May 29, 2014, 9:34 AM
- Seagate (STX) is expanding its flash storage lineup - generally seen as a weakness as flash encroaches on hard drives - in a big way by acquiring LSI's PCIe server flash storage module/flash controller chip unit from new LSI parent Avago (AVGO) for $450M in cash.
- Seagate, which already offers SSDs, notes the LSI unit is the #2 player in the PCIe flash market - Fusion-io (FIO +1%) is the largest - and that its offerings in the space are optimized for cloud/hyperscale deployments - Fusion-io also has a keen interest in this area. The unit's SandForce controllers have a number of SSD design wins.
- Seagate expects its enterprise SSD and controller ops to produce at least $150M in revenue in FY15 (ends June '15), albeit with an op. margin headwind of $30M-$40M. Better profitability is expected in FY16.
- The deal follows a string of flash storage acquisitions from archrival Western Digital: PCIe flash vendor Virident, SSD vendor sTec, and SSD caching software startup Velobit.
- It appears to remove one more potential suitor for Fusion-io, long the subject of M&A speculation.
May 27, 2014, 2:10 PM
- A "material ramp" in high-margin enterprise drive shipments in 2H14 could provide $0.30/share in upside to Seagate (STX +2.6%) EPS estimates, writes RBC's Amit Dayanani.
- Daryanani thinks enterprise drives carry a 40%+ gross margin, well above a company-wide FQ3 GM of 28.5%. He believes Seagate can deliver $7+ in FY16 (ends June '16) EPS, aided by cost controls, buybacks, and a 30% GM.
- Seagate's enterprise drive sales rose 200K Y/Y in FQ3 to 7.7M. They've been pressured by weak enterprise server/storage demand, but have also received a lift from strong demand from Web/cloud clients. The latter customer base often prefers higher-density/lower-margin enterprise drives.
- Western Digital (WDC +2.6%) is once more heading in the same direction as Seagate, as is assembly supplier Hutchison (HTCH +2.9%).
May 20, 2014, 6:08 PM
- Seagate (STX) has doubled the size of an offering of senior notes due 2025 to $1B, and priced them at 4.75%.
- The hard drive giant notes potential proceeds include paying down existing debt. It had $3.5B in debt at the end of FQ3, and $2.3B in cash/investments.
- Seagate sold $800M worth of debt last October. Aggressive buybacks have contributed to the company's financing efforts.
May 8, 2014, 12:40 PM
- "The 3D NAND industry cycle will be longer than historical patterns and SanDisk (SNDK +3.7%) has a longer-term mix shift toward higher value enterprise SSDs and 2D NAND cost advantages," writes Raymond James while upgrading the NAND flash giant to Strong Buy.
- Nomura has upped SanDisk to Neutral and hiked its 2014/2015 estimates. The firm is still worried about the NAND pricing/margin gap that exists between SanDisk and rivals, it thinks "the risks of an earnings miss in 2H14 have declined" amid seasonal improvements and slowing industry supply growth.
- In its investor day slides (.pdf), SanDisk forecasts annual NAND flash industry bit growth will be in a modest 30%-40% range going forward. The company also noted its client SSD sales tripled in 2013 to $922M - SanDisk claims to be the market's #2 vendor. Enterprise sales almost doubled in 2013 to $267M; SanDisk is aiming for over $1B in 2016 enterprise sales.
- Of interest to Seagate (STX +1%) and Western Digital (WDC +1.7%) investors: SanDisk predicts the SSD attach rate for business notebooks will grow to 39% in 2017 from 16% in 2013, and that the rate for consumer notebooks will grow to 21% from 10%. The hard drive industry is already expected to see limited growth due to SSD pressure.
- Both SanDisk and NAND rival Micron (MU +3.3%) have made fresh 52-week highs. Micron rallied last week following a report the company is set to hike DRAM prices.
- Yesterday: SanDisk hiking dividend to $0.30/share
May 1, 2014, 10:06 AM
- Like Seagate (STX -4%), Western Digital (WDC -6.1%) missed FQ3 revenue estimates while beating EPS forecasts. Also like Seagate, it offered light FQ4 guidance on its CC (transcript): Revenue of $3.5B-$3.6B and EPS of $1.65-$1.75 vs. a consensus of $3.72B and $1.89.
- While Seagate estimates March quarter industry hard drive shipments totaled 138M, Western pegs them at 137M. More importantly, the company expects shipments to fall to 130M in the June quarter.
- Goldman notes hyperscale data center owners (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) are getting more efficient with their storage usage, and that this is affecting both Western and Seagate. Seagate is also dealing with inventory issues at enterprise storage OEMs; Western isn't reporting anything similar.
