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Micron: A Rogues Gallery Of DRAM Price Predictors

May 05, 2018 10:36 AM ETMicron Technology, Inc. (MU)AAPL885 Comments
Electric Phred profile picture
Electric Phred


  • Apple makes great products.  I love mine.
  • Apple executives don't have the best track record on DRAM price predictions.
  • DRAM contract pricing remains strong having firmed up 3% in the past month, even as spot pricing has been drooping.
  • Analysts need to pay more attention to the profitability and not just the price.  Sure the Average Selling Price will drop over time. But if cost reductions keep up, margins should do fine.
  • Micron has finally almost caught up to the pack on DRAM technology.  They lead the pack on NAND with the most dense offering of any competitor, and a good road map.

Back in February 2017 I ran an article with this memorable quote from Apple's (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook:

Now let me add an Apple executive quote from this week:

And to complete this rogues gallery of DRAM price prognosticators, led me add this quote from the analyst that Seeking Alpha readers love to hate, Timothy Arcuri, a recent addition to UBS:

On this last rogue, let me tip my hat to the commentary of SA's William Tidwell and SA's Zynath Investment. Tidwell points out that Arcuri fails to consider loss of wafer starts due to node migration to finer geometries and the attendant inhalation of fab floor space. Zynath wonders where the 170,000 wafers per month are coming from and why UBS thinks a roof on a building means a fab is even close to production.

While I don't happen to agree with Arcuri, and think his report was a slap dash affair bewitched by satellite imagery, his record at Cowen bears watching like this from a 3/2/17 report while he was at his alma mater:

Let me go on record as saying that I don't think we are about to have a meltdown in DRAM Average Selling Prices based on a flood of new wafer starts in 2018. The price reduction will happen in time, but this is not that time. And when it does happen, analysts had best go to school on what the profitability effects are from this current round of node shrinks into the 1x, 1y, and 1z universe. A shrinking ASP is not the end of the world, especially if node shrinks are bringing in the kind of profitability Micron (NASDAQ:MU) has recently witnessed.

OK so that's what the rogues are saying. What are knowledgeable souls who are not talking their own book saying? Whew, glad

This article was written by

Electric Phred profile picture
Have made bundles in rust belt. Have made-- and lost-- bundles in high tech. Former registered rep, business degree, doing vc and private company investments, while looking for stock picks on a regular basis.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I am/we are long MU. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Comments (885)

David_LI profile picture
Nvidia's GTX 1180 production should kick off with the new SK Hynix memory deal

CCYN profile picture
Thanks David. Hynix share price hit new high yesterday (May 23 KST) on news of its supply contract to Nvidia. MU is only 2% off from its 52-wk (closing) high.
linklinklink profile picture

Nvidia will be using multiple suppliers... but why was Nvidia's CEO in so many of Micron's advertisement videos at the conference on Monday? Hmmmmmmmmmmm... ;)
Auto memory
Vet67to82 profile picture
In looking back thru my comments and notes regarding 'packaging', I found this comment I made on a previous EP article on SA:
"One other benefit to listening to Conference calls, fireside chats, etc. are the notes I make to myself like the CFO CC where I heard " ... 80 PERCENT packaging ...". Now, notes to my self ask if that was Micron's goal ... or if Micron had actually achieved 80 PERCENT packaging ... because determining the answer to those questions (which analysts that are PAID to analyze should already have done ... ) goes (1) a long way to explaining some of Micron's boost in margins ... besides rising chip prices, (2) will put all current and future "chips as commodities" articles in the HOMEWORK FAIL category ....
When I find and listen to the CFO CC again ... I'll post the quote and the link
Sep 27, 2017. 03:11 PMLink
Micron Technology: What About Chip Prices? - Electric Phred"
... and my comment above, per this conference:

"PACKAGING: On page 68 you will see Micron was selling chips as 'chips' 61%, OR at 39% 'packaging' for FY2017 and plans to be selling chips as 'chips' down to approximately 20% by FY2021 OR at at 80% packaging ... $$$$ Ka-ching! Ka-ching!!"

... guess I was NOT hearing things, and the CFO Ernie M dropping the "80%" number could have done a MUCH better job, either then and there, or at any of the conferences since then ... of explaining that was the long term goal ... which might have helped long term shareholders by forcing Sell-Side analysts to do a better job than T.A. of UBS.

