Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) investors are likely worried after the company announced that its business will take a hit on account of lower information technology (IT) infrastructure spending and restricted shipments to Huawei.
Management’s guidance for the current quarter was muted, sowing seeds of uncertainty about the direction the memory market might take in the coming months. But the memory specialist is sitting on lucrative tailwinds such as the growth of 5G wireless networks that could help the company regain its mojo. And now, Micron investors can count on another potential boost in the form of a rebounding PC (personal computer) market.
The PC market is showing signs of life
PC sales have increased lately as the coronavirus pandemic has forced people to remain indoors, triggering a shift toward remote working and online education. According to Gartner, PC shipments in the third quarter of 2020 jumped 3.6% year-over-year to 71.4 million units — the strongest demand for consumer PCs that it has seen in the last five years.
The Gartner study didn’t include Chromebooks in its readings, but that’s another bright spot for the PC industry as shipments of the device jumped 90% year-over-year during the third quarter. The research firm added that strong consumer PC demand was the driving force behind the increase in shipments last quarter, while businesses have also continued their purchase of devices to enable remote work.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, around 25% to 30% of the workforce in the U.S. is likely to work from home for multiple days every week by the end of 2021. By comparison, only 3.6% of the workforce in the U.S. is estimated to work from home at least half the time at the moment.
The shift toward remote work isn’t surprising, as the change is expected to help employers in the U.S. save around $30 billion daily during the pandemic. As a result, the increased adoption of remote work is likely to lead to higher sales of PCs, with IDC predicting that shipments could grow 3.3% in full-year 2020.
Offices and schools are reportedly purchasing more PCs this year to avoid potential supply shortages and to ensure the continuity of their operations. This is one of the factors that may result in stronger DRAM (dynamic random access memory) demand and boost memory prices from the first quarter of 2021, along with other factors such as an uptick in mobile and server demand.
Micron investors to see more upside
The potential improvement in the memory market dynamics has led Deutsche Bank to upgrade Micron stock from neutral to buy with a $60 price target — an upside of around 15% from current levels. The chipmaker’s business is already turning around, and higher memory prices linked to the improved PC market should positively impact its largest segment, the compute and networking business unit (CNBU).
Micron’s CNBU revenue was up 59% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 thanks to “continued strength in the cloud and client segments, following the work-from-home infrastructure build-out, as well as growth in demand from gaming consoles.” The segment’s quarterly revenue of $3.0 billion was nearly half of the company’s overall top line, and its strong momentum helped Micron record 24% year-over-year revenue growth during the quarter.
The good news for Micron is that these catalysts are expected to last. For instance, new gaming consoles are slated to go on sale during the holiday period. They could turn out to be a multi-year growth driver for Micron — the new console cycle is just beginning, which means the company should see strong demand in the initial years as consumers upgrade from older devices.
Additionally, improved sales of PCs should also be a tailwind for Micron’s storage business, which includes sales of solid-state drives (SSDs) used in the client, consumer, and enterprise and cloud markets. Mordor Intelligence estimates that the SSD market could clock an annual growth rate of nearly 15% through 2025 and hit over $80 billion in revenue by the end of the forecast period.
Micron generated nearly 18% of its total revenue from the storage business last year, so the potential growth of this segment promising. And with the other bullish dynamics discussed above, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Micron Technology stock step on the gas and deliver strong returns in the coming months.