- With SSDs continuing to encroach on hard drives, Western's enterprise SSD sales grew to $134M (+46% Y/Y, still less than 4% of sales) in FQ3, and are expected to outgrow the broader market going forward. Non-PC applications made up 53% of total revenue.
- Western's ASP fell $2 Q/Q to $58 due to.a mix shift towards console hard drive sales. In spite of the ASP drop, gross margin was 30.1%, flat Q/Q and up 90 bps Y/Y, and above guidance of 29.5%. A 29.5% GM is forecast for FQ4.
- $244M was spent on buybacks, up from $150M in FQ2. Free cash flow was $536M vs. $539M a year ago.
- Hard drive controller supplier Marvell (MRVL -1%) is off moderately.
Apr. 30, 2014, 12:45 PM
- In addition to missing FQ3 revenue estimates (while beating on EPS), Seagate (STX -1.3%) guided on its CC (transcript) for FQ4 revenue of "at least" $3.3B, unfavorable to a $3.4B consensus. Gross margin is expected to slip to 28% from an FQ3 level of 28.5% due to seasonality.
- In its earnings slides (.pdf), Seagate estimates industry hard drive shipments totaled 138M in FQ3, down 4M Q/Q but up 2M Y/Y. The company expects unit demand to be "down a few points" in FQ4, but also forecasts 140M-145M shipments for the following two quarters.
- With the industry having consolidated around Seagate, Western Digital (WDC +0.8%), and Toshiba, pricing is expected to be "relatively stable" in FQ4, and price pressure "benign" in 2H14.
- High-margin enterprise drive shipments rose by 200K Y/Y to 7.7M. Desktop shipments managed to grow by 200K to 19.8M after many quarters of declines, but notebook shipments fell another 600K to 16.4M. Consumer electronics shipments fell 400K to 5.4M, and high-margin branded drive shipments rose 200K to 5.9M.
- $184M was spent on buybacks in FQ3. Free cash flow fell to $319M from $713M in FQ2 and $452M a year ago.
- For once, Western isn't following Seagate lower; the company reports after the close. Assembly supplier Hutchison (HTCH -1.4%) is down slightly.
- FQ3 results, PR
Apr. 29, 2014, 4:03 PM
Apr. 14, 2014, 1:37 PM
- Citing improving margins and a favorable hard drive supply/demand balance, Argus has upgraded Seagate (STX +3%) to Buy. Archrival Western Digital (WDC +2.2%) is also rallying.
- Seagate had a 28% GM in its December quarter (flat Q/Q and +100 bps Y/Y), and guided for margins to be roughly flat Q/Q in the March quarter. Western had a 30.1% GM (+30 bps Q/Q and +140 bps Y/Y), and guided for March quarter GM to be near the midpoint of a 27%-32% target range.
- Both companies have seen a margin boost from hard drive industry consolidation. Seagate reports on April 29, and Western on April 30.
Apr. 9, 2014, 4:52 PM
- IDC estimates global PC shipments fell 4.4% Y/Y (less than a 5.3% forecast) in Q1 to 73.4M, after having declined 5.6% in Q4 and 7.6% in Q3. Gartner thinks shipments only fell 1.7%, and totaled 76.6M.
- IDC chalks up the narrower decline to healthy commercial demand, as buyers purchased Windows 7 systems ahead of Microsoft's (MSFT) termination of Windows XP support. The firm also thinks slowing tablet growth helped out.
- IDC thinks Japanese shipments rose 7%, and U.S. shipments only fell 0.6% thanks to 3.5% desktop growth. Emerging Asia-Pac and Latin American markets, where tablet cannibalization is at an earlier stage, remained weak..
- A mix shift towards developed markets benefits both Microsoft (higher ASPs, less piracy) and Intel (INTC - higher ASPs).
- IDC estimates market leader Lenovo (LNVGY) had a 17.7% share, +220 bps Y/Y. #2 H-P's (HPQ) share rose 150 bps to 17.1%, and #3 Dell's 170 bps to 13.4%. #4 Acer's (ASIYF) share fell 130 bps to 6.8%, and #5 Asus' 20 bps to 5.9%.
- The Q1 numbers suggest IDC's prior full-year forecast for a 6% shipment drop might prove too pessimistic.
- Other companies with strong PC exposure: AMD, NVDA, MU, STX, WDC, HTCH
Apr. 1, 2014, 6:40 PM
- With demand pressured by PC weakness and SSD cannibalization, Gartner forecasts global hard drive shipments will post a 2.9% CAGR from 2013-2018, growing from 552M units to 635.1M.