See I am listening ... just wish I didn't have to wait so long for a Micron confirmation that I heard what I thought I heard. I mean, look at what Micron's PERFORMANCE was for 2017 with only THIRTY-NINE percent packaging ... and extrapolate that out with eighty percent packaging ... the numbers would have you calling me insane ... and I'd probably be agreeing with you.
johndkopta profile picture
Hey good Vet67to82,

Lay those wild child numbers on us good man.

My throat's a bit dry and my tin foil hat could use a good buffing up. Nothing like one's own oddball drool for a good spit polish to get the foil gleaming, however, in a pinch, someone else's crazy musings will do.

After all, we lived through Crazy Eddie;
and now we have "Spygate", just how nutty could your thoughts be ?


Anybody else liking the early-ish release of the Q3 results on 20 June ?
Gotta go back to 2014 to get a release date close to being this early:

Micron F Q3 release dates:
29 June, 2017
30 June, 2016
26 June, 2015
23 June, 2014

I'm thinking that, maybe, they want to keep the good news, positive press vibe rolling.

A little empirical data:


On the other hand......Maybe Sanjay hasn't gotten out of that timeshare in Mexico for the last week of June. He should have listened to the wife; she told him it was a lame idea.

Peace all.
linklinklink profile picture
June 20-21st is the likeliest in my honest opinion.
johndkopta profile picture
It's 20 June good link³.

They did a press release this AM:

johndkopta profile picture
Good Tattoo123,

Ya know for all my professed deep love for the darlin' MU, true as it may be, I still keep buying my protective puts.
Pennies for peace of mind. For I have, as I'm sure others on this board have also, sung this song one too many times:



I wonder where King Waffler on darlin' MU, a.k.a. Jim Cramer, is going to land.
Like a month ago he was calling darlin' MU a "cult stock" and comparing it to Bethlehem Steel. Last I saw last week he was saying it's "igniting a rally", "incredible action".
Now I respect folks who admit they were wrong, change their mind, and move on. Been there, done that. But he's been awful. Buy, sell, buy, sell, hold, sell...etc.. Be interesting to see what he has to say next.

I'm guessing he's joined the cult.

He's gonna look pretty snappy in that saffron robe, banging that mini tambourine and chanting 'Hari Micron, Hari, Hari Micron'. At least the dudes in the airports always seemed really happy.
Then again...I'm sitting here in my tin foil hat, talking about "darlin' MU", and chanting ' MU's got the MO, MU's got the Mo'.
Best to remember that thing about sin and casting stones.

Darlin' MU's got a big barn; lots of room for all kind of folks.
Just gotta believe.


How 'bout that darlin' MU !

She got the Mo, or what.

Peace, my friend.
kscopes profile picture
Good Mr. ..k...:

I am on tape delay so I haven't watched the Waffler interview with our dear leader yet, but in the lead up to Mad Mullah, I am watching an interesting Mia Culpa from a UBS "Strategist"!! No, not THAT UBS strategist,a big dog named Keith Parker, who downgraded tech in general back in March. Lots of mumbo jumbo but then he talks about what, in tech, he likes: "software and services" and "select tech hardware" blahblahblah....
He just can't say: Micron. Right after that, Guy Adami credits him for changing his tune and then goes right into the crux of the matter and brings up Micron as a "microcosm of how hard this can be".

Adami then says: "Micron goes from 60 to 48 SEEMINGLY (my caps) without any real reason, analysts all downgraded at the bottom now everybody's tripping themselves...It's very difficult. ( Then he recommends Salesforce and talks about his respect for this analyst!)

I say this to Guy: No, it went from 60 to 48 for REAL reasons of bigboy analysts and media who, either,

1) came out with FUD to feather their own nests!, or
2) are very ill-informed (or lazy?)
Why is it so hard to call out a person or persons who made such a totally horrible speculative call based on No Facts! Either way, these folks should not be offered "due respect".
i would add the Guy Adami is just wrong. One or two downgrades, but most upgraded and/or upped PT (see my posts on the list of those which I'll do again this quarter). They stayed silent for the most part but the couple sell/peak/etc calls got lots of play and not enough re-iterated.
absarokeedave profile picture
We will soon see co-authored article by UBS and RC on why MU stinks and is overpriced...
i_am_seeker_2 profile picture
DRAMeXchange comes out with an essay that supports Micron's views of stronger for longer. TTID.

