation that they were "hopeful" that market conditions would improve in 2016.
The last time oversupply plagued Micron, in 2012, the company posted a $1 billion net loss. With no sign of the situation improving anytime soon, and with Gartner predicting worsening DRAM oversupply through 2016, this time doesn't look so different after all.
Timothy Green has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Gartner. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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