Cree soars after FQ2 beat; Rubicon, Veeco, Aixtron also jump

Though its FQ3 guidance is only in-line, investors are giving a resounding thumbs-up to Cree's (CREE +7.7%) FQ2 report, given it featured solid revenue and earnings beats on the back of strong LED lighting growth, and signs the margin pressure lately faced by the company could be softening.

LED wafer supplier Rubicon (RBCN +5%) is also up sharply, as are equipment vendors Veeco (VECO +6.5%) and Aixtron (AIXG +4.6%).

Cree's lighting product sales rose 42% Y/Y in FQ2 (a pickup from FQ1's 37% growth), and now make up 42% of the company's revenue (up from 38% in FQ2). Just as importantly, Cree's lighting gross margin, hurt lately by aggressive pricing for consumer LED bulbs at Home Depot and elsewhere, rose 100 bps Q/Q to 27.9% (albeit while falling 580 bps Y/Y).

LED product sales (components) rose 7% Y/Y after growing 16% in FQ1, and now make up 52% of revenue (down from 56%). Gross margin was 45.4%, -120 bps Q/Q but +350 bps Y/Y. Power/RF product sales rose 17% Y/Y, and carried a 58% gross margin (+430 bps Q/Q and +140 bps Y/Y).

Goldman (Buy) thinks Cree's numbers demonstrate LED lighting adoption is "in the early innings," and believes its guidance "implies a return to 30%+ gross margin in lighting after several disappointing quarters." The firm is also pleased sell-through at Home Depot doubled Q/Q, and considers Cree well-positioned for "a potentially break-out June."

Needham (Hold) is more cautious. It's worried a mix shift towards bulbs will keep margins pressured, notes capacity constraints are limiting sales of high-margin LED components, and considers Cree "fairly valued" at 29x 2015E EPS.

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