The Upcoming Connected Era Will Drive the Demand for Memory Products, Yet Suppliers Need to Make Breakthroughs in Costs and Overcome Technical Barriers, Says TrendForce

The upcoming fully connected era has witnessed influx of data, driving the construction of data centers. The amount of data will keep growing at multiples in the next 5 to 10 years. Key techniques like edge computing and 5G, which emphasizes high transmission efficiency, low latency and wide area connection, will lead the next wave of smart technology. Against this background, various types of chips and sensors will see explosive growth, says DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce. The demand for DRAM and NAND products will also increase.

In the framework of 5G, not only communication devices or handsets, but also other smart devices like smart vehicles, smart homes, smart cities, will all benefit from the wider and denser connection of 5G networks. As for edge computing, a computing unit is added between traditional cloud and end devices to help retrieve, filter, aggregate, and analyze real-time data before giving prompt respond to the devices. In this process, there is no need to upload all the data to the cloud. Meanwhile, edge computing reduces the time delay caused by data transmission and lowers the costs for data storage. In addition to complementing 5G technology, edge computing also enhances the data processing with the help of AI. In the future, data processing will be first performed at the edge, which will provide better consumer experiences.

Electric Phred profile picture
And here's Citi today, which just epitomizes the problem the sell side analysts have:

"Micron doing all it can, we still fear the cycle. Micron is executing well and
returning capital. However, we still fear that NAND supply will grow in excess of
demand following massive NAND industry Capex in 2017 and 2018."

They are at neutral with a $60 price target. Their estimates are 2018 11.15, 2019 8.53, 2020 8.44.
PerpetualBull11 profile picture
Those EPS numbers are actually pretty bullish in my eyes. If $8.50 is the worst it gets for MU, how can they not be reassigned a more appropriate P/E? If MU executes for 4 more consecutive quarters, does that mean that the cycle is over?
Those estimates just say they don’t believe Micron’s management. Why would Micron do a share buyback at a number larger than they will make in profits? They won’t. People want them to make FY2019 projections....well they pretty much did when they said they will return 50% of FCF to investors and plan on $10B for the fiscal year. Buckle up, this train is just getting started.
"we still fear", "we still fear" - sounds like Citi needs a shrink as much as a better modeling approach.
Electric Phred profile picture
In the mornings comedy routine, UBS has raised their price target to $42 but still has a sell rating. I hope Mr. Arcuri knows this parade is leaving without him. this is not FAKE NEWS:

"MU’s new management team hosted an analyst day that reinforced our view that MU

is a structurally improved company in a structurally improved industry, though offered

little to sway the debate on 2019 costs, pricing, or margins - the key debate factor for

the stock at this point and at this price. Based largely on the new repo, we raise our

price target from $38 to $42, though we maintain our Sell rating due to what we see

as a potentially significant correction in MU’s C2019/2020 margins and EPS. If recent

signs that Samsung is reacting almost real-time to some market dislocation in NAND

prove sustainable, we may revisit this negative view."
EP - thanks for the disclaimer "this is not fake news" - I have a hard enough time not getting confused in the morning.
Timmy41 profile picture
Pretty sure we saw a different presentation than UBS did.
Vet67to82 profile picture
Great points EP. Clearly, they were not paying attention, or didn't comprehend the significance of the pages I pointed out in my comment above ... like the trend in reducing the sale of chips as 'chips' as chips to approximately 20 percent. The 80 percent as 'packaging' goes to supporting margins thru 2021 and beyond ... so how do analysts, PAID to analyse, miss, or not get that????
ken_price profile picture
EP - would love your commentary on the recent investor day and the impact on the convertible debt. Do you like what they are doing?
Electric Phred profile picture

Anything that gets these converts retired is a good thing. I do think they could be more aggressive rather than just sitting and waiting for holders to present them for conversion. I've long been in favor of a Dutch Auction where holders name their price and the company selects how many to redeem given the array of prices. Zinsner is in a very different league than Foster and Maddock and perhaps he will step up and be more aggressive.
Many thx to the contributors and the BoB. The PE is going to start rising in the months and years to come this analysts day certainly will be remembered as the kick off.

