Monday, 6 November 2023
by Rose White
The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC) index was up as much as 37.2% year-to-date in mid-July, but refreshed economy concerns pumped the brakes on that stellar gain. The same index is down nearly 10% from that yearly peak nowadays — opening buying windows to many top-notch tech stocks.
So we asked a panel of tech experts to share their best buys in this cooler market. Read on as Anders Bylund puts the spotlight on The Trade Desk (NASDAQ: TTD), Billy Duberstein banks on the potential of On Semiconductor (NASDAQ: ON), and Nick Rossolillo explores the nuances of Facebook parent Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: META). You should consider buying the dip with these tech titans.
Billy Duberstein (On Semiconductor): I last recommended On Semiconductor on a prior roundtable at the beginning of 2023. The stock soared as much as 70% during the year but has since fallen all the way back to where it started 2023.
On recently plunged after the company released third quarter earnings. While revenue and adjusted (non-GAAP) earnings per share exceeded expectations, the company’s forward guidance came in lower than expectations. While many industrial sectors were known to be weak, the company noted a major Tier 1 automaker in Europe was slowing down their EV production, as EV sales have slowed greatly amid this year’s higher interest rates.
On got more than half of its revenue last quarter from automotive chips, with the other major segment in power infrastructure, and a small consumer chip businesses that On is actually attempting to exit.
Within auto, which grew 33% last quarter relative to the prior year, the company is fast-growing its output of silicon carbide (SiC) chips. Silicon carbide is a material that’s somewhat difficult to produce, but which allows for greater conductivity in hot and rugged conditions.
As such, SiC is thought to play a key role in the future of electric vehicles, and allowing for greater ranges. Thus, many analysts forecast hypergrowth for SiC chips. According to the Yole SiC market forecast, SiC is supposed to grow at a 33% annualized rate between 2022 and 2027 Currently, On believes it has 35% to 40% share of this key market, and expects to grow SiC at twice the rate of the market’s growth next year. In the third quarter, even though overall revenue declined slightly year over year, On’s SiC revenue rocketed 70% quarter over quarter!
Of course, SiC is a small part of the company’s automotive revenue, which also encompasses regular silicon auto chips, as well as image sensors and other chips for advanced driver-assisted systems. That’s why management still forecast a 4% sequential decline in auto revenues next quarter, despite SiC growth. Meanwhile, On forecast its other segments in industrial and consumer would be down much more.
Still, if this is just a cyclical hiccup for the EV market, it could be a great buy-the-dip opportunity. The stock now trades at 13 times earnings, which is very cheap for a company with strong long-term growth potential.
Meanwhile on the conference call with analysts, CEO Hassan El-Khoury said that while Q4 will have a greater slowdown in customer purchases of silicon carbide than thought, he was still confident in the outlook for EVs:
No, no change on the secular trend for EVs. EVs are going to grow. They’re going to grow for us in the fourth quarter as well. It’s just not going to grow in the fourth quarter at the rate that we expected. And of course, we’re all looking at the same headlines as far as EVs are concerned. I think EVs are a long-term growth opportunity, even with the backdrop of a lot of the headlines that we’re seeing. Customer designs have not slowed down, conversions to EV platforms have not slowed down. I take this as a temporary — while a lot of the macro stuff gets worked out, whether it’s the interest rates, which you called it, the expenses associated with purchasing EVs to the cost — to the energy cost. All of that is just — taken — having an impact, but we do not change our long-term view of the opportunity we have in EV. And like I said, we’re still going to grow in Q4, just not at the rate.
As an investor in On, you have to come to a conclusion: Are electric vehicle sales stalling out because the market for EVs isn’t as large as thought? Or has the recent slowdown been brought about by rapidly rising interest rates, and therefore more of a short-term cyclical phenomenon?
If you think it’s the latter, and that EVs will continue to gain adoption as costs come down, ranges increase, and charging stations become more ubiquitous, then On looks like a steal here at this bargain valuation.
Anders Bylund (The Trade Desk): Digital advertising giant The Trade Desk doesn’t look like a classic value investment at first glance. These shares are changing hands at lofty traditional valuation ratios such as 270 times trailing earnings, 21 times sales, and 68 times free cash flow. It’s enough to send any student of Buffett and Graham running for the hills. Of course this stock is down more than 20% from July’s yearly highs — The Trade Desk was overdue for a price correction!
