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After Earnings, Is Applied Materials Stock a Buy, Sell, or Fairly Valued?

With sales slightly above expectations, here’s what we think of Applied Materials’ stock.

Signage with logo at the Silicon Valley headquarters of semiconductor company Applied Materials, Santa Clara, California, August 17, 2017.
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Applied Materials Inc

Applied Materials AMAT released its fiscal second-quarter earnings report on May 16. Here’s Morningstar’s take on Applied Materials’ earnings and the outlook for its stock.

Key Morningstar Metrics for Applied Materials

What We Thought of Applied Materials’ Fiscal Q2 Earnings

  • We raised our fair value estimate to $168 from $152, based on improved medium-term growth prospects from more chip complexity, with artificial intelligence as a driver.
  • We continue to see Applied Materials as overvalued. We see this stock trading cyclically and think it is firmly at the start of an upward trend. We believe the stock trades as if robust upcycle growth will continue long-term, while we bake in both up- and downcycles over time.
  • Applied is seeing good growth out of cutting-edge chips for AI, which is somewhat offset by continuing weakness in the analog and NAND memory chip markets.

Applied Materials Stock Price

Fair Value Estimate for Applied Materials Stock

With its 2-star rating, we believe Applied’s stock is overvalued compared with our long-term fair value estimate of $168 per share. Our valuation implies a fiscal 2024 adjusted price/ earnings multiple of 20 times and a fiscal 2024 enterprise value/sales multiple of 5 times. The biggest drivers to our valuation are the cyclical growth of wafer fab equipment spending and Applied’s ability to increase market share.

We forecast 7% compound annual sales growth through fiscal 2028, inclusive of cyclicality. In fiscal 2024, we project lower growth in the low-single digits as the semiconductor market remains soft. Memory chipmakers have slashed equipment spending as they work to raise profitability and cash generation, and logic chipmakers have also seen softer demand. We expect growth for Applied’s services business to pad revenue and avoid a top-line decline in this down year. We project strong growth for Applied in a cyclical rebound across fiscal 2025 and 2026, with midcycle growth in the mid-to-high single digits thereafter.

Read more about Applied Materials’ fair value estimate.

Applied Materials Stock vs. Morningstar Fair Value Estimate

Economic Moat Rating

We assign Applied Materials a wide moat, based on intangible assets and switching costs. Applied’s proficiency in WFE comes from top-notch design expertise, in our view, and we think the firm’s embedded services business and long-term customer roadmaps are sticky. We also believe the sheer amount of investment required to remain at the forefront of leading chip development (particularly across so many subsections of the market) creates an immense barrier to entry for all but the largest and best-capitalized chip equipment manufacturers. We expect Applied to earn returns on invested capital well above its cost of capital for the next 20 years.

We think Applied holds the most comprehensive portfolio of equipment for semiconductor manufacturing in the world. Its product lines run the gamut of chip manufacturing, can serve logic and memory chipmakers alike with cutting-edge equipment, and have offerings in nearly every category spanning the spectrum of cost and capability. While many WFE peers occupy one or two corners of the market, Applied meaningfully plays in them all. The only exception is lithography, where ASML Holding ASML has a vise grip.

Read more about Applied Materials’ moat rating.

Financial Strength

We expect Applied to focus on generating strong cash flow while prioritizing research and development investment. We also expect it to remain moderately leveraged. As of October 2023, Applied held a net cash position, with $6.9 billion in cash and liquid investments compared with $5.6 billion in total debt. We like Applied’s strong balance sheet, which is supported by long-dated debt, most of which doesn’t come due until after 2030. Applied also has a $1.5 billion revolver it could tap into if needed.

Read more about Applied Materials’ financial strength.

Risk and Uncertainty

We assign a High Uncertainty Rating to Applied Materials. The firm is prone to the cyclicality of the semiconductor industry, with times of oversupply and lower capital expenditures followed by times of strong demand and more manufacturing buildouts. Applied’s results can fluctuate with semiconductor end demand, but we still believe it can grow over the long term.

Applied also faces risks from geopolitical uncertainty, primarily between the United States and China. The US government has levied export restrictions on advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment, which limits Applied’s ability to ship to Chinese chipmakers. This impact has already been digested, and we believe Applied can largely compensate through demand elsewhere in the world. Still, there is a risk that restrictions ramp up further and become a headwind to sales.

Read more about Applied Materials’ risk and uncertainty.

AMAT Bulls Say

  • Applied Materials is the largest WFE provider in the world, with the broadest portfolio and the largest R&D budget of its peers.
  • We expect Applied to benefit from drivers of chip complexity, like gate-all-around transistors and advanced packaging.
  • Applied has strong profit margins and cash flow, and it sends most of that cash flow back to shareholders.

AMAT Bears Say

  • We consider Applied Materials to be a generalist in WFE. The firm competes with more specialized competitors like Lam Research LRCX and KLA KLAC, which could outcompete it in their respective markets.
  • Applied faces cyclicality in the semiconductor market, which can lead to years that see lower sales and margin compression.
  • Applied faces risk from geopolitical tensions between the US and China that may further inhibit its ability to ship to Chinese chipmakers.

This article was compiled by Sokhoeun Noeut.

The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

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About the Author

William Kerwin, CFA

Equity Analyst
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William Kerwin, CFA, is an equity analyst on the technology team for Morningstar Research Services LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Morningstar Inc. He covers the IT supply chain, hardware, and semiconductor stocks.

Before joining the firm full-time in 2019, Kerwin was an intern on Morningstar's basic materials team.

Kerwin holds a Bachelor of Science in economics with a math emphasis and French from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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