A balanced summary of the 4h conference:

Tiernan Ray for Barron's

Monday afternoon in midtown Manhattan, Micron Technology (MU) Chief Executive Sanjay Mehrotra kicked off the company's analyst day event with an array of statistics about how demand for the company's parts is going through the roof, how the company is building chips more efficiently than in the past, and how the production of bits by the entire industry is more “stable” than at any time in the company's past.

His talk followed the company this morning raising its forecast for quarterly revenue and profit.

Among the eye-opening stats, server computers for artificial intelligence require six times the amount of DRAM and two times the amount of flash-based solid-state drives, or SSDs, with Micron being one of only three companies in the world that make both kinds of chips.

Said Mehrotra, the number of AI-capable servers in the industry are going from a “tiny sliver” of all servers to nearly half of all shipments by 2025. Those demand trends are leading to what Mehrotra called a “virtuous cycle” that is driving memory-chip usage.

He predicted the data center market for both chips combined will rise from $29 billion annually last year to $62 billion by 2021. In mobile devices, the value of the memory-chip market will go from $45 billion to $54 billion by then. And the other two important markets, memory chips in cars, and the Internet of Things, would surge from $2.5 billion annually to $5.9 billion annually, and from $9 billion to $16 billion, respectively, as higher levels of autonomy in cars, and the explosion of connected devices, consume ever more memory, and memory chips become a larger component of the “bill of materials” of a device.

One juicy example: by 2021, most “premium” smartphones will have 12 gigabytes of DRAM and one terabyte of NAND flash.

Mehrotra's head of technology, Scott DeBoer, said the company today faces the need to be “very uniquely thoughtful" about how technology is adapted to individual markets, in contrast to the generic needs of the past.

“These things have to be comprehended in very early stage of the development,” he said, referring to things such as reliability in data centers versus power consumption budgets in mobile devices.

DeBoer said the company was gaining the “confidence” to work on more and more forms of DRAM and things that are disruptive. That includes the current “1Y” technology and three forthcoming flavors, “1Z,” “1-alpha,” and “1-beta.”

DeBoer pointed out the many ways the company has improved its manufacturing. In five years, for example, the company's NAND flash has gone from a 65% “gap” in the density of chips relative to competitors in 2013 to a 15% lead on those companies.

Among the more tantalizing tidbits: Micron is going to be introducing a product based on the “3-D Xpoint” technology it has developed with Intel (INTC), in the latter half of next year. So far, Intel is the only one that has shipped product based on 3-D Xpoint, which it brands "Optane." (More on Intel here.)

But Mehrotra and his other executives declined to offer details on those products, an interesting mystery punctuating the talk.

One product that was introduced was the world’s first “four-bits-per-cell” solid-state drive.

“To some extent you have to be a NAND physicist to understand it and think it's great,” said DeBoer, to general laughter from the audience.

Micron turns 40 this year, and Mehrotra pointed out the company has filed over 40,000 patents in that time, over 1,000 patents a year.

Micron has “the best technology portfolio in the world, bar none,” said Mehrotra, meaning, of all chip companies in any areas of semiconductors.

He then showed a video of testimonials from various customers and partners, among them, Nvidia (NVDA) CEO JensenHuang, who spoke about how the companies collaborate on what the memory-chip design needs to be to address GPU needs, and how the companies go to market. “The collaboration is really really deep.”

The big exciting news for the financial types came at the end of the day, when Micron Chief Financial Officer David Zinsner said the company will undertake a $10 billion share repurchase starting in the fiscal year that begins in September. That announcement drew gasps from the audience, and Zinsner joked that he had been tempted to rip off his mic and walk off stage, which drew big laughs from the audience.

Micron shares today closed up $2.09, or almost 4%, at $55.48.
This one was easy, they included it in the presentation

Mr Investor profile picture
Barron's has some valuable quotes from the meeting:


Among them:

"Romit Shah of Instinet, who, like Moore, has been a bull on the stock, asked Zinsman what would happen to profit if prices for NAND flash chips were do drop by 50% at some point. He noted that last year, the company made roughly $5 per share in earnings on $20 billion in revenue. The average Street estimate for this fiscal year is $29.39 billion in revenue and $11 per share in earnings, although that figure is probably going to go higher pretty quickly after today’s upbeat presentation, especially with buybacks on the way.

