The semiconductor sector has been one of the most interesting sectors of the market to pay attention for the last couple of months; after unquestionably beating the market for most of the the year, the sector has been battered since June by ongoing U.S. – China trade tensions. That’s put a lot of interested investors on edge, and for some that means that semi stocks should be kept at arm’s length. For me, seeing a sector under pressure usually makes me start paying attention to as many of the most fundamentally sound stocks in the sector that I can. It also means, however that the sector could stay under pressure; and in the case of semiconductors, that pressure could continue for some time. That means that you have to be very selective about the stocks you choose to follow, and you have to be willing to let a lot of others simply pass you by.
The fact is there are some semiconductor stocks that I think are pretty significantly undervalued right now, and that I think present some pretty good opportunities even if tariff-related volatility continues to work against the sector. MU and AMAT are two examples I’ve written about before, and that are already at extremely depressed price levels that I think represent some really impressive value propositions and are worth paying attention to. There is another major player in the industry that has also been beaten down pretty sharply, but that I think presents a higher level of risk to investors, at least for the foreseeable future, than most of the other big names represent.
Microchip Technology (MCHP) is a company that, until their last earnings report, which was released just a little over a week ago, had an excellent fundamental profile, and a sparkling balance sheet. So what changed? The short answer is debt, although debt by itself is not categorically a bad thing. In MCHP’s case, the company completed the acquisition of Microsemi, a provider of semiconductor and system solutions for aerospace and defense, communications, data centers and industrial markets. MCHP borrowed approximately $8.1 billion – more than four times the roughly $1.9 billion that was on their books in March – to complete the acquisition. Initially hailed as an opportunity for the company to expand its presence into aerospace and defense in particular, MCHP management revealed that Microsemi’s managers had stuffed their sales channels with excess inventory in order to inflate revenues ahead of the deal’s closing, along with a culture of “excessive extravagance and high spending” that prompted them to immediately replace all of Micorsemi’s top leadership.
The deal certainly has damped enthusiasm for the stock; the stock plunged more than $11 per share on the day of the earnings report, or a little over 11% overnight. Since that point, the stock has dropped about 7% more; since finding a top at around $104 in early June, that puts MCHP’s total decline at nearly 21% in the last two months alone. That’s bear market territory for a stock whose management also cited concerns about tariffs on their products, and disclosed about $200 million in excess inventory at Microsemi that must be reduced. Most analysts are predicting that both elements will weigh on sales for the next couple of quarters. That is the kind of negative news that is more likely to keep the stock dropping even further, and represents a much higher level of risk than even the most die-hard of value investors should probably stay away from for the time being.
Given some of the other elements that actually make management’s expertise and effectiveness quite clear, I actually think there is likely to be a very good opportunity down the road to work with MCHP; but it could be several months down the road, and at a much more depressed price – which of course also suggests that the stock is very likely to be an incredible value story eventually. Hopefully the information I’ll share below will give you an idea about where that level might be most likely to be found.
Fundamental and Value Profile
Microchip Technology Incorporated is engaged in developing, manufacturing and selling specialized semiconductor products used by its customers for a range of embedded control applications. The Company operates through two segments: semiconductor products and technology licensing. In the semiconductor products segment, the Company designs, develops, manufactures and markets microcontrollers, development tools and analog, interface, mixed signal and timing products. Its functional activities include sales, marketing, manufacturing, information technology, human resources, legal and finance. Its product portfolio comprises general purpose and specialized 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit microcontrollers, a spectrum of linear, mixed-signal, power management, thermal management, radio frequency (RF), timing, safety, security, wired connectivity and wireless connectivity devices, as well as serial electrically erasable programmable read-only memories (EEPROMs) and serial flash memories. MCHP has a current market cap of about $19.4 billion.
- Earnings and Sales Growth: Over the last twelve months, earnings have grown about 21.5%, while revenues increased about 25%. The company’s margin profile shows that Net Income as a percentage of Revenues in the last quarter was only about 2.9% for the last twelve months. This is a negative that should be considered against the context of the Microsemi deal, and consideration given to a historical comparison of what MCHP management has done under normal conditions. A year ago, Net Income as a percentage of revenues was a much healthier 12.5%. It is true that not all of the decline can be attributed solely to one extremely bad deal; I think pressure from decreased sales to Chinese customers, which is likely to continue, is also coming to bear. But it should at least leaven some of the negativity about the company’s ability to manage their earnings and sales effectively. Give them some time to work through the excess Microsemi inventory and get that organization folded into their existing structure and culture; at that point, and I believe we’ll be likely to see margins return to healthy levels.
- Free Cash Flow: MCHP’s free cash flow is healthy, at more than $1.1 billion. This is a number that is a bit lower since the beginning of the year, but not by much – only about 6.7%. That’s pretty minimal considering the magnitude of the Microsemi problem.
- Dividend: MCHP’s annual divided is $1.46 per share and translates to a yield of 1.76% at the stock’s current price.
- Price/Book Ratio: there are a lot of ways to measure how much a stock should be worth; but one of the simplest methods that I like uses the stock’s Book Value, which for MCHP is $21.75 and translates to a Price/Book ratio of 3.79 at the stock’s current price. The stock’s historical average Price/Book ratio is 4.84, which puts a target price for the stock at about $105 per share, or nearly 21% above its current price and a little above its early June highs. It’s also worth noting that Book Value increased dramatically in the last quarter from only $14 – which can be taken a direct reflection of the Microsemi acquisition (warts and all). As I already observed, I think the stock is likely to keep dropping while concerns about Microsemi and China persist. Where is the bottom? I’m not sure; but given the already pretty high discount, I think that if the stock is anywhere around $75 – or possibly lower – when the numbers start to show the company is beginning to find its way through its current predicament, the bargain proposition could be just too good to pass up. I’ll show you how I’m coming up with that price level below.
Here’s a look at the stock’s latest technical chart.
- Current Price Action/Trends and Pivots: The red diagonal line measures the length of the stock’s longer-term upward trend, and also informs the Fibonacci trend retracement lines shown on the right side of the chart. The stock’s decline from a high at around $104 is hard to miss, of course; but the reason I’m showing you two years’ worth of price activity is to illustrate where I think the stock could begin to stabilize. It is currently sitting almost on top of the 50% retracement line; but given the stock’s current bearish momentum, and likely continued negative sentiment, I don’t expect that support to hold. The next support level, around $75, lines up with the 61.8% retracement line. Assuming the stock’s Book Value remains consistent (admittedly, not a given), a drop to $75 would put the stock at a 40% discount to its historical Price/Book Value ratio. That’s a pretty interesting price level, so if the company begins to show any signs of financial recovery from its Microsemi acquisition, it could be a screaming bargain at that point – or any price below it.
- Near-term Keys: I really don’t see a picture for MCHP that would motivate me to want to consider any kind of bullish trade right now; any attempt to buy the stock or work with call options at its current level could only be characterized as high speculation, with prohibitively low probabilities of success. The downside risk far exceeds any upside potential right now. On the other hand, a break below the 50% retracement line at around $80 could be a good signal if you want to place a short-term, momentum-based trade to short the stock or start working with put options.