For Memory Chip Sector, A Day To Forget

Includes: MU, QI, SPSN, WDC
by: Eric Savitz

For the memory sector, it is a day to forget.

Last night, SanDisk (SNDK) reported an extremely nasty June quarter earnings report; the Street has responded with a host of downgrades. And meanwhile, Citigroup chip analyst Glen Yeung this morning cut his ratings on Micron (NASDAQ:MU), Qimonda (QI) and Spansion (SPSN) to Hold from Buy. The result is that all of the stocks in the beleaguered sector are getting pummeled. Again.

Yeung writes bluntly that his formerly bullish stance on the memory stocks “has simply been wrong,” and that with “renewed risks forming in the NAND market, compounded by a highly questionable macro environment,” it is time to downgrade the shares.

Yeung says it is no surprise that NAND pricing is weak, but that last night’s SanDisk numbers provided “incremental concern.” He notes that SanDisk reported a 15% increase in on-hand inventories and indicated that channel inventories have increased to 8-9 weeks. That, he says, creates risk of further NAND pricing degradation through the remainder of 2008 and into the first half of 2009.

He also says that the weakness in the NAND flash market will affect the NOR market as well, as a NAND/DRAM combination offers “an increasingly attractive alternative” for NOR customers.

Yeung cuts his Micron price target to $6.50, from $10. For Qimonda, he goes to $2.50, from $6. For Spansion - which is focused on the NOR market - his new target is $3, down from $5.

Meanwhile, as i noted, there was a bountiful harvest of SanDisk downgrades today:

  • ThinkPanmure’s Vijay Rakesh cut his rating to Sell from Buy, and his price target to $10 from $25, reflecting weak consumer demand, high channel inventory, product margins at zero, uncertainty on licensing and high R&D and capital spending.
  • Standard & Poor’s Rafay Khalid cut his rating to Sell from Hold, dropping his target to $13 from $22, based “expectation of above-average price deflation reflecting industry over supply,” as well as expected weak demand in a softer economy.
  • Needham’s Y. Edwin Mok cut his rating to Hold from Buy, asserting that “ballooned inventory will prevent any meaningful margins rebound for several quarters, even as the company delays production ramp and reduces spending.”
  • Yeung’s colleague, Citigroup’s Craig Ellis, cut his rating to Sell from Hold, and chopped his target to $14 from $20. He says while stalwart bulls will argue that the bad news is priced in, “history argues otherwise when Q1’s ugly seasonality lies ahead.”

In today’s trading:

  • SanDisk is down $4.29, or 23.9%, to $13.64.
  • Micron is down 38 cents, or 6.7%, to $5.28.
  • Qimonda is down 13 cents, or 5.7%, to $2.15.
  • Spansion is down 16 cents, or 5.8%, to $2.60.