Well, wait a minute. Yes, digital advertising is going through a painful downturn, starting alongside the inflation crisis two years ago. Ad buyers don’t want to spend a ton of money on marketing campaigns in a compressed economy, where no one stands ready to buy what they are selling. As a result, The Trade Desk’s revenue growth slowed down and profit margins tightened up. Both earnings and cash flows recently emerged on the profitable side of breakeven, and the math gets wonky when calculating valuation ratios based on minuscule profits.
Things are changing as we speak. The economy is getting back on its feet, slowly but surely. Big-ticket ad spending could be back by the all-important holiday season. Recent analyst-stumping results from digital advertising expert Criteo (NASDAQ: CRTO) and the ad-supported social media operator Snap (NYSE: SNAP) certainly point in that direction.
A revitalized advertising market should light a new fire under The Trade Desk, whose services help advertisers make the most of their marketing budgets. The company also incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) in its ad campaign management services. The ad-buying platform is getting a new user interface based on chatbot technologies similar to the popular ChatGPT, talking customers through the process of optimizing their ads across various distribution channels.
And The Trade Desk is turning heads on Wall Street with this combination of an upcoming business rush and dramatic stock price cuts. For example, analysts at Loop Capital calls this setup a “holy grail” period for The Trade Desk and its sector compatriots, where “data and technology” should drive stellar growth over the next few years.
So The Trade Desk’s current situation might seem daunting at first glance, but a deeper dive reveals a company on the cusp of a significant turnaround. With a rejuvenated advertising market and innovative technologies at its disposal, the company is well-positioned to redefine success in the digital space. Despite soaring valuation ratios, The Trade Desk looks like a fantastic buy right now.
Nicholas Rossolillo (Meta Platforms): Meta Platforms’ (aka Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp) astronomical 150%-plus rally in 2023 is finally getting a bit of a pullback. It comes at an interesting time, too: after the company obliterated financial expectations for Q3 2023. Revenue and earnings per share increased 23% and 168%, respectively, versus last year.
You read that right — a 168% increase in earnings per share. How? The duo of revitalized revenue growth and Meta’s profit margins expanding in grandiose fashion (operating margin was 40% in Q3, up from 20% in Q3 2022) did the trick. Pepper in the company’s ongoing stock repurchase program, and it all adds up to a huge bottom-line print for shareholders.
Mark Zuckerberg has now famously named 2023 the “year of efficiency” as the social media giant uses AI to get more done with less. While a huge doubling or more in earnings shouldn’t be expected to be the norm going forward, this last quarter could nevertheless be more than a one-off anomaly. On the earnings call, Zuckerberg said he was pleased with this new way of running the business, and plans to continue infusing AI throughout Meta’s apps and services to stoke more profit from the already-sprawling empire.
Of course, that doesn’t mean experimentation won’t continue. The Reality Labs (RL) segment that houses the Meta Quest 3 virtual reality headset and apps is still bleeding money ($3.7 billion last quarter alone). That and ongoing worry about the health of the global economy is likely what caused the recent dip in the stock. But Meta rakes in so much dough no one would even notice, if not for that pesky corporate name change from Facebook to Meta back in 2021 and the transparency Zuckerberg has offered into the RL biz.
But rather than critique, I look at an ugly line item like RL and see an opportunity for Meta to continue to grow, or otherwise improve its profitability profile even more, in the decade ahead. Shares have fallen a bit from recent peaks after the last earnings update, and still remain over 20% from all-time highs a couple of years ago. At about 18 times expected earnings in 2024, I rate Meta stock at buy-the-dip.
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Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Anders Bylund has positions in Criteo and The Trade Desk. Billy Duberstein has positions in Meta Platforms and The Trade Desk. His clients may own shares of the companies mentioned. Nicholas Rossolillo has positions in Meta Platforms, ON Semiconductor, and The Trade Desk. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Meta Platforms and The Trade Desk. The Motley Fool recommends Criteo and ON Semiconductor. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.