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Micron's first-quarter guidance weighs on shares

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

Memory-chip maker Micron Technology reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss, but its forecast for the current quarter appeared disappointing and Micron's shares fell as much as 5.2 percent in after-market trading on Tuesday.

The forecast for the fiscal first quarter came in above analysts' average estimate, but in view of an accounting change by the company and the broader market trend the forecast looked less robust than the numbers suggest, one analyst said.

The company forecast fiscal first-quarter adjusted profit of 13 to 21 cents per share, while analysts were expecting a profit of 9 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. It would represent the company's first profit in three quarters.

"The guidance included some changes to their accounting, so it's not quite as strong a beat as it looks at first," said Stifel analyst Kevin Cassidy.

Cassidy also cited the expected improvement in the DRAM market as casting the forecast in a less positive light.

Micron said changes to its accounting structure, related to its DRAM equipment and certain other exclusions, will lower expenses by about $150 million per quarter.

Micron manufactures DRAM chips used in PCs and NAND flash memory chips widely used in smartphones to store music, pictures and data. It has enjoyed a recovery of late helped by signs of rebound in the personal computer market.

The average contract price of PC DRAM is estimated to rise nearly 30 percent in the current quarter compared with last year, its highest point in two years, according to research firm TrendForce.

Memory chip inventory at Micron's distributors was "very, very tight," Chief Executive Mark Durcan said on a conference call.

Up to Tuesday's close, the stock had gained 90 percent since May, when it hit a 2016 low of $9.35.

"I think with the stock moving as much as it did, I'm not surprised that there's a little bit of profit taking," Cassidy said.

On an adjusted basis, Micron reported a loss for the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 1 of 5 cents per share, narrower than estimates of a loss of 12 cents per share.

The net loss attributable to company's shareholders was $170 million, or 16 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of $471 million, or 42 cents per share, a year earlier.

Micron's net sales fell 10.6 percent to $3.22 billion in the fourth quarter. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $3.15 billion.

Up to Tuesday's close, the stock had risen 25.7 percent this year, on par with the nearly 25 percent gain in the broader Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index during that period.