You don't often find well-followed companies with P/Es in the low teens and projected growth rates in the 20s. When you do, you can almost always be certain that the numbers come with a fair bit of controversy and doubt. Witness OmniVision Technologies
The company's fourth-quarter results contained more of the combined good, bad, and middling news I've come to expect. Although results were all right vis-a-vis analyst estimates (with sales climbing 3% and earnings falling 15%), the company cut its EPS guidance for the next quarter.
Investors' big talking points for this quarter will likely be gross margins and market share. Gross margins dropped on both a sequential and an annual basis, coming in at 36%. Although the company blamed the drop on some manufacturing issues, management refused to answer several analyst questions in much detail.
Furthermore, management indicated that market competition would prevent gross margins from topping 40% in the near future. Given management's refusal to quantify the manufacturing problem's precise impact, one wonders exactly how much of this drop is truly due to outside forces.
Regarding market share, the company reported lower units shipped on a sequential basis, but slightly higher pricing. What's more, Micron Technology
That said, there was also good news for the quarter. The company announced a $100 million share repurchase program, adding that the Securities and Exchange Commission had terminated its informal inquiry with no recommendations of enforcement actions.
I won't argue that OmniVision shares look cheap, but the conference call left me with more questions than answers. Management repeatedly refused analysts' requests for greater detail and information. Managers' statements that "market share is our first priority" give me further pause. Market share is certainly important, but so is sustainable profitability.
Quite frankly, I expect competition to intensify. Micron seems to be making headway in the market, and both Samsung and STMicroelectronics
If you believe the projections of 20% or greater future growth for OmniVision, these shares look like a real bargain. For my part, I think competition will make that level of growth challenging at best. Aggressive investors who believe in the management team can plunge ahead, but I'll be sidestepping this stock for now.
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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).