- High-capacity business-critical drives, beloved by Web/cloud service providers, are expected to fuel much of the industry's growth by delivering a 25.1% CAGR. Western Digital's (NASDAQ:WDC) new Helium drives are aimed in large part at this segment.
- The market for high-margin performance-optimized drives, where Seagate (NASDAQ:STX) has a leading position, is expected to see a -4.9% CAGR. In addition, the segment's ASP is expected to fall 17.1% annually.
- PC drives are a mixed bag: Sales of 3.5" desktop drives are expected to see a -7% CAGR, but 2.5" mobile/notebook drives are seen growing at a 4.2% annual clip. CAGR forecasts for 2.5" and 3.5" consumer electronics drives are respectively at 4.4% and 2.4%.
- Though both Seagate and Western have both launched SSDs, Western has been more aggressive at increasing its flash exposure, as evidenced by the sTec, VeloBit, and Virident deals. Seagate is looking to strengthen its hard drive position through the just-closed Xyratex acquisition. Both firms are pitching 5mm-thin ultra-slim hard drives as an alternative to notebook SSDs.
- Other companies with strong industry exposure: MRVL, LSI, HTCH, OTCPK:TOSBF
Mar. 31, 2014, 4:27 PM
- Seagate's (STX) $294M purchase of hard drive equipment/storage subsystem maker Xyratex (XRTX), announced on Dec. 23, is officially on the books.
- With Xyratex's third-party hard drive equipment clients likely to start looking elsewhere, the business is expected to produce just $500M-$600M in revenue during Seagate's FY15 (ends July 3, 2015), and be neutral to EPS during the year. Xyratex had revenue of $814.3M and EPS of $0.15 during its FY13 (ended Nov. '13).
- Analysts have argued Xyratex rival Teradyne (TER) will benefit from the deal, as Western Digital/Toshiba step up their orders.
- Opinions have been mixed on whether the deal is a smart move for Seagate: Those who like it think Seagate's hard drive manufacturing ops and /R&D will benefit from further vertical integration, and see a major opportunity to sell Xyratex's ClusterStor systems to Web/cloud providers. Those who don't are worried about channel conflict with both hard drive equipment buyers and Seagate's storage OEM clients.
Mar. 20, 2014, 5:32 PM
- Seagate (STX +2.8%) chairman/CEO Stephen Luczo, a member of Microsoft's (MSFT +2.7%) board since May 2012, has stepped down.
- Luczo: "With the CEO search completed and Satya off to a strong start, this felt like an appropriate time to make this change so I can turn my full attention to leading Seagate."
- His departure follows a February board shakeup that coincided with Satya Nadella's appointment as CEO. Bill Gates resigned as chairman (while remaining a director), lead independent director replaced him, and Nadella gained a board seat. Since then, ValueAct president Mason Morfit has officially joined.
- Steve Ballmer remains a board member for now. News of Luczo's resignation comes on a day when Microsoft closed above $40 for the first time since 2000.
Mar. 7, 2014, 5:52 PM
- After falling 3.5% Y/Y in Q3, external disk storage system sales rose 2.4% in Q4, says IDC. The growth came even though sales of the servers that interact with these systems fell an estimated 4.4%.
- Total disk storage sales, which include storage subsystems found within servers, rose 1.3% in Q4 after dropping 5.6% in Q3. IDC attributes the turnaround to "traditional year-end budget flushes, improved economic sentiment, and a strong desire to address long-standing storage infrastructure inefficiencies."
- Market leader EMC, which posted strong Q4 numbers to go with light guidance, saw its external disk share rise 220 bps Y/Y to 32.9%, and its total disk share rise 200 bps to 25.8%. The gains largely came at the expense of restructuring IBM, whose shares respectively fell 190 bps and 200 bps to 13% and 14%.
- H-P's (HPQ) external disk share rose 30 bps to 9.6%, and its total disk share 40 bps to 16.3%. NetApp (NTAP), which delivered nearly in-line revenue and soft guidance last month, saw its external share fall 10 bps to 11.5%, and its total share stay flat at 9%. Private Dell's total share fell 140 bps to 9.9%.
- Hard drive/assembly suppliers: STX, WDC, HTCH
Feb. 21, 2014, 9:47 AM
- Seagate (STX +3.3%) has been upgraded to Outperform by RBC.
- ON Semi (ONNN +1%) and Freescale (FSL +1.5%) have been started at Buy by Drexel Hamilton.
- Montage Technology (MONT +0.3%) has been cut to Market Perfrorm by Raymond James, and to Equalweight by Barclays, a day after posting a Q4 beat.
- Telecom New Zealand (NZTCY -0.5%) has been upgraded to Neutral by Citi.
Jan. 28, 2014, 12:45 PM
Jan. 28, 2014, 9:10 AM
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