Asked Shah, could earnings in a downturn still be, say, $8 per share?

“It's a theoretical exercise,” said Zinsman, "but I think it's safe to assume it could be incrementally better than that,” again prompting laughter from the audience."


So, between that, the share repurchase program, the $6/shr in operating profit improvement from company efforts since 2016, and everything else, what are folks thinking trough EPS will be? Guessing it might be far higher than many investors were thinking, and if so, a much higher multiple is finally coming.
bubbleking profile picture
You would think Barrons could get the CFO's name right.
linklinklink profile picture
I've recorded the conference for posterity purposes. This is the moment that we get a declared Micron share buyback program. I've archived it and I'll look back in 30 years when I'm retired (likely a lot sooner ;) )

linklinklink profile picture
Here's Sanjay's intro :)

linklinklink profile picture
and here's the CNBC response... the analysts are such hacks.

i_am_seeker_2 profile picture
I recall that when Sanjay was named the CEO, one of the posters here lambasted it, saying that Eli Harari was the "real brains" behind Sandisk and Sanjay was just a fifth wheel, a pet for Eli.

Boy was that wrong. I remember writing that Sanjay was the perfect choice and had effectively been training for this job for his entire professional career. Not that I was the only one saying that his appointment was a "home run".
bubbleking profile picture
I'm guessing our trip from $62 to $45 may have solidified the buyback option.
bubble......INDEED (I was always on BB first and wait on divi!).
Vet67to82 profile picture
Well ladies and gentlemen, this conference dismantled T.A. of UBS's analysis POINT by POINT Great presentation, great guidance update, and Job well done.
... if you didn't listen to the nearly 4 hour Conference including the Q&A ... I want to point out what I've previously noted that CFO EM's vague reference/hint stated, that Micron was either looking to achieve 80% packaging, ... or might have been at 80% packaging,
view or download the PDF (before it disappears):

May 21, 2018 1:30 PM ET
2018 Micron Analyst and Investor Event
View Webcast : http://bit.ly/2kbQ1Z4

PACKAGING: On page 68 you will see Micron was selling chips as 'chips' 61%, OR at 39% 'packaging' for FY2017 and plans to be selling chips as 'chips' down to approximately 20% by FY2021 OR at at 80% packaging ... $$$$ Ka-ching! Ka-ching!!
(1) packaging multiple Micron chips leads to higher revenues, margins, and earnings ... so, if anyone HYPES chips as commodities ... tell thm to LOOK at the slide ...
(2) if anyone HYPES 'peak margins' tell them to read the slide ...

Micron (see page 92) also talked about scaling of its next node 96 layer, CMOS under Array, NAND with floating gate ** and *** charge trap ... postulating Micron's tech could work with 200 plus layers without EUV ... (see page 88) and please listen to the Conference.

I have to go back and listen again.
Vet, nice notes. I have a few #'s to back it up. Let's compare FYQ2 to FYQ3 pre from this am.
Q2 $7.351B revenue and $3.495B Net income -> $2.82 eps
Q3 pre. 7.750B revenue and $3.14 eps (midpoint) with 1.238b shares 3.14*1.238B= $3.887B Net income.

So Q3 grew revenue $399m and net income grew $392m!!!! All but $7m in additional Q3 revenue flowed straight thru to net income!!!! INCREDI-frickin-BLE! TTID.

Many great contributors and posters tutored all who would listen, do a bit of due diligence and then put the story together - TTID. Cost reductions per bit are now essentially offsetting increased bits and higher revenue is literally flowing to the bottom line.

Note #2. Already $10B + in net income assuming Q3 comes in as calculated. Actual is $10.376B. So trailing 3 quarters pays for FY19 buyback!

