Never let it be said that management at chipmaker OmniVisionTechnologies
In announcing a significant design win for the company's 1.3 megapixel CMOS image sensor, the company referred to it as from "one of the world's largest handset makers." Given that OmniVision is already doing business with pretty much every major cell-phone maker but one, speculation immediately turned to Nokia
Though nobody should hold their breath waiting for public clarity on this matter -- neither the customers nor the vendors in this business make a habit of showing their cards -- there is more than a little anecdotal evidence to support the "Nokia thesis."
As I mentioned in an earlier piece, OmniVision's inventory swelled in the most recent quarter, and much of that increase was for 1.3 megapixel chips. So is it just a coincidence that management announces a major customer a few weeks later? Given that negotiations can take time and that customers often want chips in their hands as soon as a deal is complete, the pieces do seem to fit together.
The deal would also make sense from Nokia's perspective as well. Although competition is fierce from the likes of Agilent
Frankly, though, my perspective is that it doesn't really matter if the mystery customer is Nokia or not. Sure, it would be great if the company added such a major client to its roster, particularly if that helps burn off that inventory quickly. But even if it's a prior customer simply signing on for the 1.3 megapixel chip, that's still good news.
So, is everything hunky-dory for OmniVision now?
The answer depends almost entirely on whether you ask a bull or a bear.
Bears are going to keep grousing about the inventory, the risks of competition and commoditization, and the Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry until those issues go away. What's more, judging by the huge short position in these shares, there are a lot of people betting against OmniVision right now.
On the bull side, you have a growing company with good margins, good return on assets and equity, and a very cheap-looking valuation. In addition to all of that, this new customer order for 1.3 megapixel chips certainly doesn't hurt.
If ever there were a company that accentuated the importance of due diligence, it's this one. While the valuation makes it look like a real winner, nobody yet knows whether that SEC cloud over the company is going to send an ill-timed lightning bolt into the stock. Although it will be absolutely critical going forward to track operating metrics like margins, inventory turns, and cash flow, today's valuation could make this a big winner for investors who can step up to the plate and swallow the risk today.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).
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