There are definitely mixed views on whether having a lot of cash - especially if you're a tech company - is a positive or a negative thing. On one hand, a lot of cash provides quite a bit of valuation support in addition to a war-chest in case times suddenly become tough for the company (an economic recession tends to do that). On the other, there is a viewpoint that asserts that a lot of cash means that the management team can't think of anything better to do with that cash to generate a return rate beyond whatever investments (likely treasuries) this cash happens to be sitting in.
Well, as things get tougher, and as the market begins to correct, I'm of the view that cash-is-king. If sales suddenly fall off of a (fiscal) cliff, I don't want companies that I own to stop innovating! Without further ado, here's my list of tech stocks that have a lot of net cash on the books:
1. Lattice Semiconductor (NASDAQ:LSCC) - Lattice designs and markets programmable logic solutions. Think of these things as hardware that can be reprogrammed to enable fundamentally new functionality. The uses for these sorts of chips are numerous, ranging from digital cameras, to solid state drives, to smartphones.
Lattice is generally considered the "third place" runner in the programmable logic field, behind heavyweights Altera (NASDAQ:ALTR) and Xilinx (NASDAQ:XLNX), it has carved out a fairly nice niche for itself in the low power and low cost arena in which the two big guns do not have any real presence. Further, the firm has $186M in cash ($1.60/share) and no long term debt, which means you're really buying the business for $2.26/share.
2. Activision-Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) - Activision-Blizzard is a video game company best known for its "World of Warcraft" and "Call of Duty" video games. In addition to having an unhealthy need to buy the latest-and-greatest installment in the latter series each year (if I suddenly stop writing for a week, you'll know what I'm doing), I also am starting to really like the stock at these levels.
At just 14x earnings, and with $3.02/share in cash (and no debt!), this tried-and-true maker of some of the finest and most popular video games on the planet is starting to look like a bargain. In the most recent quarter, the firm saw a nice 11.50% year-over-year growth in sales and a very healthy 52.5% increase in earnings per share. Additionally, the firm's free cash flow of $1.19B is quite healthy.
Oh, and one more thing. I hear there are some new game consoles coming out from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Sony (NYSE:SNE) that will give gamers yet more reasons to go on a game-buying-spree in 2013.
3. ASML Holdings (NASDAQ:ASML) - ASML Holdings is the world's leading lithography equipment provider for the semiconductor manufacturing industry. If there are chips to be built (and believe me, there's always chips to be built; anything that can have a chip will get a chip), then ASML benefits. In order to make semiconductors smaller and cheaper, the semiconductor foundries like Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE:TSM) and integrated device manufacturers like Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) will need the latest-and-greatest lithography equipment to etch ever smaller and more sophisticated circuits.
Even better is that ASML is actually 15% owned by Intel with another 10% jointly owned by Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor. The owners of this company are literally the most powerful semiconductor companies on Earth.
In addition to beefy ownership and a clear technological lead over competitors Nikon and Canon, ASML has a fortress of a balance sheet. $7.97B in cash, $967M in debt, and a market cap of just $23B. No matter who wins the smartphone wars, or whether PCs live or die, ASML will supply equipment to the companies that build the equipment to build the winning chips.
Additional disclosure: I may initiate long positions in ASML and/or ATVI over the next 24 hours.