JDK, how about "The Stones"....Start Me Up! 'Cause if you start me up I'll never stop, never stop........
i_am_seeker_2 profile picture
>>So Q3 grew revenue $399m and net income grew $392m!!!! All but $7m in additional Q3 revenue flowed straight thru to net income!!!! INCREDI-frickin-BLE! TTID. <<
Actually, that part isn't that different. There have always been high fixed costs that were difficult to cut even in bad times, but once the overhead was met, the company becomes a cash machine as the revenue flows to the bottom line without more investment.
kscopes profile picture
awe c'mon I_am_seeker_2, us Micron Faithful ought to get to go "fricken" wild at least once every quarter!!!!!!!......
flintstone277 profile picture
WOW! What a great day!! Thanks to all you "band of brothers" for helping me stay focused and strong. LONNNNNNNG MU
linklinklink profile picture
Flintstone277, we've all part of the same team so thank you for sticking it out too! We'll be rewarded with our Micron investment!

If any new people are curious about Flint's Band of Brothers reference, I've attached the quote below :)

Congratulations everyone! This is going to be life altering for me, and I'll continue to hold MU for a very long time :)

"@ EP

I speak for everyone on here when I say that you have my deepest thanks for all your time spent pondering the wonders of this magnificent transition the memory industry is experiencing. Yourself, Russ, William and many others are absolutely incredible devoting your free time to give selfless advice to others. So Thank You

I don't know if anyone else feels this way, but the Micron forum on SA feels like the Band of Brothers. We're all on the same team, we're going to carry each other and we're not going to leave a single man or woman behind.

Before I leave EP, I'm going to link a couple inspirational links that may spark your creativity:



I look forward to your next article in less than 60 days :)
Nov 2, 2017. 10:36 PMLink
Micron Technology: Chips Ahoy! - Electric Phred"
Here here!
Link, I remember the day fondly, but thanks for the update and welcome..........REPLA... LOL only BoB fans will get that one.

Flint, I knew you summed it up perfectly for all of us and I know that I threw in with the BoB!
And David Zinsner said it on the record that buyback was approved instead of dividends because they believe P/E is unreasonably low and buyback would have more value for shareholders. Whoa!
Stephan Botzki profile picture
It also makes sense because when they initiate the dividend there will be less shares to pay out to. This way makes a lot of sense for long term investors. I still would have liked both. Like a little smaller buyback and a $0.20 to $0.25 quarterly dividend. However, I very much like the aggressive debt retirement with following share buy back. We have been waiting so long, I can wait a little longer.
Don’t forget the tax treatment of dividend vs buyback. You pay taxes on dividend when they are Pd. Capital gains only when you sell! On top of the PE being to low I am always more in favor of buyback.
Mr Investor profile picture
Between the giant $10bil stock repurchase program, the $6bil + $3bil =$6/shr operating profit improvement discussion, the further hinting at a divvy, and the expanded discussion of movement away from chip merchant to value-added partner, the low multiple is almost certainly going to be going up now. All 4 of these things shout out: no need to worry about trough earnings getting crushed anymore!
Article out on the new QLC SSD from the Reg

Also $6 billion in debt retirement which include $1.2 bil in the converts. MU is using cash for the convert retirement. So in the present Q and next they will spend that $6 bil and Zinser said that MU will still be cash positive if not this Q then for sure by fy4q.
drchet profile picture
essentially starting the buyback NOW!!
kscopes profile picture
Sanjay finished by inviting everybody to join them in the cocktail hour following the presentation.
Methinks a lot of drinking will be going on there starting with CFO doing the first toast and maybe doing the most drinking: What great timing he had in taking on this new job!!
I still have lots of work to do but, I think it's Beeer-o-clock right now....
kscopes right on! It's five o'clock somewhere and for MU longs, it's 5 o'clock everywhere!

jdk, you belief in your darlin' is looking good today.

Closed us a deuce and change. Now buyback news has it up another deuce AH!

WT, I say MICRON! You say BUYBACK. I say buyback and you say MICRON!
William Tidwell profile picture

I like it!
johndkopta profile picture
Good kscopes,

During my drinking days, I always found the observation that the ladies tended to get prettier and wittier with each successive cocktail (and, I suppose, the corollary from the Ladies post cocktail point of view was that I became less ugly, more studly) to be true.

In that that option is no longer available pour moi, I have to say that with each additional point on the darlin' MU's share price, some of her more, how shall I say, "direful" qualities certainly do tone down.
For as Benjamin Franklin said; "There are three faithful friends - an old wife, an old dog, and ready money".

Darlin' MU's been getting mighty friendly lately.
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