The narrative in the semiconductor market right now is pretty simple, and it’s exceptionally favorable for chip giant Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD). In a nutshell, the CPU market is defined by two players: the small guy, AMD, and the big guy, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).
Source: Matthew Rutledge via Flickr
For a long time, Intel has leveraged its scale, resource, and reach advantages to crush AMD. But, over the past three years, AMD has innovated more quickly that Intel and, in so doing, has launched next-gen chips more quickly than Intel. AMD has consequently gained share on Intel, especially in the all-important data center market. In response, AMD stock has gone from a $2 stock in early 2016, to a $27 stock today.
But this narrative is starting to wind down.
To be sure, AMD is still growing much more quickly than Intel where it matters. The company will continue to gain market share for the foreseeable future. But current trends imply that Intel is also finally catching up where it matters. Thus, the pace of AMD market share gains will likely slow for the foreseeable future.
As the pace of AMD’s market share gains slows, so will the pace of gains in AMD stock. Broadly speaking, AMD stock has risen by nearly 15-fold over the past three years. It won’t rise another 15-fold over the next three years.
Instead, fundamentals imply that AMD stock has just about 50% upside to $40 over the next three years. That’s still good upside. But, it’s not huge upside. As such, investors should expect more tempered gains going forward for AMD stock.
The Market Share Expansion Narrative Is Losing Momentum
Over the past three years, AMD’s ability to rapidly expand its market share in the semiconductor market has led to AMD stock rising by a factor of 15. But, this market share expansion narrative is starting to lose momentum. As it does, the pace of gains in AMD stock will likely slow, too.
Intel has long been Goliath in the CPU industry. AMD has long been David. But AMD has innovated with impressive pace over the past several years, while Intel has simultaneously faced multiple production delays. The result? AMD has launched next-gen chips. Intel has not. This has led to AMD gradually and consistently chipping away at Intel’s dominance in the CPU market.
This is especially true in the all-important data center market. As we all know, the real growth narrative in the semiconductor market is on the data side of things. On that side of the market, Intel is the giant, but AMD is growing much more quickly. Last quarter, AMD’s data center GPU sales more than doubled year over year, while Intel’s data center sales dropped 6%.
These market share gains will continue for AMD. The company still has a first-to-market and supply advantage over Intel. So long as that remains true, AMD’s market share will continue to grow.
But that advantage won’t last forever. Indeed, it is already becoming increasingly narrow. Specifically, after years of delays, Intel is finally ready to start shipping 10nm processors in large volumes. That’s big, because it was AMD’s ability to get 10nm chips out to market first that allowed AMD to gain market share. With those 10nm processors now ready to ship, Intel expects its CPU supply shortages to start easing in June. In response, vendors like Dell and HP are reportedly planning on stepping up orders with Intel and cutting back on orders with AMD.
In other words, the AMD market share expansion narrative will start winding down in June. It should continue to wind down over the subsequent months, as Intel yet again flexes its scale, resource and reach advantages. As that narrative winds down, AMD stock will slow down, too.
Fundamentals Pave Path to $40 In 3 Years
In the big picture, while the AMD market share expansion narrative is winding down, it isn’t stopping, either. Instead, this company will continue to leverage strong innovation and a healthy product road map to continue to grow market share in the secular growth data and AI markets over the next several years. Concurrently, profitability levels will improve thanks to increased scale.
But, profit growth will ultimately be limited by reinvigorated Intel competition. Revenue growth rates will come down due to a lower pace of market share expansion. Gross margins will likewise face competitive pressures. In numbers, what was 30%-plus revenue growth rates for the better part of the past two years, will turn into 20% and lower growth rates over the next several years, and what was several hundred basis points of margin expansion per year over the past two years, will turn into no more than 100 basis points of expansion per year going forward, and probably less.
Overall, into 2025, I think AMD can grow sales at a ~15% annualized pace, while gross margins can expand gradually and the opex rate can fall meaningfully with scale. That combination implies robust profit growth going forward. But not enough to warrant another 15-fold increase in the stock.
Under those assumptions, $2.40 in earnings per share is doable for AMD by 2025. Based on a forward price-earnings multiple of 20, which is average for growth stocks, that equates to a fiscal 2024 price target for Advanced Micro Devices stock of $48. Discounted back by 10% per year, that results in a fiscal 2022 price target for AMD of about $40.
Thus, AMD stock has a very realistic and fundamentally supported opportunity to rally another 50% over the next three years.
Bottom Line on AMD Stock
AMD stock has staged a huge rally over the past three years. That big rally won’t be replicated over the next three years, mostly because the company’s market share expansion narrative is winding down and the valuation is much more rich than it was a few years back.
But the rally in AMD stock won’t die. Instead, gains going forward will be more tempered than they have been. In the long run, this stock can hit $40. But, it will take a few years to get there.
As of this writing, Luke Lango was long INTC.
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